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Mycernius
17-07-12, 18:19
However, you can rejoice that Communism, which is far worse than Nazism and Fascism in general in murdering 100 million individuals, is an unmitigated atheist philosophy.
Really, is that why you get christian communists?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_communism
Atheism isn't a philosophy, a religion or any other category you wish to put it in. It is merely the non-belief in a god or gods. I get tired of this old canard being trotted out time and time again.
Those millions were not killed in the name of atheism. Communists had a tendency to kill anyone who did not agree with their way. Intellectuals were normally the first to go, and guess what, you find that most of these intellectuals were atheists. In the killing fields of Cambodia just wearing glasses was enough to get you murdered as it was thought intellectuals wore glasses.
I will also point out that during WW2 Stalin, an atheist and a communist opened churches and encouraged attendance in a way to bring the Russian people together.

sparkey
17-07-12, 18:40
Really, is that why you get christian communists?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_communism
Atheism isn't a philosophy, a religion or any other category you wish to put it in. It is merely the non-belief in a god or gods. I get tired of this old canard being trotted out time and time again.

It's true that not all communists are atheists, but official communism has tended to be atheistic, following Marx:


Communism begins from the outset with atheism; but atheism is at first far from being communism; indeed, that atheism is still mostly an abstraction.

Also, I don't think that JFWR was saying anything against your point of how atheism is not itself a philosophy or a religion.


I will also point out that during WW2 Stalin, an atheist and a communist opened churches and encouraged attendance in a way to bring the Russian people together.

Stalin was a pragmatic nationalist in many ways. But he was still himself an atheist, and his premiership was sandwiched between two anti-religious campaigns.

JFWR
18-07-12, 04:00
Really, is that why you get christian communists?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_communism

I mean Marxist communism, not utopian, Christian, et cetera, which were not the intellectual background of the USSR, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Cuba, et cetera.



Atheism isn't a philosophy, a religion or any other category you wish to put it in. It is merely the non-belief in a god or gods. I get tired of this old canard being trotted out time and time again.


That's nonsense. Atheism is a philosophical position. It is the disbelief in God, which is itself a question of philosophical import. There are also many philosophies which can be described as Atheistic amongst which would be Marxism, Epicureanism, Nihilism, the philosophy of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche's philosophy, et cetera.

No one is claiming Atheism is a religion, though. It has no churches, no rituals, no expression of the numinous, or anything else of the sort.


Those millions were not killed in the name of atheism. Communists had a tendency to kill anyone who did not agree with their way. Intellectuals were normally the first to go, and guess what, you find that most of these intellectuals were atheists. In the killing fields of Cambodia just wearing glasses was enough to get you murdered as it was thought intellectuals wore glasses.
I will also point out that during WW2 Stalin, an atheist and a communist opened churches and encouraged attendance in a way to bring the Russian people together.

Those killed were killed under the understanding of these regimes' Marxist doctrine. Marxist doctrine is officially Atheistic. Marx does not quibble on this point.

For a good scholarly source on Stalin's massive persecutions of Christians and others, please see:

Dimitry V. Pospielovsky. A History of Soviet Atheism in Theory and Practice, and the Believer, vol 2: Soviet Anti-Religious Campaigns and Persecutions, St Martin's Press, New York (1988) p. 89

Stalin removed some supression in order to rally the Russian peasants behind the Soviet war effort. Your claim that he helped the church, however, is equivalent to saying an arsonist who builds you a hut is helping you after burning down your mansion.

sparkey
18-07-12, 17:14
That's nonsense. Atheism is a philosophical position. It is the disbelief in God, which is itself a question of philosophical import. There are also many philosophies which can be described as Atheistic amongst which would be Marxism, Epicureanism, Nihilism, the philosophy of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche's philosophy, et cetera.

Well, if atheism is a "philosophical position," it's not a strong one, because it doesn't require justification in the same way that theism does. It begins to require justification when the philosopher argues that it is required within their framework, as Marx does, but that's not typical.

Besides, atheism doesn't imply a certain philosophy, that's the point. So, sure, the philosophy of Marxist communism was very destructive. But that is no more an indictment of other atheist philosophies than Hilter being a Catholic is an indictment of Shaivism.

JFWR
18-07-12, 17:29
Well, if atheism is a "philosophical position," it's not a strong one, because it doesn't require justification in the same way that theism does. It begins to require justification when the philosopher argues that it is required within their framework, as Marx does, but that's not typical.

The only sense that atheism wouldn't require justification would be in the case of ignorance or simply disbelief without philosophical backing. That is to say, "Oh, I just don't have any beliefs in any divinities". Rather than: "I do not believe that God exists".

It certainly requires less justification in that sense as all theism is a positive belief.

When someone claims to be an Atheist, it is implied that they believe that God does not exist. This is itself a positive belief and requires a justification for its belief. "I don't know" would satisfy an answer, but that would be a sort of personal agnosticism.


Besides, atheism doesn't imply a certain philosophy, that's the point. So, sure, the philosophy of Marxist communism was very destructive. But that is no more an indictment of other atheist philosophies than Hilter being a Catholic is an indictment of Shaivism.

Oh, I quite agree. But it is useful to bring up when religion is claimed as the greatest evil in the world. If we judge religion as the basis for evil by the action of states which are held to be religious (like the claim for Hitler was affirming), then we must look at Communist countries as Atheist and factor in Atheism as a great evil.

sparkey
18-07-12, 18:03
The only sense that atheism wouldn't require justification would be in the case of ignorance or simply disbelief without philosophical backing. That is to say, "Oh, I just don't have any beliefs in any divinities". Rather than: "I do not believe that God exists".

At what point does disbelief in something require justification? Is it when that thing becomes exceptionally popular? I can't think of another reason that you would require justification for disbelief in God, as opposed to disbelief in leprechauns. Unless you think that all disbelief requires justification?

I always thought it was easier to construct a philosophy by justifying what you believe in, rather than everything that you disbelieve in.


When someone claims to be an Atheist, it is implied that they believe that God does not exist. This is itself a positive belief and requires a justification for its belief. "I don't know" would satisfy an answer, but that would be a sort of personal agnosticism.

Well, my point was that the most common personal atheism tends to be a sort of open-minded "I don't know for sure, but I don't believe right now" atheist/agnostic hybrid. Atheism and agnosticism aren't mutually exclusive, of course. State atheism and Marxism are exceptional in that they require atheism in some way.


Oh, I quite agree. But it is useful to bring up when religion is claimed as the greatest evil in the world. If we judge religion as the basis for evil by the action of states which are held to be religious (like the claim for Hitler was affirming), then we must look at Communist countries as Atheist and factor in Atheism as a great evil.

OK, sure, if your point is just that we can't say "some religious states have been evil, so religion is evil," then I agree.

JFWR
19-07-12, 03:47
At what point does disbelief in something require justification? Is it when that thing becomes exceptionally popular? I can't think of another reason that you would require justification for disbelief in God, as opposed to disbelief in leprechauns. Unless you think that all disbelief requires justification?

Let's say something like this: A savage lives in the middle of New Guinea with no conception whatsoever of any sort of God (this is unlikely as savages are superstitious as a rule and have plenty of spiritual beliefs, but let's go with it). In that case, his disbelief is merely a case of ignorance. The thought has not dawned upon him. He is an atheist in the sense that he holds to no belief in any divinities, but he's not affirming the statement, "there is no God" either. Likewise, just stating a fact (I don't believe in the divine) is not itself an argument. However, once one does have the conception of the divine, it ought to be based on something to refute or affirm it.

And yes, all positive disbelief requires justifications. In the case of leprechauns: John doesn't believe in them because they violate natural law and there is no evidence of their existence. Likewise with X, Y, and Z.

Contrary example: John never heard of leprechauns, thus he doesn't disbelieve in their existence or anything of the sort.


I always thought it was easier to construct a philosophy by justifying what you believe in, rather than everything that you disbelieve in.

It is.


Well, my point was that the most common personal atheism tends to be a sort of open-minded "I don't know for sure, but I don't believe right now" atheist/agnostic hybrid. Atheism and agnosticism aren't mutually exclusive, of course. State atheism and Marxism are exceptional in that they require atheism in some way.

I do not know if that is really the most common form of atheism. Most atheists seem to have a fairly strong sense that God doesn't exist. But yes, a preference for disbelief without rational justification of it is is something people put forth. It's unfortunate, as that shows intellectual laziness.


OK, sure, if your point is just that we can't say "some religious states have been evil, so religion is evil," then I agree.

Yeah. I wanted to make tha tpoint. I find the argument historically invalid despite its ludicrous popularity. I find myself needing to refute it to point out how historically nonsensical it is.

LeBrok
19-07-12, 06:26
Stalin removed some supression in order to rally the Russian peasants behind the Soviet war effort. Your claim that he helped the church, however, is equivalent to saying an arsonist who builds you a hut is helping you after burning down your mansion.
I agree with this. However it is hard to blame Marxism or Atheism for accesses of one tyrant. Stalin was a monster who would commit same crimes regardless if he was a christian Tsar of Russia, or atheistic fascist. Stalin was a dictator who even killed atheistic members of ruling communist party, and in thousands. Ideology was the least concern of Stalin, his ultimate power and cult of his person was. We've met similar psychopathic and antisocial murderers thorough history of man kind, and they come from all religious backgrounds, or lack of one, and all races. As I said I wouldn't blame Marxism or Atheism for his crimes. Leninism more likely, surely Stalinism. :wink:

JFWR
19-07-12, 07:06
I agree with this. However it is hard to blame Marxism or Atheism for accesses of one tyrant. Stalin was a monster who would commit same crimes regardless if he was a christian Tsar of Russia, or atheistic fascist. Stalin was a dictator who even killed atheistic members of ruling communist party, and in thousands. Ideology was the least concern of Stalin, his ultimate power and cult of his person was. We've met similar psychopathic and antisocial murderers thorough history of man kind, and they come from all religious backgrounds, or lack of one, and all races. As I said I wouldn't blame Marxism or Atheism for his crimes. Leninism more likely, surely Stalinism. :wink:

Well the problem is this: Whereas Stalin was the worst communist leader in Russia, he wasn't the only bad guy. Every Communist leader up till maybe Gorbachev did some horrific things, and their Eastern European allies were often as blood thirsty or worse. The ideology driving the USSR and its satellite states were one premised on Atheism in theory, and in practice on totalitarian oppression.

This is not to say that Nikita Kruschev was as bad as Stalin. Obviously, he wasn't. Still, he was a pretty damn bad guy.

Now if you go to the Far East, you get even worse. Mao made Stalin look like a lightweight. He probably killed in excess of 100 million Chiense citizens. The Chinese government to this day is one of the most oppressive on the planet, with the Falun Gung having two million "disappearances" and "reeducations" just last decade. Then, of course, you have North Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam...

Where Communism has come, totlitarianism and death has followed. Is it -because- it is Atheist? Not necessarily. But if we are to blame "religion" for everything, let's talk about what Atheists have done in this last century alone.

LeBrok
19-07-12, 07:49
At what point does disbelief in something require justification? Is it when that thing becomes exceptionally popular? I can't think of another reason that you would require justification for disbelief in God, as opposed to disbelief in leprechauns. Unless you think that all disbelief requires justification?


