New Atheists Refuted: Logic Presupposes Ethics & Metaphysics

Rise of the empirical empire.
Rise of the empirical empire.

Rise of the empirical empire.

“The Cosmos moves within the very life of eternity, and is contained in that very eternity whence all life issues. And for this reason it is impossible that it should at any time come to a stand, or be destroyed, since it is walled in and bound together, so to speak, by eternal life.”

– Asclepius, III, 29c

By: Jay Dyer

I learned a neat thing years ago.  Although philosophy is now a dead art in the West, those of us who are keepers of the true flame can still make progress by ignoring the postmodern nihilistic empiricist establishment by letting them march to their doom while we do our own thang.  The cool thing I learned is this – when we speak of the three main branches of philosophy, we think ethics, epistemology and metaphysics.  These branches make up what is commonly called a worldview, our basic lenses of interpretation that form our understanding of the world.  Like it or not, and admit it or not, we all have a worldview, even if we believe ourselves to be agnostic, since even the position of a-gnosis still implies knowledge of no knowledge or the impossibility of knowledge.

Our neat lesson here involves the interconnection of al three branches – each branch will imply and necessitate the other.  This means you cannot coherently build or construct a theory of knowledge apart from metaphysics or ethics.  This does not mean one will immediately be cognizant of all the factors involved or all the potential necessary implications, but rather that they are undoubtedly present.  In this article, I will illustrate some of this and utilize a well-known philosophical essay from a famous modern of the opposite camp that predates the “New Atheist” crowd of our day, Rudolph Carnap’s “The Elimination of Metaphysics Through the Logical Analysis of Language.”  In their arrogance and ignorance and sometimes willful intention to destroy philosophy, these minions of the Anglo establishment have wrought much havoc, but the cures to these absurdities are quite simple.  Carnap will also prove a perfect example of how to deconstruct and refute the popular Dawkins-Dennett style “New Atheism,” as the naïve empirical presuppositions of such pop stars are really just old school naïve empiricism, and thus subject to all the same failings.

For example, implicit in every logical epistemic claim is the assumption of a value claim.  For example, if we were to say modus ponens, If P, then Q, P therefore, Q, and apply this reasoning to some example, implicit in the operation of logic itself is the assumption that one should be logical and bound by objective truth claims.  “Shoulds” are the domain of values and judgments and ethics, and so the assumption that one’s opponent in a debate, for example, should submit to the better argument is a shared assumption by both participants that truth itself has a claim on both parties.  Yet again, that one should submit to truths is not the domain of pure logic or pure epistemology, but the realm of value judgments – ethics.  This is unavoidable, and also gives a big insight into the flaws of modern empiricist-based approaches which can never justify any coherent ethics, as they must all be situational and/or utilitarian.

In similar fashion, any claim about knowledge or ethics will necessitate some beliefs and assumptions about metaphysics and ontology.   If we claim, for example, “The earthworms are purple,” a vast network of underlying assumptions and necessary conditions are needed for the claim to be coherent and meaningful.  This is where the moderns and empiricists generally flee the discussion since it means the entire positivist system comes crashing down.   It is at this juncture that the positivist shows his pragmatic concerns – who cares?  It’s meaningless rambling!   Having seen this occur hundreds of times in debates, it is astonishing to me the superstitious character of the positivist.  It is as if they are Haitians about to be cursed by a voodoo obeh, when the philosopher mentions metaphysics.  Meanwhile, they tell us we must submit to “logical analysis.”  Yet in their dogmatic inquisition, the positivist empiricist appears to already have an infallible benchmark by which to instruct the rest of the world on how to perfectly determine when a statement or a claim is purely and only logical, and not also ethical or metaphysical!

To end all discussion with the dogmatic presumption the clear line between when something is confined to the realm of logic is assuming the thing in question. For example, consider the introduction to Carnap’s essay, where positivism collapses into pragmatism, which is ironically irrational and illogical (who or what is the benchmark by which one determines what “works” best?):

Positivism collapses to pragmatism.

Positivism collapses to pragmatism.

