What is the Likelihood That a Trickster or Evil God Exists?

246 comments later on this topic and I want to resurrect it. dguller has sufficiently defended an argument that I have not seen a proper rejoinder to about the possibility that a trickster god exists, rather than a good one, if one exists at all. I claimed that Based on This Argument Alone The Best Any Believer Can Claim is Agnosticism. Okay so far?

dguller's argument, once again is this:
One question that I have for religious believers is how they would distinguish between the following:

(1) An all-powerful deity created and guides the universe ultimately towards a good purpose;

and

(2) An all-powerful deity created and guides the universe ultimately towards an evil purpose, but have chosen to maliciously presented himself as benevolent to play a trick on created beings.

I mean, since believers are big on creating conceptual space to make their positions logically POSSIBLE, then it is also possible that God is a Cosmic Trickster who takes pleasure in fooling them.

How could one refuse (2)? Only based upon one's religious beliefs that (1) must be true. The problem is that one's beliefs that (1) must be true could be part of the cosmic joke in scenario (2), and thus there is no real way to differentiate between (1) and (2) for a religious believer.
Then in the comments Eric, a Ph.D. student, thinks a trickster God is incoherent:
Aquinas's arguments show that the very notion of an evil god is incoherent. Simply put (not much time), in classical theism God is a purely actual being (n.b. this is the conclusion of rigorous argumentation, not a postulate), and metaphysically, evil is (ultimately) a privation of being. The contradiction is obvious: an evil god would be a purely actual being with a complete privation of being.

But if you're still interested in this sort of argument (i.e. the argument that God may just as likely be an evil being as a good being), the best development of it I've come across can be seen in Stephen Law's God of Eth argument.
In brief, let me spell out the problem with classical theism's approach. If God exists, then by definition everything he does is good, everything. And consequently evil would always be a privation of the good. [Such a view would still not let theists of the hook for the problem then becomes why is there not more goodness in the world rather than why there is evil]. But to say God always does that which is good means nothing except that God does what he does. We simply use the English word "good" to describe all of his actions, and that's it. The word "good" is just a word applied to God. No matter what this God does we are supposed to use the word "good" to describe his actions, whether it's commanding a genocide, sending a tsunami, or an earthquake, a fire or a hurricane.

You see, I do not think the word "good" should apply to that kind of God. By our more civilized notions of goodness those actions are best described by the word "evil." So while God by definition always does what is "good," if what he does is evil then what we have here is a reversal of definitions. By these standards goodness becomes a privation of evil, you see, and so the problem is why there is goodness in the world (i.e., Stephen Law's the God of Eth). Then such a god can indeed exist, a trickster God, an evil one, who, if he exists does evil, even though by definition God always does "good," because at this point the word "good" has lost its meaning. At that point all we can say is that what God does, he does. He does what he does. To attribute the word "good" to that which he does, when he does evil, is reversing the definitions of these words. Words mean what we mean them to mean.

I refuse to play the theistic language game. Theirs is a twisted one, a meaningless one (in this instance) and so an evil God, a trickster God can exist after all. For it no longer means anything to say whatever God does is "good" if what he does by our standards is "evil." He does what he does, so whether we think of him as evil or good no longer matters. They are just words. He does what he does. There is no incoherence with that.

91 comments:

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Now lets see:
A. Jesus arose from the dead. B. Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from the Golden Plates. Both events had eyewitnesses. Both Jesus and the Golden Plates are now with God in Heaven. Both events need the simple faith of people to believe..

Surely, faith founded on God, eye witness accounts and divine books can’t be wrong! Surely, the concept know as God wound not let innocent faith be lead astray or tricked! Surely God would not joke about something this grave!??????

Chuck O'Connor said...

Thanks for re-posting this. My mind was tickled watching the back and forth between dguller and Rob. I hope the debate continues, although Rob may have painted himself in a corner with his strange definition of "faith".

Rob R said...

I never liked the metaphysic of good and evil as being and privation of being. It seems to me that it is more accurate to say that oughtness is a way of being, not being itself.

I think ultimately, the very notion of ought is one of those irreducible opaque concepts. It's not that we can't identify actions and behaviors and say that some ought to be performed and others ought not be performed. Oughtness is a thing that something that is more basic than the behaviors to which it is a predicate.

But that said, our subjective experience of it is closely related to suffering and joy.

We experience a special kind of suffering. It is the kind of experience where the emotional outcome is that what is ought not be.

I have wrestled with what is a similar issue when I was studying the issue of predestination and reprobation as I rejected the Calvinstic picture. Calvinists are good at casting doubt on the immediate objections to their view. The idea that reprobation is a guarantee of hell before one is born has been defended on the grounds that that person is a God hater, God's refusal to allow them grace is his sovereign right and since he determines what is right, you can't disagree. And finally, God's decision not to extend his grace in a determinate fashion is ultimately a part of God's good plan such that all such instances of suffering are contribute to the greater good. So what does it mean that they are damned, that they should suffer? Suffering again is the emotional sense that what is ought not be. I called it the existential "no", that is that what is ought not be is a very part of the existence of this state.

What this means is that all instances of suffering would be of states or due to states that ought not be. But if it is part of a greater plan such that in the big picture, everything ought to be as it is, then suffering is a lie. It is that sense that what is ought not be from a particular human experience, an experience designed by God, thus it is a lie designed by God. This is a problem for Calvinists who assert that truthfulness is also a feature of God.

Is this of relevance here? What does an evil God care if we are deceived about the states that ought not be? Evidently not much at all. But perhaps the problem with Calvinism isn't just that it is a lie, but it is incoherent. Lies are after all incoherent with reality. But this lie is built into the fabric of our reality (reality as empirically experienced no less), thus the evil God who's ultimate desire for us to suffer is an incoherency within reality itself.

This is not by the way my earlier approach to this question (as I am one of the guilty parties who took it to 246 posts) and I haven't retreated from any of it except for a refinement I made at the bottom of the first 200 posts on some of what I said. But John highlighted the relations of being and good and evil as introduced by Eric and this is my alternative approach to that.

Rob R said...

BTW, suffering and pain are not the same thing though they are closely related. Industry of creating ridiculously hot salsa demonstrates that they aren't the same. the strain and pain of physical training is another example.

Rob R said...

and FYI, as to

dguller has sufficiently defended an argument that I have not seen a proper rejoinder to about the possibility that a trickster god exists,

I wouldn't call that an objective judgment.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob,

LOL. I honestly agree with one of your philosophical illustrations - suffering and pain are not the same - the hot sauce paradigm proves it. Nice.

Kern's Kreations said...

John,
Just a quick note to let you know that the book came today, and I will be starting the read this weekend.
I will start blogging about my experience on Monday. Cheers,
Bobby

busterggi said...

"Aquinas's arguments show that the very notion of an evil god is incoherent. "

Am I the only one who thinks that Aquinas' linguist gymnastics are unconvincing?

Really, when did Aquinas become inerrant?

Bronxboy47 said...

I'm sure the average Christian, when faced with the possibility of an evil, trickster God, can easily dismiss the idea by convincing themselves that this possibility exists only as a test of their faith. This idea would never make it to first base with them.

Bronxboy47 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bronxboy47 said...

From the original discussion:

"...even if some kind of god exists the believer has no reasonable way to know anything about such a god." --J.W. Loftus

John, are you really asking Christians for a "reasonable" defense of their faith-inspired certainty about the nature of God. When I was a believer, faith trumped everything--until it didn't.

Bronxboy47 said...

I suspect that the more intelligent a Christian is, the more likely she is to have repressed secret reservations about some of the doctrines of the church, all the while convincing herself that she is a faithful Christian with a special, private dispensation of knowledge from God. (I'm sure some of the Christians who post at this site know exactly what I'm talking about.)

The redneck-type believer backs his entire belief system on waves of emotion, the only proof he needs: God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me. The idea of an evil God is simply incomprehensible.

dguller said...

Here is how I presented my argument in another way:

My argument is that if one assumes that there is a supernatural realm that explains phenomena within the empirical world, then one is forced to admit that there are an infinite number of possible supernatural scenarios out there. If one believes in only one of those possible supernatural scenarios, then one must be able to justify that choice independent of information contained within the supernatural scenario itself. That means that one must only use information that exists within the empirical world to justify one’s supernatural choice.

My belief is that no-one will be able to do so, because any justification of one’s supernatural choice ultimately utilizes information present only within one’s chosen supernatural scenario, and thus commits the fallacy of circular reasoning. It follows that since there is no rational justification for choosing one supernatural scenario over another, then it is largely arbitrary and ultimately based upon one’s personal preference. However, it still follows that it is impossible to know which supernatural scenario is true, because there are millions of people who hold different scenarios, and thus personal preference cannot ground one’s belief in one’s specific supernatural scenario.

Therefore, at best, one must stop talking about the supernatural realm by virtue of being agnostic about it.

There are a few possible replies to this argument.

One, you can show how my argument either contains false premises or makes mistake in the logical inference. Two, you can prove me wrong by providing a rational justification for your specific supernatural scenario using ONLY information already present within the empirical world. Three, you can show using personal preference to justify your religious beliefs ONLY applies to those who agree with you, and fails to be valid in those who have other religious beliefs.

As John said, no-one has provided any convincing counter-argument against the above.

And for everyone’s FYI, a very thorough working through of this idea is at:

http://atheismblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/are-we-proving-negative-yet.html

And it has pictures! :)

dguller said...

Oh, and my response to Eric about this good = fullness of being and evil = deprivation of being is that the whole construct is based upon a faulty metaphor, and is essentially bullshit. There are no good reasons of any kind to utilize that construct, and it is basically constructed upon a picture of goodness as equivalent to water in a bucket where the more full the bucket, the more good the bucket is.

Why one would feel that that was the principle characterization of goodness is beyond me. What if the bucket was imagined to be full of horse manure? Would goodness still be equated to fullness?

Sheesh. What a stretch of a metaphor!

Bronxboy47 said...

dguller,

Unfortunately, it would appear you're preaching to the choir (pardon the expression).

I would be mightily surprised if any believing Christian would be convinced by your arguments, which can easily be dismissed by the "self-authenticating" witness of the holy spirit.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi ---Maybe I didn't understand the post correctly, but it seems readily apparent that Jesus acknowledged the existence of 'two fathers', 'two shepherds' and He also gave reference to types of thieves, and two types of lions----One being God and the other an enemy. One being bent on destruction and perishing and God being bent upon salvation.

I believe that God's idea of goodness and perfection is expressed in graciousness, which gives allowance for enmity to exist. I am grateful to Him for His grace towards those who are in enmity against Him.

3M

Breckmin said...

Re: Good and Evil

JWL: "They are just words."

Yes. They are just English words.
English words which have multiple meanings based on how you are using them.

When you begin to see the imperfection of this..and how over-analyzing by failing to address words with multiple meanings and
their uses being pivoted against each other needlessly...

then you are beginning to see the complexity of this.

Breckmin said...

"then one is forced to admit that there are an infinite number of possible supernatural scenarios out there."

What if an Omniscient Creator knows that there is only ONE possible scenario? (Actuality)

Possibility is often our worse enemy...especially when we assert possibilities that are not possible.

Question everything!

It just might lead you in the correct direction.

Breckmin said...

"Therefore, at best, one must stop talking about the supernatural realm by virtue of being agnostic about it."

How do you KNOW that the empirical realm is independent of the supernatural? How do you know that the empirical world which you observe is not sustained by supernatural sustaining order and power?

IF you allude to fictitious literary constructs such as fairies, unicorns, etc.. this is incongruous to the question of "how you know" the difference between natural and supernatural.

Please be specific how you KNOW that you can start with the assumption of "natural" or that "natural even exists?"

How do you know that you are not testing the supernatural sustaining order of the empirical world everytime you test the natural?

Please be specific.

Rob R said...

well, dguller, since you reintroduce that idea here, I'll reintroduce the parallel problem of solipsism which empiricism cannot debunk.

Your last counter-example to me was that crazy people who don't believe in an external reality don't do well. But this demonstrates an underestimation of the power of sopsism. It ignores my counter-argument that mind can indeed be solipsist (as an aside, ever wonder why I don't use personal pronouns when speaking of a solipsistic perspective?) and function within the narrative by playing the game asserting will into the world as if the person of the perspective and the external world did exist. Another argument for the solipsistic perspective is to note that mind doesn't even have to be aware of the solipsistic nature of the universe just as one can dream and not realize it. People have claimed to have such intense dreams that the dream was indistinguishable from reality. There is no empirical way to prove that so called reality is actually different.

If one believes in only one of those possible supernatural scenarios, then one must be able to justify that choice independent of information contained within the supernatural scenario itself. That means that one must only use information that exists within the empirical world to justify one’s supernatural choice.

Why is this? Why can't we show the strength of the view based upon all of the evidence both from the explanatory power extending into the explanations and workings of the the transcendent as well as empirical information. Seems to me that the strength of the view depends on how all of it hangs together and not whether it can be founded on empirical data. You presume a foundationalist epistemology and this is has come under scrutiny... not within recent years either but ever since Hume. An anti-foundationalist such as myself denies that all knowledge should arise from the ground up from basic truths and should instead look to knowledge to hang together as a whole for it's justification.

any justification of one’s supernatural choice ultimately utilizes information present only within one’s chosen supernatural scenario, and thus commits the fallacy of circular reasoning.

it is controversial that circular reasoning is fallacious once the circle of information is big enough that it actually becomes informative. An example of this is a dictionary where all of the words are explained in terms of words that are also defined in the dictionary. World views, if justified on in terms of total coherence (the epistemology is called coherentism or holism) also have this feature.

The Internet encyclopedia of philosophy has made exactly this same claim in the explanation of circular reasoning (thank you John Loftus for linking there, I've been studying up).

FYI, Breckmin also makes a similar point, perhaps not compltely different from my own.

Rob R said...

