Tag Archives: epistemology

God Is Not A Being

P1) It is said that God is love.

P2) It is said God cannot act against his nature.

C1) If God can choose to love, then God’s nature isn’t love.

P3) If God always chooses to obtain the best, or optimal outcomes in each moment, then God having the ability to choose is identical to God having no choice.

C2) If we hold to philosophical simplicity, we must accept God is not volitional and therefore, not a being, or that

C3) God is a being who can and does choose not to love, and is a being that could choose the best outcomes but chooses less favorable ones, or cannot identify them, or simply cannot obtain them.

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Doubling Down

Johnny lived in a sorted neighborhood. There was all kind of mischief all the time. Johnny’s roommate one morning offered Johnny a bet. “I will bet you ten bucks that your car is not outside, someone stole it.” There had been a rash of car thefts recently and Todd, Johnny’s roommate, was serious about the bet but easily using it to comment on how bad things had gotten that such a bet could actually be made.

Johnny had worked late last night and parked his car near a street light. If he were a car thief, he would have been in bed by that time and wouldn’t pick such a visible target. Still, you never know. Johnny believed his car was right where he’d left it. Ten bucks is ten bucks though and, having thought about it, Johnny knew the odds at that point were about even.

Though Johnny genuinely believed “My car was not stolen” rather than “My car was stolen”, Johnny did not take Todd’s bet. Doubting either proposition wasn’t a factor. Johnny didn’t believe one because he doubted the other. He believed them both. He just had more compelling reasons for thinking one way versus the other.

Johnny is said to have a doxastic belief and an epistemic belief about “My car was stolen”. It should be clear that it is possible to hold many dispositions toward the same state of affairs including contradictory ones yet not be thinking incoherently. Johnny genuinely believed “My car was not stolen”, for one set of reasons, and that “My car was stolen”, at the same time but for another set of reasons. Johnny has a “propositional attitude” in contrast to his other beliefs about the state of affairs about which the proposition is speaking.

It is then not always telling to suppose we know what a person believes merely by asking what their conclusion is; after all, truth be told, Johnny believes more that his car wasn’t stolen than he believes otherwise, but how would Todd know, Johnny didn’t take the bet.

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“In And Around The Lake”

Each side of The Great Debate has its annoying particulars. For Theists, it’s Presuppositionalism. For Atheists, it’s the nonsense of lacking belief. I don’t know which is more irksome either.

Atheists, there’s a difference in lacking a belief in God and lacking belief about God. For instance, I lack belief in the existence of Santa Claus, and I believe Santa Claus doesn’t exist. I can believe you exist and not believe in you. I can believe I know the ideas associated with deity and not believe in them.

The point of labeling one’s self or others is to be clear, not to preemptively suggest you don’t have to justify yourself.

Atheism is simply a way of saying one sees the world without deity and an Atheist is one who would reject “There are deity” and accept “There are no deity”.

A Theist would accept “There are deity” and reject “There are no deity”.

Agnostics would reject “There are deity” and reject “There are no deity”.

An Ignostic would say, “Bad question!”

Apatheists would accept “There are deity” or “There are no deity”, but think the truth of either is irrelevant, a waste of time.

There’s never just one proposition where “contraries” exist; binary, mutual exclusivity. The first is “There are deity” and its contradiction is “There are no deity”. So again, an Agnostic will reject both being the case. An Atheist doesn’t at all reject “There are no deity”. So, the Atheist may well not be disposed to “There are deity”, but doesn’t at all lack a disposition to its contradiction.

If you’re going to take part in The Great Debate, be honest first and foremost, and then follow established conversational etiquette such as Grice’s maxims of quantity, quality, speaking only to what you know, and speaking only to what you genuinely believe.

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It Happens …

One of the most mistaken aspects of reasoning in the Great Debate is over aspects of propositions, and namely, what denial is.

Example: “This is a square.”

We could deny this and mean a couple of things. First, we may lack sufficient reason to agree that “This is a square.” We may actually have sufficient reason to believe that it isn’t true that “This is a square”, though we may not know what else it actually is. Finally, we may actually know better. “This is really a rectangle.”

