Christian Theology, Biblical Theology

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Counterfactual Conditionals | Subjunctive Conditionals | Truth Values

Counterfactual conditionals, subjunctive conditionals, truth values. Can these propositions have truth values? Most philosophers have more often than not said these counterfactual conditionals and subjunctive conditionals do not have truth values. But many philosophers and scientists use counterfactuals to ground their laws of nature? How can that be if these same scientists deny truth values to these propositions, aren't they concerned with truth? But if they have an inconsistency in their worldviews and grand laws of science, wouldn't a contradiction of their most basic beliefs destroy all theorems derived from these laws? To claim these propositions have no truth values and then rely on similar propositions as being necessarily true is inconsistent; and an inconsistency is a falsehood. So you can't have it both ways, either all counterfactuals have truth values or none of them do! Often these inconsistencies are grounded in the biases of the scientist or theologian. The scientist may be inconsistent because she may have to concede that necessary truths admit to a god, and the theologian may be inconsistent because she may think that settled subjunctive conditionals may lead to determinism and preclude free will (which they don't). So the theologian who is out to defend free will mistakenly assumes an "openness" to the future which then precludes even God from knowing future free will decisions with certainty.

I hope to show in this article that foreknowledge has no bearing on free will and that ultimately, God has determined all events in that He allowed our world to actualize opposed to any number of other possible worlds. To digress for a moment, if God ordained that any world that would actualize would be one that allowed for free will decisions of men, then we do have a sort of compatibilism which necessarily occurs. This compatiblism is necessary because even the staunched advocate of free will would have to concede that God in His own sovereignty decided to create the universe along with mankind, and again He determined which world will actualize, though at the same time the events in this and every other possible world were determined in part by the free will decisions of men. God cannot be the Creator and while man has true free will or "liberty" without this compatibilism.

The distinction between counterfactual conditionals and subjunctive conditionals which is often confused is: subjunctive conditionals are "what if" statements and conterfactual conditionals are subjunctive conditionals dealing with the past. They would say these counterfactual conditionals & subjunctive conditionals don't have truth values (be it true or false) because there is ostensibly nothing to ground the truthfulness or falsity of these propositions. These propositions are "what if" propositions that are "counter to truth"; for example "If Hitler wouldn't have invaded Russia, Germany would have won the war". This is an example of a subjunctive conditional or counterfactual conditional and many philosophers would say that these kinds of propositions don't have truth values - despite their inconsistencies in accepting these as being true with regards to the laws of science.

This is no small issue for all scientific laws depend on counterfactuals and the only way to assign a truth value to them is to assume these laws of science are necessary (she might try to deny her assigning a modality of necessity to these laws and say they are merely statistical probabilities, but then what demarcates a "law" from any other guestimate?) - but this goes against the worldview of the naturalist that all laws of science are contingent. A physicist would describe a law using a counterfactual in the following way: "if we were drop a 5 lb. rock from 200 ft. it would acceleration at x rate...every single time". Or take any law of science and if the law holds, then the counterfactual has to be true. But how can this be if philosophers deny truth values to counterfactuals? Especially in light of the naturalist's or atheist's worldview? So as you can see all of science is grounded in the "problem with counterfactuals", meaning that the naturalist scientist cannot justify or ground her laws of science. If a scientist's worldview is one of naturalism, then her worldview is inconsistent with her laws which creates all sorts of problems with truth. So the problem is that the naturalist's worldview can't support her laws whereas the Christian worldview can. Christians believe that the Supreme Law Giver (God) Has established necessary laws of logic, science, and nature, and this worldview is consistent with the study of law. Again if all laws of science are contingent (The naturalist's view), then how can these laws amount to more than statistical probabilities moreover the counterfactuals cannot be grounded. Laws by definition are necessary, not contingent.

But what grounds truth? (can we be certain about anything - philosophically?) I will demonstrate in this short article that all truths are a matter of convention (according to the naturalist who denies the supernatural), our worldviews and presuppositions, and our reasoning which is ultimately grounded in these basic beliefs. Even what we call "facts" are subject to challenge due to our inability to view the extended world in an unbiased objective fashion. There are no brute facts that man can discern! So based on classic and current epistemology, there are no propositions that are incorrigible. Most philosophers deny truth values to subjunctive conditionals out of self-deception and a delusional disorder. When I say delusional disorder I am speaking in a psychological sense in that people will throw out commonsense and reason due to what the prevailing opinion is. For example most Germans suffered from a delusional disorder in that they were brainwashed into believing that Jews were vermin and not worthy of the same rights as German citizens. Another case of delusional disorder is the belief in evolution. Most people don't research the facts outside of what the evolutionist tells them; and despite the fact that there is not one scrap of evidence for evolution (it is pure theory and speculation) they check their brains at the door and believe the delusion with the rest of the crowd. But I digress. So your garden variety scientist will believe whatever is given her so long as it has a PhD behind her name.

