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Darwinian Debating Device #13: Distorting or dismissing self-evident truths


In the Denying the truth is not the same as not knowing it thread, we see the Darwinist tendency to distort or dismiss self-evident truth (and, behind this, to deny first principles of right reason) in action. Another noteworthy DDD, no 14 by count so far.

This starts in the very first comment:

TT, 1: Barry, you wield self-evident truths as if they were weapons. Declaring that something is a self-evident truth does not make it so. Is it a self-evident truth that the sparkling point of light in the night sky is a star? 99% of the time (or more, I don’t really know), this extrapolation may be correct. Except when it is a plant or a galaxy.

In many cases, what somebody calls a self-evident truth is nothing more than opinion. For a theist, the presence of god is self-evident; the ultimate nature of morality is self-evident, the uniqueness of man is self-evident. But they aren’t.

By no 9, BA laid out:

. . . anything that is even remotely close to esoteric [–> or which is significantly rooted in inferential steps] cannot possibly be a self-evident.

Here is the classic example: 2+2=4. A person perceives the truth of the proposition merely by understanding it. Interestingly 587 X 264=154,968 is not self-evidently true.

Here’s another: I am conscious. If I deny that statement I have descended into patently absurd self-referential incoherence.


By 11, he added:

It is called the “hard problem of consciousness” for a reason my friend. Actually, for theistic dualists such as Box and myself, the problem is not hard at all. For materialist it is well-nigh insoluble.

You experience subjective self-awareness. That cannot be denied. Yet a materialists’ metaphysical premises utterly exclude the possibility of a “real” subjective self that is not a “physical” thing. It is called a “hard problem” because there is no good answer to how a “physical thing” can have subjective self-awareness. How can a bag of chemicals have subjective self-awareness? This does not mean that materialists don’t try to answer the question. Indeed they do. And their answers are stupid. Just this week News has highlighted a materialist spewing the hoary “we only think that we think” idiocy. The other dodge is to say that “consciousness” is an “emergent property” of the brain system, as if that is an explanation instead of a confession of ignorance.

So yes, the professor who is the subject of this post is denying that he exists (in the second sense of the word).

By 26, MF weighs in:


[BA:] Here is the classic example: 2+2=4. A person perceives the truth of the proposition merely by understanding it. Interestingly 587X264=154,968 is not self-evidently true.

[MF:] Are you not confusing “self-evidently” with “obviously”? Whatever the grounds are for the truth of mathematical equations (a famous condundrum), surely they are same grounds for both these equations. It is just that in one case it is more obvious.

In 27, TK adds:

And to a savant, 587×264= 154,968 might be just as obviously true as 2+2=4 meaning what is self evidently true depends on the individual.

So, in 28, I intervened (and here take advantage of OP capacities to add figures), primarily addressing MF but also others:


>> It has long been discussed in and around UD (and long before that, elsewhere . . . ), that self evident truths, ON UNDERSTANDING such, are directly seen as true, and as necessarily true; typically on pain of PATENT absurdity on attempted denial. Notice, not merely a synonym for obviousness . . . a very common caricature or misunderstanding that easily becomes a strawman set up to be knocked over.

As you know there are results in say logic calculus, that can be shown to be so on pain of self contradiction (and others that subtly self-refer and contradict), but such will be seen only after significant effort. These are not self-evident. Self evidence will require actual truth, necessary truth easily seen based on our experience of the world as rational creatures, and patent absurdity or error on attempted denial.

Aquinas long ago gave the refining point that such may be so in themselves, but for one not in a position to understand, they will not be seen as such. (IIRC, he gave as an example, truths of Plane Geometry.)

For the cases above, something like 2 + 3 = 5 is simply seen once the direct substitution from the Indo-Arabic numerals to representative “stick” counters is made:

|| + ||| —> |||||

But in your attempted objection, no such direct simple process is at work.

First, there is a complex involvement of the place value notation system, which when I had to teach it for digital electronics, showed itself very involved. Second, the operation of multiplication (repeated addition) is so involved that people usually simply memorise — with considerable effort — the times tables over the course of a few years in school. This is taken basically on authority.

Then, in the attempted undermining case, the feasible mechanism is one or more of the long multiplication algorithms, again usually accepted on authority with maybe a simple example or two to make it palatable.

