Author Topic: God Exists  (Read 20654 times)

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #150 on: June 21, 2022, 04:30:06 PM »
In order to make some of the higher-order claims hung upon Aquinas' Five Proofs, Catholic apologists have historically attempted (with varying degrees of intellectual honesty) to derive other properties from necessity, causation, and motion, and even to assume certain traits from what they thought might be required of a being that was the only such being to incorporate all three. It's a whole, um, THANG. I wasn't joking or exaggerating earlier when I compared Catholic apology to Randian utilitarianism from the POV of a philosophy student; they're very, very similar in function and methods of instruction.

I'm not 100% sure why those two are similar (I've studied both a lot) but I should add in that while some Catholics specialize in Aquinas I don't think "apology" as a topic should be equated with scholasticism and with Aquinas in particular.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #151 on: June 22, 2022, 01:52:57 AM »
Can you explain why something that once necessarily existed needs to continue to exist?

Remember how you're defining "necessary." (Remember, we've only granted that "necessary" is a property because we conceded that, at present, reason cannot accept why a thing might exist with no apparent cause, so therefore there must have once existed something that enables other things to exist, even if we don't understand it. And then we're doing Aristotle a favor and allowing a single exception, a thing that once existed no matter what, so that it didn't need something else to help it exist. That's the entirety of the concept as required.)

If something can cease to exist, that means it exists due to causes.

Quote from: Tom
Or, more importantly, consider how you're defining the word "exists." Let's look at this sentence of yours:

Quote from: JoshuaD
As I outlined above, the fact that it existed in the past is not a sufficient explanation for why it exists now...

You didn't outline this. You asserted this.
Why can existence simply not be a persistent property of matter? Why, once something exists, can it not simply continue to exist?

I did outline it. I am not going to write a book on each concept, but I'm glad to go deeper on whatever you'd like. 

The ball's existence cannot be rooted in a property of the ball because the property's existence depends on ball's. A ball cannot have the property of being red unless the ball exists.So what you've setup is a circular cause: in order for the property to exist, the ball must exist. And in order for the ball to exist, the property must exist.

A circular property makes no sense. As I said elsewhere in this thread, if you asked me where I got a book and I said "I copied it from Bob", and then you asked Bob where he got a book and he said "I copied it from Josh", you'd be naturally frustrated that what we're saying doesn't make any sense. One of us would have gotten to get the book from some external thing or generated it ourselves, we can't both have just copied it from one another and somehow caused a book to spontaneously generate.

You're getting lost in the weeds regarding philosophical "existence" when there's no reason whatsoever to resort to metaphysics. Aristotle had to go this route because he literally didn't understand how the universe worked. We don't need to placidly accept his terminology and blue-sky theorizing any more than we need to accept a medical theory of five humors.

I think the philosophy I am describing offers the best and most comprehensive model for our experiences. Any competing philosophy rejects some part of reality in order to try to make reality fit the model or, at best, retreats in a huff of hyper-skepticalism and rejects that we can know much of anything at all (including science).

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author=Tom]
Quote from: JoshuaD
But that's not the only divine property we can know through reason, and it's not the only one I mentioned in my first post. We can also discover the properties of fully actual, non-composite, simple, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient, and most important to your point, singular.
This, by the way, is completely Catholic bull*censored*. You should know better than this.
Heck, even in your second pass at omnipotence, you fell down the same (Catholic) rhetorical trap.. There is no logical argument for "can do anything possible" that derives from "makes things possible."

As outlined in the first post, all things depend on God at every single moment for their being. Action follows being; that is to say, a thing cannot go beyond its nature. If a thing depends on God for its existence, any power it has similarly derives from God. All power of created things is derived from God. In addition, as all created things depend on God for their existence, there is nothing that exists which is outside of the range of his power. 

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #152 on: June 22, 2022, 01:59:35 AM »
Since Joshua was getting concerned about my willingness to lump the argument from necessity in with the other near-identical "everything needs a cause except this one thing" arguments ...

