The Argument From Reason: Getting Started

Things went so well with my short series on the moral argument that I knew I’d have to dive into my favorite argument of all: the argument from reason. However the argument from reason is a difficult one to convey, and I’ve seen well intentioned people absolutely butcher it while trying share it with skeptics. So I thought I would start with a simple and very rough outline of what the argument from reason is before diving into the specifics in other posts. I’m going to take this one nice, slow, and careful.
The argument from reason is, very, very roughly, as follows:
1. If materialism is true then determinism must be true.

2. If determinism is true then the process of reasoning is an illusion.

3. Reasoning is not an illusion.

4. Therefore, materialism is false.
This initial rough argument only takes us as far as rejecting materialism, in much the same way that the moral argument does (note: the primary point of debate here is number 2, though I’ve seen people argue against 1 and 3 on occasion). However there is a second part to the argument from reason:

 

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2. At some point my mind began to exist.

3. If reasoning is not an illusion then the mind was not wholly caused by naturalistic processes.

4. Therefore an eternal and non-naturalistic cause must have been ultimately responsible for the existence of my mind.

 

Again, this is a very rough outline. There are many points along the way where a reasonable person might disagree: therefore I’d ask that you save any particular objections you may have to the arguments as written until I put up posts that go through these points step by step. Unless, of course, you simply disagree that I have basic argument outlined correctly, in which case feel free to comment with your critiques.
I’m looking forward to diving into this in detail over the next few weeks! I hope you’ll join me.

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About Mark Hamilton

I am, in no particular order, a nerd, an aspiring writer, a Christian, an aspiring filmmaker, an avid reader, a male, a YEC, a GM, and a twenty something. I like learning how things are made, finding out how to do things from scratch, and I you can find more of my writing at thepagenebula.wordpress.com

Posted on March 24, 2014, in Apologetics, Christianity and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. Brandon McGinnis

    Im not sure the qualifier “eternal” necessarily follows from the antecedent premises in your second argument. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding it, but it seems off to me.

    • As I said, this is a very rough outline. But I think the “eternal” qualifier does follow because of point 1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause: therefore my mind, which began to exist at some point, must ultimately have it’s cause in somethign that is eternal (that never began to exist). If point 3 is correct then this ultimate eternal cause is not naturalistic in nature (like the multiverse, for instance). Like I said, very rough. I look forward to going over every point in detail as this series goes.

  2. Things went so well with my short series on the moral argument that I knew I’d have to dive into my favorite argument of all:

    Really? Could you link to that particular post – the one at went really well?

    Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

    Ah… so, in that case, your god does not exist. Phew…At last

    Thank you. What the atheists have been saying all along.

    • I think every post the breeds discussion goes very well. It’s the posts that nobody has any interest at all that I consider failures.

      Yes, everything that begins to exist has a cause: but God, as defined by classical theism, never began to exist. If God exists at all then he existed always: and no matter what your metaphysical beliefs you must recognize that at some point you must have a foundational cause that has always existed and thus requires no cause itself. For most materialists that always existing eternal cause is the universe. Of course these days it’s been proven more and more definitively that the universe is not eternal and began to exist at some point. So these days most materialists substitute an unseen “mulitiverse” as being the eternal, always existing cause.

      • you must recognize that at some point you must have a foundational cause

        Actually,it is you that must realise that the god, God is wholly a man-made narrative construct.
        This is the first thing we should focus on.

        Ah, yes, I forgot the eternal Christian Kop Out.
        Who Made God., right?
        So you lot stick in the priori argument and said ”Nobody”..god simply is was and always will be etc…
        and, Jesus of course, and Allah, and Yahweh, and….
        And we know this because?
        It is written.,

        An unseen “multiverse” is an excuse but an unseen deity is a fact. Really?

        And this is truth because?

        Again…it is written.

        The theistic ”Argument from reason” is all bullshit., and we can dismantle it page by biblical page to arrive at this conclusion.

        Where would you like to start?

      • Apparently you’d like to start by doing a lot of crying on about the Bible when it hasn’t even been mentioned yet. There must be some eternal foundational cause that has always existed: I believe it is god, others believe it is the multiverse, but it must exist. Do you deny this? If not we can move on. If you do we can discuss it. But I haven’t gotten anywhere near a Bible yet, so just know that any “dismantling” of my argument will have to consist of actually talking about my argument instead of bringing up unrelated topics.

