Tag Archives: philosophy

“I don’t have enough …” patience

If belief is our draw to think something is or isn’t the case, then an atheist certainly is drawn to think gods are not the case.

Atheists get accused of having faith. This is absurd. Faith is the opposite of belief. Faith is the admission that the state of affairs hoped for isn’t the current state of affairs. Belief, again, is thinking something is true about current states of affairs.

Faith is a choice.

Beliefs cannot be chosen.

Faith is from commitment, desire, hope, trust, confidence into the unknown future or in some object, person, process, etc. likewise cast into the future; it may sometimes be warranted or unwarranted.

Belief is always “here and now” about past or present matters of fact, states of affairs.

While an atheist may indeed have faith in the methodological success and reliability of science for example, it isn’t a religious, blind faith as it is justified in “enumeration”; the process itself tested each time it is applied.

What counts and what’s at stake here isn’t justified belief or justified faith. What is at stake is the apologist’s claim that there is an actual past or present state of affairs that is the case, but there’s no reason , no justification for thinking so. The unethical use of the idea of blind faith being grounds to believe is the issue.

I have yet to meet an atheist whose atheism is so grounded.

Atheism is exactly justified in the fact that the theist continually fails to show that there is warrant to believe that there are gods is the case.

Frank Turek simply didn’t take the time or care to do his homework before writing an entire book dedicated to equivocation and conflation.

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My Dear Watson …

Enumeration is a form of rational justification. It is when we examine particular instances of something and then generalize a truth from it where repetitively, it holds. “All swans are white” or “All ravens are black” is a justified statement as an enumeration. Knowing that there are black swans and white ravens shows us there may be short-comings with this way of justifying our theories.
When we make an argument where the premises lead us to only one conclusion, that’s called a “deduction”. When an argument has premises that don’t necessarily have just one conclusion–like unexpectedly colored swans and ravens–it’s called an “induction”. Sherlock Holmes and Science both employ induction rather than deduction in order to justify hypothesis; theory, further justified from vindication.
The problem isn’t with induction itself. The problem is that logic doesn’t tell us about the world. It may be absolutely true that if all men are mortal and Socrates is a man, then he is mortal, but the truth about such statements is trivial for being completely about language; what are men and what is mortal after all?
If one were to try to justify that Socrates is eventually going to die around age 78, it would be vindicated in the very same way as an induction and the key is that in reality, we don’t have a god’s eye view to keep us from the very same “problem of induction”; better thought of as “exceptions to the rule”.
Logical certainly, or “necessity”, doesn’t itself entail truth in reality.
We can always be wrong and the fact that we all must live with is that in terms of justifying propositions about the world, what counts is being able to come to reasonable conclusions that are vindicated through rigor, testing, peer review, and transparency in the processes applied that suggest we have safely and reliably come to a well-supported theory.
This is why neither Holmes nor Science employ faith and why each is so successful.
Enumeration establishes that each is justified in method and their proposals about the truth, vindicated or falsified and discarded.
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Erroneous Onus