This is not an accurate summary of what was outlined in the first post.

Quote from: First Post
3. The explanation of the existence of any thing is found either:
  a. In an external cause (in which case, the thing's existence is contingent upon that external cause), or
  b. In the nature of the thing itself (in which case, that thing necessarily exists).

Because the universe is intelligible, there is no third alternative. A thing's existence cannot be explained by nothing.


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I should point out that I'm specifically speaking here about the argument from efficient cause and not the argument from necessity. (I much prefer Kant and Hume's takedown of necessity.) I'm not even going to touch the argument from motion with this because I think that's fundamentally flawed due to Aristotle's ignorance of physics; it's not necessary to rebut a Prime Mover concept because a Prime Mover is definitionally unnecessary based on how we now know motion to work.

It should be noted that while I think Aristotle's prime mover is a fine line of reasoning, I have not used it here. The argument for the existence of something which is fully actual is similar to Aristotle's prime mover argument, but it is not the same thing and isn't subject to the objections you've made here.

I've intentionally kept the arguments I'm making narrow to avoid sprawl. If you want to bring in other arguments just to hold them up and then swing your punches, you can do that, but it's a form of filibuster.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2022, 02:08:04 AM by JoshuaD »

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #153 on: June 22, 2022, 02:15:16 AM »
Sorry to cut through your artful philosophical language. But want to see if I can grasp your key concept here. Stuff exists, because stuff doesn't come from nowhere, stuff came from "God." Where did "God" come from or is "God" simply the property of the existence of the universe? Your getting pretty close to the tautology and reduction of the nature of "God" that by "God" you are only asserting the creation and continued existence of the universe.

No apology necessary. It's good to understand things directly and not let unfamiliar language obfuscate the ideas. You missed a few key points in the argument, so let me try to restate it in the same language you used:

1.There are reason for why things happen and why stuff exists.
2. If there were not reasons, then science and philosophy wouldn't work. But they do work.
3. As a matter of logic, either the reasons for stuff is found:
  a. in some other stuff
  b. in the thing itself, that is to say, the thing is self-explaining.
4. Stuff exists. That requires explanation, because stuff isn't self-explaining.
5. The existence of all of the stuff we see can be explained by external causes (as in 3a) but, of course, then those other things all also require explanation.
6. Either there's an infinite chain of causes for existence like that, or it terminates in something that has the property imagined in 3b.
7. An infinite chain of contingent causes doesn't make any sense; I can't copy a textbook infinitely without there being an original textbook that provides the text to be copied.
8. Therefore, there must be at least one thing which is self-explaining, and which provides existence to all of the other stuff we see (either directly or through a chain of things).


JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #154 on: June 22, 2022, 02:27:39 AM »
You know, I just realized I also haven't stated here one of my big gripes about Aquinas' version of "necessity": namely, his insistence that things cease to exist. When you pop a balloon, it doesn't cease to exist any more than melting ice does; it has become something else. When you burn a log, it transforms, but it persists. 

Aquinas believed that something else "necessary" had to exist because in an infinite universe containing a finite number of finite things that all presumably have causes and endings, he felt it unlikely that we would exist at a point where things could be observed to exist unless something else had to exist. But our current model suggests that the universe sprang into existence containing all the matter and energy it has now, and has just been changing the shape of those things for billions of years since. No new Lego is being made; we're just moving bricks around.

1. If you reject that humans are more than their constituent parts, then you still need to provide an accounting for the existence of matter. You seem to agree with modern science that the Universe sprung into existence at some past moment (which means you disagree with centuries of scientists who so vehemently argued that the universe was eternal). Why did that happen?

2. If you assert that humans are nothing more than the matter in their bodies and that that matter operates according to the laws of physics and nothing more, there are numerous problems with this view:
 a. You cannot begin to give any sort of account of consciousness.
 b. You have to reject free will (or redefine it in such a way to reject its essential meaning).
 c. In rejecting free will, you have to reject morality (or, again, redefine it in such a way to reject its essential meaning).