People usually mistakenly translate the denial of a proposition as the belief that its contradiction is true. So, mistakenly, denying “God exists” means one thinks “God does not exist”. This is not the case.

When denying “This is a square”, it’s clear that there’s no contradictory belief to hold. There’s no opposite to “square”. This implies denial applies to how the case is presented. In other words, “This is a square [is the case]”. Denial applies to this property of the proposition. Denial is then as follows:

Correct: [It is not true that] This is a square [is the case]

Incorrect: This is not a square [is the case].

Don’t see a difference?

If the proposition is “Steve’s T shirt is green” and I deny it, it’s not because I believe “My T shirt is not green.” It’s because I am not wearing a T shirt. Hence, denial is correctly “[It is not true that] Steve’s T shirt is green [is true]”. This shortens to simply “That’s not the case.” And consequently, I would deny the contradiction, “Steve’s T shirt is not green”.

The mistake happens honestly because of “negative facts”, contradiction, and “The Excluded Middle”. Folks mistake denial for contradiction. Above, with “This is a square”, insufficient reason and reason to doubt cause denial rather than contradiction. When two ideas cannot both be true at the same time, and cannot both be false, there’s a contradiction. With contradiction, something either is or isn’t. Either there is a God or isn’t, either it is a square or isn’t, either my T shirt is green or it isn’t. These have no “middle” ground. But as we see with my T shirt, denial isn’t contradiction though contradiction can cause denial.

So denying that “God exists” doesn’t mean a person believes “God does not exist”. It means they deny there’s reason to believe “God exists [is the case].” It happens that Atheists, Agnostics, and Theists alike, can all deny the proposition “God exists” yet have various beliefs about the existence of God.

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The Simple Truth

Common language makes sense when talking about things like knowledge and truth, but if it is inspected, people tend to get uncomfortable, fast.

For instance, it makes sense to ask, “How do you know that’s true?”, and the answer will be along the lines of “Because of x, y, and z.” Ask what knowledge is and you get something like “Knowledge is all of the things we know.”, as if that answers something. Ask about truth and folks mean “the way things are.”

None of that makes sense, however. If knowledge is the collection of everything we know, then truth must be what we know. This makes “How do you know that’s true?” an absurd question. If something is true, it is by definition, something we know, at least in the general sense. The appropriate question then is, “Why do you think that’s the case?” And when one seeks to answer with some, any, explanation, one is justifying a belief. Simple thoughts on “Truth is that which corresponds to reality” are revealed as meaningless, considering it begs the question of “What corresponds?” and how one would know when “correspondence” is reached? For certain, “truth” would be the test for correspondence in that case, which leads right back to a simple fact of justification. Too, if truth is “the way things are”, then substitution works wonders! “The way things are corresponds to reality”; or in other words, reality is reality. When discussing these things, we must be thoughtful and make sense, and common use doesn’t, it turns out to be absurd in most cases.

Finally, when we realize all of the above, it shouldn’t shock anyone hearing that there’s no genuine difference between saying something is true and something is justified.

However, for many, and not just laymen, such a remark unleashes something akin to a swarm of the hornets’ nest, or the frantic sprawl of a fireant colony on three alarms.

After years of interrogating theories of knowledge and looking at our use of these terms, it can only suffice to say that knowledge is all the stuff we think is true, and what’s true are only our ideas about what the case is, and stating what we think the case is, or even believing what the case is, requires justfication, warrant, in every case from belief to doubt to reserving judgment.

Just a thought.

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The Silly Things People Say!

The formal set of fallacies to Presuppositional arguments that “The existence of the laws of logic proves the existence of God.”