      • Yes, you are right.

        Let’s stick to the argument.

        Before we proceed any further please explain how Jesus is the Creator of the Universe, why you believe this and where did you obtain this information about Jesus?

      • Tall order. I’ll have to start with by I believe a god of some kind created the universe, and work my way to Jesus specifically from there.

        It may take a few blog posts. As for this one, I have to say “shame on me” for replying to your comment to quickly. I specifically said in the blog post that discussion of the actual arguments would wait until the blogs to come. Save your observations for then: this is just a broad outline and if we get stuck arguing about it here then we won’t get to the parts that actually matter.

      • But you should not build a house without establishing proper foundations.
        You may look to the universe and wonder how it all started, but to jump right in with a presupposed belief it was because of a Deity is disingenuous, as you already have a set of beliefs which are based on he bible, and a post like this will rely solely on semantics and clever argumentation.
        Now, while you may win the argument and sit there all happy i means little if the basis of this belief has not been established.

        Therefore, to make your case with any degree of honesty ( and I will assume for the sake of this post you are sincere) then you must establish the foundation of your belief first and foremost.

      • Why don’t you wait until I lay out my argument before commenting on how I’m going to do it. You tend to see the Bible in everything, Ark: on my site and especially on Fide’s. My beliefs about the Bible may inform what kind of god I believe created the universe, but the argument from reason is solely an argument towards a creator god existing, period. It doesn’t say whether that god is Christian or Hindu or Diest.

        There are times when I doubt my own beliefs. During those times the argument from reason gives me comfort simply because it isn’t based on a religious text or doctrine. It’s simply based on logic. It’s the argument that convinced C.S. Lewis to abandon his long held atheism and materialism in exchange for theism (a kind of strange pantheism at first, followed by diesm, followed by Christianity). Even if I no longer believed in the Bible or Christianity I still wouldn’t be able to become an atheist as long as this argument stands.

      • The point is, you wouldn’t have this worldview if there was no bible to base it upon, otherwise you would simply be a deist.
        Now if you wish to claim this then fine…do so.
        But, and i reiterate, you are a Theist and thus aspect of your belief is based upon this.

        And this is why I say you, are being disingenuous.

        You use semantics to justify your claim, when all along, in your mind you are leading the reader to a Theist version of a creator god.

        The second you try to influence this with a deity you have to provide evidence of some kind or another, and there is no evidence.

        Moreover, the evidence the religious have so far provided, including the Argument from reason, is no argument whatsoever and can be dismissed accordingly.

        However, if you can demonstrate how Jesus became a god , first and foremost then we have a base to discuss this issue from.

        Until then, you have nothing and it can be dismissed as nothing.
        I hope you understand?

      • “Moreover, the evidence the religious have so far provided, including the Argument from reason, is no argument whatsoever and can be dismissed accordingly.”

        Well if it can be dismissed as easily as you say then I’m sure the discussion that will accompany the posts to come will be interesting and productive.

        Also, nit-picking note, diests are theists: you are a theist if you believe that a god exists. Diests believe that a god exists so they are by definition theists.

        And yes I am trying to lead the reader, though logic and reasoning, to the Christian God. But getting there is a process, and the first step of that process is to get someone to believe that there is a god at all. For a materialist such as yourself the first step is even more primal: getting someone to believe in the supernatural. The argument from morality, and more directly the argument from reason, are arguments in favor of the supernatural and of God. You don’t have to be a Christian to believe that the argument from reason is a solid one, and there is nothing disingenous in saying so. It’s simply the truth.

  3. Also, nit-picking note, diests are theists: you are a theist if you believe that a god exists. Diests believe that a god exists so they are by definition theists.

    This is the official line…

    Note that the current definition from the World union of Deists is :

    Deism is the recognition of a universal creative force greater than that demonstrated by mankind, supported by personal observation of laws and designs in nature and the universe, perpetuated and validated by the innate ability of human reason coupled with the rejection of claims made by individuals and organized religions of having received special divine revelation.

    my emphasis

    Now, you believe in a personal revealed god: that made up narrative construct, Yeshua, so while all theists are deists, deists are not theists. So best not try to get too cocky, sunshine,okay?