There are instances of disbelief that require huge justification. Most of the people on this planed had to believe in science and laws of physics. From lack of education, interest, or understanding we have to relay on scientists for explanation of inner-working of the world. Almost all people have to take electromagnetism, nuclear forces or how cellphone works on leap of faith. It is not uncommon to meet folks, even in western world, who will deny many scientific principle, even the once proven beyond doubt.
It's not exactly same thing as not believing in something that doesn't exist, which is positive, it's more like false negative. Nevertheless some disbelieves need to be justified.


To my understanding theists are in easier position, because of human nature. Most people on this planet are spiritual people, and evolution (explained by natural selection) might have engraved believe in supernatural in our gens. Generally speaking it is easier to believe that not to believe for human beings. It is therefore, sort of, a normal thing for theists to ask for proof of gods' nonexistence from atheists. It is so natural for them to know (believe) the god, to feel the presence of god, to feel existence of something bigger then themselves, to see the signs spirits give them in everyday life situations, and it feels so unnaturally wrong to hear that some might not believe the way they do. The faith comes so natural to them that they don't bother to prove to themselves that god exists, though they demand otherwise from nonbelievers. For them the feeling of god, spirits, supernatural is good enough proof. But at the end of a day, it's just a feeling.

LeBrok
19-07-12, 08:54
Well the problem is this: Whereas Stalin was the worst communist leader in Russia, he wasn't the only bad guy. Every Communist leader up till maybe Gorbachev did some horrific things, and their Eastern European allies were often as blood thirsty or worse. The ideology driving the USSR and its satellite states were one premised on Atheism in theory, and in practice on totalitarian oppression.

This is not to say that Nikita Kruschev was as bad as Stalin. Obviously, he wasn't. Still, he was a pretty damn bad guy.

Now if you go to the Far East, you get even worse. Mao made Stalin look like a lightweight. He probably killed in excess of 100 million Chiense citizens. The Chinese government to this day is one of the most oppressive on the planet, with the Falun Gung having two million "disappearances" and "reeducations" just last decade. Then, of course, you have North Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam...
I wouldn't say that they are much worse that other dictators and hegemons from the past, like Chingis Khan, Alexander the Great, Julius Cesar or Conquistadors, or should we mention crusaders. They all burned and killed whole cities, just because people didn't want to surrender to their will, and mostly for the money and fame. I would like to mention that atheism wasn't popular even heard back than, and they belonged some religions. The only reason they have killed thousands not millions is because of 10 times lesser population density and their inefficient weapons.
Yes, the communist leaders, that you mentioned, didn't have any religious affiliations and officially atheists (at least when on high positions, it was different at birth or adolescence), but it doesn't mean they were not spiritual or superstitious people. I'm pretty sure many of them were.
Spirituality is a base for religious believes.



Where Communism has come, totlitarianism and death has followed. Is it -because- it is Atheist? Not necessarily. But if we are to blame "religion" for everything, let's talk about what Atheists have done in this last century alone.
As I elaborated above I don't blame religions or religious people for sins of our ancestors, just because they happened to believe or belong to religions, and I think most atheists take the same stand too. We just throw this in face of religious people, from time to time, as a reminder that they are not any better than us.
Unfortunately theists are educated (brainwashed) by their religious dogmas that only religion can teach people morality. That without religion world and people will be without ethics and destined for apocalypse. Atheists are looked upon, from all religions, as immoral, evil and scary monsters. Off course this couldn't be farther from the truth, and I hope you can come to this conclusion, when interacting with few of us on Eupedia. :grin:



PS. By no means I was defending communism or rather these attempts at it.

sparkey
19-07-12, 18:11
Let's say something like this: A savage lives in the middle of New Guinea with no conception whatsoever of any sort of God (this is unlikely as savages are superstitious as a rule and have plenty of spiritual beliefs, but let's go with it). In that case, his disbelief is merely a case of ignorance. The thought has not dawned upon him. He is an atheist in the sense that he holds to no belief in any divinities, but he's not affirming the statement, "there is no God" either. Likewise, just stating a fact (I don't believe in the divine) is not itself an argument. However, once one does have the conception of the divine, it ought to be based on something to refute or affirm it.

Actually, I think we're closer than it may appear here regarding what requires justification. Saying "there is no God" requires justification. Making an argument against theism requires an actual argument. I'm mainly saying that it's not typical, or at least not default, to have atheism be required in a philosophical framework, so few need to make an argument to justify personal atheism. I'm not so much thinking of a New Guinean who has never heard of God here. I'm more thinking of someone like a Czech, who doesn't live in a society structured around religion, doesn't attend church, and really doesn't think about it that much, but would answer "no" to "Do you believe in God?" And to "Why not?" they answer "I don't know, why should I?"


And yes, all positive disbelief requires justifications. In the case of leprechauns: John doesn't believe in them because they violate natural law and there is no evidence of their existence. Likewise with X, Y, and Z.

To me, that's more like arguing against leprechauns than affirming a personal disbelief, though. I mean, it's a bit more than saying "I don't believe in leprechauns" to say, "Leprechauns violate natural law, and there's no evidence for leprechauns." The first fits into both a philosophical framework that allows for leprechauns but doesn't incorporate them at the moment. The second only fits into a philosophical framework that doesn't allow for them.

Of course, a lot of philosophical frameworks cut out any possibility for leprechauns alongside a lot of other things at the same time. Those are frameworks like "I only believe what I know has evidence." But as LeBrok points out, that's not typical for people, as people tend to default to believing in, or at least allowing for, the supernatural. Maybe it's a typical framework for a lot of Western atheists... but it's not necessary for atheism as a whole.


I do not know if that is really the most common form of atheism. Most atheists seem to have a fairly strong sense that God doesn't exist.

I think that's a typical experience if you've mostly been around American and Internet atheists. A lot of these sorts of people are out to defend themselves (living in a very religious place) or are out to have an argument. I wonder how far it extends elsewhere, though.

sparkey
19-07-12, 18:20
There are instances of disbelief that require huge justification. Most of the people on this planed had to believe in science and laws of physics. From lack of education, interest, or understanding we have to relay on scientists for explanation of inner-working of the world. Almost all people have to take electromagnetism, nuclear forces or how cellphone works on leap of faith. It is not uncommon to meet folks, even in western world, who will deny many scientific principle, even the once proven beyond doubt.
It's not exactly same thing as not believing in something that doesn't exist, which is positive, it's more like false negative. Nevertheless some disbelieves need to be justified.

I think we're thinking of two different types of people here. For the atheist case, I'm thinking about people who don't believe in God but their philosophical framework doesn't depend on that (doesn't require justification). The comparable case here would be someone who doesn't believe in science but it doesn't really matter to them. That's not a very normal case in the Western world... but you can see how a tribal African might fit that description. They operate without considering that science might work, they don't think about it too often, and they do fine. That's a bit different than someone who argues against the principles of science.

JFWR
20-07-12, 04:14
Actually, I think we're closer than it may appear here regarding what requires justification. Saying "there is no God" requires justification. Making an argument against theism requires an actual argument. I'm mainly saying that it's not typical, or at least not default, to have atheism be required in a philosophical framework, so few need to make an argument to justify personal atheism. I'm not so much thinking of a New Guinean who has never heard of God here. I'm more thinking of someone like a Czech, who doesn't live in a society structured around religion, doesn't attend church, and really doesn't think about it that much, but would answer "no" to "Do you believe in God?" And to "Why not?" they answer "I don't know, why should I?"

The Czech in that instance would be something of an intellectual dullard if he has ignored a major intellectual point in human history for so long he has not conceived of an answer one way or another. That being said, he may simply be unreligious and uninterested, in which case it doesn't dawn upon him to have this belief.

I understand what you mean in the sort of "just a lack of belief", though. A lack of belief without the affirmation, necessarily, that God is non-existent. This is merely a state of being which is not affirming or denying anything, while yet not believing in what others affirm. This is not something one must justify in and of itself as no argument is being made.


To me, that's more like arguing against leprechauns than affirming a personal disbelief, though. I mean, it's a bit more than saying "I don't believe in leprechauns" to say, "Leprechauns violate natural law, and there's no evidence for leprechauns." The first fits into both a philosophical framework that allows for leprechauns but doesn't incorporate them at the moment. The second only fits into a philosophical framework that doesn't allow for them.


Okay. I see what you mean here. The case of the "Leprechaun agnostic without belief" and the case of the Czech above mirror one another.


Of course, a lot of philosophical frameworks cut out any possibility for leprechauns alongside a lot of other things at the same time. Those are frameworks like "I only believe what I know has evidence." But as LeBrok points out, that's not typical for people, as people tend to default to believing in, or at least allowing for, the supernatural. Maybe it's a typical framework for a lot of Western atheists... but it's not necessary for atheism as a whole.

Okay. Fair enough: There are cases of merely disinterested non-believers, or ignorant non-believers, or other instances where there is no strong affirmation of non-existence of these things.


I think that's a typical experience if you've mostly been around American and Internet atheists. A lot of these sorts of people are out to defend themselves (living in a very religious place) or are out to have an argument. I wonder how far it extends elsewhere, though.

I definitely wasn't thinking of the standard non-believer in a normal sense who isn't affirming anything, yes.

I'm thinking of deliberately Atheistic people like, say, David Hume or Nietzsche (quite different figures, though).

LeBrok
20-07-12, 08:56
I think we're thinking of two different types of people here. For the atheist case, I'm thinking about people who don't believe in God but their philosophical framework doesn't depend on that (doesn't require justification). The comparable case here would be someone who doesn't believe in science but it doesn't really matter to them. That's not a very normal case in the Western world... but you can see how a tribal African might fit that description. They operate without considering that science might work, they don't think about it too often, and they do fine. That's a bit different than someone who argues against the principles of science.

Philosophically, the starting position should be "nothing", clean slate, and if I understood right, it is yours too. From that point whatever is claimed to exist should be proven. The proof lies on claimant's shoulders. It happens that atheists/sceptics are always in this starting/primary position, therefore don't need to prove anything.


However in life, it all depends on people's original position. To change sides form believer to atheistic position one will need justification for such profound change. In this case, one needs to put arguments against one's believes, to prove that god or gods don't exist. Actually in practice, one is losing the faith when one is not being able to prove god's existence. Other words, one is not being able to support his/her original position as theist. In practice proving that gods don't exist equals lack of proofs the gods exist.

JFWR
20-07-12, 11:26
Philosophically, the starting position should be "nothing", clean slate, and if I understood right, it is yours too. From that point whatever is claimed to exist should be proven. The proof lies on claimant's shoulders. It happens that atheists/sceptics are always in this starting/primary position, therefore don't need to prove anything.

Only if they claim ignorance. If they claim, "God does not exist" they must present a philosophical or empirical justification for that belief. Moreover, there are plenty of standard philosophical positions that argue for God's existence, such that they have to contend with those if they wish to adequately deny God.

If they say "I do not believe in God" then this is not an argument and thus need not be backed.

The proof that God exists must, of course, be first put forth by the theist in question.

LeBrok
25-07-12, 09:50
Only if they claim ignorance. If they claim, "God does not exist" they must present a philosophical or empirical justification for that belief. Moreover, there are plenty of standard philosophical positions that argue for God's existence, such that they have to contend with those if they wish to adequately deny God.

