Monday, May 22, 2006

Perspectives on the Constructive Curmudgeon

My students often hear me say, "Exegete the technology." So, as I did a short time after starting this blog, I will ask you, the reader, to comment on its nature and quality. Alan Jacobs recently wrote a piece in "Books and Culture" explaining why he gave up on blogs for serious thought. But how seriously should be even take blogs--and this blog?

I try to make this a forum for connecting to other sources, either on line or off, for advancing short essays, for and some satire. Through it all, I hope truth will be served. There is no time to waste in this short and preparatory existence. This blog is not my life, although I'm not cavalier about it either.

A friend of mine encouraged me to continue the blog because "a lot of people read it." That, I take it, was not his only reason (a lot of people read web pages on Paris Hilton as well), but I wonder who reads it and why. Some of you post some astute and insightful comments, for which I am grateful.

For two years running, I've been asked to participate in forums at Biola University on "God-blogging." However, since they wouldn't cover any expenses and didn't offer a plenary address (you never know how many come to lowly "seminars"), I passed up the offer. I was assured that I could promote blog's "products," but since I don't have any products (besides a few references to my books), that didn't tantalize me.

So, my dear readers, please tell me what you think--and I'm not posturing for a compliment either. Iron sharpens iron, but can it do so in cyberspace?

48 comments:

ben said...

Dr. G.,
I attended the first Set Forth Your Case conference in Atlanta (your lecture included)and it set me on course to abandoning secular employment and my present status as a full time grad student studying Christian Apologetics. I think the medium is useful. The long exchange initiated by your post on attending the Jesus bashing movie was very useful for one (like myself) who is new to philosophy. One thing I noted is that if we are in cyberspace promoting a view point, then we do need to be prepared to take the time to defend it when challenged. Initially, many were reluctant to engage Luke/Matt. But when they did, there was some good discussion. I realize that you and many of your regular commentators are extremely busy people with heavy responsibilities to your work, but on the other hand I suppose one cannot be obligated to respond to all critics.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Ben:

I applaud your embarking on the philosophy and apologetics road, but we also need Christian witness in "secular work." The quotes mean that any legitimate field should be done unto the Lord.

No, I cannot follow up on every post on my blog. I have many, many other things to do, and this is not always the best medium for in-depth dialogue or debate. I'd rather talk to someone face to face or have them read a book, typically.

Small Group Guy said...

I believe cyberspace is a good place to provoke good thought. I do read a lot, and like Ben I am setting out on a long road of theological training. I should have a bachelors in Theology in 18 months with the intention of getting a Masters in apologetics. Cyberspace gives me exposure to ideas I would not otherwise likely find. The books I read are mostly recommended by friends, or are written up in publications I read. I do not get exposure to the apologetics and thought processes of people outside my worldview very much without good blogs.

I do not agree with everything you say, and that is fine. It is up to me to let your ideas ruminate in my mind and decide for myself where I stand.

"Man is obviously made for thinking, therein lies his dignity and merit; and his whole duty is to think as he aught."

-Blaise Pascal

the redekopps said...

I've found that having a couple of well written, thoughtful blogs in my life is an excellent supplement to the books I make time for. Blogs introduce a level of unpredictability to my intellectual/spiritual growth. This is refreshing. Since I tend mainly to buy and read books that reinforce my views, I value blogs for introducing me to views and topics I may not otherwise have explored. Yours is one of those blogs. Thanks.

reJoyce said...

Hi, I'm a relatively new reader of your blog, but I thought I'd inject a comment today.

I suppose my opinion depends on what Alan Jacobs means by "serious thought". For my level of "serious thought" I find plenty of fodder on blogs (in general). It's been fascinating to me to see what people are thinking, and how folks respond to what they say. I get lots of book ideas from blogs, and links to articles. I've even found a couple of old friends again through blogs.

I do think that I have been challenged to think by the blog world. To defend myself when I disagree and to make improvements in myself when needed. I don't think it would be good to forgo all live human interaction for blog relationships, but I do think they can serve a good purpose.

Jeff said...

I don't have time to attend conferences, or the money the subscribe to numerous journals. With my responsiblities, I can't go back to school. But I need and enjoy the stimulation and provocation of well-expressed ideas from intelligent people, as well as pointers to other worthwhile resources. So blogs like yours are very valuable. Specifically concerning your blog - you are often exasperating and I am initially in agreement with you only about half the time (but sometimes after mulling things over, I come around to your viewpoint), and that is one of the reasons you are still on my feed list. Your ideas are compelling and I love your stubborn defense of the Truth. I have this mental picture of you as a crotchety and cantakerous person of whom everyone has a humorous anecdote, but also a great deal of affection (you asked for my unvarnished reaction). For me, that sort of increases your appeal, regardless of the reality (such is the nature of blog-writing). All-in-all, I am grateful for your condescension to take time to write your blog and I hope you continue.

