Transcendental Argument

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info.gif Transcendental Argument: "An argument that elucidates the conditions for the possibility of some fundamental phenomenon whose existence is unchallenged or uncontroversial in the philosophical context in which the argument is propounded. Such an argument proceeds deductively, from a premise asserting the existence of some basic phenomenon (such as meaningful discourse, conceptualization of objective states of affairs, or the practice of making promises), to a conclusion asserting the existence of some interesting, substantive enabling conditions for that phenomenon. The term derives from Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, which gives several such arguments."

Audi, R. (Ed.). (1999). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press

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    Anderson, James N.

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    If Knowledge then God: The Epistemological Theistic Arguments of Plantinga and Van Til

    "The two Christian philosophers Alvin Plantinga and Cornelius Van Til have much in common...In particular, both have claimed that the existence of God is in some weighty sense a precondition of human knowledge. In this paper, I review and compare a selection of epistemological theistic arguments inspired by their writings — three from Plantinga and four from Van Til — and through drawing attention to significant points of similarity and difference suggest some ways in which such arguments might be further developed with an eye to insights gleaned from these two thinkers."
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    Anderson, James N.

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    The Theistic Preconditions of Knowledge: A Thumbnail Sketch

    "One of the distinctive claims of Van Tilian apologists is that human knowledge presupposes the existence of God; therefore, since we know at least some things, it follows that God must exist...Reasoned support for the claim can be found in the writings of Cornelius Van Til, John Frame, Greg Bahnsen (see also his lectures and debates, particularly his debate with Edward Tabash), and Michael Butler. Similar arguments have been formulated by Alvin Plantinga, Dallas Willard, and Victor Reppert; and while these Christian philosophers would not consider themselves ‘presuppositionalists’ in the conventional sense, their arguments have often been endorsed as supportive of presuppositionalist claims...I want to take the opportunity to offer one particular line of argument in support of the claim that theism is a precondition of knowledge."
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    Anderson, James N. and Greg Welty

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    The Lord of Non-Contradiction: An Argument for God from Logic

    "...[A]ny argument one might offer for the existence of God must conform to the laws of logic: the law of non-contradiction, the rules of deductive inference, and so forth. Furthermore, many would maintain that the concept of God must conform to the laws of logic as a precondition of rational belief in the existence of God...In this paper we do not propose to explore or contest those epistemological relationships. Instead we will argue for a substantive metaphysical relationship between the laws of logic and the existence of God, with the arrow of dependence running in the opposite direction. In other words, we will argue that there are laws of logic because God exists; indeed, there are laws of logic only because God exists. If we are correct about this metaphysical relationship, it is but a short step to a fascinating and powerful but neglected argument for the existence of God."
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    Baker, Deane-Peter

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    Morality, Structure, Transcendence and Theism: A response to Melissa Lane’s reading of Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self

    "In the light of recent interest in transcendental arguments for the existence of God, this paper is an assessment of Melissa Lane’s critique of one such argument, that which emerges from Charles Taylor’s magisterial work, Sources of the Self. Lane’s assessment excels in defining the structural features of Taylor’s overall argument strategy. I argue, however, that her critique of Taylor’s argument strategy fails, largely due to her treatment of the elements of that strategy as discrete arguments, rather than as components of an overarching transcendental argument."-Article hosted with permission of author.
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    Baker, Deane-Peter

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    Imago Dei: Towards a Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God

    "The 'modest' or 'self-directed' transcendental argument cannot by definition show that God exists, but at best that it is the 'Best Account' (in Taylor’s term) of our experience that it be understood in theistic terms. While this is a weaker conclusion, it is certainly not powerless...Certainly, if its difficulties could be overcome, the TAG offers an interesting approach to the questions of philosophy of religion. The prospect of an argument that shows the attributes of God through inescapable human experience can only be a stimulant for philosophy of religion."-Article hosted with permission of author.
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    Butler Michael R.

