Paul's Passing Thoughts

How to Debate A Calvinist: Part 1 – By John Immel

Posted in John Immel, TANC 2017 by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 13, 2017

The following is part one of a five-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s first session at the 2017 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five

“Have you read Calvin’s Institutes today?”

I must confess, I really struggled this year with what I wanted to talk about. My brain bounced off about a dozen things. I originally thought I was going to dig deeper into the impact of John Locke on American civil government, American religion, the American Revolution. But at the end of the day it didn’t really catch and sustain my attention too much.

Then I thought I might actually discuss death and life and exegete the first four chapters of the book of Genesis. And that didn’t really stick with me very long. And I toyed with a half a dozen other things that just don’t bear mentioning.

Then about two or three months ago I was reading an interaction on Paul’s Passing Thoughts between Paul Dohse and a guy by the name of “GraceWriterRandy”. Now, trust me, this conference is not about GraceWriterRandy, but he is a fantastic anecdote. And so I decided to go ahead and talk about what he did and how that applies generally.

So here is what I noticed. And what so caught my attention was that Randy presumed to set the tone for the entire conversation, and frankly it didn’t matter what part of the conversation. He decided that he was going to dictate the moral and intellectual terms across the board. He reserved the right to make the discussion as narrow or as broad as he wanted.

And then what really bothered me is that everybody accepted the premise. Everybody tended to follow along. So if Randy reframed the conversation, everybody accepted the shift. If Randy argued scripture, everybody started stacking up scriptures. If Randy shifted to moral criticism, everybody started lobbing moral accusations. If Randy challenged a definition, everybody started parsing meanings.

And this is when I realized that I actually had my topic of conversation: Arguments with Calvinists, and trying to unravel the roots of their arguments.

And this is why no one ever gets anywhere in a debate with a Calvinist, because they let the Calvinist shape the direction of the conversation. People rarely ever challenge the Calvinist root assumptions. They let the Calvinist decide that it is their sole right to define all things moral, spiritual, and intellectual. And the foundation of all their arguments is the myth of their [Calvinists’] own authority and their entitlement to dictated force.

So I came up with a brief algebra of historic “Christian” authority:

The Algebra of Authority

Catholic Algebra:
Absolute Truth = Apostolic Authority + Scripture = Error Free Doctrine + Apostolic Succession = Papal Authority = Orthodoxy = Government Force

I want you to notice that the fulcrum of Catholic doctrine is Apostolic Authority PLUS Scripture. Everything else, how they get their doctrinal interpretations, is a direct product of this. Catholics had decided long ago that the reason that “Scripture Alone” got so much traction is because the Catholic church, specifically Papal Authority, decided that it was their job to interpret what it said. But at the end of the day, Orthodoxy is what determines Government Force. In other words, the Pope has the right to compel you to what you think.

Here’s what happened when Protestantism showed up:

Protestant Algebra:
Absolute Truth = Scriptural Authority = Predestined Elders = Error Free Doctrine + Ecclesiastical Force = Orthodoxy

It is very important that you see the relationship here. Predestined Elder inherit the implications of their own Absolute Truth. The function of Predestined Elders in the Protestant world is to compel you to think whatever it is they think they have the right to compel you to think.

This is crucial for you to understand: Authority = Force

Any time somebody says, “I am an authority,” what they are really saying is, “I have the right to force you to do something.” There is nothing elegant about it.

So then how do you debate a Calvinist?

The answer is: You challenge the roots.

This is why I insist, particularly with regard to GraceWriterRandy, no one ever successfully challenges the roots of the assertion.

I have been talking about my web of tyranny now for the last six years. This is my contribution to the world of philosophy. I have identified what I believe are the five fundamental pillars of tyranny. It doesn’t matter what the ultimate end game is, all tyrannies have these five sub-categories or arguments: Dictated Good, Universal Guilt, Abolition of Ambition, Collective Conformity, and Incompetent Masses. The function of all these sub-categories is designed to create “Utopia,” or an alternate reality.

The reason I have rendered this as a web is because it is not specifically linear. In other words, there is not specifically a logical progression of one to the other. Instead there is a dynamic tension between all five, so all of the arguments act in harmony with all of the others to compel you down the path of this alternate reality; the right to determine some other realm of thinking.

What we have never really discussed is how the arguments fit into the web. On occasion over the last few years I have made reference to when an argument sits, but I want to have an overarching view. I want to start subdividing some of the arguments that you will hear. I’ve tried to pick archetypes of the arguments, and we will try to unravel them in later sessions.

If we are going to successfully debate Calvinist, we have to get good at identifying the foundational assumptions, because:

The Gospel According to John Immel, chapter 3:1-3

  1. All people act logically from their assumptions.
  2. It does not matter how inconsistent the ideas or insane the rationale. They will act until that logic is fulfilled.
  3. Therefore, when you see masses of people taking the same destructive actions, if you find the assumptions, you will find the cause.

Frankly, I don’t think we can have any better object lesson of this truth played out in our civil discourse than the logical assumption of a group of people tearing down historic monuments over wars that were fought long ago over offenses that are entirely manufactured. They are in actuality fulfilling a body of logic that produces some action.

Ideas are what drive human action. There is body of ideas, and a fundamental integration of those ideas, that produces your actions in any given day. This integration is called Philosophy.