If they say "I do not believe in God" then this is not an argument and thus need not be backed.

The proof that God exists must, of course, be first put forth by the theist in question.


The primary/starting position is a very unique one. We are born in this state, with no knowledge of the world. You can call it ignorance, but it doesn't change the fact that this is the primary position. Primary position is also lacking beliefs, and in this regard is atheistic. Where "I don't believe in God" or "God doesn't exist" is one and same.
From this moment on we are exploring the environment and build sets of proofs for all its elements. Things like floor, mother, toys are easy to declare real, first hand empiricism. Things like beliefs in supernatural are beyond exploration skills of kids and are only learned from parents mouth, and surprisingly without any need of proof. That's how "knowledge" of gods starts, and heck, most theists have blind faith, consolidated by inborn feeling of spirituality, and only few goes beyond that looking for empirical proofs.

In short, we all start at primary/ignorant position, and we don't need any philosophical or empirical justification for this natural state of human mind. So, everything we learn, it better be justified empirically, otherwise we learn skewed "reality". I guess we all know what, long line of our ancestors, believed in, what became nothing more than amusement of ancient history. But somehow, we disregard millenia of lessens, and think that what we believe now is true.

JFWR
25-07-12, 10:51
The primary/starting position is a very unique one. We are born in this state, with no knowledge of the world. You can call it ignorance, but it doesn't change the fact that this is the primary position. Primary position is also lacking beliefs, and in this regard is atheistic. Where "I don't believe in God" or "God doesn't exist" is one and same.

This primary position of ignorance would not combine the two positions at all. "God doesn't exist" is either true or false as an objective fact. "I don't believe in God" is an affirmation of belief.



From this moment on we are exploring the environment and build sets of proofs for all its elements. Things like floor, mother, toys are easy to declare real, first hand empiricism. Things like beliefs in supernatural are beyond exploration skills of kids and are only learned from parents mouth, and surprisingly without any need of proof. That's how "knowledge" of gods starts, and heck, most theists have blind faith, consolidated by inborn feeling of spirituality, and only few goes beyond that looking for empirical proofs.



Well empirical proofs are pretty poor for God, as God is better treated as a philosophical problem and deduced (or refuted) from pure reason. You're giving a plausible genealogy of how people come to believe in God in a normal sense, so I won't contest that, but I don't see its relevance.

LeBrok
25-07-12, 17:13
This primary position of ignorance would not combine the two positions at all. "God doesn't exist" is either true or false as an objective fact. "I don't believe in God" is an affirmation of belief. It's true but...
For atheists the consequences of both statements are identical. Other words "There is no proof that god exists, therefore it is impsible for me to believe in it".





Well empirical proofs are pretty poor for God, as God is better treated as a philosophical problem and deduced (or refuted) from pure reason. You're giving a plausible genealogy of how people come to believe in God in a normal sense, so I won't contest that, but I don't see its relevance.

That's exactly my point.
Isn't the understanding of real life processes more important than philosophical positions?

sparkey
25-07-12, 17:25
[Mod: Thread split from "Offtopic : Was Hitler a Christian ?"]

JFWR
25-07-12, 18:03
It's true but...
For atheists the consequences of both statements are identical. Other words "There is no proof that god exists, therefore it is impsible for me to believe in it".

Well there is, strictly speaking, no consequence for "I don't believe in God". Only "God doesn't exist" leads to the true impossibility. But yes, not having a belief in God tends to lead to the notion that God doesn't exist, though it needn't.

Let me put it otherwise, though: We are born with no rational understanding of the laws of science. Accordingly, we do not believe in them when we are born, and probably well into our childhood (if ever!). However, the laws of science either exist or not, and that question is quite apart from the fact that we knew nothing of science as children, and indeed, we once knew nothing of science as a species.


That's exactly my point.
Isn't the understanding of real life processes more important than philosophical positions?

Not especially. I think the actual notion of whether God exists or not is far more interesting in how people become religious. Odd as it may seem, the notion of God is initially entirely apart from how one ought to worship him, appease him, pray to him, et cetera.

The question "is there a God?" is perhaps the most profound mankind has ever questioned. "How do people become religious?" is about as interesting as "how do people become baseball players"?

sparkey
25-07-12, 18:41
The question "is there a God?" is perhaps the most profound mankind has ever questioned. "How do people become religious?" is about as interesting as "how do people become baseball players"?

If the second answers the first, then I find the second to be more profound. And I think it's likely that the second answers the first.

Which is more profound: "Do voodoo dolls work?" or "Why do people believe that voodoo dolls work?"

JFWR
26-07-12, 03:47
If the second answers the first, then I find the second to be more profound. And I think it's likely that the second answers the first.

The second doesn't answer the first at all in this instance. How people come to worship a divinity is quite apart from if the divinity exists. A (somewhat imperfect) analogy would be between these questions: "Does mathematics have an objective foundation?" v. "how do people learn how to perform mathematical operations?"

To continue on with God, though: To explain why people believe in God has nothing to do with whether he exists or not. Philosophy is not merely the recapitulation of anthropology, psychology, sociology, education, et cetera, that come into play in discussing why people do X from Y reasons. Rather, it deals with the actual, legitimate foundations of those beliefs. It is not asking "how does this come about?" but "is this true?" The God dealt with in philosophy is not even the God of religion and/or superstition (save when philosophical methods are applied to questions of particular theologies). The God of philosophy is a rational entity to be discerned (or refuted) from rational foundations. Religion is enhanced by this method, but it is not dependent upon it as a phenomenon.

Oh, here's a better example than the mathematics one: "Is there such a thing as goodness?" v. "how are people trained to be good?" The latter is a very important pragmatic topic of discussion, but the question of whether morality has any objective foundation is far more deep and meaningful and reflects upon the latter by turning it potentially into a fool's errand.

Here's one more: "What is the physical foundation for gravitation?" v. "How do people learn about gravitation?"



Which is more profound: "Do voodoo dolls work?" or "Why do people believe that voodoo dolls work?"

The former. That's an existential question, the other is a cultural question. Only when voodoo dolls are shown not to work, the latter becomes more meaningful to explain how a falsehood would hold such sway in the minds of many.

LeBrok
26-07-12, 17:08
Well there is, strictly speaking, no consequence for "I don't believe in God". Only "God doesn't exist" leads to the true impossibility.
One of consequences is that in both cases atheists won't go to heaven. :)


Let me put it otherwise, though: We are born with no rational understanding of the laws of science. Accordingly, we do not believe in them when we are born, and probably well into our childhood (if ever!). However, the laws of science either exist or not, and that question is quite apart from the fact that we knew nothing of science as children, and indeed, we once knew nothing of science as a species.
Well, there is a profound difference in believing in science and believing in supernatural, gods included. When Einstein came up with General Theory of Relativity, one could only believe that he was right or false. After few decades since, things are much more clear. He's predicted that gravity bends light, and experiments attested it. He predicted that nothing goes faster than light, and so far it holds true. He predicted that matter=energy, and this is exactly what we see from big colliders and other experiments. He predicted that time slows down when speed goes up, and it turned to be true too. There is a little known fact that all GPS satellites have algorithms based on time and speed (according to Einstein) to give more precise readings of location. That's how (kids or not) we learn about world and what is true or not. So after few decades we know that Einstein theory is right, therefore we don't need to believe in it anymore. It is a fact! And we got from theory to truth in few decades.

Now, if it comes to believe in supernatural, things are very murky, at least. After tens of thousand years, of constantly changing pantheons of divinities, we are not any closer to a proof of god/gods existence. It was a belief thousands years ago and it is still just a believe now. When, I could add, can we stop believing and know for a fact that god exists? Exactly the way we do with our scientific hypothesis and theories. Let me stress it again. There is no progress in proving that hypothesis of god or gods existence is true. Religions couldn't solve this conundrum nor science (known for great progress in understanding world and humans) couldn't help in this department.
When we use scientific criteria, we can say, that believe in god is a hypothesis, for the lack of empirical evidence. It is not even a theory to start make it somewhat believable. Just because we heard the stories from our parents or other member of society, it doesn't make it true. One of biggest religious disappointments of last century was, when Japanese belief in their inviolability as a chosen nation and divinity of emperor, were proven wrong by American Army in short few years, empirically.

I really don't see how inquisitive mind can be only satisfied with beliefs, either in scientific or religious hypotheses, and won't look for empirical proof of god, only to see if it's true. Or after so many decades of centuries or research should finally say "I give up on it" the same way all the scientific unproven hypotheses drifted into abyss, based only on beliefs and lacking empirical evidence.





Not especially. I think the actual notion of whether God exists or not is far more interesting in how people become religious. Odd as it may seem, the notion of God is initially entirely apart from how one ought to worship him, appease him, pray to him, et cetera.


I'm with Sparkey on this one. Answering why people do things gives us understanding of human nature and environment we live in. "Why people eat", can give us more insides about life and what food is, than philosophizing around "what is food" without context of human need for food. Likewise "why people believe" can solve spiritual or religious aspects more than questions "does god exist" or "what are gods".


The question "is there a God?" is perhaps the most profound mankind has ever questioned. "How do people become religious?" is about as interesting as "how do people become baseball players"?
Really? You would rather recite definition "what is baseball" than figure out what it takes to be a baseball player. The passion given by parents, the inspiration of young boys given by baseball giants, the long journey of hard work and sacrifices, the happiness, the disappointments, etc. Besides, without baseball players there wouldn't be baseball. Well, maybe only in theoretical books.

sparkey
26-07-12, 17:21
The second doesn't answer the first at all in this instance. How people come to worship a divinity is quite apart from if the divinity exists. A (somewhat imperfect) analogy would be between these questions: "Does mathematics have an objective foundation?" v. "how do people learn how to perform mathematical operations?"

I was getting at: If the answer to "How do people become religious?" is "Through evolution-derived storytelling tendencies" then the answer to "Does God [the one consistent with coming from people's storytelling tendencies] exist?" becomes trivial via Occam's Razor.

I'm not saying that the question of existence is less profound regardless of the answer to the question of coming to believe something, though.


To continue on with God, though: To explain why people believe in God has nothing to do with whether he exists or not. Philosophy is not merely the recapitulation of anthropology, psychology, sociology, education, et cetera, that come into play in discussing why people do X from Y reasons. Rather, it deals with the actual, legitimate foundations of those beliefs. It is not asking "how does this come about?" but "is this true?" The God dealt with in philosophy is not even the God of religion and/or superstition (save when philosophical methods are applied to questions of particular theologies).

I think that going about philosophy as if it's untied to observable human tendencies leads to less clarity, not more. Wittgenstein, in his later works, recognized this very well... if we start adopting "philosophical" usage of terms separate from their everyday meanings, we get a divergence in the definitions, and philosophical debates begin to be about things without the meaning they're intended to have, and philosophical debates become confusions about terms, rather than substantive debates.

In the case of God, it may be better to use the term "Yahweh" for clarity... no ambiguity there... or otherwise opt for "any god" if we want to approximate Philosophy God without having to stretch the definition of the term. But see, if we use the term "any god," my original point still works, as long as I can show reasonably that the pattern for humans coming to believe in gods is "Through evolution-derived storytelling tendencies."


The God of philosophy is a rational entity to be discerned (or refuted) from rational foundations.