There is no way to know just by reading the following whether or not the speaker owes some burden of proof.
“God exists.”
It may be easier to see given this sort of statement:
“I believe that P.”
Imagine that P is the proposition “God exists”. Both statements are trying to convey something. Sentences and utterances don’t in themselves have “illocutionary force”. That is, without knowing the intention, the purpose, the reason something is being communicated, we only presume some meaning because meaning is intention. In the Philosophy of Language, speech is considered an action which obtains through intentionality. That is, speech is a behavior, an action we take in order to get something done, much the same way we’d use our hands to hold dinnerware or feet for walking.
“I believe that P” ontologically is two statements. First, it is a declarative statement, also called an assertion. It doesn’t assert “God exists” is the case but asserts one’s disposition toward that proposition. I think it would be obvious that no one would suggest a person asserting this statement bears any onus; we simply take them at their word that what they say they believe is what they do believe. Second and most importantly, the sort of speech act it is again comes by way of intentionality. The reason one would say “I believe that P” is to report, to relay, to disclose how one feels about P, “God exists.”
People far too often suggest that simply having a belief, much less articulating it, entails to some burden of proof. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The only speech acts that bear a burden of proof are assertions; as defined as a declarative statement about they way things actually are, as a matter of fact. The above illustrates an important point however. Not all assertions have onus. The burden of proof is simply a matter of conversational etiquette. Sometimes, the person hearing an assertion isn’t entitled or in a position to question the truth of what is being asserted; again, see personal disclosures or even matters of expertise. Sometimes assertions are uncontroversial and everyone agrees the assertion is true, and so without disputes arising in a conversation, there is no burden of proof even though assertions are being made.
I had to defend a person once from attack from at least two folks presumably well-versed in philosophy. He was responding to the assertion “God exists”, to which he declared, “There aren’t any Gods!” Some felt at that point that he had a burden of proof. After all, it had the same look and feel as “God exists”, so isn’t that enough to say both are assertions if one is? Indeed, that’s what the philosophies were saying. My answer to him was found in asking him what he meant; in other words, why would he say such a thing, what was his intent. It suffices that he was simply saying that “God exists” isn’t the case. In that case, merely denying that some proposition is the case doesn’t mean a burden of proof exists. In fact, the only signal that a burden of proof exists is exactly when someone denies that some proposition is true. Denials actually signal that the person asserting now bears a burden of proof, if and only if a genuine, productive, worthwhile conversation is the goal.
What about the original statement that “God exists?”
At this point, you should realize that because it indeed has the same look and feel as “There are no gods”, that we don’t yet know if it is an assertion or some other sort of statement. Written as such, it may still be disclosing what someone believes, and thus doesn’t have any onus. It may be a number of ways one intends to be understood and not simply that one is stating that “God exists” as a matter of fact and that’s the way things are.
The most pertinent idea in speech act theory is that of intention and if the idea is neglected, being an effective communicator and a good listener will be likely impossible.
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Kill Bill, Vol. 3

I can forgive most professional apologists for many things because many of their arguments are philosophical and they’re simply ignorant of philosophy.
I still can’t seem to forgive William Lane Craig, for example– versus an R.C. Sproul or Lee Strobel or Frank Turek– because as a PhD Professor of Philosophy, he cannot be unaware of the distinction between epistemic and ontological objectivity. Meaning that if I say “The Earth is roughly spherical”, it is “objective” in the sense that folks can agree to all of the relevant facts that would make such a statement true. And were I to say, “Vanilla Ice had a dope fade”, we may never agree to any of the facts; the facts don’t necessarily lead folks to agree that such a statement is true. This is epistemic objectivity and subjectivity respectively. If I were to say “The Ozarks are a series of mountain ranges and plateaus”, then regardless of what anyone says or why they would say so, such a statement is true. “The Ozarks are beautiful,” on the other hand, is a statement whose truth is determined by a subject; its truth is entirely reliant on the determination of people and facts about people, and it doesn’t even matter if all people everywhere agreed that it is true that “The Ozarks are beautiful”. Here, the distinctions are between ontological objectivity and subjectivity.
To make this easier to understand and remember, epistemic objectivity and subjectivity entails to how some claim obtains given some mode of determination, and ontological objectivity and subjectivity entails to what some state of affairs actually is in itself; a rock is an object, humor is a subject.
Craig refuses to acknowledge to any audience of layman that such a distinction exists and is vitally in opposition to, and easily undoes, all his arguments about truth and morality. No, Bill, truth and morality can objectively obtain epistemically through justification and “really” be more than lip-service and without any need to “actually BE” true or moral! “Why is that”, the layman doesn’t even know to ask? Because ontological status is irrelevant to the human ability to appropriately apply terms like “true” and “moral”. Meaning, whether truth or morality, warrant must exist to assert P is true or P is moral, and then the only kind of objectivity that matters is the very sort Craig hides; the epistemic task of laying forward grounded and grounding “reasons to assert” that P.
To claim that in order for P to be true or moral, we have to ontologically know that P is or is not true or moral is a charade! How else would we know but through a determination? And the process of determining what is true or moral entirely entails to what we can agree is true or moral. So claiming P is absolutely true or moral, or that it’s absolutely true or moral that P gets us nowhere; we must establish that the ontological claim is true or moral, but that’s a redundant insignificance! We do so epistemically!
So again, no, Dr. Craig … I still hold you in contempt and a charlatan that honest Christians are better off ignoring, unless getting half of the story is all somebody wants, and where the half that is always delivered is the most impotent!
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Evangelical Rifts