Does Carnap imagine that formal logic is something the average man encounters every day?  We’ll leave that laughable fiction about the mass enlightened man aside for a moment, but from the outset in this piece we can detect an agenda.  Carnap is not interested in solving any deep philosophical issues, but glorying in what he assumes has been a great victory, the destruction of metaphysics from nominalists and Hume onwards, which, so the establishment grand narrative goes, ushering in the Enlightenment and scientific revolution.  While Carnap thinks metaphysics is sterile, this piece of propaganda will fall on its face when we look at where positivist philosophy leads! He continues:

carnap 2Carnap’s argument is not difficult to grasp.  Since some statements are nonsensical, and therefore not truly statements because they can be “verified,” we can thus equate metaphysical claims with nonsense phrases, as both have the same “logical” status of being pseudo-statements. So, the claim, “God exist” is a claim on par with “banana fruit bars cheese aliens.”  We see these lame, childish arguments quite frequently in our day, as the “New Atheists” constantly harp on the “Flying Spaghetti Monster,” equating all forms of theism in Carnap fashion.  What we will see, however, is that when we examine the interconnectedness I outlined above, as well as transcendental arguments and metalogic, Carnap and the whole modern framework will not only be shown to be bankrupt, but utilizing numerous principles, assumptions and notions that are logically impossible within his worldview.  That last part is crucial to understand due to the entire edifice of this camp being built on the presumption they’ve cornered the market on “logic.”  After laying out what he conceives to be a list of principles about the basics of linguistics, Carnap sums up the basics of how language works in a positivist scheme:

It's so easy! Just "verify" it.

It’s so easy! Just “verify” it.

Carnap lays out his basic thesis for a naïve empirical verification for terms, arguing that any term that cannot be found, through its origin, to have a clear empirical referent, must be eliminated.  Such ignorance on the part of a renowned philosopher has to make one wonder about the figures presented to us as icons.  Not only is this stupid, it overlooks numerous beliefs Carnap himself has as a logician, since logic and its corollary, mathematics, are full of notions that have no empirical referent.   It also includes linguistic concepts whose “origins” are not so easily discovered.  For example, the origin of Pi or the Pythgorean Theorum appear to predate Greece, so merely analyzing Greek concepts, as Carnap does for arche, or principle, cannot tell us the “original” referent.   God is then placed under this category as a mythological concept, but at once simple presuppositional problems arise.  How does Carnap know, as an empiricist, what the Greek mind meant by arche?   As an empiricist, he cannot enter the mind of an ancient Greek, and must rely on written accounts that cannot be empirically verified.  Further, simply because Carnap read numerous analyses of Greek ideas, it does not follow in his system that one has accurately captured the concept of the “Greek mind,” or any other “mind” for that matter.  Presumably these are approximations he would reply, but the problem here is that his analytical empiricism based on pure logic has no room for approximation when categorizing which concepts are “metaphysical” and which have a clear empirical referent.  This is illustrated further when he speaks of God:

LOL

LOL

The first problem that arises here is the assumption that God is an unclear term because it is used variously, while for Carnap, his logical empirical referents are undeniably “clear.”  Unfortunately, terms used in every day speech are not as easily “verifiable.”   For example, when we speak of any general category, something obvious central to linguistics, what is the empirical referent?  When we speak of “cats,” Carnap would say we mean a class of mammals that belong to a specific set of characteristics shared in common, and humans have created a symbolic categorical lexicon to classify them, etc.  But what is the empirical referent for the categorical idea, “cat”?  Implicit in the language is the assumption of some connecting principle that links these mammals.  Likewise for the term, “mammal.”

Note here that we are not asking what the characteristics are that link them, such as hair, claws, etc., but what is the empirical referent for the general idea of “cat”?  There isn’t one, this school must say, as they are only token terms devised by humans.  Ironically, by simply asking the very question Plato asked we can get at the heart of the failure of this system.  All language utilized universals, yet the whole of empirical philosophy is built on the denial of them, and Carnap even lauded nominalism early on in the article.  But if the mysterious “linking” factor is not “real,” or verifiable, then by Carnap’s own laws, it must be classed as metaphysical and a non-statement.  So, all of Carnap’s rigor falls on his own head, as the denial of universals leads directly to radical skepticism.