Also, for the relevence of the problem of solipsism I mention above, the point is that the argument provided which suggests that we have to conclude agnosticism is no different from other types of radical skepticism against scientific realism and empiricism. In the last thread, I gave reasons why we don't have to be agnostics on either grounds.

dguller said...

Breckmin:

>> What if an Omniscient Creator knows that there is only ONE possible scenario? (Actuality)

Please demonstrate the antecedent of this conditional statement.

>> How do you KNOW that the empirical realm is independent of the supernatural? How do you know that the empirical world which you observe is not sustained by supernatural sustaining order and power?

Because I see no evidence for a supernatural realm. All evidence of the supernatural is essentially using natural phenomena (i.e. voices, visions, dreams, and allegedly unlikely natural events) to try to point towards the supernatural. I think that there are perfectly natural explanations for all of those natural phenomena that have no need of the supernatural.

>> IF you allude to fictitious literary constructs such as fairies, unicorns, etc.. this is incongruous to the question of "how you know" the difference between natural and supernatural.

Fictitious literary constructs are clear examples of imaginary entities that possess all kinds of properties and abilities, and yet have no real existence at all independent of our imagination. They also happen to move people in a powerful emotional way in the sense that people become profoundly attached to fictional entities. I would argue that they ARE congruent to this issue, I believe that the supernatural is yet another fictitious human construct, and should be treated as such.

Furthermore, why is the burden of proof upon me to differentiate between the supernatural and the natural?

>> Please be specific how you KNOW that you can start with the assumption of "natural" or that "natural even exists?"

Oh Lord. I start with the assumption of naturalism, because that is ALL I EXPERIENCE. I do not experience angels and demons, deities and devils, and even if I did, they would be experienced through my natural neurobiological capacities (i.e. sensation, dreams, cognition, etc.). I can only begin from where I am. If you have direct experience of the supernatural that is not mediated by your natural sensory and cognitive apparatus, then I am all ears to hear more about this.

>> How do you know that you are not testing the supernatural sustaining order of the empirical world everytime you test the natural?

I test the underlying order of the natural world, but there is no good reason to assume that this order is supernatural. Provide an argument to demonstrate this, please.

dguller said...

Rob:

>> It ignores my counter-argument that mind can indeed be solipsist (as an aside, ever wonder why I don't use personal pronouns when speaking of a solipsistic perspective?) and function within the narrative by playing the game asserting will into the world as if the person of the perspective and the external world did exist.

Once again, solipsism is an interesting philosophical intuition pump. It is an imaginary scenario whose only claim to fame is that it is flexible enough to squeak through the gate of mere possibility. However, to make the transition from possibility to actuality, solipsism would require the rejection of everything we know about biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, sociology, ethology, human development, neuroscience, history, philosophy, and so on.

I think that is far too high a price to pay for its validity, and thus I will happily reject it as a philosophical fairy tale, along with brains-in-a-vat, Plato’s cave, Searle’s Chinese Room, and whatever else is out there. Unless a philosophical thought experiment can be grounded in empirical reality, it is not worth much to me, I’m afraid, and I find it peculiar that you are pitting your entire case upon a piece of philosophical fiction.

>> Another argument for the solipsistic perspective is to note that mind doesn't even have to be aware of the solipsistic nature of the universe just as one can dream and not realize it. People have claimed to have such intense dreams that the dream was indistinguishable from reality. There is no empirical way to prove that so called reality is actually different.

Of course, there is an empirical way to prove that solipsism is false. Explain to me where these sensory stimuli are coming from? There must be something outside myself, right? And if I am generating these experiences by myself, then how am I doing it? If you are really going to pit solipsism against everything that human beings have discovered about ourselves and the world, then you will have to flesh it out a little more than just saying, “maybe it’s true!” Well, maybe it’s not!

>> Seems to me that the strength of the view depends on how all of it hangs together and not whether it can be founded on empirical data.

I’m not too sure what you are saying here. It appears that you are saying that the only important criterion in deciding whether one supernatural scenario is more true than the others is whether it “hangs together” and “not whether it can be founded on empirical data”. So, if a supernatural scenario “hangs together” in a logical sense of consistency, I suppose, but it fails to be grounded in the empirical world, then that is all that matters?

I think that’s silly, because it is highly likely that there are multiple supernatural scenarios that contradict one another, and yet are logically consistent. I mean, an Evil Deceiver scenario is logically consistent, and thus hangs together. So does the magical unicorn scenario, as does the Harry Potter scenario. I mean, I can imagine ANYTHING that will hang together. Unless what I imagine is grounded in empirical reality, it is NOTHING but imaginary speculation. THAT is why I insisted upon an empirical foundation. Without it, you will have zero traction in demonstrating how your supernatural scenario is better than the others and more likely to be true.

>> You presume a foundationalist epistemology and this is has come under scrutiny.

I’m actually a foundherentist. :)

dguller said...

>> it is controversial that circular reasoning is fallacious once the circle of information is big enough that it actually becomes informative. An example of this is a dictionary where all of the words are explained in terms of words that are also defined in the dictionary. World views, if justified on in terms of total coherence (the epistemology is called coherentism or holism) also have this feature.

Yes, but the terms in a dictionary are GROUNDED IN EMPIRICAL REALITY. The dictionary definition of “dog” is not just a series of connected words and phrases, but refers to DOGS, which are EMPIRICAL entities. The “circle of information” has to touch the real world at some point, or else it is just fiction. After all, the circle of information contained within the Lord of the Rings fictional universe is vast and cohesive, but only a lunatic (or diehard fan) would insist that it shares the same status as our world.

You should check out Susan Haack’s work in epistemology for a useful fusion of foundationalism and coherentism. I think that you will benefit from it, as I have.

>> for the relevence of the problem of solipsism I mention above, the point is that the argument provided which suggests that we have to conclude agnosticism is no different from other types of radical skepticism against scientific realism and empiricism. In the last thread, I gave reasons why we don't have to be agnostics on either grounds.

And I responded at great length by this argument is bunk. There is a vast difference between a philosophical thought experiment that is nothing but imaginary fantasy based upon logical possibility and the well-established and regularly confirmed assumptions that guide our reasoning and experience in the world. You are comparing apples and oranges, my friend. You still fail to understand the importance of acknowledge differences in DEGREE in such matters.

Chuck O'Connor said...

dguller said, "I think that is far too high a price to pay for its validity, and thus I will happily reject it as a philosophical fairy tale, along with brains-in-a-vat, Plato’s cave, Searle’s Chinese Room, and whatever else is out there. Unless a philosophical thought experiment can be grounded in empirical reality, it is not worth much to me, I’m afraid, and I find it peculiar that you are pitting your entire case upon a piece of philosophical fiction."

Well said.

It is this kind of rigor in atheistic thought that is absent from theism which has helped me realize the theological claims to truth I've been presented with to date are nothing more than wishful thinking. They help the person making the claim modulate their emotions (and could help someone suffering similarly do the same) but have no observable reality and therefore are easily abused for the sake of control. The sad thing is that religion has taken what seems like a fairly efficacious psychological tendency (to imagine "what if" as a motivator for action) and abused it with designs towards hegemony.

It's scary to see the absolute truth I once asserted is really nothing more than a control belief on my part to keep me from admitting life's randomness. I do feel more alive recognizing that my life will be best lived by living it and making "I don't know", in regards to theological questions, the most honestly rational one relative to the observable information available.

Thanks dguller for this argument. Good stuff.

Thanks Rob for engaging him and being an object lesson in what I no longer wish to be.

dguller said...

Chuck:

Absolutely.

My background is in science, and it is all too easy to come up with plausible hypotheses that are supposed to explain what is going on in the world. I mean, the claim that vaccines cause autism is superficially plausible. However, the hypotheses HAVE to be tested to see if the world actually operates according to it. And it turns out that when you LOOK, you find that the superficially plausible hypothesis about vaccines and autisms is just false.

Wittgenstein once wrote: “Don’t think! Look!” He wrote that, because he had come up with an incredibly sophisticated theory of metaphysics and language in his Tractatus, but then came to abandon it, because it failed to connect with the real world in any significant way.

Without that empirical validation, it is nothing but speculation and wishful thinking, and it would be foolish to base one’s actions and decisions upon something so epistemically weak. And that is how I view religious propositions. They are interesting hypotheses, but until they are tested in the world, they are just fantasy to me. It is all fine and good that this fantasy can get very complicated and sophisticated, and possesses a great deal of emotional valence, but so does really good fiction!

RDM said...

Good Day dguller & busterggi:

dguller said:

“Oh, and my response to Eric about this good = fullness of being and evil = deprivation of being is that the whole construct is based upon a faulty metaphor, and is essentially bullshit... Sheesh. What a stretch of a metaphor!”

Not to sound rude, but to call the philosophical ruminations of one of the greatest philosophers in human history, as well as a rigorous philosophical tradition that is still defended, believed and capably argued for, as “essentially bullshit” stems either from extreme ignorance or cowardice or arrogance. I am not sure which you fall under primarily, but I suspect that it is all three to one degree or another. For you had already admitted you did not understand the argument Aquinas makes (1 – See Footnote Below) while showing a level of unjustified arrogance in dismissing it—unjustified because your dismissal stems from ignorance of the subject, not knowledge—and cowardice because you dismiss the very argument you do not understand with simple hand-waving, afraid that it might refute your argument above, which it does. So finally, to the Thomist, this argument does not hold any power and again, the Catholic is safe from its force.


busterggi said:

“Am I the only one who thinks that Aquinas' linguist gymnastics are unconvincing? Really, when did Aquinas become inerrant?”

Aquinas is, of course, not inerrant, but simply claiming this and thinking it is an argument will not do. First, show that you actually understand Aquinas and Thomism more specifically, and then dismiss it with actual argumentation. It is my opinion, and nothing more, that you have done neither and so is the case with many who are reading this discussion. Heck, I am less than a novice in Aquinas and Thomism, so I most certainly admit my own weakness here.


Thank you for the interesting discussion. Take care and may the not-potentially-deceiving God bless you all, if you so desire it.

RDM
Blog: Catholickoans.blogspot.com

1 - http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2010/01/based-on-this-argument-alone-best-any.html: dguller’s comment to Eric at 10:46 pm, 03 Jan 10; Eric’s comment to dguller at 4:48 pm, 04 Jan 10; dguller’s comment to Eric at 5:23 pm, 04 Jan 10; Eric’s comment to dguller at 5:40 pm, 04 Jan 10.

dguller said...

RDM:

>> Not to sound rude, but to call the philosophical ruminations of one of the greatest philosophers in human history, as well as a rigorous philosophical tradition that is still defended, believed and capably argued for, as “essentially bullshit” stems either from extreme ignorance or cowardice or arrogance.

First, in that single sentence you committed the fallacy of authority and the fallacy of ad hominem. Nice.

Second, I assume that you accept the doctrine that goodness = fullness of being and evil = deprivation of being. In your comment, you failed to defend it or address any of my criticisms of it on this thread and on the other thread that you cited. To facilitate your defense, let me ask you some questions that would provide a minimal degree of justification to this concept:

One, why is fullness of being identical to goodness?

Two, how does one measure the degree of being in an entity to determine the degree of goodness in it?

Three, how much being does a substance have to have before it tips over into the “good” category?

Four, how much being does a substance have to be deprived of before it tips over into the “evil” category?

Answer these questions, please, before we can proceed any further. If you cannot provide sufficient answers, then this entire theological idea is just a fancy metaphor, and thus has very little epistemic warrant.

Rob R said...

post 1 of 2

dguller,



It is an imaginary scenario whose only claim to fame is that it is flexible enough to squeak through the gate of mere possibility.

That it is imaginary is question begging. I might as well discard your evil God scenario by noting that it is imaginary. But I put more effort into it than to beg the question. And your evil God scenario also "squeaks through the gate of mere possibility." You might say the same as normal theology which would take John's claim of justification on the basis of mere possibility for granted which is fact very far from the truth.

However, to make the transition from possibility to actuality, solipsism would require the rejection of everything we know about biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, sociology, ethology, human development, neuroscience, history, philosophy, and so on.

yes, yes it would. All that comes into question with solipsism, so to appeal to them is again, question begging.

I think that is far too high a price to pay for its validity,

You don't the possibility of your evil God scenario translates to a high price?

Unless a philosophical thought experiment can be grounded in empirical reality, it is not worth much to me,

It is by empirical observation through which we can concieve of such scenarios. I could also parallel your move here. Unless your evil God scenario is grounded in scripture, it is not worth much time to me.

I’m afraid, and I find it peculiar that you are pitting your entire case upon a piece of philosophical fiction.

I could simply say that you are pitting your case against normal theology on a theological fiction. But that would beg the question as you are doing so here.

Of course, there is an empirical way to prove that solipsism is false. Explain to me where these sensory stimuli are coming from?

There must be something outside myself, right? And if I am generating these experiences by myself, then how am I doing it?

This is not a disproof for solipsism. This is a question. This is a mystery. And mystery is a feature of all explanations thus far, thus mystery does not disprove anything. And the degree of mystery is not a disproof either though you may suggest that explanatory power deserves to be treated as an epistemic indicator towards the truth, and I would agree with that as I can make the same appeal of a good god over an evil god and show that the one picture is better than the other since one has greater explanatory power for the existential concerns.

If you are really going to pit solipsism against everything that human beings have discovered about ourselves and the world, then you will have to flesh it out a little more than just saying, “maybe it’s true!” Well, maybe it’s not!

"maybe it's true" is all that is needed to parallel your claim and say that we can only be agnostics in light of this idea.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 2,


So, if a supernatural scenario “hangs together” in a logical sense of consistency, I suppose, but it fails to be grounded in the empirical world, then that is all that matters?

Now you are begging the question of epistemology. I don't know why classical empirical data should be judged more basic than non-empirical considerations. And I say classical empirical data because the fact is, beyond common universally attainable sensory experience, religious experience IS empirical data. Of course scripture is itself empirical data as well and the empirical sciences such as archeology and sociology do indeed effect our world view. But the empirical data is not more basic than any of these concerns but is instead interpreted in consistency with these other matters. That what holism and coherentism is about. Empirical data is necessary. But it is not the foundation. I reject the building metaphor of a foundation.

