The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG) is the argument that attempts to prove the existence of God by arguing that logic, morals, and science ultimately presuppose a supreme being and that God must therefore be the source of logic and morals.
A version was formulated by Immanuel Kant in his 1763 work The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God, and most contemporary formulations of the transcendental argument have been developed within the framework of Christian presuppositional apologetics.
Transcendental arguments should not be confused with transcendent arguments, or arguments for the existence of something transcendent. In other words, they are distinct from both arguments that appeal to a transcendent intuition or sense as evidence, and classical apologetics arguments that move from direct evidence to the existence of a transcendent thing.
They are also distinct from standard deductive and inductive forms of reasoning. Where a standard deductive argument looks for what we can deduce from the fact of , and a standard inductive argument looks for what we can infer from experience of , a transcendental argument looks for the necessary prior conditions to both the fact and experience of . Thus, "I entitle transcendental all knowledge which is occupied not so much with objects as with the mode of our knowledge of objects insofar as this mode of knowledge is to be possible a priori." (Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, Introduction, VII).
The TAG is a transcendental argument that attempts to prove that God is the precondition for logic, reason, or morality. The argument proceeds as follows:
- God is a necessary precondition for logic and morality (because these are immaterial, yet real universals).
- People depend upon logic and morality, showing that they depend upon the universal, immaterial, and abstract realities which could not exist in a materialist universe but presupposes (presumes) the existence of an immaterial and absolute God.
- Therefore, God exists. If He didn't, we could not rely upon logic, reason, morality, and other absolute universals (which are required and assumed to live in this universe, let alone to debate), and could not exist in a materialist universe where there are no absolute standards or an absolute Lawgiver.
Cornelius Van Til likewise wrote:
We must point out ... that univocal reasoning itself leads to self-contradiction, not only from a theistic point of view, but from a non-theistic point of view as well... It is this that we ought to mean when we say that we reason from the impossibility of the contrary. The contrary is impossible only if it is self-contradictory when operating on the basis of its own assumptions.— (A Survey of Christian Epistemology [Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1969], p. 204).
Some reject the validity of the argument pointing out various flaws, such as a category error involved in the first premise of the argument, namely that just because there's a statement that's universally true it won't make that statement a part of reality in itself. Another issue pointed out is that it's not needed to have a god to have logic or morality. In particular the existence of multiple logic systems with differing axioms such as non-classical logic as well as multiple radically different moral systems constitutes evidence against the idea that logic and morality are actually universals. Furthermore, the existence of theorems like Goedel's completeness theorem and the soundness theorems for classical logic provide justification for some logic systems like classical propositional logic without using any god hypotheses thus contradicting the first premise of the argument.
- Michael Martin (1997). "Does Induction Presume the Existence of the Christian God?". Infidels. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
But what about The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG)--the argument that logic, science, and objective ethical standards presuppose the existence of God?
- Martin, Michael (1997). "Does Induction Presuppose the Existence of the Christian God?". Skeptic. 5 (2): 71–75.
- Robert Greenberg (1 November 2010). Kant's Theory of A Priori Knowledge. Penn State Press. ISBN 0-271-04047-5.
- Meister, Chad V.; Mittelberg, Mark; McDowell, Josh; Montgomery, John F. (2007). Reasons for Faith: Making a Case for the Christian Faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books. ISBN 1-58134-787-1.[page needed]
- Atheist, Friendly. "Responding to the Most Common Arguments for God's Existence". Friendly Atheist. Retrieved 2019-08-27.
- Examined, Cross (2013-12-09). "A Dozen Responses to the Transcendental Argument for God (3 of 3)". Cross Examined. Retrieved 2019-08-27.
- Ciabattoni, Agata. "Non-classical Logics: Theory, Applications and Tools" (PDF).
- Alexander, Larry; Moore, Michael (2016), Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), "Deontological Ethics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2019-08-27
- Wong, David (2018), Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), "Chinese Ethics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2019-08-27
- Hursthouse, Rosalind; Pettigrove, Glen (2018), Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), "Virtue Ethics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2019-08-27
- Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter (2019), Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), "Consequentialism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2019 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2019-08-27
- E. R. Geehan, ed., Jerusalem and Athens: Critical Discussions on the Philosophy and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980).
- Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1998).
- John M. Frame, Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1995).
- Steven M. Schlissel, ed., The Standard Bearer: A Festschrift for Greg L. Bahnsen (Nacogdoches: Covenant Media Press, 2002).
- Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith". Robert R. Booth, ed. (Nacogdoches: Covenant Media Press, 1996).
- John M. Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1994).
- John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987).
- Responses to Atheist Philosopher, Michael Martin
- Derrida, Van Til and the Metaphysics of Postmodernism An appraisal of Postmodernism, specifically Deconstruction, in light of Van Til by Jacob Gabriel Hale.
- The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God by Matt Slick.
- "The Great Debate: Does God Exist?" Audio (listen/download format) of a formal debate between Christian Greg Bahnsen and skeptic Gordon Stein from the University of California, Irvine.
- The Martin-Frame Debate A written debate between skeptic Michael Martin and Christian John Frame about the transcendental argument for the existence of God.
- The Drange-Wilson Debate A written debate between skeptic Theodore Drange and Christian Douglas Wilson.
- "Is Non-Christian Thought Futile?" A written debate between Christian Doug Jones and skeptics Keith Parsons and Michael Martin in Antithesis magazine (vol. 2, no. 4).