Disciplines of Philosophy

– Metaphysics

– Epistemology

– Ethics

– Politics

– Aesthetics (art)

The roots are your metaphysical assumptions; whatever you accept about the nature of existence. Once you actually establish your foundation of metaphysical assumptions, you move to epistemology. That is what you believe your mind can understand. Once you identify what your mind can and cannot know, you move on to ethics. These are the moral judgments that you have about your actions; what is good and what is evil. This is how we define how we interact with other people through politics. Once man is able to establish these first four disciplines, he is able to refresh his existence with artistic expression. His art is a reflection of his most deeply held values.

The Orthodoxy Happy Dance

You might begin to talk to a Calvinist by presenting to him what Luther or Calvin said regarding a certain doctrine, and all is well and good until the Calvinist encounters something he doesn’t like. At this point he might respond by saying, “Well, Calvin might have believed that, but it was really the Synod of Dort that came up with this thing called T.U.L.I.P.” At this point they have made the Synod of Dort their authority over Calvin and Luther.

So then you proceed to point out a fallacy in T.U.L.I.P or the Synod of Dort, and now they might cite the Westminster Confession as being the final authority on the matter, rejecting the Synod of Dort. Notice what they are able to do. At any point in the argument that they don’t happen to like an given intellectual conclusion, no matter where it starts, they get to dance around between any given authority that suits them at any particular moment.

Take a look at the video below. This is an excerpt from a breakout session at the 2016 Cross for the Nations Conference in Indianapolis, IN. In this clip, you will hear John Piper make a reference to being committed to “the whole Calvinistic scheme.” Watch then, as Paul Dohse challenges Piper on the matter of election, Piper proceeds to engage in this orthodoxy happy dance.

Did you catch it? What you just saw Piper do is exactly what Calvinist do with impunity. They want the right to pick any given authority as their intellectual forbearers and then disown those intellectual forbearers whenever it suits their purpose. And this is why I call it the Orthodoxy Happy Dance, because orthodoxy at the end is this amorphous concept to which they get to appeal. They make an appeal to something that has no functional definition. At the end of the day, the real root of what they are advocating is their right to their own authority.

Notice that when pressed on the Calvin Institutes, Piper immediately became a Biblicist. What you will eventually realize, if you care to pay attention, is that Calvinists don’t read the Calvin Institutes ever. They read a few select excerpt here and there and then pretend that it is their intellectual pedigree, which they then believe gives them the license to tell you what to think. You peg them down on what they think and then they just jump to some other source of intellectual pedigree.

This sort of intellectual two-step is a direct violation of Aristotle’s Law of Identity; that A is A. Something cannot be “A” and “not A” at the same time. But with Calvinists, orthodoxy can be anything they want it to be. They have no intellectual integrity. They are not committed to anything specific. This is why every time you start debating Calvinists your conversations go nowhere.

Any time you have such a conversation, what you must do is make them responsible for their intellectual pedigree. If at any point they want to reject any point of Calvinism, they are rejecting the roots of orthodoxy. You will see this comment consistently:

“Calvinists don’t believe everything that John Calvin said…The Bible says blah, blah, blah…”

This is a glittering gem of colossal ignorance. It kills me every time I see it. I guarantee if you read anybody’s blog and you take somebody to task you will get a similar response. Pay attention to this. This is the formulation. They will identify themselves as Calvinists, and then they will pretend that they don’t believe what Calvin said. Suddenly they are independent thinkers and Biblicists. This is a gambit to what they believe they control – Biblical interpretation.

The next time you hear this line of logic, what you must say is, “So, you reject John Calvin’s ideas? Excellent! We agree on something. In your copy of Calvin’s Institutes, show me specifically to what you object.” This must be the only answer you will accept, but here is the thing; they will never do it. They will want to play their gambit of Biblical interpretation because they believe they own it.

Your rebuttal when they go back to the Bible, you say, “So, you are really saying that Calvin’s ideas are not in the Bible, right?” If they have to constantly run back to the Bible, then that means they cannot find those ideas in the Calvin’s Institutes. The moment they concede that point, then the next question you ask is, “So that means that Calvin’s teachings are unbiblical, right? That would make him a heretic, right?”   Follow this progression of questioning, and don’t let them leave this point! They must commit to what they are advocating.

You want to make sure they can never escape either an acceptance of Calvin or a rejection of Calvin. They must either accept that there is a synonymous relationship between Calvin and the Bible or there is not one. The moment you drive that wedge they are stuck. They use Calvin to establish their historic pedigree – “I have authority because I believe what all these other historic thinkers think.” Yet at the same time they want to turn around and claim intellectual autonomy whenever they choose. So which is it; historical authority or your own intellectual authority? That is the fulcrum of the debate.

If the truth is defined as “authority,” then there is no such thing as “I think…” The assumption is Authority = No Doctrinal Error; that the only way you can hedge against doctrinal error is to have authority. So the reason they argue “authority” is because they insist that they are the ones who get it all right. But the moment you confront them with something that isn’t right, they want to renounce the very thing that gives them authority. This is what you can never let them get away with.

The real argument here is that they have abandoned the right to the Aristotelian Law of Identity. They are constantly trying to say that “A” can be “B” and “B” can be “A”. They want to have a “both/and” reality.

  • Both final authority and error-filled humans.
  • Both defender of orthodoxy and an individual thinker denouncing Calvin’s doctrine.
  • Both herald of God’s mystic revelation and defender of “objective” truth.
  • Both lowly unoriginal mind slave and epitome of rational judgment.
  • Both champion of God’s hard truth and pitiful victim of undeserved criticism.