Rudolph the red-nosed philosopher knows all!

Rudolph the red-nosed philosopher knows all!

Things are even worse as subjects like mathematics and logic enter the picture.  Carnap believes his whole system is built on strict logic, yet logic is not an empirical science.  Husserl famously dissected this psychologistic approach to logic and mathematics in his Logical Investigations, and as I wrote some years back:

“Husserl embarked upon this endeavor in “Investigation II” of his monumental 1901 Logical Investigations, by stating bluntly what the empiricists thought to be entirely untenable: that we are, in fact, conscious of universal objects.2 Husserl’s proof for this derived from linguistic analyses and would be “be self-evident.”3 Husserl begins by writing that when we intend to refer to an object with a meaningful content, or a meaning-fulfillment, the object intended is clearly not a mere collection of disparate qualities, as nominalism would have. For example, when I refer to a horse, I do not intend only the following list of qualities: 4 legs, brownish appearance, solidity, furriness, etc., all of which collected qualities collapse into the referent of the word or syllables, “horse.” As Husserl notes, what is meant is an “Idea,” with a certain content.4 The meaning-conferring act—the referring to a certain horse, sets before us the Species of ‘horse’ as a universal object.

Husserl explains his reasoning by making an important distinction between individual singulars and specific singulars. For example, number is a concept which, as has often been stressed, has 1, 2, 3…as its subordinate singulars. A number is, e.g., the number 2…”5 This distinction between the individual and specific singulars corresponds to the equally important distinction between individual and specific universals, “or, between individual and specific universality.”6 Here, individually universal judgments would be something like, All men are mortal, while specifically universal judgments, would be something like, All propositions of logic are a priori.7

This is of such vast import because these a priori facts “run through the whole of logic… [and] are quite irremovable.”8 Husserl believes these points are proven, as with his arguments against skeptical relativism, through reductio ad absurdam arguments. That is, analyses of the attempted empiricist theories of abstraction of general concepts from particular sensuous experiences or the radical empiricist theories which reject abstract concepts in any sense, will, inevitably, lead to various absurdities, showing that universals must, of necessity, exist.

Since this paragraph is not empirically verifiable, it is nonsense, and your whole argument fails.

Since this paragraph is not empirically verifiable, it is nonsense, and your whole argument fails.

Husserl believes that realists and nominalists have confused several ideas. Realists have “metaphysically hypostatized the universal” by assuming that “the Species really exists, externally to thought.”9 That is, the error of the realists has been that the Species has an existence beyond the purely ideational realm. Nominalists have erred in “psychologically hypostatizing” the universal by assuming that the universal “really exists in thought.”10 Husserl means by this that the universal, according to the nominalist, is only a collection abstracted ideas. Thirdly, nominalists have constantly erred in attempting to “transform the universal…into what is individual.”11 For Husserl, what is real is merely that which has the mark of temporality. [Note: here I depart from Husserl, as I believe the realists are correct, and the universal is in the mind of God. -Jay]

The nominalist explanation of how the mind forms concepts is basically psychological in its approach. Locke argued that so-called “universals” are merely about a particular kind of abstracted thought; a certain “horse” that happens to come to mind, in which differentiating qualities of several horses seen are removed, forming the idea of some one horse which is mistakenly attributed with the fictitious idea “universality.” In Berkeley’s view, the individual conceives a certain previously sensed horse which acquired representative status. Husserl thinks both of these explanations ultimately skirt the issue and are absurd.

Husserl's Logical Investigations.

Husserl’s Logical Investigations.

In response, Husserl notes that what picks out similarities in objects is not and cannot be any particular aspect of a specific object. Using ‘Four’ as a devastating example, Husserl argues as follows:

It is accordingly evident that when I say ‘Four’ in the generic sense, as, e.g., the statement ‘Four’ is a prime number relatively to seven,’ I am meaning the Species Four, I have it as object before my logical regard, and am passing judgment upon it, and not on anything individual. I am not judging about any individual group of four things, nor about any constitutive movement, piece or side of such a group, for each part, qua part of what is individual, is itself likewise individual.12″

Nominalistic skepticism is the entire edifice of modernity, and despite this irrational foundation, the naïve empiricists who still dominate the modern discourse would have us fooled into thinking they own the market when it comes to logic. Nothing could be further from the truth, since the true fathers of logic tend to be suppressed.  How many college students study Husserl’s refutation of psychologism and naïve empiricism?  Hardly any.  Yet it gets even worse – one of the strongest arguments aside from these specifics is the fact that “all knowledge comes through sense experience” is itself not an empirically verifiable claim.  There is no test or application by which we can empirically verify that all knowledge is empirical.