Philosophy God is an odd god indeed.


Oh, here's a better example than the mathematics one: "Is there such a thing as goodness?" v. "how are people trained to be good?"

Well, in this case, if the second has any answer, we've already answered the first. So the second is necessarily more profound because it answers both the first and the second, regardless of what its resolution is.

I think I can see this from your perspective, though. You're probably thinking more along the lines of the questions: "Does Philosophy Goodness exist?" and "How are people trained to conform to their culture's definition of goodness?" So I guess we're getting back to a disagreement about whether or not talking about Philosophy Goodness would add anything to that discussion to begin with.


Here's one more: "What is the physical foundation for gravitation?" v. "How do people learn about gravitation?"

This one and the mathematics example don't work like I'm arguing the God questions do, because these learning processes are unlikely to give obvious answers to the first question.

JFWR
26-07-12, 18:16
I was getting at: If the answer to "How do people become religious?" is "Through evolution-derived storytelling tendencies" then the answer to "Does God [the one consistent with coming from people's storytelling tendencies] exist?" becomes trivial via Occam's Razor.

Hardly at all. Unless you believe that the existence of light is trivial because of the existence of eyes. Moreover, the coincidence of a divinity that shares characteristics with story-telling tendencies could be explained by story-telling tendencies generally being realistic, inspired by actual events (as with many legends), or pure coincidence. Consider two Romans discussing this matter:

"Hey Brutus, do you think there might not be a country far to the West filled with human beings of a reddish skin tone?"

"Why Marcus, that sounds like an absolutely feasible thing! I could certainly believe that!"

Would the existence of North American with American Indians fitting that description then be trivial?

Let it also be noted that Ockham's razor is also a heuristic device, not a rule to be followed strictly. And let us also recall the simplest and correct theory is to be preferred, not simply the simplest.

Moreover, evolutionary psychology is very, very poorly conceived as a branch of scholarly research. Primarily, evolutionary psychology attempts to make biological what is based in individual experience/rationality and communication. There is virtually no need to postulate a biological basis of a belief when the fact that this belief may arise in relation to social conditions and individual experience by rational agents (which human beings are).


I'm not saying that the question of existence is less profound regardless of the answer to the question of coming to believe something, though.



Okay.


I think that going about philosophy as if it's untied to observable human tendencies leads to less clarity, not more. Wittgenstein, in his later works, recognized this very well... if we start adopting "philosophical" usage of terms separate from their everyday meanings, we get a divergence in the definitions, and philosophical debates begin to be about things without the meaning they're intended to have, and philosophical debates become confusions about terms, rather than substantive debates.

In the case of God, it may be better to use the term "Yahweh" for clarity... no ambiguity there... or otherwise opt for "any god" if we want to approximate Philosophy God without having to stretch the definition of the term. But see, if we use the term "any god," my original point still works, as long as I can show reasonably that the pattern for humans coming to believe in gods is "Through evolution-derived storytelling tendencies."

Well, see above for my rebuttal to your previous point. But as for Wittgenstein and others:

This is not merely a game of semantics. The concept of God is well established in philosophy for the last 2,500 years. Moreover, this higher concept of God, apart from religion and superstition, is shared by philosophy of religion in the major religions. Aquinas is not merely applicable to Christianity, for instance, but also to Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, et cetera, where there are philosophically robust concepts of God that transcend mere homespun religion.

It is also widely understood that when we speak of proving God in a philosophical matter, that we're going to be dealing with God philosophically. It isn't a point of contention that people bring up "HEY! What about Zeus?!" As Zeus is irrelevant as a persona to this discussion.

The question over whether Jehovah, Krishna, Zeus, Odin, et cetera, exist as they exist in poetics and scripture is entirely apart from philosophical questions of God. Moreover, even when we are discussing these individual personas, we can not dismiss them by their relation to story telling. Their existence is or is not a fact to be found out, if they are limited beings, by an empirical method or else non-confirmed for want of evidence (such as if Zeus is now dead we would not be disprove his previous existence from that).

I would also like to note: I am fully in support of setting out our terms from the beginning of serious debate, ala Wittgenstein's critique of arguing over the mere meanings of words. I am not at all interested in word games. If any of our contentions are about the meanings of terms, let's settle that so we don't have to argue fruitlessly. Words are arbitrary and I am only interested in concepts.


Philosophy God is an odd god indeed.





Not so much. He shares similarities with any purely rational matter. The difference, of course, is that God is an entity (a being or else a presence or whatever he might be) with the peculiar features (necessity, infinity) that would allow one to rationally deduce his existence in a way that we cannot rationally deduce anything less than his existence. One cannot rationally deduce our existence, for instance, or Tyrannosauruses, or gobbliegooks, et cetera.


Well, in this case, if the second has any answer, we've already answered the first. So the second is necessarily more profound because it answers both the first and the second, regardless of what its resolution is.



Not at all. It could be a nonsense term that people have unwittingly swallowed to call anything "good". If there is no such thing as goodness as a feature in the world in some sense, then human beings are simply using "goodness" to mean something else. This is dispute between those two questions above. Perhaps to clarify I should have said "is there such a thing as objective goodness".


I think I can see this from your perspective, though. You're probably thinking more along the lines of the questions: "Does Philosophy Goodness exist?" and "How are people trained to conform to their culture's definition of goodness?" So I guess we're getting back to a disagreement about whether or not talking about Philosophy Goodness would add anything to that discussion to begin with.



I would prefer the term objective goodness, but yes. It's a question of the study of meta-ethics v. the study of training towards an ethical demand regardless of whether ethics is justified or not.


This one and the mathematics example don't work like I'm arguing the God questions do, because these learning processes are unlikely to give obvious answers to the first question.

Are they not? At least with the mathematics, one could say that the means whereby we learn to do mathematics is how we construct mathematics, even though we can then lead this question to serious matters in the philosophy of mathematics that contest this view. Likewise, we can see that the learning of gravitation enforces the existence of gravitation, as the methods whereby gravitation is learned lead to the validity of the gravitational theory. The point in placing these questions in opposition, however, is to show that the actual existence and arguments for mathematics and gravity differ from how one learns about them and the learning about them does not speak to their existence or non-existence of these phenomenon. We can only say that the learning tells part of the story for how these facts are recognized, and how people come to know them, which is quite apart from existenial questions.

I'd like to say that this is a dispute between ontology and epistemology.

sparkey
26-07-12, 19:34
Hardly at all. Unless you believe that the existence of light is trivial because of the existence of eyes.

Actually, that kind of makes sense, if we change "Do eyes exist?" to "Why do eyes exist?" or "What do eyes, which exist, do?"... if we know why eyes evolved, we have already answered the question "Does light exist?" Haven't we?


Moreover, the coincidence of a divinity that shares characteristics with story-telling tendencies could be explained by story-telling tendencies generally being realistic, inspired by actual events (as with many legends), or pure coincidence. Consider two Romans discussing this matter:

"Hey Brutus, do you think there might not be a country far to the West filled with human beings of a reddish skin tone?"

"Why Marcus, that sounds like an absolutely feasible thing! I could certainly believe that!"

Would the existence of North American with American Indians fitting that description then be trivial?

Let it also be noted that Ockham's razor is also a heuristic device, not a rule to be followed strictly. And let us also recall the simplest and correct theory is to be preferred, not simply the simplest.

I think that a difference exists between the proposal of the existence of gods vs. the proposal of the existence of another continent, or of gravity, etc., and that is falsifiability. The typical form of a god is as something that fits the pattern of something designed (not necessarily consciously, I use the term loosely) to not be easily falsified.

"Hey Brutus, I have been hearing rumors of a Nonperceivable Fish. They say it swims with the other fish, has powers unlike a usual fish, and cannot be perceived in the usual way."

How is Brutus to address this proposal? By answering the question, "Does the Nonperceivable Fish exist?" by trying to tangle with the concept philosophically on its own right? It is, after all, a profound question. Or would he be wiser to come to a conclusion based on the related question, "How did rumors of the Nonperceivable Fish come to be?"


Moreover, evolutionary psychology is very, very poorly conceived as a branch of scholarly research. Primarily, evolutionary psychology attempts to make biological what is based in individual experience/rationality and communication. There is virtually no need to postulate a biological basis of a belief when the fact that this belief may arise in relation to social conditions and individual experience by rational agents (which human beings are).

There's a difference, though, between proposing the evolution of storytelling tendencies (into which different gods fit nicely), versus proposing the evolution of belief in a certain god.


This is not merely a game of semantics. The concept of God is well established in philosophy for the last 2,500 years. Moreover, this higher concept of God, apart from religion and superstition, is shared by philosophy of religion in the major religions. Aquinas is not merely applicable to Christianity, for instance, but also to Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, et cetera, where there are philosophically robust concepts of God that transcend mere homespun religion.

It is also widely understood that when we speak of proving God in a philosophical matter, that we're going to be dealing with God philosophically. It isn't a point of contention that people bring up "HEY! What about Zeus?!" As Zeus is irrelevant as a persona to this discussion.

The question over whether Jehovah, Krishna, Zeus, Odin, et cetera, exist as they exist in poetics and scripture is entirely apart from philosophical questions of God. Moreover, even when we are discussing these individual personas, we can not dismiss them by their relation to story telling. Their existence is or is not a fact to be found out, if they are limited beings, by an empirical method or else non-confirmed for want of evidence (such as if Zeus is now dead we would not be disprove his previous existence from that).


Not so much. He shares similarities with any purely rational matter. The difference, of course, is that God is an entity (a being or else a presence or whatever he might be) with the peculiar features (necessity, infinity) that would allow one to rationally deduce his existence in a way that we cannot rationally deduce anything less than his existence. One cannot rationally deduce our existence, for instance, or Tyrannosauruses, or gobbliegooks, et cetera.

So, what, are we talking about the existence of a god who, in stories of him, is necessary and infinite? Such a god fits the within the normal concept of gods I'm talking about, so my points still stand. Indeed, "Jehovah, Krishna, Zeus, Odin, et cetera" all fit within the normal concept of gods (although I'm not sure all of them have the necessary and infinite properties in their stories). Or are we talking in particular about Philosophy God, the "god," odd due to the fact that he doesn't have stories about him, or any culture connected to him, "a being or else a presence or whatever he might be" who is necessary and infinite? As for Philosophy God, who cares about him in particular? I don't think he's more than just Yahweh, abstracted to fit with some other gods.


I would prefer the term objective goodness, but yes. It's a question of the study of meta-ethics v. the study of training towards an ethical demand regardless of whether ethics is justified or not.

I admit I'm using the term "Philosophy Goodness" in a mocking sense. :innocent:

We run into the same problems with Philosophy Goodness... it's nobody's "goodness," who cares about it? But you ought to know that I'm not a moral relativist, either... I think there are universals in human ethics, which derive from our nature as humans. The thing is, I don't think we can get at the universals in human ethics without the study of "training towards an ethical demand regardless of whether ethics is justified or not." Arguing about Philosophy Goodness isn't so helpful.


I'd like to say that this is a dispute between ontology and epistemology.

I suppose so, I'm just saying that answering a question in one domain can lead to the best answer in the other.

JFWR
27-07-12, 04:02
Actually, that kind of makes sense, if we change "Do eyes exist?" to "Why do eyes exist?" or "What do eyes, which exist, do?"... if we know why eyes evolved, we have already answered the question "Does light exist?" Haven't we?