The way to defeat Calvinists is to deny them their authority and hammer away at reality. Reality is their enemy. The reason they engage in the Orthodoxy Happy Dance is because the moment they are confronted with the specifics of history they are toast.

But be forewarned:

  • Try to rebuff a Calvinist’s right to define all things and they pretend that no is their equal.
  • Try to reject a Calvinist’s monopoly on moral virtue, and they snarl that no man is righteous.
  • Try to refuse to let a Calvinist define reality, and they resort to force.

…To be continued

Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five

From the Reformation to the Third Reich: Protestantism’s Impact on Western Culture – Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 10, 2017

The following is part four of a multi-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s third session
at the 2014 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for introduction
Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion


In the previous article we were discussing the re-introduction of Aristotle into Western thought. This is a breakthrough of epic proportions because the ideas of Aristotle are directly responsible for liberty and the explosion of human achievement that takes place in the 17th century.

Aristotle understood that universals do not exist in some transcendent world of Forms as Plato taught, but rather they are the product of human cognition. Man’s capacity for reason makes it possible for him to understand similarities in identities in the physical world and categorize them in such a way that brings order to reality. This is in stark contrast to Plato and other contributors to Western thought to this point. They held human reason in contempt and regarded human senses as inferior for being able to interpret the word around them.

Aristotle’s metaphysical premise regarding the nature of existence and the subsequent epistemological qualification that resulted in acknowledging man having ability to correctly interpret reality led Aristotle to some logical conclusions regarding the behavior of particulars. The behavior of a particular is defined by its nature. The essential characteristics of a particular are what define its identity. The essence of each thing is unique to that thing. This is what all science is based on. The axiom of human existence are understood in three laws.

The Law of Identity
This is the primary axiom of which the other two laws are corollaries. The Law of Identity says that any object cannot both be and not be at the same time. Man cannot be both “man” and “not man.” A horse cannot be both “horse” and “not horse.” “A” cannot be both “A” and “not A.” Aristotle said it this way:

“If, however, a definition, for example, man, horse, A, were not limited, but one were to say that the word is an infinite number of meanings, obviously, reasoning would be impossible. For not to have one meaning is to have no meaning. If words have no meaning, our reasoning with one another and ourselves has been annihilated, for it is impossible to think if anything we do not think of but one thing.”

Think of the conversations that you have had and how frustrating it is how often the Neo-Calvinists change definitions, and they place mutually exclusive ideas together. This is what they are doing. They are annihilating reason.

Paul Dohse is very fond of talking about the grammatical approach. Words are really a description of entities, and it is our means by which we communicate the nature of our perceptual experience. Words hold abstractions and concepts. So when somebody says to you, “the clear meaning of scripture,” what you first must say is “clear by what context?” Because unless you have the Law of Identity in action, you will find that they don’t have a context. It is usually a free-floating abstraction, and they are treating the abstraction as if it is the only thing that matters. The Neo-Calvinists are masters of wrecking the Law of Identity.

The Law of Non-Contradiction
The first corollary to the Law of Identity says this:

“It is impossible then that being a man should mean precisely not being a man. And it is not possible to be and not be at the same time. But the point in question is not whether the same thing can at the same time be and not be in name, but whether it can be [and not be] in fact.”

This is the important part. Can something actually exist as two mutually exclusive things? The answer is no, never. A perfect example of this is the expression coined by Martin Luther, Simul justus et peccator – “simultaneously saint and sinner.”

The Law of the Excluded Middle
The second corollary to the Law of Identity says this:

“But on the other hand, there can be no intermediate between contradictories, but if one subject, we must either affirm or deny on any one predicate. This is clear, in the first place, if we define what the true and the false are.”

He is basically saying you can’t punt. If you cannot figure out how to reconcile a contradiction, you cannot relegate it to the abyss of “mystery.” In the book, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand put it this way:

“Contradictions do not exist. If you believe you have found a contradiction, check your premises. One of them is wrong.”

The problem within the Medieval world was they would never check their premise. They always had an explanation for what it was, and so they could never identify an error. You see this dramatically within churches. It is stunning to watch them rationalize one of two directions, either why God is for them or God is with them. The church’s roof falls on everybody; God is against them. The church’s roof falls on everybody; God is with them. And in each instance, you have mutually exclusive ideas. Is it God’s judgment or is it God’s blessing? And they will do Herculean reasoning efforts to try to justify why are they both and the same – the exact same event is basically two separate outcomes. You are ultimately looking at a violation of the Law of Excluded Middle. You cannot punt. If you find an inconsistency in your thinking, you have something fundamentally wrong with your thinking.   Consider how that impacts a vast percentage of Christian doctrines!

In summation, the identity of “A” is in fact the identity of “A”. The particulars of “A” must never contradict. For “A” to maintain its identity, there can be no middle compromise on something not “A”. This is the foundation of causality. It is because man can identify “A” and hold no contradiction on the identity of “A” that empowers man to successfully make a distinction and see the relationship on how the particulars interact.

Without causality, everything in reality remains a totally unprecedented event. Man cannot tell why one thing happens versus another. This is crucial to understanding reality. The foundations of causality, the laws that govern causality, are a corollary to the correct judgment of reality. The inability to identify cause and effect is man’s central and greatest failing, and insanity is directly tied to the inability to act to identify causality. Our internal “reality testers” are directly related to our ability to identify cause and effect between objects in space; abstractions and action and motion.