Tim said...

Doug,

I'd encourage you to keep it up. Your blog is one of the very few that I come to on a regular basis. I often find it simultaneously amusing and thought provoking -- and that's a very good combination. The world needs more curmudgeons, especially constructive ones.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Dr. Groothuis,

Many times I find your comments very condescending to the culture at large. At times it comes accross as arrogant, and this despite your protests to the contrary that a Curmudgeon such as yourself is to be "Constructive" as well as humble.

I often get the impression that you do not seriously engage your culture. An example is that you encourage the discontinued use of television. Television, of course, is one of the primary media for our culture. One must wonder if a person truly can engage culture if they completely separate themselves from it. In this way, for myself at least, I find that at times you can seem out of touch with the very culture you are critiquing. This goes to the credibility factor.

In short, it seems as though many times you are simply taking shots from your ivory tower at a culture you disdain; a culture "going to hell in a handbasket."

All this to say that I hope you continue to blog. I appreciate your contribution to the blogosphere and I would hope that you never stop. Unique voices, particularly from brothers and sisters in Christ, are absolutely essential, and your voice, in particular, has been heard. Don't underestimate the power of the blog.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Well, the last post shows the limits of blogs! "Shots from the ivory tower," no less. Anyone who knows me would never utter such words, nor would one who reads about my engagements with culture, both popular and academic as reported on this blog. I'll try not to have a narcisstic fit and leave it at that.

The Eeej said...

You can't quit now, I just found you. Blogotional is a friend and he links to you all the time. This is my new favorite blog.

Douglas Groothuis said...

To Mr. Erdman:

I cannot stand the silence. Here is how "I shoot from the ivory tower." These are in no particular order; they are just what's on the top of my ivory head:

1. November, 2005. Open lecture at Colorado State University on Christianity and Science. 300 or so attend. The event is written up on the front page of the student newspaper.

2. December 2005, editorial on intelligent design in The Rocky Mountain News.

3. March 2006, talk and discussion after "The God Who Wasn't There" at the Oriental Theater in Denver before about 150 people, mostly atheists.

4. January - February 2006, six weeks of preaching at small Free Methodist Church

5. March-April, 2006. Three weeks of Sunday School at a Free Methodist Church.

6. February 2005, read a poem (!) at open mic night at Denver Seminary.

7. May 2006, editorial in The Rocky Mountain News on Da Vinci Code and other challenges to the New Testament.

8. May 2006, moderated chat room/blog on the Da Vinci Code for The Rocky Mountain News.

9. March 2006, review of What Jesus Meant by Gary Wills in The Denver Post.

10. April 2006, preaching at a small Presbyterian Church.

11. Various letters to the editor.

12. August, 2005, appeared on Boulder Public radio to debate
intelligent design.

13. August, 2006, quoted in The Rocky Mountain News on intelligent design.

14. December, 2006, Quoted in The Denver Post on the "Christmas wars"--or was it the Rocky Mountain News?

This ivory tower gets very lonely.

Kevin Winters said...

In at least partial agreement with jonathan, I think your discussions about so-called postmodernism are lacking in genuine interaction, dealing largely with secondary sources, encyclopedias, and dealing with its weaker figures (particularly Nietzsche, who never tried to be systematic or consistent). This, unfortunately, is a common occurence among Evangelicals who are more content to deal with generalities than individual thinkers with any depth. By all means, disagree with us/me, but at least get us/me right.

I think you do good, even when I don't agree with you, but the above is a sore spot for me.

Kevin Winters said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tim said...

Doug,

If anyone deserves to be characterized as an ivory tower academic, that would be me. I think you qualify as a lunchbox intellectual, someone with the credentials of a scholar who goes out of his way to have a great deal of engagement with the culture -- but on his own terms.

I don't think you have to get down in the mosh pit in order to engage on a serious level with the culture. I'm particularly baffled by the suggestion encouraging people to turn off their televisions disqualifies one from serious engagement.

There is a kind of engagement that could arise from watching, say, South Park or Desperate Housewives or Sex in the City and writing up copious commentaries. And if you're not watching television, you can't have that sort of engagement with that segment of the culture.