In short, your attempted counter example is haring away on a tangent, after a red herring.

The point is brought out in BA’s second case:

I am conscious. If I deny that statement I have descended into patently absurd self-referential incoherence.

TT tried to assert emergence of consciousness as a known effect of brain chemistry, not realising — thanks to today’s ever so pervasive indoctrination in unreflective, lab coat clad a priori evolutionary materialism — that in fact this view is not only not warranted by any chain of scientific evidence, but that it ends directly in self-referential absurdity. As famed evolutionary theorist J B S Haldane pointed out over eighty years ago:

“It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes [–> including of course self-aware, perceiving, rational, reasoning, warranting, knowing, understanding consciousness] are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]


(Cf here on in context, especially the sections on the Smith model and the challenge to evolutionary materialism. The onward note on grounding of morality will help also.)

Of course, the longstanding root problem for you MF and others of like ilk is, that self evidence is a grounding issue, setting limited, certain start-points for reasoning that serve as plumbline tests for worldviews, cf. here on.

Here, there be dragons — FIRST PRINCIPLES OF RIGHT REASON and CORE KNOWABLE, UNDENIABLE TRUTHS (such as the classic one from Josiah Royce via Elton Trueblood: Error exists).

Long time UD regulars know all about the vapours ever so many materialists get when we start, behold, a bright red ball on the table (or in the sky . . . ), A,


such that we see the world-partition:


W = { A | NOT_A }

Hence, identity, A is A, not NOT_A, and hence the immediate concomitants LNC that (A AND ~A) = 0 and LEM (A X-OR ~A) = 1. And no, Q-mech is not an out (it rests on these first principles), and no you are not free to go on demanding turtles all the way down or in a circle.

"Turtles, all the way down . . . " vs a root cause
“Turtles, all the way down . . . ” vs a root cause

The buck stops here.

A summary of why we end up with foundations for our worldviews, whether or not we would phrase the matter that way}
A summary of why we end up with foundations for our worldviews, whether or not we would phrase the matter that way}

And, such first principles of reason do great execution across the various post-/ultra-modernist schemes of thinking as well as to a priori evolutionary materialism, as such turn to deny self evident truth and land in absurdities.

Denying the patent truth is not the same as not knowing it, or having a duty to acknowledge it. (And no, per the same patent absurdities in moral form, might and manipulation do not and cannot make ‘right.’ which points like a compass needle where so many would not go, the only serious candidate for an IS capable of grounding OUGHT at world-foundations level, is the inherently good creator God who is a necessary, maximally great being the root and sustainer of reality. Not a proof beyond all doubts and hyperskepticism, but a strong indicator as to the nature of a reality in which we find ourselves inescapably governed by ought.)

It is high time for fresh thinking.>>


No, self-evidence of truths is not at all  a matter of obviousness or being strongly believed.

We speak here instead of actual truth, seen as necessarily true once properly understood in light of our conscious rational experience of our world, necessarily true on pain of immediate descent into patent, absurd error.

Where also, that E = error exists is undeniable, warranted credible self-evident truth no 1.

That is, first, we all know it, starting with vivid memories of red X’s across our sums in primary school. Second, we know from our habit of arguing and quarreling, that this is a generally known consensus. Third, it is undeniable, as to try to deny it directly demonstrates it: E –> ~E, (E AND ~ E) = 0, so necessarily E.

Which points to the hard core of reason, its first undeniable principles — the plumbline we use to test our thinking.

A plumbline
A plumbline

As well as to first truths that expose the utter incoherence of ever so many modernist or post-/ ultra- modernist views that deny the reality of truth [or assert that truth is merely relative] or dismiss the possibility of objective, well-grounded knowledge of truth beyond reasonable doubt, or resort to selective hyperskeptical dismissals, etc etc.

One last thing: to the one who has had a life-changing, transformational encounter with the living God, the reality of God is no more open to doubt than his or her own consciousness, or the reality of his or her mother as a loving, caring parent (and not some silly zombie).