    And yes I am trying to lead the reader, though logic and reasoning, to the Christian God. But getting there is a process, ……

    Once again, you are using semantics.

    Take the bible out of all discussion and try to lead me to your Christian god, Yahweh/Jesus.

    See the problem? Even with the bible you are going to have a hard time as so much of it is simply fiction, and/or lies and can be demonstrated as such.

    So how are you going to explain without a point of reference?

    I await this ( potentially ) very interesting discussion with er…. interest.

    • I’d like to point out Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of Theism: “the belief that God exists or that many gods exist.” Theism says nothing about whether or not that god is divinely revealed. So, sorry: deists are theists, but not all theists are deists because some theists do beleive that God reveals himself.

      I don’t see where I’m using semantics. Can you provide an example, with a description of how what I’m doing involves semantics?

      • Are you going to spend the rest of this argument nit picking at the lettuce simply to avoid eating the meat?

        The quote is from the official Deist creed. This is what they say of themselves. If you don’t like it, take it up with them. I’m an atheist , I could give a shit.

        Semantics :The branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. The two main areas are logical semantics, concerned with matters such as sense and reference and presupposition and implication, and lexical semantics, concerned with the analysis of word meanings and relations between them.
        MORE EXAMPLE SENTENCES
        1.1The meaning of a word, phrase, or text:
        such quibbling over semantics may seem petty stuff

        I am not interested in petty word play. Demonstrate the veracity of your claim the Jesus is Christian god, the Creator of the Universe.

      • There was nothing I disagreed with in the diest creed that you quoted. I was simply trying to correct your mistaken assumption that theism means anything more than a belief that a god (or gods) of some kind exists.

        Yes, I am aware of the meaning of semantics. What I want is an example of how I’ve used semantics to argue for the existance of God.

      • There was nothing I disagreed with in the diest creed that you quoted. I was simply trying to correct your mistaken assumption that theism means anything more than a belief that a god (or gods) of some kind exists.

        Good, well now that you got that little bit of perceived oneupmanship out of your system,….

        You have been playing word games since the onset and thus trying to look clever by not addressing the core issue.

        Now, would you like to demonstrate the veracity of your god, Jesus, and that he is the creator of the Universe, yes, or no?
        It is a simple, straightforward request.

      • Yes I would like to demonstrate the veracity of my God, Jesus, as the creator of the universe. I choose to do that by first discussing the moral argument, then the argument from reason, in order to reach a point where it seems very likely that a god of some kind exists. Then I’ll work from there. This is the way I choose to do it, and if you’re unhappy about it you can find a different blog that discusses the issue in a way you prefer.

      • Well the moral argument you have already ‘lost’ as aptly demonstrated here and with those over on Violets’s blog; in fact the only ones likely to accept this ridiculous assumption are god believers like yourself.
        So much for unbiased neutrality. Might as well preach to the choir, right, because you sure as hell haven’t offered a single plausible argument yet.

        Your argument from reason also, starts with a priori and simply manufactures the answer you want , thus making you feel all snug and cozy.

        What next, the Minimal Facts argument?
        Fine Tuning?
        The 500 witnesses?
        The Virgin Birth?

        Or “How far dd those pigs really run
        after Jesus sent them hurtling to their death possessed by a demon?”

        Really, Mark?
        Isn’t it abut time you started reading the bible properly and asking a few grownup questions?

      • “Well the moral argument you have already ‘lost’ as aptly demonstrated here and with those over on Violets’s blog;”

        I disagree. Can you show me how I’ve lost? I admit that I may have failed in communicating my ideas as well as I’d like to yourself and violetwisp, but I didn’t write these posts with you or violetwisp in mind. Not everything is about you, Ark: the fact remains that I am quite pleased with how my series on the moral argument turned out.

        Can you actually show how the argument from reason, as I’ve roughly laid it out here, starts with a priori? Or are you going to simply continue to make that claim without providing anything to back it up?

        I quite frankly think it’s time that you started actually listening to what people have to say, and asked a few “grownup questions” yourself instead of constantly devolving into mockery and non sequitors.