I think that’s silly, because it is highly likely that there are multiple supernatural scenarios that contradict one another, and yet are logically consistent.

This criticism has been made against coherentism but coherence is not the only epistemic tool in opertion. Again, there is explanatory power. You can explain everything coherently, but that does not mean that you have explanatory power just as the evil God scenario and solipsism do not explain everything with the best quality. Again, they do not do existentlial concerns justice. Also, when a paradigm has too much ad hoc explanation, even though it is deemed coherent, it becomes less plausible. All of your alternative examples would have too much ad hoc explanation.

Unless what I imagine is grounded in empirical reality, it is NOTHING but imaginary speculation.

If imaginary speculation is bad, then that is another advantage that the traditional theistic picture has over the evil god scenario which has it's origins in your imagination. But of course, imagination is important for the progress of all kinds of knowledge, scientific or theological, and in both cases, concerns for the empircal data (of all kinds), coherence, explanatory power, parsimony, and so on must be followed to test that imagination. I can do that, scientists can do that, theologians can do that and we are all justified on those basis over against the scenarios that suggest radical skepticism.

Yes, but the terms in a dictionary are GROUNDED IN EMPIRICAL REALITY.

Dictionaries may be developed on the basis of observed language usage, but the product that results is no less circular.

The “circle of information” has to touch the real world at some point,

but of course they do just as coherent pictures of the world are indeed about the world.

Chuck O'Connor said...

RDM,

You said, "Not to sound rude, but to call the philosophical ruminations of one of the greatest philosophers in human history, as well as a rigorous philosophical tradition that is still defended, believed and capably argued for, as “essentially bullshit” stems either from extreme ignorance or cowardice or arrogance. I am not sure which you fall under primarily, but I suspect that it is all three to one degree or another. For you had already admitted you did not understand the argument Aquinas makes (1 – See Footnote Below) while showing a level of unjustified arrogance in dismissing it—unjustified because your dismissal stems from ignorance of the subject, not knowledge—and cowardice because you dismiss the very argument you do not understand with simple hand-waving, afraid that it might refute your argument above, which it does. So finally, to the Thomist, this argument does not hold any power and again, the Catholic is safe from its force."

But an appeal to authority accompanied by an ad hominem is more viable? LOL.

dguller said...

Rob:

>> That it is imaginary is question begging. I might as well discard your evil God scenario by noting that it is imaginary. But I put more effort into it than to beg the question.

I never said it was question begging. That is a red herring. What I said was that since solipsism’s alleged validity rests ENTIRELY upon its being merely POSSIBLE, by which I mean “can be imagined”, then it is essentially just a hypothesis in need of further confirmation in order to be considered real and not just possible.

My point is that if you have no way of demonstrating a hypothesis as true or more plausible than the alternatives, then why take it seriously? I can imagine innumerable hypotheses that are impossible to confirm. Would you really take any of them seriously without any way of grounding them in the empirical world?

Furthermore, since this particular hypothesis undercuts ALL human knowledge, including the concepts and experiences that provide content to the hypothesis itself, then it is essentially self-refuting, and thus not to be taken seriously at all.

>> And your evil God scenario also "squeaks through the gate of mere possibility." You might say the same as normal theology which would take John's claim of justification on the basis of mere possibility for granted which is fact very far from the truth.

You are correct that my evil God scenario is essentially a hypothesis that remains in the realm of possibility. But so is yours, and that’s the point. Unless you can provide a set of criteria to justify your particular supernatural scenario above others, then they ALL remain mere hypotheses without any verification. And if they are just hypotheses, and that’s assuming internal consistency, then why put so much weight in them, and use them to guide the most important decisions of one’s life? It is more honest to just be agnostic about these issues, and focus upon areas where we actually HAVE acquired evidentiary confirmation, no?

>> yes, yes it would. All that comes into question with solipsism, so to appeal to them is again, question begging.

No, it is a question of plausibility.

Let’s say that you have two possible scenarios, S1 and S2, neither of which is capable of direct confirmation. However, S2 is consistent with the totality of human knowledge thus far, whereas S1 implies that the totality of human knowledge is false.

Now, you COULD choose S1 over S2, but WHY would you? Why choose a scenario that falsifies everything else that you know? Surely, the probability of S1 being true must be higher than the probability of the sum total of human knowledge being true in order to accept it. Are you really arguing that solipsism has met that burden of proof? That solipsism is more likely to be true than everything else that we know?

dguller said...

>> You don't the possibility of your evil God scenario translates to a high price?

First, this would not help your case. If you are endorsing the principle of rejecting hypotheses if their truth would imply the falsity of our huge body of empirical and scientific knowledge, then you are seriously setting yourself up to reject your religious beliefs, especially if you believe in the Judeo-Christian God as presented in the Bible.

Second, what is the high price? Imagine the evil God maliciously presenting himself as a benevolent God in order to trick human beings into worshipping him for his own twisted amusement. What are the consequences of this? No-one will go to an eternal hell for being tricked. At death, they die, and that’s it. So, again, what is the “high price” here?

>> It is by empirical observation through which we can concieve of such scenarios. I could also parallel your move here. Unless your evil God scenario is grounded in scripture, it is not worth much time to me.

First, why should my evil God scenario be grounded in a book of Hebrew mythology? By what right does your Bible supersede other mythological and religious texts?

Second, you are right that we combine our empirical concepts in novel ways to create these thought experiments, and thus they are, in a sense, grounded in the empirical world. But so what? Fiction can also be said to be grounded in that sense, because it uses words that relate to real entities and activities that are combined in novel ways in the imagination, but the novel combined entities do NOT exist in reality. So, this just supports my contention that such thought experiments are just fiction and fantasy without being verified in the real world.

Third, the main point is that an imagined hypothetical scenario must be demonstrated to hold true in the real world in order to become a real fact and not just an imagined possibility. I think that this is pretty obvious, no?

>> I could simply say that you are pitting your case against normal theology on a theological fiction. But that would beg the question as you are doing so here.

Again, you would have to demonstrate why “normal theology” is more veridical than my “theological fiction”. You are just AVOIDING this challenge, and trying to use philosophical legerdemain to divert attention from this failure on your part.

You have brought in solipsism and other radical sceptical scenarios in order to show that just because something is possible does not imply that it should be taken seriously. Similarly, my Evil Deceiver hypothesis IS merely possible, and therefore not necessarily to be taken seriously. And that is true.

However, the difference is that your radically sceptical arguments would imply undermining ALL human knowledge whereas my sceptical arguments would imply undermining all RELIGIOUS knowledge. BIG DIFFERENCE. In other words, if solipsism is true, then language and communication become impossible, personal identity becomes impossible, and the very distinction between real and unreal dissolves. However, if supernatural scenarios are false, then religion is gone, but EVERYTHING ELSE REMAINS THE SAME, except minus one illusion. Again, difference in DEGREE.

dguller said...

>> This is not a disproof for solipsism. This is a question. This is a mystery. And mystery is a feature of all explanations thus far, thus mystery does not disprove anything. And the degree of mystery is not a disproof either though you may suggest that explanatory power deserves to be treated as an epistemic indicator towards the truth, and I would agree with that as I can make the same appeal of a good god over an evil god and show that the one picture is better than the other since one has greater explanatory power for the existential concerns.

Sigh.

There is a difference between an explanation that explains NOTHING and undercuts the very possibility of explanation itself. That is what solipsism is. It is not as if it explains a great deal, but there remains a residual mystery that we cannot crack at this time. The WHOLE THING is a mystery, because the implications of solipsism make no sense. As I said, where are my experiences coming from? How am I able to remember memories? If you take solipsism off the table, then there are clear explanations of these phenomena, but within solipsism, they make no sense. So, WHY BELIEVE IT? Just because it is possible? That’s insane.

>> “maybe it's true" is all that is needed to parallel your claim and say that we can only be agnostics in light of this idea.

Wow. You really set the bar high for human knowledge.

>> I don't know why classical empirical data should be judged more basic than non-empirical considerations.

I never said anything about it being “more basic”. I personally believe that you require BOTH internal consistency AND empirical verification in order for a hypothesis to become a fact. I said that ONCE you have an internally consistent supernatural hypothesis, then it MUST be tested in the empirical world in order to acquire the status of truth. If that hypothesis CANNOT be tested in our world, and there are other hypotheses that contradict it, then what should we do? How can we decide which is true and which is false? Well?

>> And I say classical empirical data because the fact is, beyond common universally attainable sensory experience, religious experience IS empirical data. Of course scripture is itself empirical data as well and the empirical sciences such as archeology and sociology do indeed effect our world view.

Right. It is ALL empirical data. And?

>> This criticism has been made against coherentism but coherence is not the only epistemic tool in opertion. Again, there is explanatory power.

Right. What is being explained? THE WORLD! You are seeing if the coherent theory FITS the world, and this is exactly what I am talking about. The hypothesis in question must TOUCH the world somehow. You call this contact “explanatory power”. I don’t care what it is called, because the underlying principle is the same. If a coherent hypothesis does not fit the world, then it cannot be accepted as true in any sense of the word.

dguller said...

>> Again, they do not do existentlial concerns justice.

Why does truth have to support our existential concerns? Truth is indifferent to our desires and needs. Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes the truth is too horrible to bear. Should we reject facts just because they make us feel dyspeptic? I suppose that the geocentric model of the galaxy should have been preserved, because it made us feel all special, right? No, it was rejected DESPITE its damage to our existential concerns.

>> Also, when a paradigm has too much ad hoc explanation, even though it is deemed coherent, it becomes less plausible. All of your alternative examples would have too much ad hoc explanation.

That’s pretty funny that you think that Judeo-Christian theology is not just one giant mass of ad hoc explanations!

>> If imaginary speculation is bad, then that is another advantage that the traditional theistic picture has over the evil god scenario which has it's origins in your imagination.

You’re missing the point, again. I am not DEFENDING my Evil Deceiver scenario, because I think it is true. I think it’s manifestly false. This is ONLY a problem for those who believe in a supernatural realm, not for those who disbelieve in such a realm. It is because I think “imaginary speculation” when ungrounded in the empirical world is bad that I can reject all supernatural explanations, including my own! However, since you clearly accept one type of supernatural explanation, then the burden of proof is upon you to justify your version over the others that exist in a non-question begging way. You have not yet done so, I’m afraid.

>> But of course, imagination is important for the progress of all kinds of knowledge, scientific or theological, and in both cases, concerns for the empircal data (of all kinds), coherence, explanatory power, parsimony, and so on must be followed to test that imagination. I can do that, scientists can do that, theologians can do that and we are all justified on those basis over against the scenarios that suggest radical skepticism.

You’ve identified a number of criteria by which to decide between different supernatural scenarios: “empirical data (of all kinds), coherence, explanatory power, parsimony, and so on”. Excellent! Now, apply that criteria to justify the Judeo-Christian supernatural hypothesis over my Evil Deceiver hypothesis.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob,

I want to let you know that I've been reading your arguments and they continue to provide comfort to me that leaving behind Christianity is helpful to my sanity.

I provide this as one data point in what I imagine might be a comprehensive data base you probably are keeping in relation to your apologetics.

Keeping in mind your passion for Christ and the bible I could assume that the great commission is something you hold dear.

Now, I was an Evangelical Christian holding to Biblical inerrancy until I started reading apologists like you defending it in the face of empirical fact. I am not an atheist and actually still attend a church that believes in expository preaching because I like the people and it is important to my wife. I find most of what is shared there in line with your perspective on things and it sounds as defensive and incoherent as you are making it.

The only thing your argument seems to say is that Christianity takes an awful lot defensive rationalization to try and sound coherent. Your arguments seem crazy.

I am pretty certain you will dismiss this as an ad hominem but that is not my point. I only want you to know that your defense of Christianity does not compel this agnostic to consider it as anything more than wishful thinking. Additionally I'd like to reclaim the faith I once had prior to examining apologetics and history so if given a reasonable argument to consider Christianity I would. I find your arguments highly unreasonable.

I was a garden variety Christian and bet I represented the average American in regards to religion and questions of God so, I probably am your target audience for your apologetic but, your arguments only make me grateful that I no longer bother with them.

I share this to let you know that your strategy for evangelism is failing with at least one person you might convince otherwise.

It's only a sample of one but I thought you might like to know where you stand in regards winning one back for the Kingdom.

RDM said...

Good Day dguller,

Thank you for the response and interest in my meagre message.

You said:

“First, in that single sentence you committed the fallacy of authority and the fallacy of ad hominem. Nice.”

Actually, I committed neither fallacy. First, I did not argue from authority for I did not state that Aquinas was right simply because he was Aquinas, but rather that a great philosopher and philosophical tradition deserve a little more respect than being called “bullshit” by an internet atheist. Second, the “ad hominem” fallacy was not committed in a true fashion, for I gave specific reasons for pointing out what I viewed as intellectual, emotional and mental weakness in your consideration of Aquinas. Third, my post was actually about both you and your claims to dismiss Aquinas out of hand while having no knowledgeable reasons for doing so other than personal preference and pre-suppositional adherence to your established worldview, not about defending Aquinas’ arguments in particular, so it is entirely legitimate for me to make this form of argument when that is the precise point of the argument itself. Four, with these points in mind, I would recommend a review of the subtleties of logical fallacies before claiming that others have used them. Finally, I humbly request a minor apology and acknowledgement of error on your part in this case. Thank you.


You continued:

“To facilitate your defense, let me ask you some questions that would provide a minimal degree of justification to this concept...Answer these questions, please, before we can proceed any further. If you cannot provide sufficient answers, then this entire theological idea is just a fancy metaphor, and thus has very little epistemic warrant.”

First, let me say that I will not answer these questions for the following legitimate and precise reasons:

1 – You and everyone else here has access to the internet and there is plenty of information concerning Aquinas and his arguments for free there. In fact, it should only take you a moment of Googling to get all of Aquinas’ works for free.

