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Butler's Response (1997)

Michael Martin

 

Last summer I critically evaluated Michael Butler's defense of The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG)--the argument that logic, science, and objective morality presuppose the Christian worldview and his critique of The Transcendental Argument for the Nonexistence of God (TANG)--the argument that logic, science, and objective morality presuppose the falsehood of Christian worldview.[1] I have now became aware that in September 1996 Butler wrote a paper entitled "Follow-Up Response to Michael Martin."[2] His paper demands a short reply.

The first thing to note is that Butler's paper should not be called a response to my paper. My paper showed that Butler failed utterly to address my criticisms and did not take into account my critique of TAG in my Internet debate with John Frame.[3] In Butler's "response" he attempts to clarify what TAG is and to answer some questions that someone--it is unclear who--might raise about TAG. His answers have no apparent relevance to my criticisms and it is unclear whether he supposes that they do.

Indeed, my name is only mentioned once in Bulter's paper. He writes: "We should note in passing that Dr. Martin's TANG is really not a transcendental argument at all, but merely an internal critique of the Christian worldview and a completely abortive one at that." Let us grant for the moment that TANG is misnamed and that it is merely an internal critique of the Christian worldview. Butler does not even attempt to show that it is an abortive attempt. In order to do this he would have to specify what my argument is and show why it fails. This he does not do.

But is TANG misnamed? Butler's initial definition of a transcendental argument is "one which attempts to prove what the necessary precondition is for something to be the case." Let us call this the broad definition of a transcendental argument. Certainly TANG is a transcendental argument in the broad sense since it attempts to show that a necessary precondition of logic, science and objective morality is the falsehood of the Christian worldview.

However, Butler immediately modifies his definition of a transcendental argument. He says that a transcendental argument must have a broad scope and an argument used to show, for example, that preconditions of prize winning roses is not really a transcendental argument. TANG is certainly a transcendental argument in this narrow sense since its scope is logic, objectively morality, and science--the same scope as TAG.

So why then does Butler believe that TANG is not a transcendental argument? TANG seems to meet his own definition of a transcendental argument in both the broad and narrow senses. One might speculate that he is implicitly assuming another condition in order for something to be a transcendental argument. Perhaps he is assuming that the truth of something--not the falsehood of something--must be shown to be a necessary precondition of something else in the broad sense or of a wide area of human experience in the narrow sense. Since TANG shows that the falsehood of the Christian worldview is presupposed in order to make sense of logic, science and the objective morality it would fail this condition. Let us call this the truth condition. However, TANG could be easily reformulated to meet the truth condition. One might say that TANG shows that logic, science and objective morality presuppose the truth of some nonChristian worldview.[4]

In conclusion, since Butler fails to respond to my critique, his paper is misnamed. Moreover, he fails to show that TANG is not a transcendental argument since it meets his own conditions for being one.

Notes

[1] See Michael Martin, "Butler's Defense of TAG and Critique on TANG," August 6, 1996 at www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/butler.html

[2] Michael Butler, "Follow-Up Response to Michael Martin," Penpoint, Sept. 1996, Vol. 7, No. 8 at http://members.ozemail.com.au/~seccomn/phil/martinrefute.htm

[3] Martin-Frame Debate www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/martin-frame/

[4] Of course, not any non-Christian worldview would do. TAG could just as easily be formulated negatively. One might say that TAG attempts to show that logic, science, and objective morality presuppose the falsehood of all known nonChristian worldviews.

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