      • Not everything is about you, Ark

        Really? Now you’ve hurt my feelings.
        You have failed simply because you haven’t managed to get a single reader interested.
        There is no point posting an argument simply for the edification of those who agree, fellow Christians who will merely nod like trained monkey, because this is not the audience you are trying to reach. Unless you are merely sounding off as it were?

        You present no evidence, but merely indulge in word games and metaphysical and philosophical gymnastics.
        Why? If what you believe in and what you claim is
        truth and the object of this belief was a real person and a god, why the need for the extremes to show it?

        The nky person you might convince is yourself, and somehow I feel you eve doubt your own argument.

        quite frankly think it’s time that you started actually listening to what people have to say, and asked a few “grownup questions” yourself instead of constantly devolving into mockery and non sequitors.

        Oh, I listen all the time, Mark. Count on it. And read, and research. This si why reached the conclusions i did regarding the Bible and Christianity and religion in general.
        It is alsoi why I encourage every religious person I encounter to please demonstrate the veracity of their claims.
        So far not a single individual has been prepared to do do.
        Why is that, Mark?

        Adult questions includes, Considering the relative mess Kentucky is in, why is the State of Kentucky allowing Idiots like Ken Ham to build an Ark and teach kids Noah’s flood really happened?

        Start with that one.

      • “You have failed simply because you haven’t managed to get a single reader interested.”

        What an interesting conclusion. Do you somehow gain access to my blogs analytics? How on earth could you come to the conclusion that out of the many people who have read my posts I haven’t managed to get a single reader interested?

        “It is alsoi why I encourage every religious person I encounter to please demonstrate the veracity of their claims.
        So far not a single individual has been prepared to do do.
        Why is that, Mark?”

        After observing you for many months I’d have to say it’s because you reject any form of evidence that isn’t to you liking out of hand, just as you reject the moral argument and argument from reason as “philosophical gymnastics” without providing any actual argument as to why they are wrong. You don’t like philosophy, you don’t like logical argumentation: the only thing you seem to count as evidence is direct empirical observation, though naturally you reject anyone’s testimony of their own observations as being the result of indoctrination and purely natural processes.

        In other words, you never get an “answer” because you go around asking metaphysical questions and refuse to accept metaphysical answers.

      • But why should I trust your argument? You believe in a Young Earth Creationism. You believe humans and dinosaurs coexisted.

        How many of the other billion plus Christians believe this? Absolutely none!
        And of the billion or so Muslims who also believe in the god of Old Testament. Absolutely none.

        Of all the secular scientists in the world . Absolutely none.

        So if even the Christians cannot agree on the correct interpretation of biblical text why on earth would you expect me, an atheist, to lend your POV any credence at all?

        If you want to earn at least a measure of (self) respect demonstrate the veracity of your claim concerning your god, Jesus.

        I mean, you believe in it and you teach it to your kids so why are you shy?

        Surely you are adult enough to have asked all the right questions and have enough confidence to present a watertight case?
        This is your soul we are talking about.

        Don’t get pissed at the atheist because you aren’t erudoite enough to present your case.
        You don’t blame the t pupil if the teacher is hopeless, now do you?
        You certainly wouldn’t call your kids stupid if they said ”Daddy, we don’t understand. How did Jesus walk on water, daddy?”

      • “If you want to earn at least a measure of (self) respect demonstrate the veracity of your claim concerning your god, Jesus.”

        You keep asking and I’ll keep telling you: that’s what I’m trying to do here. Also: stop asking metaphysical questions if you reject metaphysical answers.

        As for the rest of it, if you can’t get control over your temper and produce something constructive to the conversation then I’m going to dismiss you from it.

      • It is not a metaphysical question to ask for irrefutable proof that Jesus was/is god.

        You have the tools – scripture – now demonstrate it.

        Temper? I never lose my temper. What an odd thing to say?

        Everything I write is constructive. You might feel uncomfortable with the questions but there is nothing wrong with asking you to explain how Jesus walked on water. Nothing at all.

        How do you explain this to your kids? Surely you tell the truth and offer an honest answer?
        So give me an honest answer as well.

  4. ”all theists are deists, deists are not theists.”
    Or the other way round even…

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