calvinist wrote:I wanted to point out your statement that "It's all a matter of interpretation." I agree with you on this and would say that that extends to all of our knowledge... whether mathematics, language, feelings, anything. Knowledge always has an object and a subject... so there's always a subjective part to it. That is why I argue that all reasoning (or knowledge) is circular.. In the end it's up to our interpretation of the data: it's relevance, determination of whether it's "orderly" as in "science" or "chaotic" as in "chance". These are subjective judgements, even though they may be widely accepted. Our interpretation of anything is dependent upon our preexisting beliefs and understanding of things which is why it is all circular... I don't mean a small circular argument like "There is a God, therefore, God exists." The circle is much larger and contains many elements which support other elements within the circle, but fundamentally it is circular... not linear.
OK. I think I understand more where you're coming from now. I think you're conflating two different senses of the word "reasoning".
One typical use of the word "reasoning" is logical deduction. In logical deduction, circularity is a no-no, no matter how large the circle is. Even in pure fields of thought like logic or math, you don't assume the statement you're trying to prove. You might assume that the statement isn't
true, in order to prove that that results in a contradiction, but that's different. And you might say that the results of a proof are implicitly contained in the initial axioms, which is true. That's what math and logic do; they explore the implicit consequences of given assumptions. But still, they don't explicitly assume that a statement to be proved is true from the get-go.
The other use of "reasoning" is more an empirical or "scientific" sort of reasoning about a worldview, which is where I think you're coming from (although I don't know for sure). In this type of reasoning, yes, you do make assumptions. In science, they're called "theories". You test a theory against evidence, and also test it for logical self-contradictions. The theory has to be internally self-consistent as well as not being falsified by evidence. The only problem with metaphysical theories is that they aren't falsifiable like scientific theories are, so you're only left with the self-consistency check. And a good metaphysical theory is like a good conspiracy theory; it's formulated so that it's impossible to find inconsistencies in it. My materialist worldview is no better than yours in that respect, as far as I can tell.
That being said, in standard Christianity, there are good arguments that there are
inconsistencies. For instance, the standard Christian conception of God is that he's all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good. IMO, this logically clashes with the existence of evil in the world. Either you have to throw out one of the three supposed properties of God, or you have to throw out the idea of evil and claim that evil doesn't really
exist (which is not terribly convincing). Other attempts to explain away this problem haven't been convincing either, at least to me.
And in materialism, the whopper is free will. If I am only a bunch of particles driven by physical laws (deterministic or probabilistic really makes no difference), then how can I have free will? Either I have to throw out the concept of free will, or I have to add another ingredient into my worldview to explain it. Or I can try to resolve the conundrum like philosopher Daniel Dennett does with a long convoluted argument that claims to prove that you can have your free will and be a materialist, too. I don't find his argument any more convincing than I do the theodicy arguments of theologians. So, I just choose not to believe in free will.
Then I try not to think about that when thinking about ethics, because that makes my head hurt.
But if you're a Calvinist, do you believe in free will?