But surely that isn't the only way, or the only level, on which to engage the culture in general or the content of contemporary television in particular. The effects of television are so pervasive that even I, in my ivory tower, not owning a TV and not making any effort to find out what the various shows are about, have been unable to avoid the bombardment. One needn't watch these programs to learn a great deal about them, more than enough to justify a Jeremiad or three. When middle-aged ladies in the local Bible study group break down weeping because they know that the TV programs they are watching are morally corrupting but they cannot stop, it doesn't take a Ph. D. to recognize that there is something going on that doesn't match up with Philippians 4:8. That is all the justification one needs.

Tim said...

Kevin,

Your remarks pique my interest. Who, in the postmodern tradition, would you describe as a strong figure who tries to be systematic and consistent? My own experiences with postmodernism are extensive -- I took my doctorate in philosophy at Vanderbilt in the early 90s -- and I have to say that I think the postmodern tradition is pretty much bankrupt.

And yes, I've read a lot of the primary sources, several thousand pages total of Heidegger, Derrida, Lyotard, Foucault, Deluze, etc.

Kevin Winters said...

Well, Tim, I would in fact include Heidegger and Derrida among them. And this is coming from someone who has read thousands of pages on Heidegger alone (admittedly much less than Derrida). Nowhere have I found the nihilism and relativism that Groothuis (among many other Evangelicals) attribute unabashedly to all so-called postmodernists. For Heidegger, most of this stems from faulty interpretations of Being and Time in Sartrean terms (Sartre having sorely misunderstood/misappropriated Heidegger's thought). Francis Schaeffer does this in his works, which I imagine is where most other Evangelicals got it from.

I've been focusing on Heidegger's later work the last few months and see every indication to reject him as a relativist, especially as it relates to truth. I've recently started a blog where I discuss these very issues, in case you are interested.

Kevin Winters said...

Ooops...rather than "admittedly much less than Derrida," I meant "admittedly much less with Derrida."

daveterpstra said...

"Iron sharpens iron, but can it do so in cyberspace?"

Maybe.

All the same, whether or not my "iron" is getting sharper by regularly reading your blog, it is at least not getting rusty.

Fletcher said...

I check this blog nearly every day, it's something I look forward to. I learn a lot from Dr. G's posts and the ensuing discussions.

I find it a worthwhile medium in that it allows global dialog on important issues. It's just one of many ways to communicate, ahd while interpersonal communication is the preferred methodology, it has obvious limitations.

Oftentimes I am thinking about things I read on this blog for days or weeks.

So please, keep it up.

In response to Mr. Erdman's post, I once criticized Dr. G for being a bit too extreme on certain issues, and you know what he said? "Follow me as a I follow Christ". Profound.

This is hard for us to do - but we ought to try.

Tim said...

Kevin,

Thanks that helps to focus our disagreement. I consider Heidegger to be a complete disaster; obviously you don't, or you wouldn't be spending this much time on him.

Please understand that some of us have arrived at our opinion of postmodernism from engaging at first hand with the central texts. We can have hermeneutical disagreements and arguments -- I'd be delighted if you ended up persuading me that Heidegger is an advocate of truth realism and holds a correspondence theory of truth and a foundationalist theory of epistemic justification -- but from the fact that someone doesn't agree with your interpretation it doesn't follow that he hasn't read Heidegger.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Kevin:

Who exactly did I not get right? You only give unspecified generalities. I wrote a 300 page book on postmodernism, replete with copious footnotes. Several reviews issued similar broadsides against "Truth Decay," but none really showed that any of my interpretations are wrong. James Smith's recent "Whose Afraid of Postmodernism," dismisses my work, along with that of DA Carson and Millard Erickson by saying we are afraid of postmodernism. Not much of an argument there, of course.

Part of Nietzsche's problem is that he shunned consistency. That is very postmodern, and philosophically corrupt. Without consistency, we have nothing of factual or logical substance.

Becky said...

The reason why I read this blog: in a matter of moments (seriously, about five minutes) the number of comments on some posts leaps by six or seven! This is action some of us lowly bloggers would only dream of! :) Keep up the curmudgeonly commentary (DRG) and the defenses of unpopular topics (Tim)!

Kevin Winters said...