Perhaps b and c are surmountable; while it really does appear that we have free will and morality is real, it is possible that they are simply illusory. However, that's a very high philosophical cost to pay, and your neutered philosophy offers nothing in exchange; it is not more coherent and it is not more comprehensive.

Finally, as I mentioned once before, the idea that physics can provide a model for all of reality, including human consciousness, is laughable claim of dogmatism and faith. Sure, physics is great at modeling skyscrapers and billiard balls, but it can't even model basic chemical reactions -- physics and chemistry are not even unified disciplines, let alone biology and so forth.

The best and most accurate model of reality acknowledges that living things are categorically different than non-living things, and that humans, with our rational minds and wills, are categorically different than the other creatures on earth.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #155 on: June 22, 2022, 02:29:46 AM »
Fenring: Before I respond to you point-by-point, can I ask you why you are taking up the other side of this argument? I know you to be Catholic, which means you must believe the things I am saying to be true. What is your point and motivation?

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #156 on: June 22, 2022, 02:34:54 AM »
But that's not the only divine property we can know through reason, and it's not the only one I mentioned in my first post. We can also discover the properties of fully actual, non-composite, simple, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient, and most important to your point, singular. That is to say, all of these properties are actually just one thing, and that thing is God's existence, which is God's essence.

The problem is that defining each of these terms would require so extensive a treatment that they surely cannot just be thrown into a list that's meant to be self-evident. What is "intelligent"? What is "omnipotent"? What is "perfect"? What is "good", no less "fully good"? And I don't just mean what sort of being do you think would have these, I mean what do the terms refer to in reality - do they refer to anything? Do the definitions require parameters, context, a particular undergirding as backdrop to them? These are really hard questions, and it's hard to agree that whatever causes physics to exist has these attributes unless we know exactly what they mean. This is no trivial definitional quibble; it is an issue of whether we are even properly equipped to frame the question.

They're not self-evident, but we can only cover so much ground at one time in this thread. Tom is still very much stuck on necessary and fully actual.

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
I think it's a fair use of language to call that God. It is a subset of the Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish conception God.

If using that term creates confusion rather than understanding then it might be fair but it's not useful. Surely a main purpose to formulating such debates is to get through to people who initially disagree?

I think it is the least confusing term, so I am using it. I don't think it is wise to keep appending things to the list of attributes and referring to the thing with that list: "that which necessarily exists, is fully actual, is perfectly simple, is eternal, is omnipotent, has intellect, is omniscient, is perfect, and is fully good". God does perfectly fine. No one here is confused by what I mean when I say God. No one I have ever met in having these conversations is confused. And if they are, they can quickly say "Wait, do you mean Jesus?" and I can respond to that in a sentence or two.

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
I really don't care if people have pre-programmed knee-jerk reactions against these ideas. That's for them to deal with. I won't make my words less clear or obfuscate their origin as some sort of sly sales pitch. I learned this stuff from Aristotle and Catholics, and a bit from a Shi'i Muslim friend-+. I won't pretend to cast it into a Buddhist frame. That would be a disservice to the Catholics, to the Buddhists, to the person I'm sharing the ideas with, and to myself.

Well the question is what your objective is. If it's to create ecumenical or cross-disciplinary bridges, then you won't be able to only use your own terms and expect others to just adopt them. What's more, if you see your task as being evangelism, then the priority would be to attract the interest of people who don't share your philosophical language or terms. This would especially be true for those who have a distinct animus against the religious terms, balk at the word "God", and will reject out of hand anything that looks like a backdoor argument toward religion. As an evangelist, that's not just for them to deal with, it's for you to deal with (if you see that as your mission).