I will even show that the philosopher who denies foundationalism as a cogent epistemology, in her hypocrisy uses this approach to life and all of her worldviews. Her views about logic, metaphysics, life, etc., are all grounded in her most basic presuppositions dealing with these issues. Though she may claim to hold to a naturalized epistemology, or one of coherence, in reality her knowledge is built on the foundation of her most basic beliefs and worldviews, hence knowledge a la foundationalism. Though foundationalism for some reason has fallen out of vogue, yet it is the most intuitive approach to life; however, I suppose most philosophers don't wish to defend its flaws - yet there isn't a system of epistemology that isn't without spot or wrinkle. If knowledge depends on certainty, then even an armchair philosopher such as myself can easily show that there is no certainty in this world or within the domain of human reasoning - especially that of the atheist, naturalist, or empiricist. My view is quite simple and will be repeated: God made the world to be known and us with the ability to know it, truths of reason are how He reasons and expects us to reason. To the atheist this would come across as "commonsense realism"; however, my presuppositions are a bit more cogent in that one cannot rationally explain the origin of the universe aside from a being we call God. So the atheist who holds to a commonsense realist position, can never ground her knowledge because she cannot explain the origin of the universe except for the logically absurd (internally inconsistent) view that something was created from nothing (to understand the impossibility of an eternal universe see "set theory - actual infinite"). In fact atheists have recently revised their definition of what it is to be an atheist because of the problem of their inability to prove a universal negative. If one were to just take the time to ponder the atheist or naturalist worldview, they would see that God or an un-moved mover is the only reasonable explanation for the origin of the universe; and the most intuitive view as well.

It is not my intention to exhaustively debate this issue whether a counterfactual conditional can be true or false but rather to make a few points. One argument against a counterfactual conditional being able to be a truth bearer is that they are "all in your mind". My answer: then aren't all propositions in our minds? and again how can the critic explain the extended world when even Hume famously said "tis vain to ask if there be a body"; can anyone lay claim to observing the extended world as it really exists or can they only make a feeble attempt to describe it through their conceptual framework, and worldview? Even Descartes concluded that the only thing we know for certain is that we exist "I think therefore I am". How about the objection to counterfactuals being subject to the fixity of the past? How about this "If Joe were to have cut off Jane's head two years ago, Jane would have died"; how many would argue against this being true? What subsumes brick and mortar? What subsumes atoms? Are there atoms and if so have we seen them? What is the real world? So as you can see this really is a knotty issue, ostensibly trite yet the things we all must answer if pushed to defend any views we might hold. The empiricist who claims that "facts" ground the truth of contingent propositions has a long road plow before she can prove what exactly a fact is and how she can present it in a way that is incorrigibly true; free from all philosophical challenges, and then demonstrate how her correspondence theory does not beg the question.

The classical approach to grounding truth is (1) by reason (a priori) or (2) by the event actualizing or taking place (a posteriori). A proposition is said to be true and grounded in reason a priori or a posteriori if we must experience the event occurring at some time and show a correspondence to this event, thus making it true. These propositions that would qualify as "knowledge" would be said to be epistemically certain and therefore true. On the other hand the Christian view holds that truths of reason are true in virtue of how God thinks and expects us to think, they discover the order of the universe rather than imposing order on the universe. Empirical truths are discoverable because Christians believe that God has created the world to be known and man with the ability to know it; in short this is how a Christian would ground propositions.

But are these means of grounding truth certain? And if we hold to a theory of fallibilism that allows the truthfulness of our knowledge claims to be problified versus certain, why wouldn't the counterfactual conditional and subjunctive conditionals qualify as being true or false prior to any correspondence to an event taking place? This ostensible certainty is really an issue of self-deception.

The fact of the matter is that nothing in this universe is (to the atheist which is true or false by convention) certain. Even truths of reason or mathematics are only certain on pain of convention; especially if I don't accept the convention? Then these so called truths of reason do not have the propositional certainty to yield epistemic certainty which would qualify them as knowledge.

Allow me to prove this beginning with truths of reason. In propositional logic there are roughly 10 basic inferences that have generally been accepted by the philosophical community. Of these 10, 2 of them sometimes are not accepted as valid, these are the inference of simplification and addition. Simplification says if (P & Q) is true, then we may imply P. The rule or inference of addition says if P is true, then (P v N) is true (N being any other proposition whatsoever). So here we have what most philosophers would consider a system that is valid and propositionally certain yet if one doesn't accept the convention of the 10 rules of inference, then the truth that is derived from employing the rules of simplification or addition would not be accepted as certainly true or false.

