Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Argument from Truth

This is the Argument from Truth as it appears on Peter Kreeft's website.

11. The Argument from Truth
This argument is closely related to the argument from consciousness. It comes mainly from
1. Our limited minds can discover eternal truths about being.
2. Truth properly resides in a mind.
3. But the human mind is not eternal.
4. Therefore there must exist an eternal mind in which these truths reside.

Kreeft continues:

This proof might appeal to someone who shares a Platonic view of knowledge—who, for example, believes that there are Eternal Intelligible Forms which are present to the mind in every act of knowledge. Given that view, it is a very short step to see these Eternal Forms as properly existing within an Eternal Mind. And there is a good deal to be said for this. But that is just the problem. There is too much about the theory of knowledge that needs to be said before this could work as a persuasive demonstration.


Matthew said...

I like Peter Kreeft, but some of his arguments feel really strange. He seems to ignore arguments like the Kalam, the argument from contingency, all this stuff.

Argument from truth, hmm. Could be something like an ontological argument.

Matthew said...

Ok ignore the last part of my comment please. I was thinking about something completely different.

This is something like a conceptualist-argument.
But isn't "God exists" a truth? Do truths about God rely on God?

Ilíon said...

"Do truths about God rely on God?"

It would be that any and all truths ultimately rely upon God.

legodesi said...

This is sort of analogous to Meynell's argument. The world is intellgible, and it is not our minds imposing order upon an orderless world, and yet the world is intelligible to our minds. So a mind ordered the world to be intelligible to our minds. Something like that.

Annie said...

Why should something that we (temporally limited) beings perceive as being "eternal" require anything more than our observation of it? In any case, you'd have to specify what these "eternal truths about being" are in order to analyze the truth or falsity of #1.

why assume that our minds, which are a part of the world are unable to find order in that world which produced us? That is a very strange assumption.

Ilíon said...

It may be the case that "arguments from truth" contain and depend upon an equivocation of the term 'truth' (which equivocation mirrors that frequently encountered in the use of the term 'fact').

mattghg said...

This sounds a bit like the first of Plantinga's "two dozen (or so) theistic arguments", although here the focus on the eternality of some truths rather than the number of them.

legodesi said...

"why assume that our minds, which are a part of the world are unable to find order in that world which produced us"

That would be a strange assumption, but I think you're mistaken, because I didn't say our minds are unable to find order in the world.

Ilíon said...

ALSO, it's not an assumption, it's a conclusion.

From the linked page:
10. The Argument from Consciousness [necessary snip, due to a 4096 character limit]

Readers familiar with C. S. Lewis's Miracles will remember the powerful argument he made in chapter three against what he called "naturalism": the view that everything—including our thinking and judging—belongs to one vast interlocking system of physical causes and effects. If naturalism is true, Lewis argued, then it seems to leave us with no reason for believing it to be true; for all judgments would equally and ultimately be the result of nonrational forces.

Now this line of reflection has an obvious bearing on step 3. What we mean by "blind chance" is the way physical nature must ultimately operate if "naturalism" is true—void of any rational plan or guiding purpose. So if Lewis's argument is a good one, then step 3 stands: blind chance cannot be the source of our intelligence.

We were tempted, when preparing this section, to quote the entire third chapter of Miracles. This sort of argument is not original to Lewis, but we have never read a better statement of it than his, and we urge you to consult it. But we have found a compelling, and admirably succinct version (written almost twenty years before Miracles) in H. W. B. Joseph's Some Problems in Ethics (Oxford University Press, 1931). Joseph was an Oxford don, senior to Lewis, with whose writings Lewis was certainly familiar. And undoubtedly this statement of the argument influenced Lewis's later, more elaborate version.

If thought is laryngeal motion, how should any one think more truly than the wind blows? All movements of bodies are equally necessary, but they cannot be discriminated as true and false. It seems as nonsensical to call a movement true as a flavour purple or a sound avaricious. But what is obvious when thought is said to be a certain bodily movement seems equally to follow from its being the effect of one. Thought called knowledge and thought called error are both necessary results of states of brain. These states are necessary results of other bodily states. All the bodily states are equally real, and so are the different thoughts; but by what right can I hold that my thought is knowledge of what is real in bodies? For to hold so is but another thought, an effect of real bodily movements like the rest. . . These arguments, however, of mine, if the principles of scientific [naturalism]... are to stand unchallenged, are themselves no more than happenings in a mind, results of bodily movements; that you or I think them sound, or think them unsound, is but another such happening; that we think them no more than another such happening is itself but yet another such. And it may be said of any ground on which we may attempt to stand as true, Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis aevum ["It flows and will flow swirling on forever" (Horace, Epistles, I, 2, 43)]. (Some Problems in Ethics, pp. 14—15)

Ron said...

Premise 1 might be true but I doubt we could really know that it is true. What are "eternal truths about being"? I don't really know what that means. Anyone have any ideas?

Clayton said...

It would be interesting to see what justification could be given for (1) and (2) and how someone could give a version of this argument on which there's not an equivocation between knowing something that is true for all times and all times being such that there is someone who has knowledge.

As it stands, I can't imagine this argument appealing to anybody.

Anonymous said...

When reading Kreeft you have to remember that he is an Existential Thomist of the Gilsonian school, with all the epistemological baggage that entails. The comment about "Platonic view of knowledge" is an extremely astute one.