I understand that some Evangelicals have read the primary texts, but I do not see how one can read, for example, Heidegger's "On the Essence of Truth" and then say, bluntly and with a straight face, that he denies the existence of truth. This is particularly grating given the fact that the entire article is an attempt to ground the correspondence view of truth, though simultaneously rejecting it as basic (careful: not rejecting it, but rejecting it as basic). I think Mark Wrathall (in his dissertation, How to Read Heidegger, and "Heidegger and Truth as Correspondence," International Journal of Philosophical Studies 7/1, 69-88) rightly shows four levels of truth in Heidegger, the last of which is correspondence. We also have Hubert Dreyfus' How Heidegger Defends the Possibility of a Correspondence Theory of Truth with respect to the Entities of Natural Science. We have Heidegger himself, in Being and Time, saying, "In proposing our ‘definition’ of “truth” we have not shaken off the tradition [i.e. the correspondence view of truth], but we have appropriated it primordially; and we shall have done so all the more if we succeed in demonstrating that the [correspondence theory of truth] is one to which theory had to come on the basis of the primordial phenomenon of truth, and if we can show how this came about" (262/H220).

Can you see why I have a problem with this? Even if Heidegger is wrong, claiming that he denies the existence of truth is utterly false. Truth itself is central for his later philosophy; his later thought is unintelligible apart from his acceptance of the existence of truth.

Now, I would add here that Heidegger's understanding of truth at least partially supports Derrida; deconstruction is itself impossible (and internally incoherent) without the existence of truth. Unfortunately, many Americans picked deconstruction up as a fad and hence destroyed its original intent, which I think is where much of the 'common' (and false) understanding of Derrida comes from. We have stabbed ourselves in the foot, as it were.

With that, let me say that I completely laud the 'fight against relativism.' Relativism is essentially incoherent. But be careful who you place under that epithet.

Dr Mike said...

A couple of self-righteous observations:

1. I think we can take blogs as seriously as books. There's really little difference: good books often go unpublished and heretical, pornographic books top the charts. So there's not much difference for my money. Qualified and unqualified authors are probably equally represented in both media.

2. I think we'd all be a lot better off it we spent more time defending Christ and the gospel than our own over-inflated egos and reputations. At the same time, we need to confront one another if/when we know one another sufficiently to comprehend the tone in a post or comment at least as well as the cold content. Otherwise, we need to shut up.

Kevin Winters said...

Dr. Groothuis,

My issue is two-fold: first, the indiscriminate use of the term 'postmodern.' It is now a meaningless term, completely divorced from its original meaning in Lyotard. Like "cult," its been appropriated for its shock value since even those who use the term cannot agree on a standard meaning. Every use of the term begins with the qualification, "It is quite difficult to define this term and determine exactly who is and is not a postmodernist," and ends with, "but here's one definition anyway." Your own throw-away statement in relation to Nietzsche and postmodern shunning of consistency shows this: an overgeneralization that does not apply to all cases, or even to most. Simply stop dealing with generalities and address specific thinkers.

Second, the inclusion of thinkers who I am intimately familiar with (e.g. Heidegger) in the list of postmodernists. As with my response to Tim, Heidegger is very often placed under the epithet of 'postmodernist' (see Moreland/Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldivew). Yet even a casual purusal of his work shows an adamant acceptance of the reality of truth and the external world (the latter being particularly important for his later work). These, I am so often told, are things that are completely rejected by so-called postmodernists. So why is Heidegger (and, I would argue, Derrida) so often included on these lists? Why, because he rejects the correspondence view of truth and there obviously cannot be any other view of truth (as it is the only biblical and philosophically coherent view, according to your words). Thus, at the very start, before you even give him (or any other postmodernist) a chance, you have closed your mind off from the possibility that he might have something to offer, something positive and meaningful to say.

Apologists seem to spend so little time on any given thinker and then throw out these over-generalized claims; when challenged, they say, "Oh, yes, we've read them." But have you? Have you honestly read them with the intent of understanding what they have to say, or did you begin with the idea that they have nothing to say? If you claim the former, then I need to ask: how much time did you spend on them? How does that time, for example, compare with the time and charity you put into Pascal? Tim has read thousands of pages from a handful of so-called postmodernists; has he read a thousand pages from any particular 'postmodern 'thinker? Assuming that this is generally true of most Evangelicals who rile against 'postmodernism,' you seem to think that this is sufficient for you to speak authoritatively about them and spit out the most vehement invectives (here I'm thinking of Moreland's statements about postmodernists). That is a problem for me--you put yourself up as an authority and yet have not done the work to deserve that title. People spend years and years to understand an individual thinker; they read thousands upon thoudsands of pages both from that thinker and about that thinker, spending countless hours trying to grasp what they have to say. This, we generally think, is what is needed to become an authority--time and enormous effort. And yet we have those who have, at best, read a few hundred pages on a thinker and then feel they can accurately represent and then criticize their views. Do you see the disconnect?