2 – Why should I, who may make an error or be imprecise, summarize Aquinas when he is readily available to speak for himself?

3 – A blog comment cannot summarize such arguments and this is even more poignant when again, the original material is readily available.

4 – Personally, I am a “wipe the dust off your feet” type of Catholic. Thus, do not expect me to do the work for you. Look it up or not, it is not particularly important to me.

5 – Why is the burden on me to provide this when you made the argument, yet failed to take into account the answer of the largest Christian denomination in the world and its centuries-old philosophical position? You essentially ignored the strongest objection to your argument (unlike Aquinas, I might add, who always strove to answer the strongest objections to his points) and then when it was raised, dismissed it with hand-waving.

And before you carry forth as if this is simply a cowardly withdrawal on my part (which you can most certainly do if you wish, even though this would be false), just remember that your request would be like me asking you on a different blog to summarize Mr. Loftus entire book for why he left Christianity in a blog comment, when I could simply access Mr. Loftus’ book myself and get all his reasons first-hand, in detail and precisely. I think it is clear that the latter course of action is not only more appropriate, but would guarantee a more precise hearing of the argument.

Finally, I must say that I find it interesting that you would wish for me—a man who has already admitted his inadequacy—to answer these questions instead of the original writer? Is it that if you read Aquinas fully and precisely there is a fear that you might be convinced? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Only you know.

Take care and may God bless any that desire it,

RDM
Blog: Catholickoans.blogspot.com

RDM said...

Good Day Chuck,

I hope all is going well. I just wanted to comment on this part of your post:

"It's only a sample of one but I thought you might like to know where you stand in regards winning one back for the Kingdom."

I find it interesting that so many former self-claimed Christians seem to forget the part about "wiping the dust off of one's feet" and walking away. In essence, and I do not mean this to be rude just clear, you are no longer my problem. You rejected the faith and that is great, but the onus is now on you to come back in repentance if you wish, not for me to go out and re-convince you. So I do not think that you should expect that, at least not from this Christian.

Take care and God bless you if you desire it,

RDM
Blog: Catholickoans.blogspot.com

Bronxboy47 said...

Have you guys ever considered arguing from the other person's point of view, bringing the full weight of one's intellect to bear in defense of what one considers to be the opposition's weakest points? I think it would make an interesting exercise, as long as it was conducted sincerely and not merely as parody. It would also be a good indication of just how well we understand the ideas of the opposition. How much of an effect would a brief sojourn in the opposition's camp have on us?

Chuck O'Connor said...

RDM,

I wasn't addressing with my comment. I was addressing Rob but thanks for offering another example of arrogant defensiveness (which seems to be the common mind-set of most defenders of Christianity. I understand it, I once felt the same way.)

Chuck O'Connor said...

RDM,

You unwillingness to answer dguller's questions and your abject sensitivity seems to support for me the idea that religious belief leads to emotional immaturity.

Read your response and see if you can hear the petulant whine in all of it.

Do you deal with people who don't share your perspective while needing to win them to your argument? I mean this in terms of vocation etc . . .

It seems odd that you would default to the old, "I'm taking my ball and go home" defense and do so while appealing to some sort of theological premise ("wipe-the-dust-off-my-feet" Catholic). Just silly.

dguller said...

RDM:

>> First, I did not argue from authority for I did not state that Aquinas was right simply because he was Aquinas, but rather that a great philosopher and philosophical tradition deserve a little more respect than being called “bullshit” by an internet atheist.

You said that Aquinas’ position was “capably argued for”. I took that statement to imply that you endorsed his position. Otherwise, he would not be capably arguing for its truth, right? Can one make a good argument for a false position? Is it still a good argument if it is wrong? Or maybe you meant that he really, really tried hard to the best of his ability, which is irrelevant to the truth of the matter.

And I don’t care if he is considered to be a great philosopher. His greatness stands and falls on the merits of his arguments. Rather than trying to subdue and humble me with respect for good Thomas, why not address the content of his positions and arguments? Until you do so, I stand by my contention that you are hiding behind the skirt of authority.

>> Second, the “ad hominem” fallacy was not committed in a true fashion, for I gave specific reasons for pointing out what I viewed as intellectual, emotional and mental weakness in your consideration of Aquinas.

It was. I can be all of those things, and yet my arguments could be sound. I could be an utterly dishonest moron, and yet my arguments could be sound. You did not address my arguments, but attacked my character instead. That is the essence of the ad hominem fallacy.

>> Third, my post was actually about both you and your claims to dismiss Aquinas out of hand while having no knowledgeable reasons for doing so other than personal preference and pre-suppositional adherence to your established worldview, not about defending Aquinas’ arguments in particular, so it is entirely legitimate for me to make this form of argument when that is the precise point of the argument itself.

So, you really have nothing to add to this debate, except to chide me about my poor manners? Really?! Here’s another fallacy to look up: RED HERRING.

>> Finally, I humbly request a minor apology and acknowledgement of error on your part in this case. Thank you.

I will apologize for the rudeness of my remarks, because they were rather strong, but I will not apologize for correctly identifying your fallacious reasoning and for believing that my position about being and goodness is justified.

>> You and everyone else here has access to the internet and there is plenty of information concerning Aquinas and his arguments for free there. In fact, it should only take you a moment of Googling to get all of Aquinas’ works for free.

Courtier’s fallacy anyone?

>> Why should I, who may make an error or be imprecise, summarize Aquinas when he is readily available to speak for himself?

Yes, why do scholars engage in commentary or exposition of the works of other thinkers at all? That entire industry should just shut down, because the works speak for themselves without any need for additional information. And one would have to read Aquinas in the original Latin, because the translator may have erred in the translation of a particularly important conceptual term. This is just ridiculous.

dguller said...

>> blog comment cannot summarize such arguments and this is even more poignant when again, the original material is readily available.

Are you kidding me? So there is no way that you can justify in the space of a few paragraphs why goodness of X is proportionate to the amount of being in X? Does this require an entire textbook to address? Is it really THAT involved?

>> Personally, I am a “wipe the dust off your feet” type of Catholic. Thus, do not expect me to do the work for you. Look it up or not, it is not particularly important to me.

I can clearly see that given the amount of work you put into this comment that this does not matter to you at all. Clearly.

>> Why is the burden on me to provide this when you made the argument, yet failed to take into account the answer of the largest Christian denomination in the world and its centuries-old philosophical position?

So now I have to read the entire corpus of Catholic theology in order to answer a few questions? Do you give this same advice to Catholics who have theological questions? And the burden to answer my questions is only upon you if you are here to defend the specific doctrine in question. If you reject it, or lack the capacity to defend it, then stop posting and go away.

>> You essentially ignored the strongest objection to your argument (unlike Aquinas, I might add, who always strove to answer the strongest objections to his points) and then when it was raised, dismissed it with hand-waving.

What was the “strongest objection”? I know that it is imposing a burden upon you to justify your position here, but I have no idea what this mighty objection is. I raised by questions to Eric, and he withdrew, and then I raised them to you, and now you are withdrawing, as well. WTF?

>> just remember that your request would be like me asking you on a different blog to summarize Mr. Loftus entire book for why he left Christianity in a blog comment, when I could simply access Mr. Loftus’ book myself and get all his reasons first-hand, in detail and precisely. I think it is clear that the latter course of action is not only more appropriate, but would guarantee a more precise hearing of the argument.

I am not asking you to summarize the entirety of Thomism, but only to defend a single doctrine of it. Your analogy is false, because it would be perfectly appropriate to summarize a single argument in John’s book on a blog comment page and to discuss it.

>> must say that I find it interesting that you would wish for me—a man who has already admitted his inadequacy—to answer these questions instead of the original writer? Is it that if you read Aquinas fully and precisely there is a fear that you might be convinced? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Only you know.

First, I find it interesting that you object to my arguments against this Thomist doctrine when you are clearly lack the knowledge to judge whether it is valid or not.

dguller said...

Second, perhaps Aquinas would convince me, but I doubt it, because he makes a number of scholastic assumptions that would have been valid in his day, but are hopelessly obsolete today. And from what I can recall from studying Aquinas and the scholastics in general in university, they were a muddle of equivocation and confusion, having particular definitions of “goodness”, “being” and “perfection”, and then just running with those definitions into speculative fantasy.

Third, I actually found Aquinas’ discussion of being and goodness at ST I, 5, 1. Here’s his awesome argument:

1. If X is good, then X is desirable.
2. X’s desirability is proportionate to X’s degree of perfection.
3. X’s degree of perfection is proportionate to X’s degree of reality.
4. Therefore, the goodness of X is proportionate X’s degree of reality.

Let me know if you can spot the error in his reasoning.

Hint: It’s in premises (2) and (3), and they have to do with equivocating on the meaning of “perfection”. X can be perfect in one respect, but imperfect in another. It is nonsense to describe X as being “perfect”, period. For example, a hurricane can be perfect in terms of its degree of power and violence, but I doubt that the farmer who lost his home due to the hurricane would see it as perfect. He would clearly see the state of affairs as imperfect to the extreme.

Furthermore, some people desire things because they are imperfect. For example, what about those who look for errors on baseball cards, because an error on a baseball card from 1930 is more valuable than one without the error. So, (2) is just false.

With regards to (3), I cannot see this as being true. I mean, if one considers beautiful women to be thin, then an overweight woman would have more “being” than a thin one, and yet not be considered as perfect as the thin woman. So, (3) is false.

It’s all just gobbledygook.

dguller said...

Rob:

Let’s look at my Evil Deceiver scenario in terms of the criteria that you laid down:

First, empirical data (of all kinds) supports this scenario, because it would explain the inordinate amount of falsehood and deception in the world, because the Evil Deceiver made man in his own image as generally duplicitous. The amount of evil in the world is also accounted for, because his malicious nature would relish in the pain and suffering in the world.

Even the altruism and compassion in the world are accounted for, because he enjoys the mockery of these virtues in a world of suffering and the futility of these efforts when faced with the enormity of evil in the world. It also explains the number of different religions in the world, because he enjoys pitting people against one another, and he enjoys seeing people fighting over his false messages sent to credulous messengers. He also takes pleasure in seeing people place utter certainty in beliefs that are completely unsupported by reason and empirical evidence.

Second, coherence supports this scenario, because there is no internal contradiction in the concept of an all-powerful Evil Deceiver who created the universe and mankind to believe in his essential goodness as part of a grand cosmic prank for his own amusement.

Third, explanatory power supports this scenario, as evidenced by the empirical data described in the first point.

Fourth, parsimony supports this scenario, because there are no angels, demons or devils, and there is no heaven and hell, and thus there are far less supernatural entities in this hypothesis than in the Judeo-Christian hypothesis. There is also no need to believe that God became human in order to offer himself as a blood sacrifice to acquire redemption for mankind from the stain of original sin. All that really happened was a Jew was crucified, but the Evil Deceiver made people believe the divine sacrifice explanation as part of his sick joke.

So, my Evil Deceiver hypothesis meets all your criteria (except the one about helping us feel good about ourselves and our place in the world, which is completely irrelevant to truth claims).

Will you now consider it as a genuine possibility? And if not, then does your hypothesis better meet your criteria? How do you decide whether one hypothesis meets your criteria better than another?

And by the way, if you read my above justification with an air of utter incredulity at the total foolishness of it, then you are having some insight into the atheist experience of listening to theological justifications. They seem as ad hoc and preposterous as my justification above.

Regardless, you laid down the criteria, and I'd like your comments about my use of them above.

Cole said...

I know God isn't deceptive because He's holy. A Holy God doesn't lie. How do I know this? The internal testamony of the Holy Spirit.

Bronxboy47 said...

Cole,

Well, there you have it; it's impossible to penetrate such circular reasoning. A mighty, airtight fortress is your God. Nevertheless, the siege of reason outside your walls continues, and you may be harboring a traitor unawares. I hope you've laid on plenty of food and supplies.

Cole said...

There's no circularity involved. There would be circularity if I claimed I could prove such things. But I don't.

busterggi said...

RMD - when all else fails in philosophy just claim your opponent is too stupid to understand your brilliance, eh?

Sorry but I simply do not find Aquinas' musings about imaginary being to be convincing & no amount of ad hominin attacks or strawmen on your part will make any difference.

Bronxboy47 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bronxboy47 said...

That's nonsense, Cole, and you know it.

Why enter such a statement into the arena of discussion at all if it's not to to be subjected to rigorous scrutiny?

Kilre said...

Cole,

I know God isn't deceptive because He's holy. A Holy God doesn't lie. How do I know this? The internal testamony of the Holy Spirit.

This is internally circular, if you subscribe to the dogma of the 3/1 god, Father, Son, Holy Spirit (if not, please speak up). Hence, it is saying that it itself is holy. How do you know? Because it said so. And so forth.

And even if the Holy Spirit is separate, it is still, by your admission, untestable, which again makes it circular because it is affirming itself.

Bronxboy47 said...

Like the man said, he can't prove it, he just knows it. As a believer I saw only virtue, a virtue required of a believing Christian, in circular reasoning.

Bronxboy47 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bronxboy47 said...

Just remember, Cole, reason is in it for the long haul, and is permanently camped at the edge of the moat surrounding your fortress. Just give a shout when you're ready to lower the drawbridge.

Cole said...

Just remember that reason isn't bias free. It doesn't stand over the evidence without bias and prejudgement. It's not neutral. The evidence can be taken this way or that way depending on one's assumptions.

Kilre said...

Which is why you have other people check your reason at the door for you, against the evidence.

It's a free service, by the way.

Eric said...

"I raised by questions to Eric, and he withdrew, and then I raised them to you, and now you are withdrawing, as well. WTF?"

This is one of the most annoying claims one sees on these sorts of threads. I didn't simply "withdraw": I determined, once I saw that you simply didn't understand the objection I raised (on the last thread you asked me to define basic Thomistic terms anyone familiar with the argument would not need defined), that my time was not best used responding to queries by someone who rejects arguments without first putting in the work needed to understand them.