I'm no ecumenist and I'm no evangelist. I am trying to talk about ideas that I find compelling. Yes, there is a bit of a language barrier. No, I don't think the ideas or discussion are served by providing the "JoshuaD translation layer" and creating an entirely new vocabulary parallel to the standard vocabulary. I don't mind explaining the ideas in simple language as far as the idea permits, but ultimately, the philosophical concepts need to be understood and the best way to understand them is with the old labels.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2022, 02:37:29 AM by JoshuaD »

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #157 on: June 22, 2022, 10:00:46 AM »
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If something can cease to exist, that means it exists due to causes.
Why? Do you see no distinction between a cause and a LACK of a cause? Are you suggesting, for example, that God could not choose to die? The Big Bang itself, one of the most popular "uncaused causes," is not still ongoing in the classic sense (depending on your theory); things exploded, and we're living in the result. Your uncaused cause could absolutely stop due to an uncaused anti-cause. Again: your uncaused cause is not only an exception but derives its entire conceptual framework from being that exception. Why can't it stop existing, again?

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One of us would have gotten to get the book from some external thing or generated it ourselves...
It's worth noting that circular causation is not necessarily paradoxical from a physics standpoint. But, more importantly, your question is not "who wrote this book" but rather "where did the molecules to create this planet that led to the evolution of this person who then made this ball come from?" The ball is red because it was made with things that express the color red. Those things exist because, since the literal dawn of time, there have been mechanisms in place that generated them. At what point does a "god" need to enable redness? If it's JUST the dawn of time, and He hasn't done anything for us since, why does He still need to be around?

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1. If you reject that humans are more than their constituent parts, then you still need to provide an accounting for the existence of matter....Why did that happen?
Why? Or how? Either way, who knows? Something happened.
Note that this is the EXACT SAME as your answer, except that I'm not trying to prove that the something in question is sapient, eternal, and infinitely good, because I'm not arguing from my conclusion.

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2. If you assert that humans are nothing more than the matter in their bodies and that that matter operates according to the laws of physics and nothing more, there are numerous problems with this view:
 a. You cannot begin to give any sort of account of consciousness.
 b. You have to reject free will (or redefine it in such a way to reject its essential meaning).
 c. In rejecting free will, you have to reject morality (or, again, redefine it in such a way to reject its essential meaning).
Nah. Persistent consciousness could just be a matter of writable biological memory being stored in a way that's more efficient than we've considered before, interacting with multiple inline subroutines. I'm currently intrigued by the recent discovery that our nerve cells appear to act as three-state memristors, but that's just one possibility and not one that I'm married to.

The claim that the "essential meaning" of free will requires that people have the ability to make fully random choices, choices uninfluenced by their biology and their environment, is false on its face. After all, even the most Catholic among us would not suggest that their God does not know what they're going to choose; He is not surprised by anyone's choice. Does this mean that their freedom is an illusion? Or do we agree that "free will" means that the aggregated entity we consider a "person" is able to choose from a number of options, but that this choice is sharply constrained by physical factors and will, given the same inputs and the same circumstances, be expected to generate a predictable result?

So if God knows what you're going to do, is morality fictional? If I know my son well enough to know that, given the choice, he will always take a candy bar put in front of him, is it immoral of me to cast him out of a Garden for doing so? To my mind, morality is a cultural construct that says, "this entity is functioning in a way we are willing to tolerate." A malfunctioning entity -- one who behaves incorrectly -- is considered to be behaving immorally.

Note that this is not a particularly high cost to pay, philosophically -- or, rather, not a uniquely high cost. Because outside of the realm of religious apology, most philosophers have been reckoning with what it means to be "moral" in a universe where our choices are constrained by biology and environment for a long, long time. Heck, once you get rid of the idea of an absolute external moral arbiter who can tell you what is good -- who can, for example, insist that wiping out all but one family on the entire Earth is the morally correct thing to do -- then you open up massive philosophical questions like "is it wrong to oppose your creator based on your limited understanding of the appropriateness of their actions?"

I recognize that any answers that come from this sort of question are going to be harder and less comforting answers than "God did it; this is what God wants; and God is infinitely good and we should do what He wants." It is because some people will only be satisfied with simple, comforting answers that simple theologies are still enormously popular. But "this has to be true because it is what I find most comforting" doesn't even pass Socratic argument.