So now you can begin to grasp why it is that all effective human cognition flows from Aristotle- all laws of logic, all of man’s conceptual capacity, all of man’s reason, and most importantly, man’s capacity to grasp the world in which he lives.

Question: Why is this a threat to despots the world over?

Second question: Why has every oppressive ideology sought to unseat Aristotle?

Third question: Why do tyrants cling to Aristotle’s shoulders while trying to cut off his head?

Here is the answer. Because Aristotelian thought means that:

  • Existence is knowable, understandable, and practicable.
  • All men have the ability to arrive at the truth.
  • Knowledge is available for all who would use the laws and the rules of logic to obtain it.

This foundational concept was revolutionary. It was the original Copernican shift from the transcendent world of Plato’s Forms. Indeed, without Aristotle’s foundation, Copernicus was not possible, and neither is any other advance in human knowledge.

Here is Aristotle’s greatest impact on Western thought. When using the laws of thought, the mind of man is effective to understand man’s existence. An existence that is identifiable is an existence that is understandable. An existence that is understandable is an existence that is explorable. An existence that is explorable is an existence that is controllable. An existence that is controllable is an existence that man can master.

And this is exactly what happened. Thomas Aquinas introduced Aristotle into the horror story that was the Augustinian Dark Ages, where crime was a starving serf eating the king’s deer, where punishment was an iron maiden or the rack or the stocks, where civil liberties meant the government could do no wrong because the king had a divine right to any action, where child labor law was mandatory 16-hour days scratching in the fields of the lord’s property with a stick to plant the lord’s crops so that the father can pay the lord’s taxes, where plagues were heaped on the heads of sinners, where the princes and kings waged yet another war against the Lollards or the Catholics or the Protestants, and teenagers pledged their oath of loyalty to fight in religious wars.

Aristotle’s ideas soon inspired the Renaissance. I want you to notice the contrast between Medieval art and the art of the Renaissance. Consider the impact of Aristotle in the Sistine Chapel. Now man is no longer this cringing, horrified, tormented beast, writhing in the flames in the pit of hell. Now man is portrayed as the very image of his own Maker! It is a powerful contrast. This is how the entire progression of ideas have impact as this metaphysical statement rolls out to people, and now they begin to roll back to themselves through art in the images and the pictures that affirm their metaphysical, epistemological and ethical assumptions.

For the next hundred years, this philosophy moves in fits and starts. It travels down blind alleys, intellectual cul-de-sacs. By the time we get to the 17th century, philosophers are exceedingly aware that they need a new start. A new start equated throwing off the Augustinian metaphysical and epistemological framework. Mysticism and dogmatism continued to wreck everything it touched. Something was very obviously wrong.

The thinkers in the 17th century merely had to observe that the human history was dominated by ignorance, superstition, poverty, and despotism. Revelations did not work. “Faith” was merely government-enforced superstition. Dogmatism was really despotism. Despotism led to oppression and poverty. Philosophers needed a new method. This new method was Reason.

The Age of Reason gave way to the Enlightenment of the 17th century. Reason became the standard, and the world was beginning to actually understand the world which man lives. Notice the explosion. You should recognize most of these names – Bacon, Galileo, Newton, Descartes, Locke. These men represent the core, the explosion of the power of human reasoning and what it ultimately produced. Here is where man finally gains freedom.

There is the one thing, however, that remained to be figured out – political thought. The power of Aristotle’s metaphysics and epistemology ultimately worked out into the area of ethics. We now have an ethical standard where man is able to determine value, and the nature of this ability is what empowers him towards self-governance.

I consistently ask this question, who owns man? There have only been two options in the whole history of the human race: either the State owns man or man owns himself. In political action, this is how man finally came out from underneath the horror story that was the Middle Ages, the horror story that was the Augustinian doctrine, the horror story that was made after Calvin.

This brings me to the emergence of John Locke and the issue of capitalism. This will be the central issue in National Socialist Germany and ultimately how it impacts the United States.

To be continued…

Click here for introduction
Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion


From the Reformation to the Third Reich: Protestantism’s Impact on Western Culture – Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 9, 2017

The following is part three of a multi-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s third session
at the 2014 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for introduction
Click here for part two
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion


The Re-Discovery of Aristotle!

St. Thomas Aquinas

In the previos two posts I have brought you up to the collapse of civilization. That collapse lasts for almost 800 years because Augustine stands virtually intellectually unopposed. There are some medieval theologians and so forth that do rise up, and some of them were pretty smart, but when it came right down to it, they had nothing important to say in the evolution of Western thought. The result is for all of their departures and all of their good ideas, they never abandon the rudiments of orthodoxy.

Then around 1250, St. Thomas Aquinas appears on the scene and reintroduces Aristotle into Western thought in 1250. Aquinas is critical because he integrated the philosophies of Aristotle into Christianity. I cannot understate the importance of this because the re-discovering of Aristotle is what makes the concepts of freedom and liberty as we know it possible. Aristotle is responsible for the coming Enlightenment Era and thinkers such as John Locke. I dare say that the United State would not have happened had it not been for Aristotle.

I want you to notice this timeline. Even with the contributions of Aquinas in 1250 AD, we do not get to freedom, liberty and knowledge until almost 1700! That means that man still spends another 500 years or so in this doleful horror story of the Dark Ages. But it is Aquinas who gives us Aristotle, and Aristotle bails us out of the madness.

