Falsifiable Metaphysics

I think ‘Presuppositional Apologetics‘ is an awful name. It is supposed to mean defense of Christianity at the worldview level — pitting assumptions (presuppositions) against assumptions — rather than at an empirical level (did Jesus resurrect? Is the world X thousand years old?).

Unfortunately, the existence of the word ‘Presupposition’ implies to some that the presupper technique is to build up just the right set of unjustified axioms, in order to yield the desired religious conclusions. This appears to be limejelly‘s impression (at least initially) in comment 23 of this blatant threadjacking (‘presuppositional’ first appears in comment 11).

And this brings up an important point: no-one is to be disparaged simply for having presuppositions. This is maybe the biggest challenge of the presupper: convincing others that they have presuppositions to discuss; helping them to realize what their presuppositions are. So the issue is not presuppositions bad, justifiable knowledge good; it’s consistent presuppositions good, inconsistent presuppositions bad.

So I’ve thought for not very long nor very hard, and come up with a proposed replacement term, which will get the point across better, hopefully avoiding unconstructive misunderstanding, e.g.:

Atheist: I don’t believe in God; I won’t believe anything without proof; I’m not content with blind faith.

Christian: No problem — I have a presuppositional argument why you should believe in God!

Atheist: That’s not going to help, I already said I’m not willing to presuppose anything…

So anyways, you must have already started ruminating about the suitability of my replacement term, which is right up yonder in the title: ‘Falsifiable Metaphysics’. I know, it’s not the catchiest name, and I’m extremely open to suggestions. The concept that I want to express, however, is that

Presuppositional Apologetics is merely applying the Scientific Method in the realm of philososphy.

(How about ‘Metaphysical Physics’?) To a presupper, the concept ‘Presupposition’ is essentially synonymous with ‘Hypothesis’. Of course, the presupper actually believes his hypotheses are true, but that’s because he is confident that they are sufficiently tested. The presuppositional approach is to say, “OK, let’s take my hypotheses, and your hypotheses, and test them. Logically, hypotheses that lead to contradiction are rejected.” In scientific method parlance, falsified.

Just as an (epistemologically consistent) materialist will admit “I don’t know anything for sure; all I have are unfalsified hypotheses. I am perfectly willing to abandon my beliefs should they be demonstrated incorrect. I am merely holding on to the best explanation I have seen so far,” replacing the word ‘hypotheses’ with ‘presuppositions’ gives you the heart of the presupper’s methodology. And the presupper’s claim is that all worldviews other than the Christian worldview can be (have been) falsified, by any/all of the following methods:

  • Proving internal inconsistency
  • Logical conclusions that are demonstrably false
  • Logical conclusions that the non-christian does not actually believe
  • Demonstrating that the non-christian (unknowingly) relies on Christian presuppositions

Those four categories are probably not exhaustive, nor especially clear. Maybe I’ll blog about more specific examples later.

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3 Responses

  1. I think you need to dumb down your content for the sake of your readership.

  2. Apparently; Falsifiable Metaphysics and Image vs. Word are just not drawing the crowds! Howz about I stoop to the level of my new favorite joke:

    So this old man comes into the doctor’s office, and says “Doc, you gotta help me! I have this problem with uncontrollably passing silent gas. I pass silent gas in the morning, I pass silent gas in the afternoon, I pass silent gas all night! Can you help me?”

    So the Doc says, “First off, we gotta get your ears checked…”

  3. I wonder how some people claim not to hold presuppositions, considering that the human brain is wired that way. A neural loop exists between our eyes and our visual cortex that causes us to label things instantaneously as we see them, rather than going through an empirical process of using clues to determine what objects are (“Hmm, brown, tall, green stuff at the top: must be a tree. And this one, hmm, brown, tall, green stuff at the top: must be another tree”). This causes us to make mistakes from time to time — confusing, for example, artifical trees for real ones — which shows that truly empirical, evidence-based thought is a farce.

    Think you don’t have presuppositions? As the illustration goes, that’s like squeezing air through your vocal chords as you claim you don’t believe in air. The very brain you use to conjure that thought is wired presuppositionally.

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