When I have more time I'll respond to John's very fair criticism of Aquinas's argument. But to give you an idea of (at least one) problem -- very quickly -- god's goodness is not definitional in Aquinas's argument as John suggests ("If God exists, then by definition everything he does is good"); rather, his goodness follows by way of argument from his perfection ("that to which the excellence of no genus is lacking"), and his perfection follows by way of argument from his nature (as pure act), and his nature follows by way of the arguments for god's existence (which themselves are grounded in a rather complex, but I think fundamentally right, metaphysics). So, in other words, this is all a result of rigorous metaphysical argumentation, and cannot be (I think) adequately addressed with an 'ordinary language' argument (as is found in Wittgenstein, Ryle, Strawson, etc.) John at least seems to be presenting here.

As I said, I don't have much time, so I apologize for the brevity of my response. Time to "withdraw" again. ;)

dguller said...

Eric:

>> I didn't simply "withdraw": I determined, once I saw that you simply didn't understand the objection I raised (on the last thread you asked me to define basic Thomistic terms anyone familiar with the argument would not need defined), that my time was not best used responding to queries by someone who rejects arguments without first putting in the work needed to understand them.

Let’s set the record straight.

You are correct that I lack an understanding of many fundamentals of Thomism. As such, my objections to the Thomistic doctrines that you presented were not based upon a deep study of Aquinas, but rather upon my intuitions about their implausibility. I find it very difficult to believe that one can argue from something called “pure act” to “essential goodness”, but I was willing to entertain the possibility that Aquinas had idiosyncratic definitions of these terms in which this implication would be justified, which is why I ASKED you to provide the definitions and “rigorous” arguments in support of this inference.

Rather than elucidate this information that I requested, you simply disappeared for almost 20 days. You say that this is because you refused to waste your time upon someone who rejects arguments without putting in the work to understand them. The problem with that is that I WAS willing to put in the work through a discussion with you about these very issues. It was not me who rejected a dialogue, but YOU.

Now, I’m willing to ignore that and re-engage with you in this discussion, and I hope that you will agree. If you DO agree, then please indulge me with an explanation of what “pure act” is, and how one can infer from “pure act” that a being has “essential goodness”. If you do NOT agree, then I suppose we can discuss this further in about a month from now. :)

dguller said...

Rob:

I think we need a bit of a break to have an overview of where we are at, because I think that we are just talking past one another.

Let me state where I believe you are coming from, and you can feel free to correct me if I have erred in this understanding.

One of your primary objections to my argument is based upon the existence of radical sceptical arguments, especially solipsism. These are examples in which possibilities are conceived that fundamentally challenge our ordinary intuitions. In that sense, they are similar to my argument, because it also envisions possibilities that challenge theistic intuitions.

Furthermore, radical sceptical arguments are thought to be immune to refutation, because they undermine logic, reason and experience altogether. Similarly, my argument appears immune to refutation, because one can always envision a possible supernatural scenario that stands up to criticism.

Now, radical sceptical arguments are invariably rejected, primarily because they undermine all human knowledge, including the knowledge required to support the meaning and truth of the arguments themselves. Therefore, the mere fact that one can envision a series of counter-intuitive possibilities does not imply that they carry any epistemic weight, and thus they do not need to be taken seriously.

The implication is that my argument is supposed to be a part of the family of radical sceptical arguments, and thus its inability to be refuted is not a sign of its truth, but of its incoherence. In other words, since my argument trades upon mere possibility, then it uses the currency of radical scepticism, and can be rejected for the same reasons.

This is clever, but wrongheaded.

There is a huge difference between sceptical arguments that undermine reason, logic, evidence and experience, on the one hand, and those that undermine theism, on the other hand. The former arguments ARE self-refuting and should be rejected, because they undermine their own meaning and truth. The latter arguments are NOT self-refuting, because only undermine supernatural truth, but leave reason, logic, evidence and experience all intact.

I think it’s clear that you are comparing apples and oranges here. In other words, even though both sceptical arguments trade upon presenting possibilities that challenge our deeply held intuitions, the former undermine ALL knowledge whereas the latter only undermine ONE part of knowledge, i.e. supernaturalism. Therefore, one can reject the former as valid arguments while keeping the latter as a valid argument.

So, I think that challenging my argument on the basis of its use of mere possibility is ineffective to refute it. The bottom line is that if you accept the veracity of the supernatural as a possibility, then you must admit that there are a wide variety of hypotheses about what goes on in the supernatural realm. If you believe that one particular supernatural hypothesis is true, whereas the others are false, then the onus is upon you to justify your belief in that one hypothesis.

Furthermore, you must be open to the possibility that your particular hypothesis is an illusion fostered upon your mind by supernatural entities unlike those in which you believe. The burden is upon you to show the impossibility or even implausibility of this hypothetical scenario. And it is insufficient to say that this is analogous to radical sceptical arguments, and thus is self-refuting and to be rejected, because it is not self-refuting at all. It does not refute itself, but only supernatural beliefs, mainly because the limitless possibilities in the supernatural realm make it impossible to justify the choice of one possible supernatural scenario over another.

dguller said...

I think that it is futile to challenge this argument using the strategy that you have chosen.

Your best bet would be to just hunker down and provide a non-question begging justification of your specific supernatural scenario as true and superior to the others. Since my argument basically says that this is impossible for you to accomplish, then if you accomplish it, then my argument is refuted.

So, the ball’s in your court!

Rob R said...

I think we need a bit of a break to have an overview of where we are at, because I think that we are just talking past one another.


i've decided to do approximately one post a day or less (multiple posts counts as one and perhaps per thread) instead of spending way to much time on this when we may be as you said speaking past one another and progress is so slow in spite of so many words.

I appreciate that you took my standards and more or less applied them to your evil god scenario as the represents a more thoughtful engagement of the matter. But I will get back to it some other time (my intention is tomorrow).

Rob R said...

Post 1 of 5



dguller,

Let me suggest that before you start answering what I say that you read it from beginning to finish. Some criticisms you might make may be answered elsewhere. Maybe I'm just projecting because I have this bad habit as well, but it seems to me in the past that you have responded to things I've said without taking into account everything else I said that served as a response to your criticism.


So, my Evil Deceiver hypothesis meets all your criteria (except the one about helping us feel good about ourselves and our place in the world, which is completely irrelevant to truth claims).

This is very key and essential in terms of why I don't think your scenario works. For one, this is, as I have explained before an oversimplification of the existential concerns. One of the principal examples I would use to demonstrate the strength of our existential concerns is not what makes us feel good about ourselves, but what brings us the most pain and suffering. The death of a loved one is an extreme example here, particularly sort that is worse than normal such as the death of a child. There is content, there is a truth claim in the the pain of the parents. That truth claim is that the child had incredible worth and now, she has been ripped away when on a felt level, she ought not have been. It is that worth and value that is precisely the reason for that terrible grief. Is it that they wish the person was of value? Absolutely not. The pain is a reflection of the value, not a wish. It is a given. You are welcome to say that that pain has no truth content and I would suggest to you not to be a grief councillor if you are not willing to assert without reservation the value of the death of the loved one (and not the anemic "well, she was valuable to you"). You can again simply deny the truth claim of the experience and I will simply not believe such an unsupported denial. My claim is not unsupported because it fits the experience itself. It is the essence of the experience.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 5


You could call this an appeal to emotion, and it is, but I suggest that it is uncritical modernism that denies that emotions can serve as indicators of the truth. And the actual fallacy of appeal to emotions is made because emotions can indeed lead us to false beliefs. But this does not prove anything since all of our epistemic faculties can lead us astray. Logic after all is a matter of skill which not everyone possesses in the same degree. All other kinds of evidence must be interpreted and can be interpreted wrongly. Almost nothing stands on it's own and to suggest all appeals to emotion are equivalent is nothing more than the fallacy of generalizing from the specific. It also ignores the two levels at which emotion may be relevant to truth claims. The fallacious appeal to emotion is would be like the parent thinking "I could not stand for my child to be dead so she must be alive." Whether or not the child is alive is not in the content of the emotion. This is fallacious. But here is the non fallacious conclusion: I want my child to be alive because that desire is indicative of her great worth. Even here, it is possible for a fallacious conclusion as one may feel just as strongly about a porsche. And this we also can explained by noting the warping of the human mind by sin. Again, emotions are not in and of themselves enough. The emotional conclusion of the parent for his child need not stand on it's own. It is mutually supportive of divine revelation that we are created in God's image and thus bear incredible value. One notion isn't more foundational than the other but are intertwined and they strengthen each other. But of course, you could reject it all, and to that, i offer no apology as I have rejected that truth must be arrived at only objectively on grounds that just anyone can see without subjective considerations. But I find nothing in your denials to even suggest a hint of a reason to shake my confidence in this. This is an essential part of our humanity. It is non-negotiable for me. If you insist on disagreement, then it is the case that no agreement can be had here.

Reason nor experience makes this necessary but it is reasonable and fits our experience. But because those concerns are not necessary, of course one may choose to go either route. I have made my choice and I will not repent of something so fruitful and beneficial that makes so much sense just because of some dogma about knowledge which is baseless and is self defeating.

But you could say that malignant god delights in deceiving us about our worth only that we might experience extreme suffering. I will return to this after discussing a few other things.

Rob R said...

post 3 of 5



Early in my argument, I suggested that my argument benefits from the strength of parsimony. I am not as confident in this as I was, and I had second thoughts long before your point on the lack of angels and demons which is not the source of doubt of parsimony and still isn't. As I've said, the theistic view has better explanatory power. Explanatory power is the ability to give a quality explanation to all of the data or as much of the data as possible (and of course, mysteries still happen as all views will entail mystery). It is on this basis that I am less confident in the parsimony claim because explanatory power is the quality that is inverse to parsimony. Parsimony isn't that the simplest idea wins, but the simplest one that explains all or the most data is better off. But explanatory power highlights that explanations must be complex enough to handle the actual complexity of the world (or subject matter at hand) and cautions us against overly simplistic explanations. An explanation must strike that balance between parsimony and explanatory power. I would say that your scenario lacks explanatory power, and if it lacks parsimony as well, that has to do with specific areas of the explanation. Explanations do have or entail many parts as yours does and it is conceivable that in some areas, it errs in explanatory power and in other areas, it errs in parsimony. But I think that over all, it lacks more explanatory power than parsimony.

Why does it lack explanatory power that the theistic view has? The theistic view affirms the value and worth that presents itself to us almost every day, and in extreme situations from the positive such as the love of spouse and children to the negative situations as described above. It affirms this and it has resources for an explanation, our creation in the image of God. It is rooted in the personhood of God. There is no basis for the value of humans in the view with the malignant God. Our value is false as we are created for no good purpose but to suffer or to be deceived. And so if our value is false, then where lies the real tragedy and evil that this malignant God dreamt up? This is poorly explained.

There is not a lot of sense in your view that the whole purpose of the world is to be broken. And here, as I suggested in my first post comes a matter of incoherence. How can something be broken if it does not have an original intention of wholeness, if there isn't a way that it ought to be. And yet the way that the world ought to be is the way that it ought not be. The Judeo-Christian view makes more sense, that there is a way that the world ought to be, it is broken against it's intentions, and God is at work to restore the world through his faithful.

if you read my above justification with an air of utter incredulity at the total foolishness of it, then you are having some insight into the atheist experience of listening to theological justifications. They seem as ad hoc and preposterous as my justification above.

Accept that systematic theologies, biblical theologies are not ad hoc when looked at in detail. This is a general claim but it would not withstand scrutiny of getting into the details when so much of theology utilizes so many resources that by definition means that it is not so ad hoc. Of course some ad hoc explanations are not bad, they are a normal part of paradigms that always run into anomilies or difficulties. But the more ad hoc a view is, and if there are alternatives that are not as dependent upon ad hoc explanations, then this is a count against the paradigm in favor of the next. But again, reducing ad hoc explanations is only one of many resources to commend one view over another.

Rob R said...

post 4 of 5


Regardless, you laid down the criteria, and I'd like your comments about my use of them above.

I focussed on an extremely important issue and will skip the rest since this is going to be a long set of posts. If you want me to return to some of the specifics I highlighted, then I might do so though I believe that what I have said goes to the core and trumps some of the issues you raised.

Furthermore, radical sceptical arguments are thought to be immune to refutation, because they undermine logic, reason and experience altogether.

This is not completely true of all such arguments. Solipsism does not necessarily undermine logic. It actually doesn't undermine experience but suggests that experience is all that there is (though you could add logic and a personal mind to that without damage to solipsism). Experience is the only thing that mind directly contacts, thus, by the most rigorous empiricism, it is all that can be reasonably known. There is of course a lot that can be known as experience presents a coherent world and narrative to the perceiver. But once you suggest that these experiences reflect something that is independent of the experiences, you assert, against the most rigorous empiricism, something that cannot be known as it is not what we directly perceive.

To be technically correct, the above is not solipsism. It is an agnosticism of the external world based upon the possibility of solipsism and an emphasis on absolutely grounding knowledge in experience.

The implication is that my argument is supposed to be a part of the family of radical sceptical arguments, and thus its inability to be refuted is not a sign of its truth, but of its incoherence.

I don't intend to imply this at all. solipsism is coherent. it is not logically impossible. So many other sources of radical skepticism are also coherent (but it seems easiest to me to emphasize solipsism).

My response in the last thread was not to deny the coherence of your scenario or arguments of radical skepticism. it was to deny that they destroyed the foundations of normal knowledge since faith in trusting our normal epistemic faculties and intuitions is a reasonable alternative to the agnosticism they imply.

The former arguments ARE self-refuting and should be rejected, because they undermine their own meaning and truth.

it's not clear to me at all that they do that in the slightest.

Rob R said...

pst 5 of 5,



the former undermine ALL knowledge whereas the latter only undermine ONE part of knowledge, i.e. supernaturalism.