The reason I want to talk about Aristotle is because because ultimately I am going to get to the impact of Neo-Calvinism on the United States of America.   By the time I get to the next two parts of this series, I want you to be absolutely aware that America is not possible without Aristotle and without John Locke.   You must know what you are about to lose and why you are about to lose it. And if you don’t understand this much, then you will never understand why I object so vehemently to Augustine and Luther and Calvin.


Now I’m not going to go over how Aquinas integrated Aristotle into Christianity. That would be a long and tedious project. So I’m just going to start with Aristotle and the elements and roots of Aristotle. Aristotle is the most important figure in all of Western thought. Aristotle was a student of Plato and spent 20 years in Plato’s Academy. For a series of reasons, he left Athens, and eventually, those series of reasons resolve and he came back to Athens and created his own school called The Lyceum. But while he was in Plato’s Academy, he was considered one of Plato’s best students, and he was a committed Platonist.

In the beginning he accepted the premise of Platonism and its full philosophical statement from the beginning to the end. However, during his time away from Athens, he began to rethink, and he decided Plato was wrong, and not just a little wrong, catastrophically wrong. As such, he began to rethink the whole of philosophy and the whole shape and scope of philosophy.

Now in the grand scheme of intellectuals, Plato was a genius on levels that is hard to grasp for people in everyday life. Still, Plato had ideas that came before him that he built on. Aristotle had nothing before him to arrive at his conclusions. Everything before him was exactly the opposite of what he said. So for Aristotle to arrive at the conclusions that he did is illustrative of the capacity of his own genius.

Aristotle objects to Plato’s world of Forms. He rejects Plato’s metaphysics at the root. Plato created a transcendent world where everything you see is actually a shadow of the real thing, of the perfect thing.   Those perfect things were actually located in this world called the Forms. There was a perfect table in the world of Forms, and the table that you see is a shadow. It is imperfect and therefore a shadow of this perfect thing.

Aristotle rejected this idea because he believed the Forms are a useless theory because it does not explain this world. This world is filled with particulars, things that move, change, grow and act. Particulars are independent entities that can be categorized by what they have in common, such as a dog, a tree, a man, a remote control. They are self-contained and self-enclosed things, something that exists in and of itself.

This is the world that man needs to understand. Man does not need to know Plato’s static supernatural world.

Here’s an example. This world has chairs, tables, dogs, and Calvinists. Plato says that to understand this world, another world must first have chairs, tables, dogs, and Calvinists. As far as Aristotle is concerned, this creates a useless duplication. All that Plato has done is create a useless metaphor that does not address the root question, how does this world reflect the world of Forms? By what mechanism does this take place? And of course there is no answer, because by definition, all that Plato was saying is this world of Forms is somehow a bright enough light that it casts a shadow here. But yet there is still this fundamental division, which means that man is still living in a world that is somehow functionally unreal.

Here is Aristotle’s major substantive objection. To understand this objection, I need to help you understand the distinction between universals and particulars. I have already defined particulars for you. Aristotle recognized that particulars can be categorized into universals. Universals are what is common to a number of particulars. It is the characteristic possessed by many particulars. What is the common denominator of say table-ness or chair-ness or circle-ness? When men conceptualizes these things, he universalizes the concepts into an abstraction.

Let me see if I can explain this.   Consider a remote control for your television. That particular remote controls a particular device, namely your television. You can generalize “remote” into a universal concept. That concept can be abstracted to the nth degree because now you do not have to remember every single remote you have ever see in your lifetime. You can now hold in your head the concept, the abstraction, of remote, and it encompasses all of the remotes on the planet. You see, this is an enormously powerful part of human cognition. It is Aristotle’s ability to identify the process of going from a particular to the universal (concept), to the abstraction that gives Aristotle’s metaphysics and epistemology such enormous power.

What Plato did is he took the human mind’s ability to conceptualize a universal and instead said “remote” has a perfect “remote” somewhere else, and that is how we know a “remote” generally. Aristotle says that is silly. What you just did is took the abstraction, “remote-ness”, created universal perfect “remote” somewhere in another world, and then said, oh by the way, this particular remote is only a reflection. So in other words, Plato took the universal and made it a particular. This is a powerful, powerful argument. He pretty much said Plato made up this world that had no function and no purpose and that all that was necessarily important was here and now.

Here’s how Aristotle explains this. We separate common characteristics of entities, particulars, by our selective awareness, by observing the differences among them. We then reduce things to a common denominator. And this is how we go from particulars to universals. When a baby first enters the world, he looks around and sees chair, chair, chair, chair, chair, chair, but he does not understand all of these chairs. At first to him these are all somehow unique and individual events. But eventually, he begins to identify the common denominators of all chairs, and he begins to conceptualize “chair” in general, and then he abstracts to the bigger picture.

Notice Aristotle’s distinction. Just because we can perform the action of abstraction does not mean that the common denominator exists in a separate supernatural reality. Separating things in thought is very different from separating in reality. When man practices this selective process, he is performing abstraction. For example, within your room, you could identify all the shapes of the circle in the room, so you can ignore color, or if it is a part of a chair or connected to the wall you can extract the concept “circle” from each instance. But this mental process does not mean that “circle” is out there somewhere in a Form.

Aristotle called Plato’s world of Forms the “Fallacy of Reification”, literally “thing-making.” Plato is making a particular out of a human cognitive process. This is a brilliant deduction. Aristotle identifies a fundamental flaw by pointing out that this is really nothing more than how the human consciousness works. It is part of the human consciousness identity.