I use philosophy all the time. It helps with clear thinking. It brings problems out front with ideas and beliefs and values one has. I most often apply it to theology.

Today, I remind the evangelical of a few problems facing the ideas that:

1) The unforgivable sin is unbelief.
2) Belief, and believing the right things, is required for salvation.
3) God can do other than love.

The first two entail the same consideration. No one can choose to believe anything. Whatever seems to be the case is unavoidably what we think the case actually is. At best, we change our minds only in so far as we expose ourselves to new information and new ideas and new experiences. However, we cannot simply decide to believe other than we do about some state of affairs. So if the “sin of unbelief” is some ultimate sin or any sin at all, it’s incredibly unclear as to how the unbeliever is culpable; particularly when what is to be believed is utterly unbelievable.

The second falls prey to the same problems as the first, but here, the evangelical often takes the ignorant interpretation of James and Paul, thinking that “salvation cannot be earned”. Well, belief is a commitment to act and James is entirely ahead of his time in noting so. Other than Paul not speaking about propositional attitudes (ie. belief, in modern usage) one cannot be said to believe if one isn’t willing to act accordingly. “I know I shouldn’t smoke” is a suspect belief when spoken by a person who then takes a drag. Too, if belief is treated as a choice, then we’re being told either that one can’t earn salvation through actions and this includes the choice to believe, or, one does earn salvation through their actions and the only action for salvation is the choice to believe. That would be a special case fallacy, or, contradictory. Instead, belief is a commitment to act, a motivation among many others to do one thing rather than another. Actions indeed are required for salvation but this doesn’t entail to earning anything, which is a false dichotomy to begin with.

Is God consistent? Is God’s nature love? If God is consistent and His nature is love, then can God do anything but love? If God can’t do anything but love, God is impassible! God cannot respond to you in any way but with love. That means that nothing you can do can be said to anger God, disappoint God, sadden, gladden, or enliven God in any way. Of course our behaviors certainly may, but there is no difference that makes a difference in claiming God is angry but loves anyway because he can’t do anything else, and claiming God cannot be moved to anger at all as evidenced by His unfailing love toward us. That’s because the only way we could know would be through His actions toward us. But, those actions are always loving!

If God is merely consistent, then God’s love isn’t His nature and His actions would be genuine choices. But as consistent, God can’t be said to be making choices at all, any more than a computer algorithm will suddenly start interpreting “1 == 1” as false. In other words, inconsistency is how we tell genuine choice exists. If God isn’t a choice-maker because He is consistent, then God is identical to an involitional principle, because “will” implies “choice” implies “being” while “nature” and “consistency” imply “non being” and “principle”.

If God is a being, then God is imperfect because He is inconsistent and His love is a genuine choice.

Theology must change in response to logical implications philosophy presents to otherwise unthoughtful theologies of God.

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Problem Solving …

I don’t like unsolvable problems and I tried to create one a year ago for folks to wrestle with and solve. That was the “Two Universe” hypothetical where two identical universes exist and only differ in that one has a God and the other doesn’t. The answer to how one would know which universe she were placed in is in all cases, a universe that has no God. It follows:

If both universes are phenomenally, causally identical, God isn’t necessary or causal to either universe and then God’s interactions with any universe are indeterminable.

If God’s actions in the world are indeterminable, then God isn’t a matter of fact.

