Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

NOTICE: Updating thoughts on Schaeffer’s work — Thanks a mil, StephenB


After a fruitful discussion with StephenB, I have updated my recent post —What was the alleged “Dominionist” theologian, Francis Schaeffer, doing back in the 1950′s – 80′s?  — especially in light of evidence he has brought to bear from Aquinas’ corpus.

Note especially how I have adjusted Sawyer’s summary to highlight the points of correction, and how I have added a diagram that adjusts Schaeffer’s famous Line of Despair Diagram in a way that illustrates, extends and adjusts Schaeffer’s vision of the key worldview shaping trends that have framed our civilisation over the past millennium.

Let me reproduce the new diagram here:

Extending (and correcting) Schaeffer's vision of the course of western thought, worldviews and culture, C1 - 21

I have also added a key excerpt from Simon Greenleaf’s Treatise on the Law of Evidence, that brings out the issue of defeatable but reasonable warrant in a very useful way. Let me clip what Greenleaf has to say.

As Greenleaf explains in his treatise, with particular emphasis on the courtroom:

The word Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . .

None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [Greenleaf was almost a century before Godel] , and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction. Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone ; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration.

In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd. The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them. The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to he proved . . . .

By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond reasonable doubt. The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man ; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest joncern and importance to his own interest . . . .

Even of mathematical truths, [Gambler, in The Study of Moral Evidence] justly remarks, that, though capable of demonstration, they are admitted by most men solely on the moral evidence of general notoriety. For most men are neither able themselves to understand mathematical demonstrations, nor have they, ordinarily, for their truth, the testimony of those who do understand them; but finding them generally believed in the world, they also believe them. Their belief is afterwards confirmed by experience; for whenever there is occasion to apply them, they are found to lead to just conclusions. [A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, 11th edn, 1868 [?], vol 1 Ch 1, , pp. 45 – 46.]

The best overall approach to these matters, then — which BTW, instantly removes the force of accusations on question-begging — is to objectively compare the difficulties of competing explanations on responsible and well-informed abductive inference to best explanation per factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power.

Through using that approach, we can look at the question of sound or at least trustworthy and reasonable worldviews foundations in light of the fact that we all have to start from key first principles of right reason, and also that every argument or inference has roots. Faith and reason are inextricably intertwined in the roots of all worldviews.

I trust these adjustments will prove helpful.

If you want to discuss the above, you are invited to participate in the discussion here in the original thread. END