Again, feel free to reject my ideas (or Heidegger's or Derrida's), but at least get them right. I'm not so hubristic as to think that if you understand my view you'll accept it.

P.S. I'm sorry if some of the above is too strong. If you request it I will stop, but I didn't want to have Jonathan be the only criticizing voice as I also have concerns about the same thing.

Tim said...

Kevin,

Hey, if you're against relativism -- and if you mean by that what I mean by that -- then we're on the same team on an important issue.

I didn't approach Heidegger with malice aforethought. All I knew about him when I arrived in graduate school, besides the fact that he was punishingly hard reading, was that he had influenced Gadamer; and I had read Truth and Method as an undergraduate and understood it (though disagreeing with Gadamer's central claims about meaning and interpretation).

But in grad school, when I used to try to interpret Heidegger as meaning something I understood, I was repeatedly and forcefully told that I didn't understand Heidegger. Worse, those of my professors and peers who were enamored of this stuff could often point to some other passage where Heidegger seemed to be saying something contrary to what I thought he might be saying or qualifying his statements in a way that undermined any straightforward interpretation.

After being subjected to a lot of this, I decided to focus my reading time on books where I had some reason to believe that the author would (a) say something that is true, or at least something that is plausibly true, and (b) say it better or more clearly or with a better defense than had been given elsewhere. I have to say that this policy has proven very rewarding.

Heidegger at his best never made the cut on (b). And since the most dedicated Heideggerians I knew treated Heidegger more or less like the Kabbalah, and since his own convoluted prose and tendency to sound like he was retracting or reinterpreting his own statements made it difficult to argue with them, he never rated very high on (a) either.

Here's an idea though. You've obviously put a lot of time into Heidegger and you think he's on the side of realism and a correspondence theory of truth in the sense in which those are understood in analytic philosophy. So go out there and explain this to the readers who are bamboozled by Christian writers who are pooh-poohing those things in the name of postmodernism. If you have the goods, they're sorely needed right now, since in my experience most of the consumers of Heidegger, both casual and serious, take him quite differently.

Kevin Winters said...

Tim,

I am working on it, both with my blog and a few of my papers. I'm sorry if I am being overly harsh, but I've had to deal with this on too many occasions.

Douglas Groothuis said...

I wrote a general critique on postmodernism, not a detailed critique of all the individuals associated with it. If you think that kind of book is out of line, I have no defense. I have never claimed to be an expert on Heidegger. Moreover, I did't focus on him in "Truth Decay." I don't think I mentioned him at all, frankly. If he is your hobby horse, fine, but you also have to deal with his Nazi involvement.

But there is a big fat problem that we analytically-oriented philosophers have with Heidegger, Derrida, Lyotard, Foucalt, et all: we have very little confidence than anyone knows what they were talking about because of their needlessly esoteric and abstruse style--something that Tim and I abhor. It is not that analytic philosophy is easy (some of Swinburne, Yandell [I received my MA in philosophy under him], and Plantinga can challenge you to the bone), but that it aims at clarity and the orderly development of ideas. Gnomic utterances, oracular pronouncements, and other forms of arcane effusions are out. And stay out!

Kevin Winters said...

Dr. Groothuis,

I know that you did not address Heidegger in Truth Decay, nor did I claim otherwise. I am criticizing your general use of the term postmodernism, using Heidegger as a prominent counter-example (and claiming that the conclusions from Heidegger can easily buttress Derrida). Your own words--"general critique"--is the issue, especially when no such generalities can be made.

As for Heidegger's Nazi affiliations: I care very little. Many non-Nazi's have accepted his thought and Naziism is itself not a necessary conclusion from accepting his thought. Yes, I do not care much for his political choices, but they have little relevance for his thought as far as I'm concerned.

As for your criticisms of Heidegger et al., we have Hubert Dreyfus, Mark Wrathall, Charles Taylor, Charles Guinon, Thomas Sheehan, Theodore Kisiel, Michael Zimmerman, Jeff Malpas, Stephen Mulhall, Julian Young, John Haugeland, etc., etc., etc. all having intelligent conversations about Heidegger; we have many classes taught on Heidegger where students ask questions, teachers respond, and application of his thought are made. Are you attempting to say that, in all these cases, people are simply talking past each other, not understanding a single word that the other is saying? Perhaps that all discussions of Heidegger's thought must result in mere philosophical masterbation? The fact that you don't understand Heidegger means little; I don't understand much of so-called "analytic thought," but I don't use that as a basis for completely discounting the entire movement. I have the same stupifying feeling when I try to read most analytic philosophy of mind; McDowell's Mind and World is incomprehensible to me. I guess I could similarly mischaracterize analytic philosophers as people who are unwilling to question their analytic assumptions and go about congratulating themselves on discovering yet another un-grounded theory about this or that...but the theory is coherent! I realize, however, that I will not understand what I do not spend a lot of time with and so I'm modest in my claims concerning such things.