If God isn’t a matter of fact, God is identical to a universe in which God does not exist.

That one may yet have been placed in the universe that actually has a God isn’t important. What is is the ability to tell. So to assert objectively as a matter of knowledge that “there is a God” is impossible in any universe identical to our own. On the other hand, it is a matter of fact that in any universe identical to our own, asserting “there are no gods” is objectively assessed and then a matter of knowledge; knowing is a matter of warrant and factualness.

To exist entails manifestation. A God that transcends reality doesn’t exist by definition. A God that’s indistinguishable from nature is only a synonymous term for nature. God then doesn’t exist in any universe a person could be placed into. To say God exists is to beg the question of what exists and how in the same irreconcilable statement.

For all possible objections, they entail the supernaturalness of God. In that case, in all universes identical to ours, God exists only in the sense that people don’t mean God is nature and, God is synonymous with mystery and all universes identical to our own entail mystery.

But in that case, we immediately have admitted there’s no content to the word “God” and all warrant has disappeared.

Just a thought.

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Is That A Fact!

The concept of “fact” does nothing for justifying propositions. Propositions require reasons to assert, and that any of these reasons are deemed facts or not is quite irrelevant. The use of the term “fact” turns out to be a way of asking people, in the end, to not question a reason offered as justification. Facts are then outside of the concerns of epistemology.

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Doxastic Involuntarism And Free Will

Some tend to think that because we have no choice in what we believe, no choice in what we feel is morally right or wrong, that there’s nothing to talk about with respect to either. Essentially, that theories of both truth and morality are useless endeavors. I think that’s mistaken. I think that for the same reasons folks point out that the fact of “doxastic involuntarism” (the formal name of the above description about dispositions and choice) is trivial. That is, that though we cannot genuinely deliberately come to believe something, the mechanisms by which belief arises are themselves completely open to reason, deliberation, desire, the wealth of psychological motivations on which such beliefs form and hang.
Scenarios in Philosophy then are not futile exercises but genuine ways to help us understand how we may open ourselves up to various questions and respond in a more present, thoughtful way; which is to say, actually demonstrate we are agents with free will in meaningful ways, not defeated by the trivial fact of doxastic involuntarism.
Just a thought.
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“The Truth Is Out There”

The use of the word “true” doesn’t correspond to reality and phenomenal occasions words are to share space with it, but exactly and only occasions where “warranted” and “well justified” do, such that there’s no difference in use or meaning having exchanged the words completely. There may be an “out there” truth, but “its” discovery is entailed in justification, which makes “it” quite irrelevant. Deliberating that “Truth is out there” or that “Truth is correspondence” is a demonstration of the irrelevancy of both statements. If it’s not clear by now why that is, notice that both statements must be justified; and the case against truth-as-justification fails.

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Does “Why” Exist?

I never understood our Western mistake of reifying words in descriptive sentences; truth, knowledge, moral, logic, math, consciousness, subconsciousness, mind, free will. Why on earth do we here, think of free will as something which exists, a property, rather than a way of talking about choice-making? Or, that minds are not a way of talking about brains, just as one has a “change of heart?” Why must there be something it is to be true in order for a proposition to be called true? Are we in possession of “true belief” or are we merely very certain and for objectively good reasons? Why must we be so inclined to think morality is attached to behaviors, to judgments, and those, completely independent of language and culture; there is something which exists called “moral” and it is simply and quite literally an existing or non existent attribute of behaviors and judgments.

It seems enough to have brains that make stochastic decisions discreet from micro antecedent, causal, physical states; enough to call a proposition “true”, a judgment, a behavior “moral” when we can justify either, given that justification for doing so rather than merely claiming something to be either is what earn propositions, judgments, behaviors such terms anyway; enough to say we are aware of some choices before us, aware of some experiences we are having, but not all … and so on.

Western philosophy became enamored with pinheads and the count of dancing angels and society followed suit; yet only the latter complains of the uselessness of the former.