It is time for fresh thinking. END

PS: Re WJM in 4, dirt pile (one, not made by human hands, sitting oh about 6 mi due S of where I am):

Soufriere Hills Volcano dome, Montserrat, at night
Soufriere Hills Volcano dome, Montserrat, at night

. . . and, a Sand Castle:

A sand castle
A sand castle

On seeing and understanding, the two seem to me undeniably disparate, though both are piled up dirt. The difference between the two being manifest in the functionally specific complex organisation of the latter, with associated information; pointing to intelligently directed configuration or contrivance, aka design. The challenge is to extend what we know about FSCO/I in the here and now to the unobserved actual past of origins, based on best current causal explanation of traces we can observe in the present.

 PPS: The FSCO/I origin challenge:



I did! Funny how few of our critics have managed to contribute anything to this thread :) My next question is can these self-evident truths be categorized? e.g., why is it true that there are no square circles? Have we searched the world over for a square circle, or is such a search an exercise in futility, and why? Mung
Hey, Mung, I gave thirty or so candidate self evident truths -- did you notice? KF kairosfocus
Mung: Let's try out a few candidates:
2 + 3 = 5 2 Error exists Truth exists Knowledge is possible Knowledge of the external, objective world is possible Reasoned thought is possible Understanding, making good sense of certain things, is possible Truth says of what is that it is, and of what is not, that it is not. (Per Ari in Metaphysics 1011b) We may know some things beyond rational doubt We may know some things beyond reasonable doubt, to moral certainty We cannot count to infinity [strictly, aleph-null], one step at a time We cannot count down from infinity a step at a time Consciousness is real and important to reasoning and knowing Mechanical computation is not rational contemplation I am aware of being conscious, even if I may be mistaken concerning my circumstances Beauty is compellingly attractive and highly desirable Nobility is admirable Nothing is what rocks dream of, i.e. it denotes non-being Nothing can have no causal powers Were there ever nothing at all, forever, there would be nothing S5, the famous axiom
(Note from Wiki: S5 is useful because it avoids superfluous iteration of qualifiers of different kinds. For example, under S5, if X is necessarily, possibly, necessarily, possibly true, then X is possibly true. Unbolded qualifiers before the final "possibly" are pruned in S5. While this is useful for keeping propositions reasonably short, it also might appear counter-intuitive in that, under S5, if something is possibly necessary, then it is necessary. Alvin Plantinga has argued that this feature of S5 is not, in fact, counter-intuitive. To justify, he reasons that if X is possibly necessary, it is necessary in at least one possible world; hence it is necessary in all possible worlds and thus is true in all possible worlds. Such reasoning underpins 'modal' formulations of the ontological argument.)
I am appeared to redly etc. We have inherent unalienable rights that ought to be respected in light of our dignity as human beings Fundamental rights include life, liberty and the fulfillment of meaning/purpose/potential/calling It is wrong, evil, wicked to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a young child . . . especially, for "pleasure" A square circle is not possible Once we have a distinct thing A, A is A, with concomitants, Not(A and ~A) and (A ex-or ~A) A finite whole W is greater than any of its proper parts, p. If we notice a thing A, we may ask and investigate as to why A is (NB: a weak form PSR, demonstrated by simply proceeding to do just that) That which begins or is otherwise contingent, has a cause (involving at least one enabling causally necessary factor). The base angles of an Isosceles triangle are equal Parallel lines in the plane do not converge Etc, etc.
Test and see. KF kairosfocus
What are some self-evidence truths? One book I am reading offers the following (iirc): Plants and animals exist. There are no square circles. Mung
KF, unfortunately a pons asinorum which very few pass in these testing times ... Box
Box, maybe yet another pons asinorum. KF kairosfocus
WJM #8: This evil is the path towards hell – the pain of absurd denialism leading to the willful annihilation of self in service of the ideology of ultimate meaninglessness.
It is the duty of all thinkers to strive for a concept of reality which accommodates a meaningful life. It is conceivable that despite our efforts and hopes life is shown to be meaningless, but such a tragic state of affairs can never be the starting point or the objective of philosophy. It can never be accepted as long as there is a glimmer of hope. I believe this to be yet another self-evident truth ignored by materialists. Box
As a highly interested yet scientific layman, I hold the opinions proffered here by the likes of KF in very high regard. That you, WJM, I suppose just unlurked to proffer these latest two comments deems it necessary to move you to my immediate short list of those who can articulate my position extraordinarily well. I just used your last to throw a bomb into a passel of self-congratulatory atheist comments on Facebook regarding the folly of the religious position. Taking cover now. Much obliged! AnimatedDust