Rather, this is a metaphysical and epistemic presupposition the empiricist makes to begin constructing his flawed worldview – and the same goes for Dawkins and Dennett and all the other “New Atheists.”   It is metaphysical, because it presumes to be able to make a universal claim about universal states of being, and it is epistemological because it purports to say universally what is epistemically the case.  It then turns around and denies any claims it doesn’t like as “metaphysical,” while assuming a specific metaphysic and epistemology from the outset.  This is a transcendental critique of naïve empiricism, and it is devastating.  Far from disproving metaphysics, Carnap and his Dawkinite descendants have shown the dead-end results of presuming and then denying it.

48 Comments on New Atheists Refuted: Logic Presupposes Ethics & Metaphysics

  1. well said. Are you familiar with Edward Feser?

  2. I think your time would be better served analyzing, say, Dark City. Sitting here by my fire trying to digest what Karnak said about the nature of saying said made me sad. I do appreciate your efforts, as always, and I admire your dedication to the task. It’s just virtually impossible to read this by the fire and maintain awareness.

    • I do both my friend. Im a philosopher by trade. If such articles are not to your taste, skip over to my Dark City analysis.

      • I agree with Mark above…I found this one a hard slog. I loved the Dune analysis. I’d enjoy an analysis and critique of Madonna and what she’s up to. I might disagree, I love Madge’s “Ray of Light” CD and believe there is something real in that soul, though it may not be what it once was…so hard for anyone to be locked in for decades with a psycho elite set and keep one’s sense. Yes, they all have done the deal but it does not mean something real can’t sneak through, even in 2014.

      • Just so you know, some of us are in the opposite camp. I thought this was very readable (though you are preaching to the choir in my case).

  3. Your excruciatingly exquisite philosophical ruminations accepted for value! But, how does any of it apply to the elephant(s) in the room: on-going asset stripping of aggregated American wealth and/or obfuscation of an in-coming 3600-year orbital binary star system wreaking havoc never-before-experienced.

    • Ive written 400 plus articles on a variety of subjects, including economics.

    • Im not following the logic here – I can’t write articles on a variety of topics I find interesting?

      • You certainly [still] may! May I presume then, you are so fully physically secured and provisioned to [directly] provide care not only to family but also fellow Men ready to repent in this “end times” that you can indulge in such arcane, recondite, irrelevant discourse? Why are you “dispensing” your unique and special intellectual and literary talents on such BS? If your are in any way SUBsidized by foundation/government funding, then I understand.

    • This seems like a relative privation fallacy, as in there are better things Jay should be spending his time on , more important fish to fry. Am I right?

  4. When refuting a claim requires you to assume it, you are very likely dealing with a case of Epic Fail Syndrome. Although “logic” is perhaps the most abused term in the empiricist lexicon, it can be easily shown to be their biggest enemy by the unspoken first principle of that worldview: “Unicorns Trump Logic”.

    • If a “claim” [formally] tendered is not “refuted’/rejected and/or a counter-claim issued within a reasonable/required time-period, does your “assumption” become a default judgment?

      • My argument is simple – if some claim is true, it carries an inherent persuasive force-an assumption-that it should be accepted over a false claim.

  5. Your articles are always read with interest, Jay.

  6. Jay, are you familiar with Hans Hoppe’s work on ‘Argumentation Ethics’? Your discussion of the ethics and metaphysics implied by logic recalled his work to me, suggesting the potential for your appreciation. In particular, I am reminded of Chapter 7 of ‘A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism’, Part II of his ‘Economics and Ethics of Private Property’ and his article ‘In Defense of Extreme Rationalism’.