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    The Transcendental Argument for God's Existence

    "In setting forth TAG, Van Til gave the Christian apologist a powerful argument for Christian Theism. Indeed, Van Til claimed that this argument is 'absolutely sound.'...[H]owever, there have been a number of objections raised against this argument. Van Til left it to his followers to answers these objections. But while in Bahnsen we find an able defense of TAG, much of what he says is merely programmatic in nature and calls for elaboration. In the footsteps of Van Til and Bahnsen, I have endeavored to further elaborate and defend TAG against common objections. In order to do this more effectively I have surveyed the relevant philosophical literature in order to set these criticism in sharper focus and formulate the objections in the strongest possible way. In doing this, I hope to have offered a more thorough and robust defense of TAG."
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    Byl, John

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    Naturalism, Theism, and Objective Knowledge

    "We explain our varied experiences in terms of our worldview. The rational defense of any worldview requires the prior acceptance of the existence of other rational minds, mental causation and free will, an objective language, and objective logical and rational standards. A worldview is self-refuting if its defense necessarily presumes entities that are explicitly denied by the worldview. This essay maintains that, on these grounds, various forms of relativism and naturalism are self-refuting. Theism, on the other hand, provides the epistemic and metaphysical basis to fully account for our diverse knowledge."
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    Cartwright, Nancy

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    No God, No Laws

    "My thesis is summarized in my title, ‘No God, No Laws’: the concept of a law of Nature cannot be made sense of without God. It is not as dramatic a thesis as it might look, however. I do not mean to argue that the enterprise of modern science cannot be made sense of without God. Rather, if you want to make sense of it you had better not think of science as discovering laws of Nature, for there cannot be any of these without God."
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    Frame, John

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    Transcendental Arguments

    "The Bible does make this kind of radical claim, that creation not only implies, but presupposes God. For God is the creator of all, and therefore the source of all meaning, order, and intelligibility. It is in Christ that all things hold together (Col. 1:17). So without him everything falls apart; nothing makes sense. Thus Scripture teaches that unbelief is foolish (Psm. 14:1, 1 Cor. 1:20). There are many arguments to be made on the way to that conclusion. Not every individual apologetic argument needs to go that far. But the apologist’s work is not done until he reaches that conclusion, until he persuades the objector that God is everything the Bible says he is. That is to say that a complete argument for Christian theism, however many sub-arguments it contains, will be transcendental in character."
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    Manion, R.M.

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    The Contingency of Knowledge and Revelatory Theism

    "What the history of epistemology teaches us is that man, without an epistemological jump-start from God, without the revelation of God and the theistic world view expounded in it, cannot know the nature of himself, logic, the world, universals, or how they all are, or could be, related. In short he cannot attain a coherent theory of knowledge. Consequently, no beliefs can be justified, and no beliefs can attain to the level of knowledge. Therefore, because Theistic Revelation alone is the basis upon which knowledge is possible, it is the precondition for knowledge and is transcendentally and necessarily true."
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    Pihlström, Sami

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    The Transcendental and the Transcendent

    "As an obvious source of relevant examples of transcendental reasoning about the transcendent, I shall consider a particular language-game, or a group of language-games, namely, the religious one(s), and briefly examine two specific problems pertaining to religious language-use, namely, the problem of the existence of God (section 2.1) and the problem of evil (section 2.2). I have chosen to focus (in section 2.1) on a transcendental argument for theism drawn from Charles Taylor’s work, instead of, say, the more explicitly transcendental 'Martin – Frame Debate' on TAG (the transcendental argument for the existence of God) vs. TANG (the transcendental argument for the non-existence of God)."-Article hosted with permission of author.
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    Pihlström, Sami

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    Pragmatic and Transcendental Arguments for Theism: A Critical Examination

    "Commenting upon some recent literature on the topic, this paper examines two strategies by means of which one might try to defend theism: (1) a pragmatic (Jamesian) strategy, which focuses on the idea that religious belief has beneficial consequences in the believer’s life, and (2) a transcendental (Kantian) strategy, according to which theism is required as a condition of our self-understanding as ethically oriented creatures. Both strategies are found unsatisfactory, unless synthesized and thus supported by each other. While no argument, either pragmatic or transcendental, can demonstrate the existence of God, a pragmatic transcendental argument might have a legitimate role to play in the philosophy of religion. The problem of relativism arises, however. It is concluded that it remains unclear whether a religious believer could justify her or his beliefs to anyone who does not already share those beliefs."-Article hosted with permission of author.
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    Poythress, Vern S.

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    Why Scientists Must Believe in God: Divine Attributes of Scientific Law

    Poythress argues that the character of law presupposed by modern science -- in its omnipresence, eternality, immutability, and rationality -- is itself a revelation of God's nature.