The only philosophical sin of Heidegger, Derrida, Lyotard, Foucalt, et. al is the rejection of the ontological presuppositions inherent in the logic that is the basis of your "clarity and the orderly development of ideas." I, for one, prefer Simon Critchley's argument that continental philosophy is more of a return to a pre-objectivity-fixated philosophy of wisdom rather than knowledge (i.e. so-called "analytic philosophy" is the revisionist school of thought, not continental philosophy). But then again, I'm sure I don't know what I'm talking about because of some "needlessly esoteric and abstruse style" that I possess as a continental/postmodern thinker...

Tim said...

Kevin,

Oh drat. Just when I was beginning to think we might have a conversation that would go somewhere, you wrote this:

The only philosophical sin of Heidegger, Derrida, Lyotard, Foucalt, et. al is the rejection of the ontological presuppositions inherent in the logic that is the basis of your "clarity and the orderly development of ideas."

Now that begins to sound more like the continentalists I knew in grad school. It reminds me all too much of the earnest fellow graduate student who told me why I was having such trouble understanding continental philosophy: "In continental philosophy, those three laws of logic -- noncontradiction, excluded middle, and ... and ... I can't remember the third one, but I have them written down somewhere ... they don't hold."

To use McDowell as a paradigmatic analytic philosopher is not fair; his prose, though nowhere near as turgid as Heidegger's, is not even of average clarity among analytic writers. He's somewhere out there with Sellars. Instead, try some of A. J. Ayer's essays from his post-postivist phase, or Russell's The Problems of Philosophy or Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits, or Karl Popper's Conjectures and Refutations.

juliagwin said...

When I read the comments critical of Dr. Groothuis, it increases my conviction that his stance on culture is the correct one.

For example, can one seriously argue that someone who does not watch television simply cannot engage the culture? I would say the truth is television is very DISengaging with all of real life.

Can we seriously argue Dr. Groothuis' comments on postmodernism lack "genuine interaction" (what does that mean, anyway?) because he refers to other authors? Should we expect him to get an interview? I am just happy he gives this blog his time and energy.

My favorite is the pot shots from the ivory tower criticism. I notice also that none of the criticism were specific. What pot shots? How did he do this? No, there were no pot shots - just intolerance and passionate concern. And I love it. Some of us just hate the truth no matter how it is spoken.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Dear Kevin/Non-Kevin:

The laws of logic (or laws of thought) are not the property of any school of philosophy. They are intrinsic in the Logos-created and sustained nature of reality! See John 1. If you disagree with me, then you presuppose them.

Moreover, the correspondence view of truth and the law of contradiction goe back to Aristotle. And Scripture agrees, "It is impossible for God to lie." "Let God be true, though everyone a liar." And so on, and on, and on. See chapters three and four of my "Truth Decay."

The rejection of objective truth and logic is the death of theology, the death of apologetics, the death of ethics, and the death of civilization. The laws of logic and objective truth are context-independent features of reality without which we can say, think, or argue sweet nothing. Plato and Aristotle proved this long ago and the Bible presupposes it in every verse.

I agree with Tim on Russell's "The Problems of Philosophy," which I read many years ago. I reread his chapter on truth not long ago, which is a classic. Moreover, see JP Moreland's recent article on truth in "Journal of The Evangelical Theological Society." Another excellent analytic work on the objectivity of truth (or realism) is John Searle, "The Construction of Social Reality."

Zarathustra said...

Doug, the comments to this post are what I like most about your blog. Someone with a philosophical bent gets a bee in their bonnet, the posts begin to fly, and my atrophied philosophical mind begins to stir. Stuck out here in the world of Joe lunch pail, I rarely get any serious mental stimulation, so I enjoy the repartee.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Heidegger once wrote "Nothing nothings." There it is.

juliagwin said...