Now you should have some basic insight into how Aristotle conceptualizes the world. Here are the basics. Reality exists. What man perceives is reality. There is no conflict between reality and appearance. Reality is what man observes, and any formulation that says otherwise is error. Particulars are the units of reality. The things you see are particulars. As I said, anything you can physically point at, look at, identify, subtract and blank out everything else and look at, that is a particular. Everything is an individual and a concrete. Individuality is the particular’s irreducible element. The thing that individualizes it is the thing itself.

Here is Aristotle’s distinction, and this is a direct contrast to Plato. Universals are real. Universals are the objects of conceptual thought. Universals are the abstraction of particulars, but only particulars actually exist. Let me make a distinction. There was a common tool of debate that was called Zeno’s Paradox. Zeno said you couldn’t actually cross a room because you could not cross distance. You would go to half and then to half again and then to half again and then to half again and to half again, and you could not cross a room by definition. Of course, this is error because it takes the concept of infinity and turns it into a thing. You do not cross infinity. You cross an identity. And the identity is the distance of a room, 30 feet. Aristotle correctly destroyed Zeno’s Paradox by observing that the abstraction “infinity” was not real. We use it as a mental organizer, but it is not in existence like this. So can we cross a room? Absolutely. Why? Because we’re not crossing infinity. We’re crossing an identity, 30 feet.

Side Bar: Most of the conflicts that we have regarding the Neo-Calvinist group and all collectivist ideologies are the failure to grasp the distinction between concretes and particulars, concepts and abstractions. Most of our theological discussion has failed because it has misunderstood these specific distinctions. And the reason the Neo-Calvinists kick our butt so consistently is because they are masters at manipulating the difference between concept and abstraction. I’ll let you mull that over.

Aristotle said matter is the uniqueness of a particular. Form is the universalizing of those things that a particular shares with other things. So he takes over Plato’s concept of form, but he uses it entirely differently. Aristotle noted that you cannot have form without matter, and you cannot have matter without form. This is Plato’s fundamental error; he created a world of Forms without matter. This is the exact same failing in Augustinian doctrine. Augustine’s Form is the heavenly and the universal worldly godly realm. This earth has no Form. Augustine manipulates this to the nth degree throughout the entirety of his ideology.


Aristotle’s Metaphysics
Everybody prior to Aristotle said that consciousness was primary. Some consciousness, whether some variation of man’s consciousness or some divine consciousness, imposed its will on the world and shaped it after its fashion. Aristotle said that is backwards. It is reality that comes first and consciousness engages reality.   This is known as the Primacy of Existence, and this is the Copernican shift in philosophy, because it puts reality and consciousness as co-counterweights in the ability to define what is. It gives the ability for objective knowledge.

With the primacy of consciousness, you have no guarantee of objectivity because the first question you must ask is, whose consciousness defines reality? Is it Allah? Is it God? Is it Isis? Or if you are a follower of Hegel, is it the state that defines reality? Can the state impose its collective will on the world? With this, all you have is the term subjectivism. The primacy of consciousness is nothing more than subjectivism. But it is reality first, the primacy of existence first, the correlation of consciousness perceiving that reality that gives you the ability to have objective knowledge; it gives you a plumb line, because man has every confidence that what he sees is.

Man’s obsession to alter reality by the mind is the heart and soul of magic. And this is the primacy of consciousness’ preoccupation. This is how pond scum in the Middle Ages magically became frogs. Everything is and it is not. Everything is mutable and changeable. There is no reality and there is no causality.

Man practices the primacy of consciousness metaphysics all the time. You see something horrible and the first thing you do is start saying, “No, no, that can’t be.” The blogosphere is doing this with Calvinists all the time. They see one more manifestation of Neo-Calvinist abuse and just magically go, “No, that can’t be. It can’t be the doctrine.” They pretend the relationship between ideas and outcomes do not exist. That must mean it is not reality. This is the implication of the primacy of consciousness. They are defining the measure of truth by their own determination at a given consciousness.


Aristotle’s Epistemology.
One of the biggest problems with Plato’s world of Forms is if there is this other world, how does man ever get this concept of “table”? Where does that come from? If he has no ability to perceive it by any means, how does he get it? Well, the historic solution to this was the concept of innate ideas, that somehow man just knew it. Before he was born, man knew it and he remembers it as he grows. All of these things, these innate ideas, all originate pre-consciousness.

If you recall from the 2013 series on the evolution of Western thought, practically every system of thought included the idea that somehow man’s senses and his ability to perceive were impaired or invalid. Aristotle opposed this thought. He said that a man starts his existence tabula rasa, as a blank slate. Man has no innate ideas. The way man gets his knowledge is that it begins with the senses, perceptions. Man’s faculty for understanding reality is his perceptions. All formulations that write off the senses at this point are wrong.

Man sees a rainbow, and he sees it from a distance and it physically looks like it touches the ground. And so he goes to try to find where it is, and of course he can’t find it. And the more he tries to walk towards the rainbow, the harder it is to see the rainbow. Or a similar example is you take a stick. A stick is straight in the air. You stick it in the water and you look at it, and suddenly, the stick bends. The historic criticism was that the senses deceive us. We really can’t rely on the senses.