Another example is arithmetic. It seems to most people that the proposition "2+2=4" is necessarily true and therefore certainly true. But what if I don't accept this convention? So as we can see what we try to "slide through" as certainty in logic and mathematics is really only certain if we are willing to accept the convention that says these are certain truths. So I would say that these propositions are true on pain of convention versus certainty.

Now for truths of the empirical realm or a posteriori certain that we know that Joe is eating the cheese burger at 3:00? Can we trust our eye sight as a reliable source of knowledge or the testimony of someone else to relay the fact that Joe is eating a cheese burger? Can we prove that our evidence exists in reality and that we are not dreaming this up? Can we know the world intrinsically? I would say no. We have no certainty when it comes to facts much less the correspondence between these facts and the proposition. I could go on to prove that we have no certainty when dealing with so called facts in the contingent realm of what we perceive to be reality but I will allow this one example for sake of brevity. As "silly" as these challenges to Joe eating the cheese burger may seem to our commonsense, these are strong philosophical challenges that are indeed quite weighty.

So here I have briefly demonstrated that we may wish to appease ourselves into thinking that there is certainty in our epistemology or even in our world of science and anything pertaining to life but; what we really have is a degree of fallibility and all of our truths are problifications and not certain. So again, why don't well allow counterfactual conditionals to have truth values? The answer is convention! The philosophic community doesn't wish to grant counterfactual conditionals as knowledge despite the fact that they are true in terms of their probability just like any other fact or proposition. Most historians will tell you that with great probability, Hitler would have won the war if he hadn't invaded Russia.

Let's take one more counterfactual proposition "If Joe cuts Helen's head off during a fight, Helen will die". Who in their right mind would say this is false? Not many, what they would say are that this is neither true nor false until it is actualized. I would beg to differ based on the aforesaid discussion about the chimera of certainty and how every single proposition whether it be one of reason or experience is true in virtue of a problification of the truth and not its certainty. Furthermore I believe we have ample reason to justify that Helen will be dead if she loses her head!

What connection has this discussion about knowledge and counterfactual conditionals to Christianity? I wrote this article to unmask the chimera that "all truths of reason, science, and secular issues are certain and cogent while religious claims about God are issues of faith alone".

Let the reader understand that there is not one human system of knowledge that does not beg the question or rely upon ones transcendental basic beliefs. Some will defend this flaw as epistemology being "primitive", I would write it off to our inability to reason aside from our humanity and inability to view the universe with an unbiased impartiality. No human is objective nor can any human or scientific method yield unbiased truth. Secondly knowledge is a JTB or justified true belief. All knowledge has an element of faith or belief associated with it. Yet the scientific community and especially the atheist community with bury their lack of certainty, objectivity, and necessity for faith in a fog of verbiage and fifty dollar words. But what they won't tell you is that their knowledge is nothing more than a guess based on their biases and atheist worldviews.

Even the most basic questions of physics such as "how can two objects collide while there is an infinite number of points between them and these objects cannot share the same point?" So when you are confronted with some mysterious issues of religion such as the trinity or the divinity of Christ, these mysteries are noting unusual. In fact I would say that even though due to my humanity and I cannot reason out of a circle; my explanation of the origin of the universe is more rational and reasonable than the atheist's. Before we jump to evolution, how reasonable is it to assume that "that which is created was its own creator?" this is illogical and a internally inconsistent statement. When we consider how much design and engineering has gone into building computers, and yet these computers are nothing in compassion to the brain, how can the reasonable person say that the brain is a product of random chance with no design? Consider the eye, the millions of animals, plants, and solar system...put aside your prejudices and ask how reasonable or probable for this to have taken place without a creator? This also affect the teaching of Open Theism which teaches that God cannot know a future contingent because there is nothing that has taken place to ground the future occurrence. I would answer the Open Theist that first off; even in the domain of human reasoning, we can have knowledge of future contingents and counterfactual conditionals. Secondly why would anyone think that God's reasoning and ability to know things such as propositions and facts is akin to ours? Example: for Jesus to know that Peter would deny Him 3 times would have required Jesus to know millions of free will events of everyone who was remotely associated with those standing around the fire as well as Peter's thoughts. Additionally for God to know in great detail about the final Battle of Armageddon would require His knowledge of millions of free will events (for lack of a better term). So as it says in the bible; His ways are not our ways nor are His thoughts our thoughts.

Quickly back to the counterfactual conditional, I believe it is a strong cogent argument to accept that a counterfactual conditional or future contingent proposition does have a truth value aside from it's correspondence to a fact taking place in time. We with our limited minds (within the domain of human reason) and self-deception have never considered the lack of certainty that exists with all propositions and therefore have never given the subjunctive conditionals the truth values that they deserve. Counterfactual conditional subjunctive conditionals true or false? I would say yes as a Christian with regards to nomacity of the laws being necessary; and yes in that the naturalist may view truth as contingently true and therefore counterfactuals are entitled to have truth values as well!

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