I can't believe I was actually awakened by my thoughts stimulated by this blog, but that tells you its impact upon me. For those who criticize Dr. Groothuis for taking "pot shots" from the ivory tower and for using only "secondary sources," how do you respond to his March 28th post reporting on his "Evening with Atheists"? Recall he decided to appear before a hostile crowd after the screening of a film misrepresenting Christianity because his failure to do so would mean no Christian response? It was there he was received with some derision and hostility, also. No ivory tower safety. No wimpy pot shots.
I am raising 5 young children, one of whom has special needs (autism) and I have very little time for the intellectual engagements of my previous life before marriage and children. I do not waste time watching television, but use the internet briefly to get news, keep in touch by e-mail, and study the bible (great online resources). My life is "counter culture" because I am Christian (and fundamentalist) and I endeavor to live in accordance with my convictions and raise my children to know and love Truth. I appreciate and frequently add Dr. Groothuis' book recommendations to my wish list at Amazon.com, for the day will one day come when my hours are not occupied as they are now. This is the only blog I visit, and I would miss it very much if it were to disappear.

Jonathan Erdman said...

There is the old analogy of the fish in water:

A fish swims around in its little sea and knows little about what it means to breath air through its lungs or even less of what it means to walk around on the land and live life on the earth.

I am a postmodern. I am a fish. I can't help that I am in the culture I am in.

Dr. Groothuis is not a fish. He looks at the sea of fishes from the outside. He has not spent his life swimming with us little fishes, so his perspective is definatively non-fish. Is his opinion any more or less valid because of this?

I said that I appreciated his comments. There are times when I can tell he doesn't understand what it is like to swim around with us little fishes, but on the other hand I can appreciate a non-fish perspective: it can be very helpful.

We are all historically conditioned and situated. Only by God's grace do we no longer "conform" to the "pattern of this world" but, on the contrary we are "transformed" by mind-renewal. (Rom. 12:1-2) Mind-renewal is holistic: It is intellectual, but more importantly it is spiritual and ethical. It is a constant process of becoming.

Kevin Winters said...

Tim,

My issue is not whether the laws of logic are useful; I can't think of a single person who says otherwise. The question--the one that Heidegger asks, at least--is whether they are fundamental. On that issue, I don't think they are. I'll address this more in my response to Groothuis.

As for McDowell, fair enough. :o)

Tim said...

Kevin,

Okay, though "useful" is a pretty tame term here. But I have no idea what you could mean by saying that they're not fundamental. If you can explain this claim to me in language I can understand, I'll be happy to interact with you about it.

Kevin Winters said...

Groothuis,

Let me address each paragraph in turn: first, as I said to Tim, the issue is whether the laws of logic are fundamental, either ontologically or epistemologically. I do not believe that they are, for reasons that would take too long to go into (though my current summary/commentary on Heidegger's "On the Essence of Truth" at my blog starts the discussion). As for your appeal to John 1, I do not accept the philosophically sophisticated interpretation of John's words; rather, I prefer Raymond Brown and F.F. Bruce's claim that it had an earlier Jewish (non-Stoic/philosophical) roots. Yes, in disagreeing with you, I am presupposing them...but I'm not accepting them as fundamental.

Second, the antiquity of the view speaks absolutely nothing for either its correctness or philosophical cogency. As one of the reviewers of Truth Decay stated, you seem to be ignorant of most of the work on the correspondence view of truth in the last few decades. If you recall, this was a comment made by someone who thought your work "offers a plausible sketch" of the rise and dominance of postmodernism and "contains a number of helpful points about what may be said in response." Furthermore, your biblical claims, like that of John 1, demonstrate little: I am not denying the existence of truth, but I am denying the metaphysical assumptions inherent in the logic you espouse.

Third, I totally disagree; in fact, I would go so far as to say that the acceptance of objective truth and logic is the death of theology, ethics, and civilization (not so sure on apologetics, but that's another matter I won't get into). I do not think it a coincidence that the death of God occurred in tandem with the rise of objectivity in its modern guise. I, for one, cannot accept the classical view of God and would be an atheist if I didn't realize there were alternative conceptions. The decay of civilization also occurs with the rise of objectivity and logic--the world is made an object for use and exploitation, individualism with its quasi-solipsistic mode of being is made supreme, all meaning is divested from beings (which is inevitable in a "context-independent" world [or non-world, as the case may be]), and God is made into the absolutely best object there is...which brings little comfort to anyone but God. As for your comments in relation to the laws of logic and the supposed 'proving' of their fundamental character, I would have to disagree. The laws of logic are not fundamental. I do like, however, your anachronistic assumptions about what the Bible "presupposes," as if its writers were all proto-Aristotelians.