Aristotle realized that was nonsense. You simply made a crucial error. The senses gave you the correct information, but you interpreted the information wrong. You misunderstood what that information was designed to give you. The stick in the water appears bent because at some point you learn the implications of how water moves and shapes light. The stick didn’t bend. The light coming back at the senses is what changed the appearance of the stick. The same thing is true of the rainbow. A rainbow is the result of light passing through water mist which refracts the light, and so the illusion that you think you see is really the correct manifestation of the entities light and water.

Aristotle’s next epistemological advance was called concept-formation which I have already discussed at length earlier in this article. It is the ability of man to take perceptions and particulars, identify the common denominators between them, and conceptualize abstractions called universals. This is how man brings order to his perceptions and begins to classify reality by identifying identities. It is by this method that man goes from circle to wheel to cart to transportation.

This is how man builds every increasing levels of complexity. He takes the very small, the particular, and he begins to form and shape that until he gets to the broadest abstraction. The order goes this way, perception to conception to abstraction to universal. And I’m going to keep saying this because this is central to the world that we inhabit. Until you understand how this functions, it is very easy to get wrapped up in the Augustinian ideas and their specific effort to divorce the world from reality man’s mind. This is a central attack that we will see over and over again as we progress through this discussion.

To be continued…

Click here for introduction
Click here for part two
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion

What is Really Going On With Common Core?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 23, 2016

john immel

John Immel | March 23, 2016

I was recently asked to give my thoughts on this article  and what follows is an expanded version of my response.

After reading the article you can see that Common Core teaching methods makes hash out of mathematics and, of course, the logical question is why?  Why create a teaching method that so obviously destroys arithmetical mastery? Common Core math is so disconnected from Classical instruction it seems too bizarre to be accidental. What then is the real motive?

The Common Core glossy brochure says that the reason for its existence is to institute a national standard to measure K-12 academic success. The logic being America lags behind in education, there must be something wrong with how local schools are teaching the Three R’s, therefore the government should be in charge of how teachers are teaching which means the government should be in charge of what teachers are teaching. If the Government can measure the teachers then all will be well in American education. So the first step in making sure little Johnny can get into a good collage comes from government creating a universal standard curricula. Alakazam poof! Common Core.

(You should be very, very nervous when the federal government says it should be in charge of anything because benevolence is never the real motive.)

What then is the motive? What is the real purpose behind this “new” math?

I’m assuming you read the article so I will reference Robin’s face book post. Notice that the 3rd (or 4th ) grader answered the question correctly and then notice that the teacher gives absurd advice on how to “make” 10 from 8+5. What is the practical result to the young grade schooler?  Is this a new low in educational stupidity?  Did the Department of Education suddenly have an aggregate drop in IQ?

Some variation of this criticism—that teachers and administrators are just stupid—is often offered as the reason for the emergence of this new math. While it is true that the world is full of stupid and ignorant and otherwise naive people whenever you see an ongoing, concerted effort to impose the absurd, the irrational, the erroneous on the masses, know that the reason is never stupidity. There is always a motive; there is always a method to the madness.

In an effort to uncover the motive behind Common Core one person I talked to observed the methods behind the math would crush the student’s self confidence. That is true. Such instruction is sure to destroy the child’s self confidence but I submit that the target is not self confidence but something much more fundamental . . . something much more important.

As a philosopher I try to see the root of things, to identify the foundations of ideas, to find the concepts upon which human existence rests. So follow me in the path to identify this foundation.

Self confidence is a byproduct of competence and competence is a measure of effective action and effective action is the result of conceptual mastery and conceptual mastery is the successful grasp of Aristotle’s Law of Identity.

The average 3rd grader has never heard of Aristotle, let alone the Law of Identity but he has an implicit grasp of its meaning. From the moment he distinguished Mommy from Daddy and then distinguished chair from dog he was practicing the process of identification and conceptual integration.  And, assuming his parents affirm the value of a rational world view, he arrives in 3rd grade already very accustomed to using Aristotle’s Law of Identity.

What is the Law of Identity?

It is summed up in these three Aristotelian axioms:

Law of Identity: Whatever is  . . . is.

Law of Non Contradiction: Nothing can both be and  . . . not be.

Law of the Excluded Middle: Everything must ether be or  . . . not be.

Or said another way.

  • A = A
  • A cannot be B
  • A is unique in all particulars

These axioms are the foundation for successful identification and categorization of existence. Without this as the standard, existence does not exist and man is set adrift in a sea of his own consciousness.  Or said simply without this standard our 3rd grader can’t tell the difference between Mommy or Daddy or a dog and a chair.

So contrast Aristotle’s foundation with the teacher’s assertion that you can “make” 10 from 8 + 5.  Notice that this teacher is laying waste to the roots of the child’s conceptual faculty. And now you get a glimpse into the nefarious purpose behind Common Core math. I suspect that Common Core teachers are more like useful zealots than pedagogical Dr. Evil’s. I suspect they are Department of Education trained parrots merely trying to emulate the teaching methods learned from university professors . . . but that does not change their culpability or the underlying educational intent.

I submit that the real purpose of Common Core math is a direct assault on the Law of Identity. If A does NOT = A then A cannot equal anything. If you can really “make” 10 from 8+5 then 10, 8 and 5 have no identity nor is there a concept subtraction, addition, multiplication, or division. Indeed the arithmetic operators are not operators at all; they are not symbols denoting mental actions to be performed with the identities.