The argument is formally as follows:

p→q :. ~p→~q, q :. p

In English, (i) if the existence of God explains the laws of logic, then if there is a God, there are laws of logic, therefore if God does not exist, the laws of logic do not exist, (ii) and since the laws of logic do exist, God exists.

i. Denying the antecedent
ii. Affirming the consequent

And if you’re a Presuppositionalist and needed the English version, stop clamoring on about the laws of logic! Logic is a formal description of how folks think, doesn’t tell us anything about reality, doesn’t entail truth, and is artificial, entirely a product of reason, not gods; ask a Logician!

“Of these two conditions, the logician as such is concerned only with the first [validity]; the second, the determination of the truth or falsity of the premises, is the task of some special discipline or of common observation appropriate to the subject matter of the argument.”

https://www.britannica.com/topic/formal-logic

“When the conclusion of an argument is correctly deducible from its premises, the inference from the premises to the conclusion is said to be (deductively) valid, irrespective of whether the premises are true or false.”

Ibid

“The bottom line is that logic alone can tell us nothing new about the real world.”

https://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/philosop/logic.htm

“Traditionally logic was considered a normative description of the workings of an ideal mind.”

http://www.filosoficas.unam.mx/~morado/RLH.htm

“[The principles of logic] are non-contingent, in the sense that they do not depend on any particular accidental features of the world. Physics and the other empirical sciences investigate the way the world actually is.”

http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/logic/whatislogic.php

“The principles of logic … are derived using reasoning only, and their validity does not depend on any contingent features of the world.”

Ibid

“… the proof of the validity of these inferences depends upon the assumption of the truth of certain general statements concerning relatives.”

http://www.peirce.org/writings/p41.html

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That Right Is Earned!

Often in Philosophy, something quite simple is missed and that is, few stop to think about when they are in fact presupposing.

For instance, most people think that in order for beliefs to be justified, we must have reasons for a belief. However, beliefs simply come to be and aren’t invented and can’t be chosen. In that case, not all beliefs can be justified via “reason to assert” and not all warranted beliefs require justification; entitlements, for example.

But the main problem is that people fixate on the idea that justification puts onus on the believer rather than on the interlocutor. So when a person insists some x, y, and z isn’t justified until there’s an explanation, the response should simply be that such an x, y, z belief exists, and what positive reasons are there to doubt it?

In other words, genuine beliefs can already be seen as justified, and doubting them or questioning their validity puts onus on the examiner, not the one being examined.

That means that the fitness of a belief isn’t in any essential way, tied to justification, but tied to, well, fitness! Is a belief sustaining its application? In that sense of justification, then the foundation of belief is ordinary experience, not supposition nor justification. It’s the application of an idea and its fitness for that application which warrants belief.

In “The cat is on the mat”, justification doesn’t hinge on infinite regresses of propositions that must be proven before a conclusion can be reached. Simply, when there appears to be a cat on the mat, the only sensible question that must be justified is “Why should I doubt the cat, the mat, or that the cat is on it?”

“Because you may be wrong” or “Because you can’t be certain” isn’t here or there because absolutely no conditions exist in which we can be absolutely certain of anything and for the fact that nothing ensures we will conclude rightly or wrongly, and that the former is only a matter of Psychology, and the latter, a fact of human inquiry and knowledge.

Why should I believe? No, why should I doubt?

Just a thought.

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Two Universes Reprise

In the “Two Universe” scenario, where we’re given two identical universes that only vary in that one has a God and the other doesn’t and we’re asked which is the one we’ve been thrust into, the most significant response isn’t in being able to answer the question.

We can discard responses that simply demand that no universe is possible without God, and those that claim that no universe requires God.

The damning response is noting that even if there is a God, He is irrelevant given the fact that we have to ponder this scenario at all; “nothing” and “god” manifest in reality identically too.

Secondarily, that god-talk is meaningful in both universes, this necessarily means that what makes it meaningful isn’t the existence of God; god-talk has nothing to do with God that we can tell.

Just a thought.