On the last there really isn't anything to say except that I disagree.

Tim said...

Jonathan,

You write:

We are all historically conditioned and situated...

Whenever I hear this line -- and I've heard it a lot -- I think of the scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian where the crowd is chanting in unison, "We are all individuals! We are all different!"

Then a small, lonely voice pipes up: "I'm not different."

And that's pretty much the reaction I have here. I think the cliche is either trivial (I was born at a certain time, have read certain books and not others, know certain people and not others) or interesting -- but in any sense in which it's interesting, it's false.

It's false, for example, that we can't know objective truths. It's false that the limitations of our cultural exposure render it impossible for us to understand other cultures and other ideas, false that growing up in Brooklyn disqualifies you from understanding life in Addis Ababa. It's false that classical bivalent logic is a dispensable construct, false that there are intellectually acceptable holidays from evidence, false that all hierarchies are inherently unstable, false that some things can be true for me but not for you.

None of which you said, and perhaps none of which you meant. But I'm danged if I can think something that cliche means that is true but not trivial.

BJ the Tornado said...

I read this blog because Dr. G is a highly-valued mentor and a beloved good friend. In addition to that, the blog often has many high-quality posts from Dr.G and interactions of various value following them. All and all it's a valuable blog and one that I hope you continue to put the time and effort into, Dr. G.

Kevin Winters said...

Tim,

Well, I composed a somewhat long response to your query but decided that this is not the place for it (too far off topic). Give me a little time and I'll throw something up on my blog and we can discuss it then/there.

Tim said...

Kevin,

Among the many things you said in your last post, let me pick up on just this one:

I would go so far as to say that the acceptance of objective truth and logic is the death of theology, ethics, and civilization (not so sure on apologetics, but that's another matter I won't get into). I do not think it a coincidence that the death of God occurred in tandem with the rise of objectivity in its modern guise....

The acceptance of objective truth and logic? What do you mean by objective truth and logic? What is the alternative you have in mind?

(In some puckish corner of my mind this is morphing into the famous reaction of Carlyle when he was told of Margaret Fuller's announcement, "I accept the universe." Carlyle's response: "Gad, she'd better!")

I think that it is at least possible -- and this is based on past exchanges with people who have said similar things -- that you've been given a faulty picture of the interaction of reason and faith during the Enlightenment. Perhaps this would be a place to start.

Tim said...

Kevin,

I just can't leave that one alone! Forgive me if I seem to be badgering you about it. But the "death of God" (Altizer fashion) came at the culmination of the flight from objectivity, a flight that has its roots back in the eighteenth century. The antidote to this kind of thing is the recovery of objectivity, not the denial of it.

Kevin Winters said...

Tim,

Again, I think this would be a conversation better done elsewhere. The key point, in case you are wondering, is my statement on the meaninglessness of the "uncontextual." If you read my recent summary/commentary of Heidegger's "On the Essence of Truth" with that in mind, you might see where I am coming from (or not, which is also ok...Heidegger is not for everyone).

Kevin Winters said...

Tim,

I would have to disagree; the traditional 'objective' understanding of God is the precursor to his death (understanding that, for Nietzsche, this is used at least quasi-metaphorically). But, again, this is for another place.

Douglas Groothuis said...

I'm going to cut off comments after this, since I have better things to do than endlessly defend myself. But:

1. I do know something of more recent views of truth. Hence, my references to John Searle, etc.

2. The most developed treatment of the philosophical significance of Christ as Logos (John 1) is found in Carl Henry's "God, Revelation, and Authority." Arthur Holmes, Gordon Clark, and Ronald Nash argued similarly.

3. The "you just don't know enough to critize" response is a rather bland, overly general, and non-cogent one. I got this quite a bit with "Truth Decay," but I never found any telling philosophical criticism of what I actually argued! This is probably indicative the continental/postmdoernist approach, sadly.

That it. I'm switching the subject to outreach in Africa!

Littlest Apologist said...

I hope you haven't turned off comments yet, Dr. G!

Positives:
- Thoughtful and challenging posts
- Authoritative in terms of both your credentials and your credit of sources. Not too many sites are like this, and often, I don't know whether I can trust anything they say.
- You leverage your knowledge for people who would otherwise never encountered these subjects.
- You're funny :)

Negatives:
- I tend to read your blog when I should be working!

I know how much effort even a personal blog is to maintain, and how discouraging abusive comments can be. But I thank you for your efforts and I hope you continue.

-Tracey