It would clue us into the existence of light, but it would not be definitive to prove it. Suppose we had no conception of light. The presence of eyes would give us an indication that maybe it exists, but neither their absence nor existence would prove/disprove light's existence/abscence.


I think that a difference exists between the proposal of the existence of gods vs. the proposal of the existence of another continent, or of gravity, etc., and that is falsifiability. The typical form of a god is as something that fits the pattern of something designed (not necessarily consciously, I use the term loosely) to not be easily falsified.



The concept of God and any given divinity is subject to falsifiability. We've been debating the validity of God for 2,500 years with good arguments on both sides. Likewise, we can deal with lesser divinities quite easily.

Here's an example. Suppose there is some savage tribe that worships a pebble as God. Well, they do this and that and say that proves it. Well, you can devise an experiment that either confirms or denies that. Upon confirmation that it is not a divinity, if the savages are rational (which they aren't in all likelyhood) they will see they have worshipped a pebble instead of a God.


"Hey Brutus, I have been hearing rumors of a Nonperceivable Fish. They say it swims with the other fish, has powers unlike a usual fish, and cannot be perceived in the usual way."

How is Brutus to address this proposal? By answering the question, "Does the Nonperceivable Fish exist?" by trying to tangle with the concept philosophically on its own right? It is, after all, a profound question. Or would he be wiser to come to a conclusion based on the related question, "How did rumors of the Nonperceivable Fish come to be?"



A non-perceivable fish should be subject to the same rigours of empirical or rational investigation as any other concepts. These are obviously silly examples, but it doesn't change the demands of philosophy and science to treat those matters seriously in line with the means to judge their existence or not.

If the process is utterly intractable due to the insistence that any evidence is not really evidnece, then of course, we're dealing with an unfalsifiable situation and that cannot be dealt with through either method.


There's a difference, though, between proposing the evolution of storytelling tendencies (into which different gods fit nicely), versus proposing the evolution of belief in a certain god.



I agree, but the science behind suggesting an "evolution of storytelling tendencies" is rather bogus. There is no direct biological attribution for "storytelling tendencies". It's an extension of communication in relation to a community with a sophisticated abstract language that derives from a robust mind and the biological prerequisites (a mouth and voice box) of expressing this.

Here's another example why we cannot take "storyteller evidence" as refuting a God:

"The Three Musketeers" includes such characters as Cardinal Richelieu, Maria Theresa, and others. Because they fit so nicely into a storytelling device, clearly they must be as fictional as Zombo the Pebble God.


So, what, are we talking about the existence of a god who, in stories of him, is necessary and infinite? Such a god fits the within the normal concept of gods I'm talking about, so my points still stand. Indeed, "Jehovah, Krishna, Zeus, Odin, et cetera" all fit within the normal concept of gods (although I'm not sure all of them have the necessary and infinite properties in their stories). Or are we talking in particular about Philosophy God, the "god," odd due to the fact that he doesn't have stories about him, or any culture connected to him, "a being or else a presence or whatever he might be" who is necessary and infinite? As for Philosophy God, who cares about him in particular? I don't think he's more than just Yahweh, abstracted to fit with some other gods.

I can think of no example of any of those Gods as personas actually representing an infinite, necessary being (amongst the other classical attributes of God). It has taken a significant amount of philosophical thinking in the major world religions to raise the concept of God beyond the mere tales of various personas of divinities. The closest would be Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita when he reveals his true form to Arjuna, which includes many aspects of God in the philosophical sense.

However, even if we were talking about the lesser concepts of Gods, they are subject to empirical or rational study as much as anything else. They exist or not.

Also, as a note: The God of philosophy isn't Jehovah specifically. He's Jehovah in the eyes of Jews and Christians, but the concept predates this (it is found in classical philosophy) and is also found in Islam (Allah), in Hinduism (Brahman), and in Taoism (the Tao). When religion is philosophized sufficiently to establish the rational foundations of it, the figure of the God in question is mirrored across cultures. The matters of theological import to the particular religions are generally stressed in regards to the religion specific matters, but the broader concepts remain.

As a good example of this: Recently Christian apologists have taken an Islamic theological position in the Kalaam cosmological argument.


But yes, when I am speaking of a history of 2,500 years, I'm talking about the God of philosophy.


I admit I'm using the term "Philosophy Goodness" in a mocking sense. :innocent:



That's fine. I don't mind.



We run into the same problems with Philosophy Goodness... it's nobody's "goodness," who cares about it? But you ought to know that I'm not a moral relativist, either... I think there are universals in human ethics, which derive from our nature as humans. The thing is, I don't think we can get at the universals in human ethics without the study of "training towards an ethical demand regardless of whether ethics is justified or not." Arguing about Philosophy Goodness isn't so helpful.

Philosophical concepts of goodness have a huge and extensive history outside of philosophy. We speak of virtues because of Aristotle; the autonomy of persons because of Kant; the rights to life, liberty, and property due to Locke; the state of nature because of Hobbes; the greatest good for the greatest number because of Mill; et cetera, et cetera.

Your argument is actually stunningly similar to Hume's.

I'm not saying that we can be good without understanding how to train people -to- be good, but it is quite a different matter than whether ethics is at all justified to begin with in an objective sense.

Hell, if you ever try to teach a belligerent teenager how to be good, you'll know that they often ask what foundation goodness has in reality. It's even relevant to training someone to be good to have a reasonable answer as to how it is precisely that goodness exists.

I suppose so, I'm just saying that answering a question in one domain can lead to the best answer in the other.[/QUOTE]

sparkey
27-07-12, 19:01
The concept of God and any given divinity is subject to falsifiability.


And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Very rarely are gods easily tested for existence. We can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that actions attributed to gods are untrue; for example, I think we can confidently say that the Genesis creation myth is false. But I'm having trouble thinking of a god that doesn't have the possibility for a "God of the Gaps" regression built into its story. So, we know that the pebble's magical properties don't stand up to scientific rigor? That's because the pebble doesn't feel the need to prove itself. You can't prove that it didn't perform miracles earlier, for believers. Etcetera. That's why I think it's more useful to address concepts of gods by studying the humans who hold them, rather than studying them in their own right.


A non-perceivable fish should be subject to the same rigours of empirical or rational investigation as any other concepts. These are obviously silly examples, but it doesn't change the demands of philosophy and science to treat those matters seriously in line with the means to judge their existence or not.

If the process is utterly intractable due to the insistence that any evidence is not really evidnece, then of course, we're dealing with an unfalsifiable situation and that cannot be dealt with through either method.

But that's the thing, there is another method, which I'm proposing. That's to study something related and apply Occam's Razor based on findings when relevant. OK, so you won't Prove anything, but you'll get a good enough answer, which is better than any purely logical deduction I've seen regarding the existence of any god.


Here's another example why we cannot take "storyteller evidence" as refuting a God:

"The Three Musketeers" includes such characters as Cardinal Richelieu, Maria Theresa, and others. Because they fit so nicely into a storytelling device, clearly they must be as fictional as Zombo the Pebble God.

Maybe if there was no historical record of Cardinal Richelieu, outside of maybe a few ancient reports of mystical experiences of him, and people had come to believe in him by virtue of these stories being passed around, then the best conclusion would be that he is fictional.


Also, as a note: The God of philosophy isn't Jehovah specifically. He's Jehovah in the eyes of Jews and Christians, but the concept predates this (it is found in classical philosophy) and is also found in Islam (Allah), in Hinduism (Brahman), and in Taoism (the Tao). When religion is philosophized sufficiently to establish the rational foundations of it, the figure of the God in question is mirrored across cultures. The matters of theological import to the particular religions are generally stressed in regards to the religion specific matters, but the broader concepts remain.

As a good example of this: Recently Christian apologists have taken an Islamic theological position in the Kalaam cosmological argument.


But yes, when I am speaking of a history of 2,500 years, I'm talking about the God of philosophy.

But my point is that nobody believes in just Philosophy God. All Philosophy God is, is an abstraction of the different gods, all of which are probably derived from human storytelling tendencies, or otherwise is not really related to gods. So if we come to a conclusion about "all gods," we can also come to a conclusion about Philosophy God, or otherwise dismiss the usefulness of talking about Philosophy God in the first place.

Also, it turns out that all attempts to prove or disprove Philosophy God are bogus. At least from what I've seen. They either don't address something meaningful to the concept of a god in the first place (coming back to Philosophy God being an odd god) or they're fallacious. To take the KCA as an example, it includes both: if it was correct, it would prove a First Cause, which maybe proves Philosophy God and maybe proves that a property of some other gods can exist, but doesn't prove any god... and it rests on unfounded premises (no infinite regress can exist; no circularity can exist; all existences are, and always have been, certainly "caused" in the same way as reactions).


Philosophical concepts of goodness have a huge and extensive history outside of philosophy. We speak of virtues because of Aristotle; the autonomy of persons because of Kant; the rights to life, liberty, and property due to Locke; the state of nature because of Hobbes; the greatest good for the greatest number because of Mill; et cetera, et cetera.

You know your philosophy. :good_job:

I don't think that the fact that philosophy has influenced everyday ethics in some cultures changes my point, though. I think you'll agree that philosophers deciding on the existence of something, and then a culture adopting their ideas about the existence of something, doesn't make that thing exist. So maybe I'm misunderstanding why you're bringing this up.

Edit: OK, I see that you're using it to show that "arguing about Philosophy Goodness" is useful, because certain philosophical concepts of goodness have become popular, and made things better. I think that this is missing what was actually useful about the process, though. The useful part was finding a goodness that is somehow better than typical ones, and arguing for why. That's pretty similar to what I was suggesting about seeking universals. (I should be clear--by "universals" I don't mean commonalities, I mean seeking things that would be best applied universally.) That's different than speculating about whether or not Philosophy Goodness exists.


Your argument is actually stunningly similar to Hume's.

Funny, then, that of the philosophers you've mentioned, Hume is the one I've read the least. I think I read him on social contract theory once and actually disagreed with him. What does he argue with respect to ethics?

JFWR
28-07-12, 06:14
Very rarely are gods easily tested for existence. We can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that actions attributed to gods are untrue; for example, I think we can confidently say that the Genesis creation myth is false. But I'm having trouble thinking of a god that doesn't have the possibility for a "God of the Gaps" regression built into its story. So, we know that the pebble's magical properties don't stand up to scientific rigor? That's because the pebble doesn't feel the need to prove itself. You can't prove that it didn't perform miracles earlier, for believers. Etcetera. That's why I think it's more useful to address concepts of gods by studying the humans who hold them, rather than studying them in their own right.

The Bible's passage of not testing God isn't even followed consistently in the Bible. The name of the figure escapes me in the Old Testament, but a Jewish general tested God's existence with a mat that he prayed to be covered in dew when he woke. The next day he found it, but then asked that everything else should be covered in dew except the mat the next day. Likewise. He then believed that God was on his side, et cetera, et cetera.

I'm not that interested in Biblical apology here, though. I am not trying to suggest that the Bible is a method whereby we can prove or disprove the existence of Jehovah, or would endorse such a deliberate attempt to prove God's existence by some sort of empirical test.