    As should be clear, I am among those readers who do appreciate your philosophical writings. Keep it up!

  7. So, what is the determinate of the “claim” being “true”? What is the “inherent persuasive force” in a society – possibly a “coercive enforcement” by some magistra[itor]? “Assumption(s)” by whom on/to whom? History is written/interpreted by whom – the PTB, the foundation-funded academia, the corp-owned “Lame Scheme Tedia”, government wonks/publicists, etc? In this day and age of C[r]ass Sunstein cognitive infiltration what is even the determinate of a “false claim”?

  8. I feel so fortunate to have found your blog (thanks to your interview on Red Ice). I really mean that. It is a balm to my philosopher’s heart. I majored in philosophy and have been following the “truth” movement for years. Putting the two together as you have done here is pure delight (and plutonium!). Keep up the deep philosophy it is much needed. Don’t listen to people saying it’s too wordy or it doesn’t appeal to them. Perhaps a smaller number of people will read the more philosophical pieces but they will be the ones to whom it applies. I’ve gotten so sick of the prating egoists involved with the new atheism and mainstream scientists this article is a grounded refutation. Inspiring! Keep up the good work. I’ll be reading!

  9. George Philip Telemann // December 31, 2014 at 6:23 am // Reply

    Articles and information like this are exactly why I became a subscriber. Keep them coming, thanks Jay.

  10. I majored in philosophy too, and found the article extremely interesting. Just thought you’d like another ‘thumbs up’

  11. Philosophy is composed of ontology (study of nature of being), epistemology(study of nature of knowledge) and logic. Metaphysics is something undefined by you or anybody. LOGIC is essential to rational thought.
    You should try studying logic. You don’t make any RATIONAL SENSE.

  12. Love this analysis. Just stumbled on your site for the first time.

    I tried to make a similar point (much less eloquently or cogently) commenting on an article about evolution.

    I was saying that evolution doesn’t answer any fundamental questions about life because it cannot and does not explain why life adapts in the first place. The contrary responses all focused on the surface, the mechanisms we can actually purportedly observe and stopped there. I tried to argue it is a matter of perspective because evolution is no more proven than the existence of god. The point being that divesting scientific inquiry from taking account of consciousness (what I understand as the metaphysical or universal) renders all materialistic scientific inquiry useless beyond pursuing those practical concerns that carnap was so concerned with.

    I guess it is just interesting to see how much carnap and similar thinkers have framed pretty much every aspect of our lives and worldview in the present time.

  13. God exists? Things are created rather an evolve?
    Well one mans god is another mans alien.
    These aliens have incarnated and shape-shifted into positions of influence within human (un)civilization to the extent ordinary humans are ridiculed about the existence of aliens and gods by such an “alien influenced civilization” thus further cloaking the alien influence.
    Welcome to Planet Earth where this philosophical debate has been rigged against humans for millennia. For an understanding of alien (god) technology see joecellwaterscience

  14. “In science there are no ‘depths’; there is surface, everywhere.”

    –Rudolph Carnap

    The red nosed philosopher can’t claim exclusivity to that statement. Jesus, proved that sentiment to be true of ‘faith’ as well; when he ‘walked on water’. When it was turn though, Peter, ruined the foundation by going ‘deep’; but Simon was only ‘human’ and a rock!

    A second case could made in Jesus’ first ‘miracle’: turning water into wine. The ‘proof’ (surface) is in the tasting.

  15. Articles like this are why I love the Internet.

  16. ColossusOfDestiny // January 1, 2015 at 8:14 pm // Reply

    Causality isn’t rational, thus metaphysics.

    Causality has either always existed or it didn’t and then it did,neither proposition can be understood rationally as the boundary of causeless action will stop any honest pragmist or mystic.

    This is simple logic not even Aristotle would have argued with but the modern empirical cults that claim his heritage have no time for this simple thought or ability for it

    This is the true cost of a decimated educational system.

    • I believe divine exemplarism solves those quandries.

      • Isn’t God the answer to anything yet nothing because as Russell asked “what’s holding up God?” I agree with Colossus that any answer for “why is there anything” still leaves things as absurd.