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I’ve Got A Feeling …

It’s not just me this occurs to but also to the theorists:

Belief begins as a non cognitive sense about something in the world. That’s like the belief that “things fall when dropped” or “there will be a tomorrow” or “similar things always happen”. That not all beliefs are consciously deliberated leads Philosophers and Psychologists to define belief as an attitudinal disposition toward a state of affairs. This pre cognitive aspect of belief coupled with its seeming foundational role in cognitive conclusions leads these same thinkers to the idea of Doxastic Involuntarism; the idea that we cannot choose what we believe. It seems the role of reason and evidence isn’t as decisive as some would like. Its role seems to be to flesh out what is already believed, or to provide reasons that may cause us to feel differently than we do; the effort being about building confidence, which is again, about feeling, about sentiment.

There are times when we cannot make logical sense of something, however, we still are disposed to thinking a certain way about it. There are times when we have a perfectly logical idea of what could be going on. However, and likely we’ve all experienced this before, until we both think and feel the same way about things, we don’t generally say that we believe what we’re thinking. In both situations, the foundation seems to be sentiment, pre cognitive pursuation. Disposition isn’t consciously determined.

Ideally, truth isn’t correspondence with reality but an accord stuck between the appearance of states of affairs and what we think and feel about them; ultimately hinging on the reasons we ought feel one way versus another, in terms of establishing warrant.

Just a thought.

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Grounds For Thinking

Friedrich Engels, in “Anti Dürhing”, claims alongside many others including me, that all thoughts, no matter how abstract, are ultimately based in reality.

I say this quite often, and one reason is to strongly object to the possibility of an atheist claim that the idea of deity is made up. In fact, it isn’t. Something about humanity and our circumstances makes the idea of deity necessary, necessarily. This doesn’t prove there are deity, but only that deity can be an empirical, sound argument.

Hear Engles take maths, as perhaps one of our most abstract thoughts, and pin it down to reality in the end:

That mathematics has a validity which is independent of the  particular  experience of each individual is, for that matter, correct, and this is true of all established facts in every science, and indeed of all facts whatsoever. The magnetic poles, the fact that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, the fact that Hegel is dead and Herr Dühring alive, hold good independently of my own experience or that of any other individual, and even independently of Herr Dühring’s experience, when he begins to sleep the sleep of the just. But it is not at all true that in pure mathematics the mind deals only with its own creations and imaginations. The concepts of number and figure have not been derived from any source other than the world of reality. The ten fingers on which men learnt to count, that is, to perform the first arithmetical operation, are anything but a free creation of the mind. Counting requires not only objects that can be counted, but also the ability to exclude all properties of the objects considered except their number — and this ability is the product of a long historical development based on experience. Like the idea of number, so the idea of figure is borrowed exclusively from the external world, and does not arise in the mind out of pure thought. There must have been things which had shape and whose shapes were compared before anyone could arrive at the idea of figure. Pure mathematics deals with the space forms and quantity relations of the real world — that is, with material which is very real indeed. The fact that this material appears in an extremely abstract form can only superficially conceal its origin from the external world. But in order to make it possible to investigate these forms and relations in their pure state, it is necessary to separate them entirely from their content, to put the content aside as irrelevant; thus we get points without dimensions, lines without breadth and thickness,  a  and b and  x  and y, constants and variables; and only at the very end do we reach the free creations and imaginations of the mind itself, that is to say, imaginary magnitudes. Even the apparent derivation of mathematical magnitudes from each other does not prove their  a priori  origin, but only their rational connection. Before one came upon the idea of deducing the  form  of a cylinder from the rotation of a rectangle about one of its sides, a number of real rectangles and cylinders, however imperfect in form, must have been examined. Like all other sciences, mathematics arose out of the  needs  of men: from the measurement of land and the content of vessels, from the computation of time and from mechanics. But, as in every department of thought, at a certain stage of development the laws, which were abstracted from the real world, become divorced from the real world, and are set up against it as something independent, as-laws coming from outside, to which the world has to conform. That is how things happened in society and in the state, and in this way, and not otherwise,  pure  mathematics was subsequently  applied  to the world, although it is borrowed from this same world and represents only one part of its forms of interconnection — and it is only  just because of this that it can be applied at all.

Ibid, 1878, pg. 15

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