They undermine the narrative of external reality that we have come to identify as the object of the vast majority of our knowledge. But different knowledge is entailed in it's place. Less knowledge, but it is not all knowledge that disappears. The ins and outs of the fiction of external reality may be something that can be known. If mind wills that the hand of its dream enters a fire that is also dreamed, then the experience of pain will consistently follow. Such rules may very well be an object of knowledge even though there is no external reality to match this fiction presented to mind. Logical truths may still be known (nothing about them implies the external reality of the solipsistic fiction/dream actually exists and mind does indeed ponder such rules).

The bottom line is that if you accept the veracity of the supernatural as a possibility, then you must admit that there are a wide variety of hypotheses about what goes on in the supernatural realm. If you believe that one particular supernatural hypothesis is true, whereas the others are false, then the onus is upon you to justify your belief in that one hypothesis.

Been there done that, beyond your ad hoc suggestion to other religions that are not so ad hoc. And for the others, there is no way to deal with them except to go into the details, which is well beyond the scope of this discussion.

Furthermore, you must be open to the possibility that your particular hypothesis is an illusion fostered upon your mind by supernatural entities unlike those in which you believe.

I do recognize this possibility. And i am confident that it is false. That is what I have described as faith in our previous discussion. it is a very low level of faith though that is required since your alternative view has so little going for it.

My view by the way is not a hypothesis. It is too complex and is not discretely testable. It is more adequately described as a paradigm. Describing all truth claims as hypotheses is quite an oversimplification.

dguller said...

Rob:

Okay.

If I understand you correctly, your “existential concerns” ultimately come down to the powerful emotional responses we have in various situations that indicate what our fundamental values are. For example, when we experience the emotion of intense grief following the death of a loved one, this indicates to us that we valued the loved one in a deep and fundamental way. I agree with this concept, especially since it is in accordance with the findings of affective neuroscience in which our emotions are guided by underlying valences, i.e. our positive and negative attributions of different persons, places, things and circumstances, which can be understood to be our deeper values, in a certain sense.

Now, the issue in question here is whether our existential concerns are relevant to determining whether a hypothesis about how the world works is true or false. They are certainly relevant when the hypothesis involves determining what we feel and what we value, but it does not follow that they are relevant to determining other empirical phenomena. For example, my emotion of frustration upon hearing water patter against my window, because I believe it is raining, does not imply that it is, in fact, raining. My neighbour just turned on his sprinkler and its water was striking my window, not rain. You recognize this by saying that “emotions are not in and of themselves enough”, and I would agree with you.

Up until now, I think we are on the same page, but your next comments make us part ways.

>> Even here, it is possible for a fallacious conclusion as one may feel just as strongly about a porsche. And this we also can explained by noting the warping of the human mind by sin.

Why does this require the “warping of the human mind by sin”? Why can’t someone fundamentally value possessing a Porsche, not necessarily in and of itself, but because having a Porsche represents power and prestige? Can’t those be existential values? Or do you arbitrarily limit them to only those values that YOU value?

>> The emotional conclusion of the parent for his child need not stand on it's own.

I agree that the emotional response of the parent for their child’s survival does not necessarily indicate the truth of their valuing the child, because they may want the child to survive for a number of reasons, e.g. to continue to raid their trust fund, to continue to feel the pride of being a parent, to win a bet that the child would survive, and so on. The additional factors would include the previous relationship between the parent and child, the context of the relationship, and so on. All of these are important pieces of information in addition to the emotions involved to determine what the parent’s REAL feelings and values are.

>> It is mutually supportive of divine revelation that we are created in God's image and thus bear incredible value. One notion isn't more foundational than the other but are intertwined and they strengthen each other.

First, why do we have to be created in God’s image to have “incredible value”? Do you need such a convoluted justification to support the “incredible value” that you have for your favourite flavour of ice cream? Maybe we value things BECAUSE we have the emotional responses that we do? In other words, without those emotional responses, we could not be said to value anything at all. For example, if I suffered brain damage to my temporal lobes and became unable to experience emotions, then how could anyone know what I valued?

dguller said...

Second, why the need for intrinsic value to be an essential part of the universe? In other words, why isn’t it enough that human beings have intrinsic value, because we have evolved to have empathy and altruism, and are fundamentally interdependent upon one another? Why does the entire universe have to cry when a human being dies? The universe doesn’t give a damn, because it lacks the cognitive and emotional capacities to value anything, intrinsically or extrinsically. When human beings have become extinct, the planet earth will not mourn our loss.

Third, why is it impossible for an Evil Deceiver to have created us with the emotions that we have, and with the values that we have?

>> But of course, you could reject it all, and to that, i offer no apology as I have rejected that truth must be arrived at only objectively on grounds that just anyone can see without subjective considerations.

That is a straw man and red herring. I never said that truth must only be arrived at objectively without any subjectivity whatsoever. I said that when we are trying to understand what is going on in the world, we must be careful to MINIMIZE our subjective biases, distortions and wishful thinking, because these will confound the results of our inquiry. Our emotions would be important sources of information if we are studying human psychology, but they enhance bias when used to study objective natural phenomena.

>> But I find nothing in your denials to even suggest a hint of a reason to shake my confidence in this. This is an essential part of our humanity. It is non-negotiable for me. If you insist on disagreement, then it is the case that no agreement can be had here.

It is false that if X is an “essential part of our humanity”, then X must be indicative of a true state of affairs outside of ourselves. Having a blind spot is an easy counterexample that demonstrates that just because we cannot help but NOT see the blind spot that we are, therefore, truly seeing something in that area of our vision. What we are seeing is filled in by our brain and not objectively there.

If this is a truth that you have decided to find unacceptable, then that is your problem. However, your psychological inhibitions are not relevant to determining the truth about the world, only about your psychology. And since your psychology is not the focus of this discussion, I will have to ignore your inhibitions are irrelevant.

>> The theistic view affirms the value and worth that presents itself to us almost every day, and in extreme situations from the positive such as the love of spouse and children to the negative situations as described above. It affirms this and it has resources for an explanation, our creation in the image of God. It is rooted in the personhood of God.

You are assuming that a theory that explains why we value various things must also ENDORSE these values. That is silly. Bacteria value glucose as fuel, and they move towards glucose as evidence that they value it. Does a theory to explain this phenomena have ENDORSE that glucose is fundamentally valuable? What about to entities that do not require glucose and require another source of fuel? All it has to show is WHY bacteria value glucose. Similarly, a theory of human beings must explain WHY we value our values, but does not have to agree that they are fundamentally valuable, even when there are no human beings in existence.

>> There is no basis for the value of humans in the view with the malignant God. Our value is false as we are created for no good purpose but to suffer or to be deceived.

Of course there is a basis, but it is not one that you happen to like. Now, you may have an emotional aversion to my hypothesis, and that indicates that you have little value of it, but it does not follow from your emotional aversion that it is false, only that your values are inconsistent with it. You would have to demonstrate how your values are indicators of the truth or falsity of my hypothesis.

dguller said...

>> And so if our value is false, then where lies the real tragedy and evil that this malignant God dreamt up? This is poorly explained.

The tragedy is that human beings spend their limited amount of time living according to values that are fundamentally false. It is a tragedy whenever individuals waste limited resources for the sake of illusory and useless ends.

Again, if your only grounds to reject my Evil Deceiver scenario is that it gives you the flutters, then I would say that you have very little justification. You would need a lot more than your emotional uneasiness and dislike to justify rejecting my scenario. The fact of the matter is that I can concoct a variety of possible explanations for whatever concerns you may have. The irony is that you would reject these post hoc revisions in a way that you would never even consider rejecting the post hoc revisions in your own religious beliefs.

>> There is not a lot of sense in your view that the whole purpose of the world is to be broken. And here, as I suggested in my first post comes a matter of incoherence. How can something be broken if it does not have an original intention of wholeness, if there isn't a way that it ought to be. And yet the way that the world ought to be is the way that it ought not be. The Judeo-Christian view makes more sense, that there is a way that the world ought to be, it is broken against it's intentions, and God is at work to restore the world through his faithful.

I never said that “the whole purpose of the world is to be broken”. I said that the Evil Deceiver created the universe with the intention of playing a joke on human beings by presenting himself as a benevolent deity, dangling the hope of heaven and the fear of hell, and watching them struggle throughout their lives in the midst of this illusion.

So far, still no good reason to reject this scenario other than your dyspepsia.

>> Solipsism does not necessarily undermine logic.

My statements about undermining logic, reason and experience were about radical scepticism in general, not solipsism in particular.

>> It actually doesn't undermine experience but suggests that experience is all that there is (though you could add logic and a personal mind to that without damage to solipsism).

It does undermine experience, because it essentially says that all experience is false. This is because all experience is fundamentally intentional, and thus is directed towards something else, including external entities. Solipsism says that when we experience external entities, we are really just experiencing our subjective experience itself. I’m really sorry if you cannot see how this falsifies all our intuitions about our experience.

>> Experience is the only thing that mind directly contacts, thus, by the most rigorous empiricism, it is all that can be reasonably known.

This is not true. Experience is NOT “the only thing the mind directly contacts”. J. L. Austin destroyed his claim decades ago in his “Sense and Sensibilia”. I suggest you look it up.

dguller said...

>> There is of course a lot that can be known as experience presents a coherent world and narrative to the perceiver. But once you suggest that these experiences reflect something that is independent of the experiences, you assert, against the most rigorous empiricism, something that cannot be known as it is not what we directly perceive.

I think that you have fallen into the same mistaken Cartesian line of thinking as many before you. You arbitrarily narrow the definition of “experience” to “private, subjective, and incorrigible qualia”, and then are stuck with solipsism. Why make such a narrow definition at all when it leads to something as ludicrous as solipsism?

Where is this idea coming from? I’ll tell you where it comes from: Descartes’ pondering of subjective illusions. He felt that the experience of an illusory rose was the same as that of a real rose, and thus there must be a common subjective experience of “rose”, which may or may not be related to a real rose.

This has been shown to be a fallacious form of reasoning, because it begs the question about there being a difference between illusions and veridical experiences. In other words, it begins with comparing two DIFFERENT situations, perceiving a real rose and perceiving an illusory rose, and concludes that there is a common experience. However, it follows that there IS no difference between an illusory and real rose, and thus the very example that was used to justify the existence of qualia falls apart.

Furthermore, assuming that solipsism is true, then one must account for WHERE these experiences are coming from, and WHY they appear to direct us to the existence of a causally integrated and coherent external world? A far more persuasive explanation is that our experiences are usually reliable testimony about the existence of entities outside ourselves, and that they are essentially byproducts of the interaction between our brain, our body, and our surrounding environment.

And again, the fact that the only solipsists that I have ever met have been psychotic individuals suffering from derealization who were totally unable to function. That refutes your claim that one can be a solipsist and still continue to function and behave as if one believed that the external world existed. I know, facts are stubborn things.

I mean, seriously, this is all too silly to waste our time on.

>> My response in the last thread was not to deny the coherence of your scenario or arguments of radical skepticism. it was to deny that they destroyed the foundations of normal knowledge since faith in trusting our normal epistemic faculties and intuitions is a reasonable alternative to the agnosticism they imply.

Oh my God. Are we seriously going to have to go through this issue of “faith” again? Let me summarize where we left off: faith in our senses and reason is justified, but faith in the supernatural is not. They are different TYPES of faith.

dguller said...

Rob:

>> I do recognize this possibility. And i am confident that it is false. That is what I have described as faith in our previous discussion. it is a very low level of faith though that is required since your alternative view has so little going for it.

Okay, so you acknowledge that my Evil Deceiver scenario is a “possibility”, which means that you accept that it is logically consistent. Otherwise, it would be impossible. So, if it is possible, then your only grounds of refutation are do show that it is a poor fit for the data that we have about the world we live in. I think that I have addressed your concerns fairly well, and thus I believe that you have not conclusively shown that the Evil Deceiver hypothesis poorly explains the phenomena that we experience in the world. All that you have done is perseverate about the importance of emotions guiding us to our intrinsic values, and some red herrings about the world being broken and the meaning of “tragedy”.

So, what are you left with, especially since you have failed to show either logical inconsistency or empirical falsification of my Evil Deceiver hypothesis? A “very low level” of confidence and faith that it is false. Wow. That’s very overwhelming. (Not even a high level of faith in its falsity?) And not just any faith, but your particular definition of “faith” as “belief without absolute proof”! And what is the ground for this confidence and faith? Ultimately, nothing but your emotions and preferences, or as you call them, “existential concerns”.

Seriously? Is that why you spent so much time previously trying to justify your narrow definition of “faith” and the concept of “properly basic” beliefs? Because at the end of the day that’s ALL YOU HAVE to support your specific supernatural hypothesis and avoid mine and all the 500 others?

If so, then that is just sad.

dguller said...

Hello, Rob?

Bronxboy47 said...

Recharging his batteries, no doubt.

Rob R said...

post 1


dguller, I did not say that faith is only confidence. It is that state where one has confidence in spite of some degree of unprovability. When I speak of a high level and low level of faith, I'm not simply speaking of the degree of confidence. The degree of faith is a reflection of the epistemic risk, the risk that what is believed to be true might be wrong. I'm speaking of the difference between the degree to which something is arguable or provable and that confidence that it is true. I think this is better explained by example. The belief that thinking is taking place requires no faith because it is the only belief that is absolutely provable and undeniable. Then logic and math take a little more faith. After that, some scientific claims take a little more faith that that, and some religious claims take more faith that science. (and as I explained in the last thread, faith as I discuss it here is not the same as faith as discussed in the bible where the greater degree of faith is always a positive. Here, it is not necessarily positive or negative, but if it is too great, then it is negative as it is blind faith which are beliefs held for no reason at all).

That said, it would take a very high level of faith for one to believe that your evil God scenario is true, and inversely, it would take a low level of faith to believe that it is false. I don't need much faith for my confidence in the falsehood of your scenario. There are better alternatives out there even if Christian theism wasn't one.

Okay, so you acknowledge that my Evil Deceiver scenario is a “possibility”, which means that you accept that it is logically consistent.

