Straw-Man Series

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Straw-man

The Straw-Man series is meant to concisely and clearly present common straw-men used in arguments against a true Christian worldview and to properly dismantle them. A straw-man may be concocted purposefully for the purposes of deception, or assumed accidentally by virtue of a genuine misunderstanding, but the result is always the same: a distorted argument which overwhelmingly misses the point and therefore requires correction.

Primacy of Consciousness

The Straw-Man:  "God is pure consciousness – a consciousness which is conscious of nothing but its own consciousness."

The Real- Man: "God is an existent who is conscious of Himself – of His own existence."

For whatever reason, Objectivists have become convinced that the existence of God necessarily entails the fallacy which they refer to as “The Primacy of Consciousness”, wherein consciousness exists apart from existence. Because God is conscious, and because He created all other existents, they conclude that before His creation, there was consciousness (God) without existence. This, indeed, would be a very irrational position for theists to hold – fortunately, they don’t.

Did you catch the card-trick in there? There’s just a tiny little difference between God being consciousness (the straw man) and God being an existent who is conscious (what theists actually believe). Rand holds that consciousness is conscious of something (or something which exists). “So,” the Objectivist may demand, “what was God conscious of?” Answer: Himself. Not ‘His own consciousness’ (another aspect to the Objectivist straw man), but His own existence. Surely, Objectivists would not deny that a conscious being is capable of being conscious of itself- of its own existence.

And that is all that theism teaches on the matter - that God exists and that before He created anything else, He was conscious of Himself. So, if Objectivists want to deny theism, they will have to do it on some other grounds than the straw man described above.

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Straw-man

The Straw-Man series is meant to concisely and clearly present common straw-men used in arguments against a true Christian worldview and to properly dismantle them. A straw-man may be concocted purposefully for the purposes of deception, or assumed accidentally by virtue of a genuine misunderstanding, but the result is always the same: a distorted argument which overwhelmingly misses the point and therefore requires correction.

Omnipotence

The Straw-Man: “Omnipotence is the ability to do anything – including contradictory things”

The Real-Man: “Omnipotence is the ability to do anything which is logically possible.”

Ever heard that ridiculous ‘objection’ against Theism which mockingly asks “Can God create a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it”? This is today’s most popular expression of the straw-man of omnipotence. It assumes that God is indeed an omnipotent being, and that omnipotence includes the ability to contradict one’s self. In essence, it is asking “Can an omnipotent being (God) be non-omnipotent (possess or create an inability for Himself)”? When you put it like that, this previously supposed profound question reveals itself to be closer to the absurd.  To aid in elaboration on this point, consider the following quote by C.S. Lewis:

Meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words, 'God can.'
It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”

I would add that meaningless combinations of words also do not suddenly gain meaning because we have attached a question mark at the end of them – such is simply a disingenuous way to assert the same meaninglessness. No rational theist has ever meant such meaninglessness when speaking of God’s omnipotence. Omnipotence, rather than connoting the ‘ability’ to contradict one’s self, means the power to do all which is logically possible. I put ability in quotations because being ‘able’ to contradict one’s self is not a strength (an instance of ‘able-ness’) but a weakness. To insist that an omnipotent being should be ‘able’ to contradict one’s self – to be weak – is to insist that power should include a lack of power, that A should include non-A. The objector, in this case, is the one with a contradictory worldview (evidenced by this contradictory assumption). He is simply attempting to impose that view on Theism and then attack it for the irrationality which he enforced upon it.

Objectivists will likely either take issue with, or be confused by, the use of the term “logically possible” in the above. They make little to no distinction between the logically possible and the circumstantially possible. Sorting out that aspect of their epistemological errors is for a different time though. For now, it is sufficient to say that the logically possible is simply the non-contradictory and that Omnipotence means the ability to do all that falls into that category.

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Super-Naturalism - A Straw Man

The Primacy of Consciousness - A Straw Man

Responses to Objectivism

 

5 Comments

The Straw-Man series is meant to concisely and clearly present common straw-men used in arguments against a true Christian worldview and to properly dismantle them. A straw-man may be concocted purposefully for the purposes of deception, or assumed accidentally by virtue of a genuine misunderstanding, but the result is always the same: a distorted argument which overwhelmingly misses the point and therefore requires correction.

SUPER-NATURE

The Straw-Man: “Super-nature is the existence of something that is above or beyond existence”

The Real-Man: “Super-nature is the existence of something that is above or beyond physical existence.”

The Objectivist does not believe in ‘Super-nature’ because, as he argues, nature is all that exists. Therefore, if something is ‘above’ or ‘beyond’ nature, then it is above or beyond existence – meaning that it does not exist.

Such reasoning, in itself, is absolutely accurate. If something is ‘above or beyond’ existence, then that thing does not exist. The problem is that the ‘nature’ in ‘Super-nature’ is not synonymous with ‘existence’, and no rational advocate of Super-nature has ever suggested otherwise. Rather, the nature in ‘Super-nature’ refers to the physical world –to physical existence.  The claim of philosophical Super-naturalism is not that “something beyond existence exists”, but that “something beyond the physical universe exists”. And this is quite different from the straw man that Objectivists so passively attack.

At this point, the Objectivist will likely claim that such a concept : ‘non-physical existence’ is “arbitrary” or a “floating abstraction”, having no basis in reality. This is because Objectivist epistemology reduced ‘reality’ down to perceived reality. But, such a reduction is, itself, “arbitrary” by their own definition. All of that, though, is to be covered in future posts (stay tuned!). The purpose here is only to show that the concept of Super-nature does not contain the inherent contradiction that most Objectivists eagerly assume it does. If the concept of Super-nature is to be refuted by Objectivists, it must be done on some other grounds than the straw-man presented above.

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Omnipotence - A Straw Man

Primacy of Consciousness - A Straw Man

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