But yes, I agree: We can certainly say that some myths are not likely true. (We cannot, however, scientically prove they are not beyond a shadow of a doubt - only beyond a reasonable level).

If someone wants to evade the consequences of showing that the God pebble still is a God, that's fine. Those people can't be dissuaded, very likely. But we can still do the tests on the pebble that would confirm some claims about it, which would verify it status to people willing to listen impartially. Intractable believers are not disproof that we cannot use (and ought to use) proper methods to determine the veracity of certain beliefs. Of course, it is far more dificult to definitively disprove Jehovah, Odin, Zeus, or whomever, as they presumably are NOT found in X or Y rock, and are personas subject to whims, and don't have drivers licenses and passports like you and I to prove our identity.


But that's the thing, there is another method, which I'm proposing. That's to study something related and apply Occam's Razor based on findings when relevant. OK, so you won't Prove anything, but you'll get a good enough answer, which is better than any purely logical deduction I've seen regarding the existence of any god.

You cannot use Ockham's razor in this instance because truth cannot be determined. It would be Ockham's Blunted Razor (by Gillette), where reasonableness takes the role of truth. For the purposes of this or that, that's fine. But our incredulity and our explanations absent a greater investigation would be unscientific.

The logical deduction of God in the proper sense produces far, far more meaningful arguments both for and against than any sort of story telling thing about lesser divinities. These arguments have attracted the attention of the greatest thinkers for 2,500 years, including even those outside of philosophy such as the mathematician Kurt Godel (who made his own ontological argument for the existence of God).

I am -not- saying it is unreasonable to think that a savage is just being superstitious when he worships a pebble as a God. But it is quite a different thing to be reasonable in a normal sense, and scientifically and philosophically rigorous.


Maybe if there was no historical record of Cardinal Richelieu, outside of maybe a few ancient reports of mystical experiences of him, and people had come to believe in him by virtue of these stories being passed around, then the best conclusion would be that he is fictional.

This would probably disqualify most ancient figures (but not many early modern).

The idea, however, is being close to "storytelling" in life is not any indication of one's lack. As we know from the study of dramatics, that there are only a finite amount of plots that form the basis of most stories, and these mirror life in many regards. Both you and I surely have examples of our own life that would require virtually no adjustments to be stories, yet we do not therefore think that these are fictional.


But my point is that nobody believes in just Philosophy God. All Philosophy God is, is an abstraction of the different gods, all of which are probably derived from human storytelling tendencies, or otherwise is not really related to gods. So if we come to a conclusion about "all gods," we can also come to a conclusion about Philosophy God, or otherwise dismiss the usefulness of talking about Philosophy God in the first place.

The God of Philosophy is not a syncretic deity that is merely the compilation of different deities' stories. We're not dealing with Jesusrishuddllah. We're dealing with an entity that is to be deduced from reason and with qualities quite apart from the stories.

The God of Philosophy is only with pains made into the same deity who couldn't see the Tower of Babel through the cloud cover, thus had to come to Earth to see what mankind was up to.

Your insistence that every deity is related to human storytelling proclivities is also unfounded. You'd have to demonstrate that for the deities, which I am not so sure you could do. You certainly could not reconstruct ancient conditions to suggest that people were simply duped in cases where they attest the actions of a deity. You could only say it is unlikely - which I'd agree - but that would not be a justifiable scientific position. Your epistemological foundations would be shaky.

Besides, again: This is irrelevant. The God of philosophy has nothing tod o with myths and stories. Those are all apart from it. God is deducible or else refutable by pure reason only.


Also, it turns out that all attempts to prove or disprove Philosophy God are bogus. At least from what I've seen. They either don't address something meaningful to the concept of a god in the first place (coming back to Philosophy God being an odd god) or they're fallacious. To take the KCA as an example, it includes both: if it was correct, it would prove a First Cause, which maybe proves Philosophy God and maybe proves that a property of some other gods can exist, but doesn't prove any god... and it rests on unfounded premises (no infinite regress can exist; no circularity can exist; all existences are, and always have been, certainly "caused" in the same way as reactions).


They certainly are not bogus. They are up to debate, but not bogus. None of the proofs have definitively settled the debate, but such is to be expected from asking such questions as these.

I am by no means an actual supporter of Kalaam, but to support its reasonableness as a deduction of God, it is based on widely accepted positions such as vicious circularity is wrong (which, in fact, no one can rationally disagree with), that any finite thing must have a cause (because it is not necessary it must be), and that a vicious infinite regress is not possible. The problem is determining whether there is a vicious infinite regress involved in other arguments. That is the crux of the problem. That is hard to determine and the arguments will continue to this end.

That being said, everyone can agree that existence must derive from a necessity. The only thing that could be justifiably postulated would be there is something inherently necessary about existence, in some form or another, in order to account for why anything is whatsoever.

The God of Philosophy, once again, is not the God of any given holy book. That's not the intention. These arguments aren't there to prove Jehovah as depicted in the Book of Genesis, Zeus in the Illiad, or Odin in the Poetic Edda.



You know your philosophy. :good_job:

Thank you. Of course, I would be up a creek without a paddle if I didn't, as I am trying to make this my profession. (No tin mining for me.)



I don't think that the fact that philosophy has influenced everyday ethics in some cultures changes my point, though. I think you'll agree that philosophers deciding on the existence of something, and then a culture adopting their ideas about the existence of something, doesn't make that thing exist. So maybe I'm misunderstanding why you're bringing this up.

Yes, but what I am arguing is that philosophical arguments have had a dramatic influence on cultural concepts of the good. Our intuitions of the good derive from philosophical arguments that have become engrained in our respective cultures, and these leak into our conception of how to train goodness into people.


Edit: OK, I see that you're using it to show that "arguing about Philosophy Goodness" is useful, because certain philosophical concepts of goodness have become popular, and made things better. I think that this is missing what was actually useful about the process, though. The useful part was finding a goodness that is somehow better than typical ones, and arguing for why. That's pretty similar to what I was suggesting about seeking universals. (I should be clear--by "universals" I don't mean commonalities, I mean seeking things that would be best applied universally.) That's different than speculating about whether or not Philosophy Goodness exists.



I don't disagree with you that looking for universals amongst human behaviour might be a good way to start. (However, there are almost none except those so broad that they almost are meaningless, but that's another topic entirely). However, what philosophy gives us that this doesn't is a rational notion of what goodness really is. The debate rages on as each moral system has arguments both for and against it, but the intention to find out what goodness is and how to obtain it, is what makes ethics such a worthwhile and important discipline.


Funny, then, that of the philosophers you've mentioned, Hume is the one I've read the least. I think I read him on social contract theory once and actually disagreed with him. What does he argue with respect to ethics?

In a nut shell: Humans have certain creaturely inclinations that lead to concepts of good and bad derived from the passions that both support and derive from these inclinations. Example: Family is valued because of the familiar affection that both supports the continuation of the family, and is derived by the necessity of family life for human beings to live. These are broadly universal over all cultures, and lead to the passions which govern our sense of good and bad broadly, although the specific circumstances of a given society will determine how these are expressed and what have you. Moreover, because these are passions and not thoughts, goodness is not really an objective quality, and is also not amendable to rational processes, such that our moral sense is basically a process of emotion. In fact, we do nothing but for passionate inclinations which give us the value for doing things.

This is the opposite of Aristotle's ideas that man is a rational agent with natural passions amendable to rational control.

sparkey
30-07-12, 19:48
But yes, I agree: We can certainly say that some myths are not likely true. (We cannot, however, scientically prove they are not beyond a shadow of a doubt - only beyond a reasonable level).

If someone wants to evade the consequences of showing that the God pebble still is a God, that's fine. Those people can't be dissuaded, very likely. But we can still do the tests on the pebble that would confirm some claims about it, which would verify it status to people willing to listen impartially. Intractable believers are not disproof that we cannot use (and ought to use) proper methods to determine the veracity of certain beliefs. Of course, it is far more dificult to definitively disprove Jehovah, Odin, Zeus, or whomever, as they presumably are NOT found in X or Y rock, and are personas subject to whims, and don't have drivers licenses and passports like you and I to prove our identity.

So we both agree that you can't scientifically test for the existence of gods, you can only test for certain claimed properties of gods, right? So we can move onto how, then, to best get at the question of existence. You prefer a philosophical/logical approach; I prefer an anthropological/evolutionary approach.


You cannot use Ockham's razor in this instance because truth cannot be determined. It would be Ockham's Blunted Razor (by Gillette), where reasonableness takes the role of truth. For the purposes of this or that, that's fine. But our incredulity and our explanations absent a greater investigation would be unscientific. What do you think Occam's Razor is used for? It's meant to find a best (that is, most reasonable) hypothesis among a set of possibilities. It doesn't Prove a Truth, ever.

If you have a Proof, then sure, it trumps Occam's Razor. I'm saying that you don't, and nobody does, at least not for the actual subject at hand (the existence of any gods).


The logical deduction of God in the proper sense produces far, far more meaningful arguments both for and against than any sort of story telling thing about lesser divinities. These arguments have attracted the attention of the greatest thinkers for 2,500 years, including even those outside of philosophy such as the mathematician Kurt Godel (who made his own ontological argument for the existence of God).

Your argument here is one from authority, so we're not going to get anywhere with it. I think that your statement that the "logical deduction of God in the proper sense produces far, far more meaningful arguments both for and against than any sort of story telling thing about lesser divinities" is the crux of our disagreement.


The idea, however, is being close to "storytelling" in life is not any indication of one's lack. As we know from the study of dramatics, that there are only a finite amount of plots that form the basis of most stories, and these mirror life in many regards. Both you and I surely have examples of our own life that would require virtually no adjustments to be stories, yet we do not therefore think that these are fictional.

I don't think that the presence of archetypes gives any indication of fiction. There are many aspects of the human storytelling tendency that fit importantly with things that are real, as you point out. The point at which we delve into fiction is the aspect of the human storytelling tendency that produces fictional stories about natural phenomena. It's easy to observe this tendency, and it's not a stretch to figure that gods fit this tendency.


The God of Philosophy is not a syncretic deity that is merely the compilation of different deities' stories. We're not dealing with Jesusrishuddllah. We're dealing with an entity that is to be deduced from reason and with qualities quite apart from the stories.

The God of Philosophy is only with pains made into the same deity who couldn't see the Tower of Babel through the cloud cover, thus had to come to Earth to see what mankind was up to.

If Philosophy God isn't a byword for all gods, he's useless to our discussion. So, suppose someone Proved Philosophy God. If he fits your argument, I'd still be an atheist, because Proving Philosophy God would not prove any gods.


Your insistence that every deity is related to human storytelling proclivities is also unfounded. You'd have to demonstrate that for the deities, which I am not so sure you could do. You certainly could not reconstruct ancient conditions to suggest that people were simply duped in cases where they attest the actions of a deity. You could only say it is unlikely - which I'd agree - but that would not be a justifiable scientific position. Your epistemological foundations would be shaky.

It's a challenge, I agree! It would take lots of learning, observation, and pages of additional discussion to investigate the human storytelling tendency, and the different types of gods present across cultures. It would also only give us a best answer, rather than any Proof. But it's not a fool's errand, like trying to wrangle with the existence of Philosophy God.


Besides, again: This is irrelevant. The God of philosophy has nothing tod o with myths and stories. Those are all apart from it.