I don't accept that it is coherent with moral realism (which I described in my last set of posts). I could be wrong about moral realism, but I have every reason to have confidence in moral realism and my reasoning behind it.

For example, when we experience the emotion of intense grief following the death of a loved one, this indicates to us that we valued the loved one in a deep and fundamental way.

And so what best explains this? That the loved one did indeed have value in and of themselves or that the value is nothing more than the result of a trait that had an evolutionary advantage?

Why does this require the “warping of the human mind by sin”? Why can’t someone fundamentally value possessing a Porsche, not necessarily in and of itself, but because having a Porsche represents power and prestige? Can’t those be existential values? Or do you arbitrarily limit them to only those values that YOU value?

you ignored what I said. A porsche does not have the same value as a human baby or person. Someone who values it that much is warped.

All of these are important pieces of information in addition to the emotions involved to determine what the parent’s REAL feelings and values are.

All the factors you spoke of are part of truely warped people. Again, people can be broken to the point that they'd gamble on their child's life. If you don't see the problem with that, I don't claim that I can convince just anyone of anything. I don't think I could help you out here. People have value in and of themselves and even if one takes that for granted without much reflection and decides that this is more consistent with theism, they are far better off with a human epistemology than someone for whom human value and worth is an open question.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 6


Do you need such a convoluted justification to support the “incredible value” that you have for your favourite flavour of ice cream?

I'd say convolution comes when we think that human worth can be compared to the worth of a favorite flavor of ice cream. The grief one has for losing an opportunity to eat icecream cannot compare to the earth shattering loss of a loved one.

For example, if I suffered brain damage to my temporal lobes and became unable to experience emotions, then how could anyone know what I valued?

You could have brain damage that would inhibit your ability to reason at all. That doesn't mean that your reasoning faculties aren't necessary for truth just as the same possibility for emotions doesn't mean that they aren't necessary for some truths.

In other words, why isn’t it enough that human beings have intrinsic value, because we have evolved to have empathy and altruism, and are fundamentally interdependent upon one another?

How we came by this aspect of our humanity doesn't explain whether those beliefs are true or not. At the loss of a loved one, the content of the feeling is that what is lost ought not be lost. Well is this true or not? And what support can materialism give to this?

Why does the entire universe have to cry when a human being dies? The universe doesn’t give a damn, because it lacks the cognitive and emotional capacities to value anything, intrinsically or extrinsically.

True. Very true. A materialistic universe is rather useless here isn't it. Good thing I reject materialism.

When human beings have become extinct, the planet earth will not mourn our loss.

thus our belief that such a thing would be immensily tragic cannot be sustained in a naturalistic view of the world. Such as extinction is a horrific thought and the horror of that thought is true through and through. We make the universe great. Without us, or at least some consciousness, it has no worth and no truth worth knowing. So how real is that worth? I can say it is absolutely real. Can you?

I never said that truth must only be arrived at objectively without any subjectivity whatsoever. I said that when we are trying to understand what is going on in the world, we must be careful to MINIMIZE our subjective biases, distortions and wishful thinking, because these will confound the results of our inquiry.

I have no objective reason to believe that subjective biases need to be reduced as much as possible and that they aren't even necessary for truth.

Our emotions would be important sources of information if we are studying human psychology, but they enhance bias when used to study objective natural phenomena.

Well intrinsic human worth is not an objective natural phenomena now is it? It is apart of our subjective experience.

Rob R said...

post 3 of 6



It is false that if X is an “essential part of our humanity”, then X must be indicative of a true state of affairs outside of ourselves.

Why?

Having a blind spot is an easy counterexample

So you're using one eccentricity of our vision to invalidate epistemic means of valuing in the world? Maybe our vision can't be trusted at all on the basis of one blind spot. So much for empiricism. But as I've already argued, the exceptions don't invalidate our general reliance on our epistemic faculties that we take holistically and intertwined.

If this is a truth that you have decided to find unacceptable, then that is your problem.

It's my advantage to use all our epistemic faculties. it is your problem that you don't, that you think a more robust epistemology is one that treats our humanity as a liability.

However, your psychological inhibitions are not relevant to determining the truth about the world, only about your psychology. And since your psychology is not the focus of this discussion, I will have to ignore your inhibitions are irrelevant.

Whether we can think rationally or not at all is a psychological matter. This is a rather odd argument you are making that invalidates everything we do.

You are assuming that a theory that explains why we value various things must also ENDORSE these values.

That's right. I assume that the more harmonious our epistemic resources are, the more robust and reliable our epistemology is.

Bacteria value glucose as fuel,

Bacteria do not value anything. Bacteria do not have consciousness.

The tragedy is that human beings spend their limited amount of time living according to values that are fundamentally false. It is a tragedy whenever individuals waste limited resources for the sake of illusory and useless ends.

That is a tragedy. I have a means for explaining this tragedy. I don't see that you do. If materialism is true, then we humans only think there is tragedy, but there is no basis for it in the laws of physics.

Rob R said...

post 4 of 6


Again, if your only grounds to reject my Evil Deceiver scenario is that it gives you the flutters, then I would say that you have very little justification.

If you've only had shallow emotions, I geuss you should not be impressed. But extreme emotions are no less self evident than logic itself. it is not enough to think deeply. We must also feel deeply. That is the way we are made to be knowers of reality.

You would need a lot more than your emotional uneasiness and dislike to justify rejecting my scenario.

I didn't base anything upon my dislike for your scenario. I based it upon it's inability to satisfactorially and coherently explain human worth and oughtness that it attested to by that which is a part of what is necessary for our humanity, our emotions. And I have much more, I have the explanatory power needed that commends the epistemic strength of a view.

The fact of the matter is that I can concoct a variety of possible explanations for whatever concerns you may have.

that's right. you can engage in ad hoc reasoning. that is not a strength.

The irony is that you would reject these post hoc revisions in a way that you would never even consider rejecting the post hoc revisions in your own religious beliefs.

right, because they stick closer to revelation, reason, experience, our existential concerns and so on. And they aren't post hoc when they become demonstrable in several different areas. That's the way much of Christian scholarship is.

I never said that “the whole purpose of the world is to be broken”. I said that the Evil Deceiver created the universe with the intention of playing a joke on human beings by presenting himself as a benevolent deity, dangling the hope of heaven and the fear of hell, and watching them struggle throughout their lives in the midst of this illusion

which would be broken from our perspective given our views of the way things ought to be are fundamentally at odds with their intention.

My statements about undermining logic, reason and experience were about radical scepticism in general, not solipsism in particular.

then they are wrong in general since radically skeptical arguments are at odds with normal epistemic reasoning on all sorts of different levels.

It does undermine experience, because it essentially says that all experience is false.

It says it is false to trust that experience leads mind to external reality. But it's not false that mind has experiences.

This is because all experience is fundamentally intentional, and thus is directed towards something else, including external entities.

Including our existential concerns which are about people who are external to ourselves. But if you don't want to trust those, you are engaging in specail pleading to suggest that we can trust the alleged intentioning and directing of our experience to external reality but not our experience of existential concerns.

Rob R said...

5 of 6


This is not true. Experience is NOT “the only thing the mind directly contacts”. J. L. Austin destroyed his claim decades ago in his “Sense and Sensibilia”. I suggest you look it up.

Then you should be able to present his argument here. Otherwise, this is a fallacious appeal to authority that not all philosophers would agree with.

I think that you have fallen into the same mistaken Cartesian line of thinking as many before you. You arbitrarily narrow the definition of “experience” to “private, subjective, and incorrigible qualia”, and then are stuck with solipsism.

I am not stuck with solipsism because I am not an empiricist and I accept that knowledge is not invalidated just because scenarios for radicle skepticism cannot be disproved.

And as to Descarte, it is Humes destruction of the rationalist/empiricist paradigm that I am pushing here. Hume is the father of radicle skepticism in modern times and his basis was empericism in that.

Why make such a narrow definition at all when it leads to something as ludicrous as solipsism?

why be an empiricist since it is unable to rule out solipsism?

This has been shown to be a fallacious form of reasoning, because it begs the question about there being a difference between illusions and veridical experiences.

it doesn't beg the question. It highlights that the question cannot be answered on purely empirical grounds.

However, it follows that there IS no difference between an illusory and real rose, and thus the very example that was used to justify the existence of qualia falls apart.

I don't see how it falls apart.

Furthermore, assuming that solipsism is true, then one must account for WHERE these experiences are coming from, and WHY they appear to direct us to the existence of a causally integrated and coherent external world?

Right. appeal to explanatory power, Just as I do with theism over against your scenario.

Rob R said...

post 6 of 6


And again, the fact that the only solipsists that I have ever met have been psychotic individuals suffering from derealization who were totally unable to function. That refutes your claim that one can be a solipsist and still continue to function and behave as if one believed that the external world existed.

It does not refute that claim in the slightest since if solipsism is true, there are no psychotic people, only characters in the solipsistic narrative. And if the central character who solely recieves the experiences of the solipsistic narrative ever figures out that solipsism is true, he would relize that his experience could be a nightmare of living in a psych ward if he revealed this fact within the narrative.

I mean, seriously, this is all too silly to waste our time on.

you think? just as the evil God scenario is too silly to waste our time on. Just as the idea that it is equivalent to traditional judeo-Christian theism.

Are we seriously going to have to go through this issue of “faith” again? Let me summarize where we left off: faith in our senses and reason is justified, but faith in the supernatural is not. They are different TYPES of faith.

let me summarize. I justified my faith and I continued to do it here. And they aren't different types of faith as I define it, the confidence in something that is unprovable, unprovable because we can concoct scenarios that lead to radicle skepticism. Coherent ones no less. As I said in my first post (which was not to you) in this thread, I never retracted any of that.

dguller said...

Rob:

We agree that there are degrees of faith that we have in our beliefs. I believe that an implication of this is that we should probably try to minimize our beliefs to those that require the minimal degree of faith. I think that you agree, because you state that “blind faith” is “negative”, mainly because there is a maximum degree of faith involved in such beliefs.

>> That said, it would take a very high level of faith for one to believe that your evil God scenario is true, and inversely, it would take a low level of faith to believe that it is false. I don't need much faith for my confidence in the falsehood of your scenario. There are better alternatives out there even if Christian theism wasn't one.

First, I could easily say the same to you: “it would take a very high level of faith for one to believe that your [good] God scenario is true, and inversely, it would take a low level of faith to believe that it is false”. And that would be true. Given the horror in the world, it would take a low level of faith to believe that there is no benevolent and good God involved in the world’s creation, design and sustenance.

Second, you have not addressed WHY you think that my Evil Deceiver scenario has a lower level of probability than your Good God scenario. You raised two issues in your previous comments, and I replied to them.

>> I don't accept that it is coherent with moral realism (which I described in my last set of posts). I could be wrong about moral realism, but I have every reason to have confidence in moral realism and my reasoning behind it.

If you are going to hitch your entire wagon to “moral realism”, then you had better be clear about what you mean by that term.

>> And so what best explains this? That the loved one did indeed have value in and of themselves or that the value is nothing more than the result of a trait that had an evolutionary advantage?

I would say the latter explanation, but I would expand upon it. We have evolved a complex capacity to evaluate various internal and external events as valuable or not, and depending upon the context, the appraisal of X as valuable can generate a variety of thoughts and emotions within us, usually geared towards approaching it in some way. This capacity has had an evolutionary advantage in the sense that it contributed to our ability to interact in complex social groups, and thus facilitated our cultural development.

I do not understand this persistent need to have our values written into the fabric of the universe, i.e. “value in and of themselves”. Why this grandiose narcissism? Why isn’t it good enough that we value things that have brought benefit to our lives, and that we have evolved psychological mechanisms to alert us to what we value? Why does EVERYTHING have to have cosmic significance or else it is utterly insignificant?

>> you ignored what I said. A porsche does not have the same value as a human baby or person. Someone who values it that much is warped.

Not necessarily. A person can value a Porsche for its capacity to signal one’s power and prestige, which one can use to get a high paying job, which one can use to support one’s children, which one values. Values are complicated things and different situations will bring out different values over others.

dguller said...

>> The grief one has for losing an opportunity to eat icecream cannot compare to the earth shattering loss of a loved one.

Again, we know that we value X if we grieve X’s absence, and the degree of grief is proportionate to the degree that we valued X. I think that our values guide our emotions, which alert us to the values that guide them. Just as a bacteria values glucose by virtue of its movement towards glucose in a gradient, so do we value different things as evidenced by the emotional arousal of those things, which moves us to approach them. I see no need to write anything into the cosmos in this matter. If our emotional apparatus was different, then we would value different things. There is nothing inherent in what we value, except in that we invariably are driven by our emotions to approach it.

>> You could have brain damage that would inhibit your ability to reason at all. That doesn't mean that your reasoning faculties aren't necessary for truth just as the same possibility for emotions doesn't mean that they aren't necessary for some truths.

No, you are assuming that facts about the world have the same ontological status as our values. That would require some argumentation to support. Mountains would continue to exist, even when humanity goes extinct, but our values would no longer exist if we were gone. They are different things entirely.

>> How we came by this aspect of our humanity doesn't explain whether those beliefs are true or not. At the loss of a loved one, the content of the feeling is that what is lost ought not be lost. Well is this true or not? And what support can materialism give to this?

I have no idea what you are talking about. What do you mean “whether those beliefs are true or not”?

It is a FACT that human beings are interdependent upon one another. That is not a value. It is also a FACT that we have feelings of empathy and compassion towards one another. That is not a value. A VALUE would be that SINCE we are interdependent upon one another, then we SHOULD use our feelings of empathy and compassion to build loving and supportive relationships with one another, because that would maximize our ability to live in peace. And that value is based upon the fact that using our compassion and empathy DOES lead to loving and supportive relationships with one another, which have a higher chance of building lives of satisfaction than lives of selfishness and callousness.

This is just trivial.

>> True. Very true. A materialistic universe is rather useless here isn't it. Good thing I reject materialism.

