Avoid “All” Contradictions: A Surrejoinder To John Dahms -- By: Norman L. Geisler

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 22:2 (Jun 1979)
Article: Avoid “All” Contradictions: A Surrejoinder To John Dahms
Author: Norman L. Geisler


Avoid “All” Contradictions:
A Surrejoinder To John Dahms

Norman L. Geisler*

Dahms complains that I have “misrepresented” his view. “Misunderstood” would have been a more generous term. Even so, Dahms seems to forget that communication is a two-way street. Perhaps he could have made his points more lucidly. Other philosophers and theologians with whom I spoke about his article expressed the same bewilderment about Dahms’ claims as did I. Indeed, Dahms confesses to be the only one he knows who holds his basic position. One is inclined to agree with him on this point.

I. What I Would Now Understand Differently

In view of Dahms’ reponse, there are no central points of his view that I now understand differently. A couple of minor points have been clarified. First, I did not understand his use of the “rationally inescapable is the real” in connection with allegedly deriving irrational numbers from rational ones. Incidentally, Dahms still does not understand that I never taught that “the rationally inescapable is the real.” He even said, contrary to my own clear denial, that I must have changed my mind!1 It is nigh unto impossible to carry on meaningful and helpful communication with someone who tells you what you meant by what you said when you know what you did and did not mean by what you said.

Second, I did not understand Dahms’ assertion about the self-defeating nature of some true statements about reality. I now do understand it as he clarified it in his second article. But neither of these clarifications is crucial to the real debate, as we shall soon see. In short, Dahms’ response did not add to my understanding of any significant point of his first presentation.

II. What I Would Now Say Differently

Another helpful way to forward the dialogue is to indicate in what ways I would change my views or statements in view of Dahms’ restatement of his views. The answer to this is simple: in no substantial way, and in only one accidental way. I should not have said a musical contradiction is where a piece “calls for” two different notes. I should have said a musical contradiction is where two different notes are actually one and the same note.

Of course, in view of what Dahms said I would want to sharpen my criticisms,

*Norman Geisler is professor of philosophy of religion at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

but I do not see any criticisms that I would change. It seems to me that they all still apply and that he has not really answered them; he has simply repl...

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