Yes, I agree! But that's my whole point. You're talking about the god that isn't a god, and so isn't relevant to a discussion about gods.


I am by no means an actual supporter of Kalaam, but to support its reasonableness as a deduction of God, it is based on widely accepted positions such as vicious circularity is wrong (which, in fact, no one can rationally disagree with), that any finite thing must have a cause (because it is not necessary it must be), and that a vicious infinite regress is not possible.

Following along a small piece of a gigantic circle, and you'd think we were on a linear pattern. So, in our experience of cause-and-effect, we find it linear and predicable, and figure it must have started somewhere. Little do we know that it starts nowhere, and ends where we are already. So you should see another possibility, and no reason to find Kalaam's premises to be founded.

But suppose I'm wrong and Kalaam's premises are founded. Then it still wouldn't give a relevant answer to the topic at hand. So I won't press the argument.


Thank you. Of course, I would be up a creek without a paddle if I didn't, as I am trying to make this my profession. (No tin mining for me.)

Great, you should link us to some scholarly articles or books that you publish, as they happen.


I don't disagree with you that looking for universals amongst human behaviour might be a good way to start. (However, there are almost none except those so broad that they almost are meaningless, but that's another topic entirely). However, what philosophy gives us that this doesn't is a rational notion of what goodness really is. The debate rages on as each moral system has arguments both for and against it, but the intention to find out what goodness is and how to obtain it, is what makes ethics such a worthwhile and important discipline.

I agree that ethics is a "worthwhile and important discipline," but I disagree that finding out "what goodness really is" is the important part of ethics. Goodness is what people say it is. You can abstract that out a bit as long as you're clear that you're talking about abstract goodness, and you can argue about whose concept of goodness is better for people in general, but trying to construct a Philosophy Goodness apart from cultural goodnesses is a good way to miss the point.


In a nut shell: Humans have certain creaturely inclinations that lead to concepts of good and bad derived from the passions that both support and derive from these inclinations. Example: Family is valued because of the familiar affection that both supports the continuation of the family, and is derived by the necessity of family life for human beings to live. These are broadly universal over all cultures, and lead to the passions which govern our sense of good and bad broadly, although the specific circumstances of a given society will determine how these are expressed and what have you. Moreover, because these are passions and not thoughts, goodness is not really an objective quality, and is also not amendable to rational processes, such that our moral sense is basically a process of emotion. In fact, we do nothing but for passionate inclinations which give us the value for doing things.

Thanks for the summary. Hume's argument is close to mine in some respects, especially with respect to the idea that many ethical commonalities tend to evolve naturally. Although, I wouldn't argue that ethical senses are necessarily "passions and not thoughts" and "not amendable to rational processes, such that our moral sense is basically a process of emotion." I think that thinking can affect personal ethics significantly, and the transmission of thoughts about ethics from person to person is very important to study.

JFWR
31-07-12, 06:12
So we both agree that you can't scientifically test for the existence of gods, you can only test for certain claimed properties of gods, right? So we can move onto how, then, to best get at the question of existence. You prefer a philosophical/logical approach; I prefer an anthropological/evolutionary approach.

I was referencing such things as trying to prove that Zeus intervened in the Trojan war. There is no way possible to confirm or deny this, as it is time sensitive, and it wouldn't have likely produced any sort of material evidence for divine intervention. Contrariwise, if we found that the sun did, in fact, stop for Joshua, we'd have material evidence in support of the Biblical narrative. (We have found no such and that is almost certainly mythical).

But yes, other claims can be tested. If you say this pebble is God, we can test that. Easily.

Evaluating the claims can use all of the above when applicable, plus other matters. Psychology, parapsychology, poetics, medicine, whatever is applicable.


What do you think Occam's Razor is used for? It's meant to find a best (that is, most reasonable) hypothesis among a set of possibilities. It doesn't Prove a Truth, ever.


Ockham's Razor states: The simplest of true theorems should be preferred.

If you cannot determine what the truth is, and both are reasonable, a simpler explanation is not inherently superior to a more complex ones if the complex one can justify its complexity.

A great example of this would be this: Technically, a Hollow Earth theory would be utterly justified from scientific and mathematical grounds if certain natural laws were mathematically reversed. However, despite BOTH of them being correct, the simpler answer (that there is no Hollow Earth) is preferred.

Let me also once again note that it is not a scientific law, also. It's a hueristic device.


Your argument here is one from authority, so we're not going to get anywhere with it. I think that your statement that the "logical deduction of God in the proper sense produces far, far more meaningful arguments both for and against than any sort of story telling thing about lesser divinities" is the crux of our disagreement.


It wasn't an argument from authority, I am just giving the historical foundations.

The actual authority of the arguments rests in the results. There is a reason philosophy of religion is so prominent in philosophy, and it is also the reason why these arguments still are the primary points of debate between theists (of all stripes) and atheists.

I agree we are somewhat arguing at opposite points with one another, though. Or rather, we're arguing about two things:

1. What are the merits of the God of philosophy and the methods of that?

2. Is there a way to scientifically disprove/prove stories of lesser divinities?


I don't think that the presence of archetypes gives any indication of fiction. There are many aspects of the human storytelling tendency that fit importantly with things that are real, as you point out. The point at which we delve into fiction is the aspect of the human storytelling tendency that produces fictional stories about natural phenomena. It's easy to observe this tendency, and it's not a stretch to figure that gods fit this tendency.

Yes, but it is just as likely that these natural phenomenon figure into the archetypes of fiction as with us. We cannot incredulously say "oh, this is nonsense!" without testing it as rigourously as we can. We can all believe the opinion that it is nonsense, and we may be more likely correct, but this doesn't prove it.

Again, I am not saying your method is unreasonable here. But I am saying that you cannot dismiss things because you would be acting contrary to the scientific method to do so. Likewise, we can show that your assumptions that story telling similarities disprove something is false. We would have to disprove most of our own history if that were the case!


If Philosophy God isn't a byword for all gods, he's useless to our discussion. So, suppose someone Proved Philosophy God. If he fits your argument, I'd still be an atheist, because Proving Philosophy God would not prove any gods.


I don't know how you would be an Atheist if you agreed with the truth that there was a God who was omnipotent, omnipresent, infinite, eternal, et cetera.

It wouldn't prove Allah or Shiva, but it would prove God. Moreover, this proof would be objective in a way that even empirical proofs cannot be.


It's a challenge, I agree! It would take lots of learning, observation, and pages of additional discussion to investigate the human storytelling tendency, and the different types of gods present across cultures. It would also only give us a best answer, rather than any Proof. But it's not a fool's errand, like trying to wrangle with the existence of Philosophy God.

The God of Philosophy is not a fool's errand. We have something actually geared to having definitive answers once the massive, millennia long debate is settled. Empirical research could never produce that.

Best answers are good and all, but the God of Philosophy can give us the truth either which way.


Yes, I agree! But that's my whole point. You're talking about the god that isn't a god, and so isn't relevant to a discussion about gods.

What's more of a God than what this is?


Following along a small piece of a gigantic circle, and you'd think we were on a linear pattern. So, in our experience of cause-and-effect, we find it linear and predicable, and figure it must have started somewhere. Little do we know that it starts nowhere, and ends where we are already. So you should see another possibility, and no reason to find Kalaam's premises to be founded.

The circular analogy doesn't work here. Cause and effect inherently follows a linear progression where cause comes before effect and produces it. This is not like a circle where travel at any point will draw one back to the same place, but more like counting the integers. What you're postulating is a vicious infinite regress, which implies a causeless effect. Your refutation of the Kalaam argument is "it just happened!".

The two possibilities for cause and effect are:

1. There is a finite chain of cause and effect beginning with a First Cause (non-infinite regress).
2. There is an infinite chain of cause and effect from a necessary, eternal cause (non-vicious infinite regress).


But suppose I'm wrong and Kalaam's premises are founded. Then it still wouldn't give a relevant answer to the topic at hand. So I won't press the argument.

Well, it's usually proved to back Jehovah and Allah, but yeah, it doesn't really do that as represented in the Bible or Quran.


Great, you should link us to some scholarly articles or books that you publish, as they happen.

I definitely will. I am working on my MA thesis next month, after which I intend to cut it up and separately publish the pieces. If/when they get published, I'll send you a link.


I agree that ethics is a "worthwhile and important discipline," but I disagree that finding out "what goodness really is" is the important part of ethics. Goodness is what people say it is. You can abstract that out a bit as long as you're clear that you're talking about abstract goodness, and you can argue about whose concept of goodness is better for people in general, but trying to construct a Philosophy Goodness apart from cultural goodnesses is a good way to miss the point.


The only way to critique cultural goodnesses is from an alternative perspective, which if not an objective one, reduces matters to taste. One of the key reasons we employ ethical thinking is to get out of cultural relativism which reduces our values to merely instantiations of prejudice.


Thanks for the summary. Hume's argument is close to mine in some respects, especially with respect to the idea that many ethical commonalities tend to evolve naturally. Although, I wouldn't argue that ethical senses are necessarily "passions and not thoughts" and "not amendable to rational processes, such that our moral sense is basically a process of emotion." I think that thinking can affect personal ethics significantly, and the transmission of thoughts about ethics from person to person is very important to study.

I would agree with your amendations to make Hume more palpable, even though I am not a Humean at all. They certainly make him more reasonable, though.

sparkey
02-08-12, 18:40
But yes, other claims can be tested. If you say this pebble is God, we can test that. Easily.

How would you actually test that in a way that it doesn't allow a "well it just doesn't want to show its powers to you" defense? It seems like you're still just testing certain properties, rather than testing if it is a god.


Ockham's Razor states: The simplest of true theorems should be preferred.

If you cannot determine what the truth is, and both are reasonable, a simpler explanation is not inherently superior to a more complex ones if the complex one can justify its complexity.

A great example of this would be this: Technically, a Hollow Earth theory would be utterly justified from scientific and mathematical grounds if certain natural laws were mathematically reversed. However, despite BOTH of them being correct, the simpler answer (that there is no Hollow Earth) is preferred.

Let me also once again note that it is not a scientific law, also. It's a hueristic device.

First, let's not be ambiguous with our terms here... by "true" and "correct" we're talking about these sorts of things in the logical sense, where a theory fits the premises we have to work with. It doesn't meant that we've already figured out what the answer is.

I don't see how the theories "concepts of gods are the result of the human tendency to create stories to fit natural phenomena," "concepts of gods result from the presence of god(s)," etc. fail to fit this pattern.

I'm also not claiming that Occam's Razor is a more powerful device than it is. You even quoted me as saying that it "doesn't Prove a Truth, ever."


Yes, but it is just as likely that these natural phenomenon figure into the archetypes of fiction as with us. We cannot incredulously say "oh, this is nonsense!" without testing it as rigourously as we can. We can all believe the opinion that it is nonsense, and we may be more likely correct, but this doesn't prove it.

Again, I am not saying your method is unreasonable here. But I am saying that you cannot dismiss things because you would be acting contrary to the scientific method to do so. Likewise, we can show that your assumptions that story telling similarities disprove something is false. We would have to disprove most of our own history if that were the case!