But 1 is an identity and so is 5 and so is 8. Students first grasp these identities and then build to higher level conceptual integration to concepts like 10. And then 10 soon becomes the concept 100 and then becomes the concept 1,000 and so on until a child has tools to quantify vast subsets of particulars.  So to render these concepts meaningless is to undercut conceptual integration at the root which has the practical effect of undercutting man at the root.

So the purpose of Math (of the Common Core kind) is specifically designed to elevate “making stuff up” to a science. It is designed to give academic credence to whim worship.  The “system” illustrated in the article to show how to “make” numbers is merely window dressing masquerading as Logic.

I submit that the Common Core endgame is to teach young minds that A can equal anything. And if A can equal B, or C or Z then A can be anything. A is NOT A. A is whatever conceptual abstraction one chooses to apply in the moment. Whatever lip service Common Core advocates pay to knowledge and learning they can never escape the conclusion that there is nothing to know. If A is everything then A is nothing. If A has no identity then A is infinite and the infinite has no identity. (See Aristotle’s response to Zeno)

As a brief historical aside, whenever man has concluded that there is nothing to know—because they formally rejected Aristotle and the roots of objectivity— philosophy has collapsed into skepticism. This has happened three times in the progression of human thought. And all three times civilization collapsed into barbarism and irrationality. For a lesson in what that looked like see any good history book about the dark ages.

So, returning from the commercial break, the only conceivable purpose of Common Core Math

is to unravel man’s conceptual faculty and make the world unintelligible.

Why would they do such a thing?

Very simply because Classical education—the focus on the Three R’s—was a profound global success and the source of almost unlimited human freedom because it drove back the frontiers of ignorance and almost banished the destructive power of mysticism and superstition.  Notice that in Classical education young minds are first introduced to formal logic when they start mathematics. Students learn the concept of identity 1 and 2 and 3 etc and then they learn to combine identities to form higher concepts 9 +1= 10.

(The tens place opening up a vast horizon of measuring capabilities)

Then young minds learn to sequence ideas: (2X2) + 2 = 6 thus learning how to organize thoughts in order of importance.  And then young minds learn to identify inter relating principles: For example a + b = c thus grasping that they can quantify many identities under the variables a, b and c and successfully find relationship between their sums. No matter how good a student is at arriving at the correct mathematical answer, the root lessons are logic lessons.

So now consider the “systems” of Common Core math that remove the mathematical rules and process.  Notice that Common Core “math” is really removing logic (the formal organization of concepts to create larger concepts) from education as such. This can only have one purpose: to destroy man’s capacity to reason. People “educated” to believe they can make up whatever reality they choose are mere putty in the hands of anyone demanding that 8+5= 10.

Dictators and thugs and despots the world over have always known they must first cut off Aristotle’s head before they can shackle man’s body because self-confident men will not bow to subjugation. Men and Women who can effectively grasp the world in which they live will never need a mystic despot to tell them what the world means. And as I pointed out earlier in the article the root of self confidence is really Aristotle’s laws of identity.

 So it should be no surprise that all tyrannical ideologies seek to first and foremost destroy the Law of Identity (Excluded middle, Non-contradiction) because they must first separate man from reality so they can easily separate man from his mind.

Unfortunately most anti Aristotelian ideologies present themselves as saviors of human existence (Augustine, Kant, and Berkeley et al) and therefore as saviors of people.  The glossy brochure leads people to believe that banishing existence from logic and reason is for the benefit of mankind so people never notice that the outcome is fantastically anti-human. When existence is set up as the metaphysical villain it certainly follows that any tools that help measure (or master) existence must be a direct threat, so people are seduced into accepting the premise that identities are not really real and that subjective “Making” is the highest “rational” ideal.

But there is no such thing as a, “little bit of subjectivity.”

Either existence is a self created manifestation of man’s consciousness (subjective) . . . or . . .  Man’s consciousness is the mechanism that identifies existence (objective). Either man can “make” 10 from 8+5 by the worship of his own whim . . . or . . .  existence requires that 8+5 = 13.

A is A . . . or . . .  A is nothing.

And if A is nothing how do you refute subjectivism?

How can you demand an objective standard of measure when the right answer is: there is nothing to be objective about?

Or more practically, how can you respond to a Tyrant that says individual wealth is an abuse of power and it is his moral prerogative to seize your money?

You say: “I made my money by hard work.” He says: “You stole your money by an abuse of power.”

You say:” 8+5 = 13.”

He says: “Make 10 from 8+5.”

In the end it is all semantics: You say tomato he says toomaato but he has the guns so the correct answer is “8+5 = 10” and while you’re at it give him your money, give him your life because the tyrant already has your brain.

 And this is exactly the point.

I suspect that the powers behind this body of education (those few intellectuals behind the educational curtain driving and shaping the curricula) know that one of the things that have prevented a Western culture from total collapse into the dark ages of subjectivism has been mathematics. Since so many people in the world have been taught the rudiments of logic via mathematics — and introduced to Newtonian mechanics and more fundamentally Aristotle’s Law of Identity through math—Western civilization maintains a (tenuous) commitment to logic and reason. Or said simply: Western culture is reluctant to abandon the idea that words mean things.

But if the Federal government can create a monopoly on education and then educate an entire generation that words don’t mean anything: Symbols don’t mean things. Ideas don’t mean things and therefore anything can mean anything  . . . which means that everything means nothing. . .

 . . . Totalitarians know if they can destroy the minds of your children they will own the world.

John Immel


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TANC 2015, John Immel, Session 1: Examining the Historical Perspectives and Evolution of Determinism

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on October 13, 2015
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