  17. An intriguing article-I am glad you took the time to write it and I am happy to have taken some time to read it and digest it. This type of examination into deeper considerations inherent in topics affecting us daily, is necessary to develop a clear perspective of ourselves and our views in the ever-changing world of today. Thank-you for this analysis.

  18. Appreciate the time spent on this subject Jay. I found it helped articulate the jumble of feelings I have when engaging with the contemporary world around me. As someone who left school at age fifteen I found the article (although at times a stretch) well within the bounds of understanding. Ironic isn’t it that we get get a picture of Mark dozing off in front of a fire, smug and comfortable in his own assumptions slurring disdain. My sense is that the a lot of folk are being lulled into the same state. Steadily patted to sleep by the “New Atheists” fireside chats. There is another layer to our existence people, wake up.

  19. Maybe you can answer the following for me: Have any metaphysical or divine claims been proven in any way whatsoever, can they even hope to be? (I’m not asking about indications.) It seems to me the obvious answer is no, metaphysics and theology are speculative in nature. (Which explains why after thousands of years those pursuits can be said to have discovered nothing of note.) This isn’t to say, of course, that a realm/s doesn’t exist beyond the material, beyond our senses, only that pursuing that realm has been shown to be, more or less, folly. This, I think, is why so many turn away from metaphysics and theology: it simply bears no fruit.

    Thanks

    • It doesn’t seem to me the pursuit of “that realm” is folly even though it can’t be grasped and nailed down by words. Can you imagine what sort of dogma would arise if we caught spiritual nature and put it under a microscope? Materialism attempts to do this, It is the very nature of consciousness of “life” of “soul” to be slippery and just beyond our words. I was reading the new post at Soul of the East and loved the reference to Kierkegaard On the Dedication to “That Single Individual”. As Kierkegaard explains it, truth belongs to the individual but the crowd is untruth (religious or scientific dogma). We can sense it, we can share it as the sacred but describe it and make a religion/ideology/law about it and it flees. It remains aloft from human drama and accessible and free to the individual.

      • Thanks for the reply. I really was looking for an answer to my question even if it did take on a rhetorical flavor. I understand your position and have heard it expressed often. The problem is how to proceed with that “something” if it can’t be defined. Maybe we can’t.

        I’d also like to take this opportunity to ask Jay if he’d reply to my original question. It wasn’t meant as a challenge; I’m just looking to confirm what I think is true but am not entirely sure about. My understanding of metaphysics and theology is very limited.

        Thanks.

        D

  20. From the Plasma // February 14, 2015 at 6:09 pm // Reply

    I agree. To call down empiricists and uphold metaphysicians is Quixotic. My opinion is the human condition is constrained by metaphysics. The human race would be further ahead ethically and socially without the dead weight of the cumulative metaphysical record.

  21. Is this the kind of philosophy you refute with transcendental arguments (if I’m using that concept correctly), where you argue you cannot explain the origins of the world using observation because the observer is part of the world?

  22. Useful, thought-provoking stuff. It brings to mind the work of Rupert Sheldrake, an entertaining introduction to which is povided by a video of his banned March 2013 TEDx talk in Whitechapel London. In it he quotes his friend, the late Terrence McKenna, as opining that “Modern science is based on the principle ‘Give us one free miracle (the big-bang) and we’ll explain the rest’ ” – worth 18 minutes of anybodies time IMHO

  23. Excellent article, very much enjoyed it and learned from it. You’re right in all aspects in rebutting the atheists/materialists. Keep up the extra fine work.

    One thing, they never have an answer when you point out that their assertion that “all truth and knowledge comes only through empiricism” cannot be proven empirically, therefor is self-refuting. I brought that up once in a comment section to a article by an atheist/materialist and only got named-called in response by the author’s followers. – As you’ve stated elsewhere, empiricism is fine in its proper perspective, but it’s not the one and only path to truth and knowledge.

    Do you have a rebut article to Darwinian Evolution?

  24. Jay, where can I find your presentation of your theory of semantics-reference?

  25. Michael Sean // October 1, 2016 at 9:54 pm // Reply

    Wow, readers back in the day didn’t like Jay diversifying.

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