The thing is, we'll test certain things as rigorously as we can, and come back to square one due to the falsifiability problem. We'll have tested all sorts of properties, which could be useful, but we won't have tested existence. (Excluding the rare cases in which the existence of a certain god is testable, because it hinges on something testable.) So, what can we do in the meantime? We can observe that the different theories are just as correct in the logical sense, but some are actually more likely than others.


I don't know how you would be an Atheist if you agreed with the truth that there was a God who was omnipotent, omnipresent, infinite, eternal, et cetera.

But you wouldn't have proved "a God." You'll have proved the properties Philosophy God, which is something that is "omnipotent, omnipresent, infinite, eternal, et cetera." It's another step entirely to show that Philosophy God is a god. Of course, if you've gone that far, I could imagine that making that step could be possible--basically answering the question "which god?" with "a new one" being acceptable. But how do you make that step? At what point does "something which is exists is omnipotent," "that thing is also omnipresent," "that thing is also infinite"... become "that thing is a god in the same sense as Yahweh"? It's a very nontrivial step. Similarly, if we demonstrate something about the question "Do any gods exist?" it won't demonstrate whether or not properties of Philosophy God exist. Hence, "Does Philosophy God exist?" and "Do any gods exist?" are different questions entirely. The second, by the way, should be the more meaningful one for the debate between theism and atheism.


The God of Philosophy is not a fool's errand. We have something actually geared to having definitive answers once the massive, millennia long debate is settled. Empirical research could never produce that.

Best answers are good and all, but the God of Philosophy can give us the truth either which way.

I should rephrase myself. Searching for the God of Philosophy is a fool's errand when trying to answer the question, "Do any gods exist?"


What's more of a God than what this is?

One with stories (they can be true, and they can be yet undiscovered). One who has done things. One who is in some meaningful sense a "who."

Suppose we added "someone personable, who has done things beyond normal occurrences, which people can tell each other about" to the definition of Philosophy God. That would be a step in the right direction to combine Philosophy God with gods. But then consider how we would go about proving this Philosophy God. We would need to prove the he "has done things beyond normal occurrences, which people can tell each other about." An example--a particular story--would do nicely. But then look at what we just did! We proved this Philosophy God by proving a particular god! So to get Philosophy God to be meaningful, we had to change the definition to "any god."


I definitely will. I am working on my MA thesis next month, after which I intend to cut it up and separately publish the pieces. If/when they get published, I'll send you a link.

Awesome! Can you tell us what the subject is?

By the way, in case you're curious about my credentials in philosophy: I have a "concentration," which is something like one step below a Minor. Sorry, no published papers from me.


The only way to critique cultural goodnesses is from an alternative perspective, which if not an objective one, reduces matters to taste. One of the key reasons we employ ethical thinking is to get out of cultural relativism which reduces our values to merely instantiations of prejudice.

Just because comparative ethics doesn't have an objective ethics to appeal to, doesn't mean that we can't have meaningful, objective discussions about it. "What are the effects of encouraging revenge?" is a legitimate ethical question that could potentially result in a universal recommendation. It doesn't mean that "There is an Objective Ethics of Revenge" or that "All cultures should have their own concepts of revenge, because ethics are relative, anyway."

JFWR
06-08-12, 04:19
How would you actually test that in a way that it doesn't allow a "well it just doesn't want to show its powers to you" defense? It seems like you're still just testing certain properties, rather than testing if it is a god.

The validity of a proof does not demand on its acceptance by those who will deny all evidence. The assumed audience is one rationally swayable. I do not at all suggest that I can convert pebble worshippers to an enlightened deism instead. I can only show them their ignorance, or else make them act more ignorantly by nonsensical answers. If they wish to persist in that state, they may do so and I cannot do anything to change that.


First, let's not be ambiguous with our terms here... by "true" and "correct" we're talking about these sorts of things in the logical sense, where a theory fits the premises we have to work with. It doesn't meant that we've already figured out what the answer is.

Yes, but remember that a more complex theory can justify its complexity and that simplicity is not itself a hallmark of viability.


I don't see how the theories "concepts of gods are the result of the human tendency to create stories to fit natural phenomena," "concepts of gods result from the presence of god(s)," etc. fail to fit this pattern.

They are both reasonabl hypotheses, but using a heuristic device to choose between them doesn't answer the question. It simply suggests one bias over another, especially as both sides could marshall reasonable arguments in their favour.


The thing is, we'll test certain things as rigorously as we can, and come back to square one due to the falsifiability problem. We'll have tested all sorts of properties, which could be useful, but we won't have tested existence. (Excluding the rare cases in which the existence of a certain god is testable, because it hinges on something testable.) So, what can we do in the meantime? We can observe that the different theories are just as correct in the logical sense, but some are actually more likely than others.


I do not think we can really determine which is more reasonable outside a sort of incredulity regarding alternative hypotheses.


But you wouldn't have proved "a God." You'll have proved the properties Philosophy God, which is something that is "omnipotent, omnipresent, infinite, eternal, et cetera." It's another step entirely to show that Philosophy God is a god. Of course, if you've gone that far, I could imagine that making that step could be possible--basically answering the question "which god?" with "a new one" being acceptable. But how do you make that step? At what point does "something which is exists is omnipotent," "that thing is also omnipresent," "that thing is also infinite"... become "that thing is a god in the same sense as Yahweh"? It's a very nontrivial step. Similarly, if we demonstrate something about the question "Do any gods exist?" it won't demonstrate whether or not properties of Philosophy God exist. Hence, "Does Philosophy God exist?" and "Do any gods exist?" are different questions entirely. The second, by the way, should be the more meaningful one for the debate between theism and atheism.

The actual step to proving that the God of Philosophy is Jehovah is irrelevant. It doesn't necessarily matter, unless we can actually find some reason to suggest he is. The effort of proving the God of Philosophy is not towards that end inherently. It could be thereafter used, and that is itself interesting, but it isn't an inherent situation that would follow.

Also, if we can say "there exists this entity that has those principles" we are speaking about God. No one would agreed with existence of this being would be able to say they are not, at least, a Deist. They might say "well, this God is somewhat irrelevant to life" as say...Spinoza may have, in part , done so. But they could not say "it doesn't exist". Atheism would be logically ruled out.


I should rephrase myself. Searching for the God of Philosophy is a fool's errand when trying to answer the question, "Do any gods exist?"

Okay. The God of Philosophy is irrelevant to the existence of Pan.


One with stories (they can be true, and they can be yet undiscovered). One who has done things. One who is in some meaningful sense a "who."

Okay. So if you are looking for some lesser being, I suppose he is more of a "god" (lower-case g) than God (uppercase G).


Suppose we added "someone personable, who has done things beyond normal occurrences, which people can tell each other about" to the definition of Philosophy God.

You wouldn't be able to discern this by pure reason.


That would be a step in the right direction to combine Philosophy God with gods. But then consider how we would go about proving this Philosophy God. We would need to prove the he "has done things beyond normal occurrences, which people can tell each other about." An example--a particular story--would do nicely. But then look at what we just did! We proved this Philosophy God by proving a particular god! So to get Philosophy God to be meaningful, we had to change the definition to "any god."


Only if you want him to be Zeus, which he could only be by remarkable pains. Zeus was defeated by Typhon before his ultimate victory. How can that which is omnipotent be defeated?


Awesome! Can you tell us what the subject is?

Philosophy of time. It consists of a large refutation of McTaggart and others.


By the way, in case you're curious about my credentials in philosophy: I have a "concentration," which is something like one step below a Minor. Sorry, no published papers from me.

Depending on which school you go to (if they don't have majors/minors), a concentration would be equivalent of a major. Did you go to a major/minor school instead?


Just because comparative ethics doesn't have an objective ethics to appeal to, doesn't mean that we can't have meaningful, objective discussions about it. "What are the effects of encouraging revenge?" is a legitimate ethical question that could potentially result in a universal recommendation. It doesn't mean that "There is an Objective Ethics of Revenge" or that "All cultures should have their own concepts of revenge, because ethics are relative, anyway."

The mere consequences that can follow does not necessarily settle the matter. We know from history that there is an extreme measure of variety in human cultures that have produced long-term, stable societie with dramatically different concepts of law. The downsides to revenge can be offset by its upsides, as many societies have already accepted in the past.

kokki
06-08-12, 08:38
When scientists do not know something (for example - how the universe originated or how it has become the first molecule), they recognize it. Science does not suffer from sin to pretend he knows something you do not know. Quite different is the situation with religions. Colossal irony is that many believers are proud of their humility, while assume the right to know with certainty all cosmological facts about the world. When atheists ponder their place in the universe, they are based on scientific facts. This has nothing to do with arrogance - it is intellectual respectability.

sparkey
06-08-12, 18:12
The validity of a proof does not demand on its acceptance by those who will deny all evidence. The assumed audience is one rationally swayable. I do not at all suggest that I can convert pebble worshippers to an enlightened deism instead. I can only show them their ignorance, or else make them act more ignorantly by nonsensical answers. If they wish to persist in that state, they may do so and I cannot do anything to change that.

Your approach is proof via reasoning, though. You keep talking about how you want to look for proof one way or another for the existence of God. But here, you're basically conceding that you can't disprove a pebble god, you can only give evidence regarding certain properties, and hope that people come to the most reasonable conclusion based on that.

That's my point. You should look for evidence of existence, rather than bothering over pure Proof. I still think that the most effective evidence for understanding gods in general is understanding the fiction creation mechanism of humanity... probably more useful than testing the pebble to see if it can affect the tides, or whatever (although even that is probably more useful than trying to logically deduce the existence of Philosophy God).


The actual step to proving that the God of Philosophy is Jehovah is irrelevant. It doesn't necessarily matter, unless we can actually find some reason to suggest he is. The effort of proving the God of Philosophy is not towards that end inherently. It could be thereafter used, and that is itself interesting, but it isn't an inherent situation that would follow.

It's true that if you proved Philosophy God, you'd have an interesting result that is useful in its own right. I just don't think that you will have answered the question, "do any gods exist?", so we won't have gotten anywhere on the question we were trying to answer to begin with.


Also, if we can say "there exists this entity that has those principles" we are speaking about God. No one would agreed with existence of this being would be able to say they are not, at least, a Deist. They might say "well, this God is somewhat irrelevant to life" as say...Spinoza may have, in part , done so. But they could not say "it doesn't exist". Atheism would be logically ruled out.

It depends on what exactly deism implies in this case. If it allows for a creation mechanism with the typical properties of Philosophy God (at the point of creation?), then proving Philosophy God would involve proving deism while allowing atheism. If it requires the "creator" to be a god in a meaningful sense, then the proof becomes as difficult as proof of theism.


You wouldn't be able to discern this by pure reason.

Yes, I know.


Depending on which school you go to (if they don't have majors/minors), a concentration would be equivalent of a major. Did you go to a major/minor school instead?

The school I went to appended Humanities "concentrations" to BS degrees in non-Humanities subjects. So, one step below a minor in my case.


The mere consequences that can follow does not necessarily settle the matter. We know from history that there is an extreme measure of variety in human cultures that have produced long-term, stable societie with dramatically different concepts of law. The downsides to revenge can be offset by its upsides, as many societies have already accepted in the past.

Well, it's important to understand how it works in many different cultures, and it's important to understand patterns. And "Is there a best universal rule?" doesn't always yield a "yes" answer.