You didn’t answer my question. WHY does the universe have to cry for the suffering of human beings? It isn’t enough for you to just say that believing that it does makes you feel good about yourself. Your feelings are irrelevant to the truth of these issues.

>> thus our belief that such a thing would be immensily tragic cannot be sustained in a naturalistic view of the world. Such as extinction is a horrific thought and the horror of that thought is true through and through.

It would be tragic FOR US if we went extinct, because WE value each other. However, the universe is NOT us, and it would require an argument to demonstrate that the universe has the SAME concerns that we do. Good luck with that argument.

dguller said...

>> We make the universe great. Without us, or at least some consciousness, it has no worth and no truth worth knowing. So how real is that worth? I can say it is absolutely real. Can you?

“Worth” and “value” are relative to our psychological appraisal of entities. Without our psychological appraisal, there is no “worth” and “value”. Since the universe cannot be shown to appraise things in such a way, it cannot be said to “value” anything at all. I don’t know what you mean by “absolutely real” worth.

>> I have no objective reason to believe that subjective biases need to be reduced as much as possible and that they aren't even necessary for truth.

Really? You really believe that there is no good reason to minimize our subjective biases when we are trying to discover something true? So, if you are trying to decide if X murdered Y, then you would put the testimony of X’s best friend, who needs X to stay out of jail to keep his job, and who told others that he would lie on X’s behalf, over the testimony of someone who does not know X at all, but witnessed the murder of Y? And why not? Because X’s best friend is BIASED!!! And it is best to minimize bias when trying to uncover the truth, because bias DISTORTS our search for the truth.

>> Well intrinsic human worth is not an objective natural phenomena now is it? It is apart of our subjective experience.

No, it is not, except in the sense that our subjective experiences are objective natural phenomena. It is an objective fact that we have subjective experiences involving valuing different things.

>> So you're using one eccentricity of our vision to invalidate epistemic means of valuing in the world? Maybe our vision can't be trusted at all on the basis of one blind spot. So much for empiricism. But as I've already argued, the exceptions don't invalidate our general reliance on our epistemic faculties that we take holistically and intertwined.

First, you cannot just dismiss my counterexample to the claim that if X is an “essential part of our humanity”, then X must be indicative of a true state of affairs outside of ourselves. Your principle is clearly FALSE if X = our blind spot. QED.

Second, we can trust our vision, but must be cautious, because we have a blind spot that is filled in by our brain and does not actually refer to anything really out there. I am NOT saying that we must therefore reject ALL our vision, but only that your principle is false.

Third, I agree that “the exceptions don't invalidate our general reliance on our epistemic faculties that we take holistically and intertwined”. That has nothing to do with the point I was making, which was that just because our values seem to point to something beyond ourselves does not imply that they really do refer to objective entities out there. You would have to provide an argument for that. And making an analogy between our senses’ experience of external empirical objects and our moral intuition’s experience of external objective values is just ludicrous. You would have to show how the two things are similar. Good luck with that.

dguller said...

>> It's my advantage to use all our epistemic faculties. it is your problem that you don't, that you think a more robust epistemology is one that treats our humanity as a liability.

Our humanity CAN be a liability when it comes to knowing the truth. Or do you believe that our capacity to delude ourselves and convince ourselves of things that are untrue is a STRENGTH?

>> Whether we can think rationally or not at all is a psychological matter. This is a rather odd argument you are making that invalidates everything we do.

Not at all. I am not saying that we are ALWAYS biased and distorted, but only that we have a TENDENCY towards this that we must be CAREFUL about. Similarly, just because we CAN be wrong about some things does not imply that we are wrong about EVERYTHING. I mean, that’s just basic logic.

>> Bacteria do not value anything. Bacteria do not have consciousness.

I am using the term “value” loosely. My point is that ALL living things can be conceived as having “values” in the sense of having underlying programming that guides their behaviour towards what they are programmed to value. It is that movement towards X that implies that X is valuable. Now, our values are much more sophisticated, because we have conscious awareness of our actions and tendencies, and thus can reflect and modify them in a variety of ways. However, the underlying principle remains the same, and is essentially biological and natural.

>> That is a tragedy. I have a means for explaining this tragedy. I don't see that you do. If materialism is true, then we humans only think there is tragedy, but there is no basis for it in the laws of physics.

Again, why does physics have to imply tragedy? X is a tragedy if X causes an emotion of sadness, sympathy and suffering in conscious beings. That’s all there is to it. Physics? Jeez, what narcissism! So, if the universe doesn’t care whether you love your child, then you cannot possibly really love your child? Really??

>> If you've only had shallow emotions, I geuss you should not be impressed. But extreme emotions are no less self evident than logic itself. it is not enough to think deeply. We must also feel deeply. That is the way we are made to be knowers of reality.

Right. I have found that when I really, really want X to be true, then that is when I am least likely to deceive myself in ways that maximize the evidence for X and minimize the evidence against X. You are right that there is no such thing as a confirmation bias or any other cognitive distortion that has been uncovered by psychological studies. And if an objective inquiry finds that the earth revolves around the sun, but my feelings are deeply, deeply hurt, and my existence itself feels threatened, then I can dismiss that inquiry and continue to believe that the earth is the center of the universe. Rrrrrrrright.

>> I didn't base anything upon my dislike for your scenario. I based it upon it's inability to satisfactorially and coherently explain human worth and oughtness that it attested to by that which is a part of what is necessary for our humanity, our emotions.

Ummm, yeah I did. I told you how our emotions are neurobiological byproducts of human evolution, and that they indicate what our deeper values are by virtue of the approaching behaviour that they induce. You complained that this does not explain why the galaxy would weep when I scrape my knee. And I would reply that you have to show me that my explanation must also include an explanation for why the universe cries when I cry. That onus is upon you, not me.

dguller said...

>> And I have much more, I have the explanatory power needed that commends the epistemic strength of a view.

Care to elaborate?

>> that's right. you can engage in ad hoc reasoning. that is not a strength.

You are right. It is NOT a strength, especially when believers imagine what must be going on in God’s mind to justify the horrors that he causes in the world. There’s nothing ad hoc about that! LOL.

>> right, because they stick closer to revelation, reason, experience, our existential concerns and so on. And they aren't post hoc when they become demonstrable in several different areas. That's the way much of Christian scholarship is.

Revelation is not a valid source of knowledge, unless you want to demonstrate why your specific revelation is true while others are false. Also, you know my opinion about our “existential concerns”. They have NO bearing upon the truth of things, but only what we WANT to be true. Unless you are arguing that if we want X to be true, then X is true, then why bring up this red herring?

Reason and experience are another matter altogether. Could you show me how using only reason and experience that you can justify the existence of a good God over and above my Evil Deceiver? Again, that would conclusively refute my argument. So why not just do it?

>> it doesn't beg the question. It highlights that the question cannot be answered on purely empirical grounds.

It DOES beg the question. That was Austin’s point. The solipsist must demonstrate that all we experience is experience itself without any referent outside of experience. In order to do so, the solipsist basically relies upon illusions in which our experiences are of things that are not really there, and thus he concludes that we cannot be experiencing something that is not there, and must be experiencing something, namely, experience itself.

However, if that is true, then there cannot be illusions at all since there is no longer any difference between an experience of a real tree and the illusion of a tree, because they BOTH are just the SAME experience of the experience of a tree. And therefore there is no grounds to make the solipsist argument at all.

Seriously? You can’t see this?

>> Right. appeal to explanatory power, Just as I do with theism over against your scenario.

There is a difference, though. I HAVE an explanation for why my Evil Deceiver can create the same world that we experience. I actually provided it in detail. On the other hand, the solipsist has NO explanation for where these experiences are coming from and why they appear to connect to a real world outside myself. Big difference. Bad analogy, on your part.

dguller said...

>> you think? just as the evil God scenario is too silly to waste our time on. Just as the idea that it is equivalent to traditional judeo-Christian theism.

Sigh.

Instead of just directly confronting my argument by showing how you can prove that your Good God scenario is a non-question begging possibility that follows from the evidence of our reason and empirical experience, you keep perseverating about this radical scepticism nonsense.

Let me spell it out for you AGAIN.

Solipsism undermines ALL our experience, because it says that our experience is basically false. In other words, my experience says that I am really typing on this keyboard to a person named Rob. Solipsism says that my experience is just the experience that I am typing on this keyboard to a person named Rob. The latter completely undermines the former. I do not just experience an experience. I experience things in the real world. There is no good argument to demonstrate that all I experience is subjective experience, because they presuppose a distinction between real and illusory experiences, which are IMPOSSIBLE in solipsism. So, if solipsism is true, then ALL our experience is false. And thus, we are left with incoherence and CHAOS.

My Evil Deceiver scenario just undermines YOUR version of God. My experience and reason, and everything else in the world remains the same.

So, whereas solipsism undermines EVERYTHING, my Evil Deceiver only undermines your religious beliefs.

TOTALLY DIFFERENT, and thus cannot be analogous, except in the most superficial and unconvincing way.

Just be a man, stop dicking around, and directly prove, using reason and experience, why your Good God scenario is true and my Evil Deceiver scenario is false without begging the question. Enough of this stupid sceptical red herrings, because they are not salient to this issue at all.

Come on, Rob. You can do it!

>> let me summarize. I justified my faith and I continued to do it here. And they aren't different types of faith as I define it, the confidence in something that is unprovable, unprovable because we can concoct scenarios that lead to radicle skepticism. Coherent ones no less. As I said in my first post (which was not to you) in this thread, I never retracted any of that

You haven’t justified your faith. You have engaged in extended non sequiters and red herrings about radical scepticism to distract from your inability to demonstrate that your Good God scenarios is more consistent with logic and empirical evidence than my Evil Deceiver scenario. Yes, we can concoct an infinite number of radical scenarios about our everyday experience, but those radical sceptical scenarios would undermine themselves, because they would undermine our logic, experience and capacity to mean anything by our words, and thus are incoherent. My Evil Deceiver scenario is not in this category at all, and you have failed to demonstrate that it is. All you have done is run away from the challenge that started this whole thread.

Rob R said...

I'll just say you win, what ever that means. You found my achilles heal. I write long posts but at this point, I've seriously intended to respond but I just end up procrastinating.

The extent to which you won, you've made substantive comments that deserve a response in your last set of posts. The extent to which you didn't, If we did it all over again, I'd pretty much take the same route as I have. For me, this is a challenge to express myself, to play the semantic game, but conceptually speaking, I haven't moved much at all.

dguller said...

No worries, Rob.

Thanks for the discussion.

But I still think I'm right. ;)

Breckmin said...

"then you must consider that your point number 1 can be countered with this argument."


How we distinguish between the following:

"(1) An all-powerful deity created and guides the universe ultimately towards a good purpose;"

By what objective moral *standard* would we be able to appeal to? - to somehow judge that the Creator (and Owner of the universe)is guiding toward anything BUT a "good" purpose??? His WILL would
trump all moral appeals to arbitrary definitions of good..number one. Two...this fails to identify the good purpose and is empty without it (the glory of eternal LOVE and fellowship with Him).

"and

(2) An all-powerful deity created and guides the universe ultimately towards an evil purpose, but have chosen to maliciously presented himself as benevolent to play a trick on created beings."

Fascinating that you could substitute "a powerful angel who was created and attempts to guide the universe" and the rest of the sentence follows so nicely.

Yes, this point is incongruous..and the reason is - that these points are completely evasive to the REASON for creation and that is so that LOVE or the action of love can exist (clearly there is much more to it). How can you ask to differentiate between the two WITHOUT addressing the "purpose" itself? It is empty philosophy to do this. (Question why). Just change "good purpose" in the first point to "glory of Love" and ask how such "glory of Love" could be an evil purpose? (let alone the fact that you have no standard by which to judge that something the Creator in question is doing could be anything BUT good in His Own universe).


"I mean, since believers are big on creating conceptual space to make their positions logically POSSIBLE, then it is also possible that God is a Cosmic Trickster who takes pleasure in fooling them."

Except that this doesn't address the premises of Christianity itself..NOT that God is omnibenevolent (which is an incorrect word to even apply to God) but that God takes pleasure IN specific things (such as showing mercy, observing faithfulness, observing logical loyalty, observing growth and maturity, observing reconciliation,
observing logical trust (faith),etc). Without addressing the premises of what God takes pleasure in "within the agreed set of assumptions of Christianity which you are entering into when you ask how a Christian distinguishes between the two" the question of a "possible trickster" becomes meaningless and circular! Why? Because you could just as well as all sorts of other meaningless circular possibilities (a creator who is neither good nor bad, a creator who isn't there anymore and how do you distinguish a good creator from a non-existent one?, a creator who was 'good' but changed his mind, a creator who WAS bad and learned and became good...etc etc. all of these are circular and do not deal with the reality of the universe based on evidence).

Breckmin said...
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Breckmin said...

(continued.)

"How could one refuse (2)? Only based upon one's religious beliefs that (1) must be true."

Or the philosophical consistency that the Creator of a system/world sets the standard for what is "good" in the world/system they create. Just like if you created an imaginary world and YOU determined what you "wanted" in it.

If God creates, then He Owns His Universe and sets the STANDARD logically by His very WILL.


"The problem is that one's beliefs that (1) must be true could be part of the cosmic joke in scenario (2)"
Except that it is illogical for an omniscient Creator to play "jokes" on the premises that He knows all outcomes (without a past or a future tense which is imperfect to apply - using natural theology).

Only because you do not address specific purpose (glory of Love) and all of the cosmological principles that make the temporary creation logical do you consider such meaningless possibility (for which we could list other ones).

"and thus there is no real way to differentiate between (1) and (2) for a religious believer."

Clearly by addressing the purpose itself and the logical Nature of a Holy and Righteous God in "His Own universe" which "He created and HE sets the standard for" RATHER than addressing multiple meaningless possibilities that are circular (at the point of possibility).

We often identify "meaningless possibility" as one of the many enemies to the atheist/agnostic.