PPS: I think you are on to something with the sun in the sky example. Obvious, but relative motion, in a context where wider and wider circles of motion arise. Could, it be that "we cannot take the sun rising arching over and setting at face value" be lending undue weight to hyperskepticism, rather than pointing us to respect for the power of logic to discern beneath the surface appearance, to invisible but foundational reality? (As in: We walk by [well-grounded, insightful but necessarily trusting] faith, and not by sight . . . ) kairosfocus
WJM: SELECTIVE hyperskepticism [no 12 was it?), which is ever joined to a correlative hypercredulity towards what one wishes were so . . . KF PS: Always good to see you unlurk, old friend. kairosfocus
What is so frustrating/baffling at times is the ongoing use of terminology by materialists to deny/obfuscate what are relatively simple, straightforward observations - as if the example of the sun seemingly moving through the sky serves as a universal principle of hyperskeptical fallibility through which every statement/observation can be summarily ignored/dismissed. If one cannot admit there is a significant difference between a sandcastle and a sandpile that is not merely "incidental", what hope is there for meaningful debate about anything? It's useful to recognize that such hyperskepticism is only applied one way - it is never applied to their own materialist or atheist ideology, its assumptions, "truths", faith, or line of logic. Apparently, logic is perfectly valid when it supports atheistic materialism; it is nothing but a local, fallible evolutionary feature when it undermines that view. Of note is the fact that we have never witnessed any hint of macroevolutionary success (a biological entity becoming something other than simply a slightly different version of the same kind); we have never witnessed natural forces assembling anything remotely as functional as the complex machines we find in the cell - nor do we have any idea how it could have occurred; we have no explanation for consciousness or the existence of highly functional information that is transcendental to material substrate; we have no answer to the existence of semiotic systems in biology; yet there is zero skepticism on the part of materialists that such things can be and in fact were manufactured by chance according to natural laws and tendencies. Yet, when it challenges their ideology, they are willing to announce their skepticism that A=A, which by itself destroys any support they could possible offer for their position. They are willing to abandon their mind and destroy the value of their own premises simply to avoid a conclusion they cannot tolerate. This is the hell evil is the path towards - the pain of absurd denialism leading to the willful annihilation of self in service of the ideology of ultimate meaninglessness. William J Murray
AD, sobering. Paul's rebuke to the Roman elites in Rom 1 (with Nero as sinner in chief) is revealing. Probably cost him his head 9 years later of course. Speaking truth to power often comes at a stiff price. KF kairosfocus
WJM: Dirt pile and sand castle images duly added as a PS. It seems to me that the difference, its nature and causal source (being actually pretty well observed) are undeniable on pain of absurdity. Where an inferential step enters, is when one sees similar FSCO/I in traces from the remote unobservable actual past of origins. Then, one seeks a causal explanation that is well warranted. Where, we have trillions of cases of FSCO/I by design, nil by blind chance and/or mechanical necessity. With the needle in haystack blind search challenge backing it up. KF kairosfocus
@WJM You nailed it of course. Their hearts became darkened and their thinking became futile. AnimatedDust
Those who deny self-evident truths exist provide themselves with the ability to deny, ultimately, anything, including the capacity to deny necessarily true statements derived from self-evident truths and obviously true statements (even if they behave as if those statements are true) simply to stymie debate. Which brings us to the sandpile/sandcastle example. They deny the difference not because they actually believe there is no significant difference, but because they know where such an admission will lead. William J Murray
PS: Dare I note that our definition of "star" has shifted across time, based on discoveries? E.g. Planetos originally meant wandering stars. kairosfocus
Ari: truth says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not. (Adapt. Metaphysics, 1011b) kairosfocus
F/N: Round and round we go, all the way back to denying or distorting self evident truths (and first principles of right reason that are self evident). So, a refresher . . . KF PS: If someone wants to play the denial of Error game (again), view Error exists as an assertion that the set that collects errors is non-empty. And in fact necessarily non empty not just contingently so. kairosfocus

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