Co-Founder of the Wright/Shea Mutual Admiration Society….

holds forth admirably on the Pigpile of Subjectivism.

I particularly enjoyed his quote from a reader:

All subjectivists, in my experience, believe that subjectivism is true for all people at all times, and furthermore that it is all people’s duty to acknowledge this.

I am endlessly fascinated by people who hold complete contraries in their minds with no sense of dissonance. I don’t mean seeming contraries (There is one God in three persons. God predestines and we have free will. Light behaves like a wave and a particle). I get that we live in a weird universe full of paradox. I’m talking about absurd flat contradictions like the one the reader notes. Or the person who claims skepticism as a fundamental philosophy while forgetting that total skepticism is total idiocy. As Chesterton remarks in St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox:

[E]ven those who appreciate the metaphysical depth of Thomism in other matters have expressed surprise that he does not deal at all with what many now think the main metaphysical question; whether we can prove that the primary act of recognition of any reality is real. The answer is that St. Thomas recognised instantly, what so many modern sceptics have begun to suspect rather laboriously; that a man must either answer that question in the affirmative, or else never answer any question, never ask any question, never even exist intellectually, to answer or to ask. I suppose it is true in a sense that a man can be a fundamental sceptic, but he cannot be anything else: certainly not even a defender of fundamental scepticism. If a man feels that all the movements of his own mind are meaningless, then his mind is meaningless, and he is meaningless; and it does not mean anything to attempt to discover his meaning. Most fundamental sceptics appear to survive, because they are not consistently sceptical and not at all fundamental. They will first deny everything and then admit something, if for the sake of argument–or often rather of attack without argument. I saw an almost startling example of this essential frivolity in a professor of final scepticism, in a paper the other day. A man wrote to say that he accepted nothing but Solipsism, and added that he had often wondered it was not a more common philosophy. Now Solipsism simply means that a man believes in his own existence, but not in anybody or anything else. And it never struck this simple sophist, that if his philosophy was true, there obviously were no other philosophers to profess it.

This is of a piece with the people who, in their zeal to attack Christianity and ideas like free will (and its corollary, sin) write long essays attempting to persuade you to freely believe the idea that you have no freedom to believe anything since your free choices are simply the fore-ordained working of deterministic physical forces at work in the molecules of your brain.

Likewise, exalting reason and science as the only true things in the universe, while declaring them to be the epiphenomena of exactly the same mindless forces that also give us wind, weather, and driftwood does not seem to me to be a credible way of arguing that one’s thoughts are superior to those of a theist who roots human reason in the Divine Mind. But this is the method of countless atheists.

And the relativism which dogmatically holds that all moral systems are equally superior to the teaching of Christ is likewise unconvincing in the flat contradiction between premise and conclusion.

  • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

    Regarding determinism, I think a determinist’s argument is usually more accurately understood, not as an attempt to *persuade*, but as an attempt to RATIONALLY CONVINCE his interlocutor of determinism’s supposed truth, as a math instructor attempts to convince students of the truth of the pythagorean theorem in Euclidean geometry. Of course, as a non-determinist, I hold that the determinist’s attempt is futile, since nothing false can ever be really proven.
    Also, I concede that some professional determinists do use arguments that even they must realize are not conclusive, such as dropping quotes from some famous persons interpreted to support determinism.

  • Billy Bean

    “Please pass the mustard” (G.K. Chesterton)


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