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The best and most accurate model of reality acknowledges that living things are categorically different than non-living things, and that humans, with our rational minds and wills, are categorically different than the other creatures on earth.
I wholly and completely reject this claim, except insofar as the word "categorically" implies that we're perfectly capable of defining nonsensical categories. (After all, beavers are occasionally fish.)
« Last Edit: June 22, 2022, 10:11:02 AM by Tom »

yossarian22c

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #158 on: June 22, 2022, 10:37:37 AM »
Sorry to cut through your artful philosophical language. But want to see if I can grasp your key concept here. Stuff exists, because stuff doesn't come from nowhere, stuff came from "God." Where did "God" come from or is "God" simply the property of the existence of the universe? Your getting pretty close to the tautology and reduction of the nature of "God" that by "God" you are only asserting the creation and continued existence of the universe.

No apology necessary. It's good to understand things directly and not let unfamiliar language obfuscate the ideas. You missed a few key points in the argument, so let me try to restate it in the same language you used:

1.There are reason for why things happen and why stuff exists.

If stuff didn't exist we wouldn't be around to question its existence or not. The only universe in which we can ask questions is a universe that exists, I don't see the necessity for a God to make such things exist.

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2. If there were not reasons, then science and philosophy wouldn't work. But they do work.

Science requires consistency. We ascribe laws or reasons to that consistency based on our understanding of the processes at the time. Its why our understanding of orbits (gravity) has changed from ancient times to Newton to Einstein. Based on the current open questions in physics its likely to change again, either soon or maybe in another 400 years. But consistency is the key here not reasons. Consistency can be a property of reality that doesn't require a creator, which the more loaded term reasons implies intent.

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3. As a matter of logic, either the reasons for stuff is found:
  a. in some other stuff
  b. in the thing itself, that is to say, the thing is self-explaining.
4. Stuff exists. That requires explanation, because stuff isn't self-explaining.
5. The existence of all of the stuff we see can be explained by external causes (as in 3a) but, of course, then those other things all also require explanation.

Best scientific argument for stuff is the big bang. Somehow there was a lot of matter/anti-matter/energy that was and somehow the matter/anti-matter wasn't quite in symmetry. Matter was greater than anti-matter by about 1 part per billion. Hence a matter universe. Do we know the reason for the big bang, not really. Are we the event horizon of a 4d black hole, maybe. Are we part of some infinite multiverse, possibly. Are we one of many universe bubbles that pops into existence and ours just happened to have the right properties to exist for quite a while. Big bang/God. I see no argument for intelligence there either way something just existed/happened and we're living in the after effects.

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6. Either there's an infinite chain of causes for existence like that, or it terminates in something that has the property imagined in 3b.
7. An infinite chain of contingent causes doesn't make any sense; I can't copy a textbook infinitely without there being an original textbook that provides the text to be copied.
8. Therefore, there must be at least one thing which is self-explaining, and which provides existence to all of the other stuff we see (either directly or through a chain of things).

Still at its root you come back to stuff exists. Why is there a universe instead of complete nothingness and no time or space or God or anything? We'll probably never be able to fully answer that. Saying I don't know why things exist or that things are consistent (post big bang) doesn't mean that there was some intelligent all powerful entity ("God") that somehow had the power and energy to instantly create the entire universe.

If I were to concede (for the sake of a different argument) of such an entity. We can also debate the "goodness" of your God. I see no reason why we think such an entity would care about biological life more than they would care about the supermassive blackhole at the center of galaxies. Most (roughly 2/3rds) of the milky way is hostile to biological life. Too many supernovas nearby, not enough heavy elements, too close to the center of the galaxy. The universe as a whole, counting the space between galaxies is extraordinarily hostile to biological life. At the very best such an entity ("God") thinks of biological life as an afterthought or curiosity to their grand structure of creation. Looking out at the universe and the scarcity of intelligent life, no SETI signals, no signs of multi star civilizations. Biological life absolutely isn't the purpose of creation. Maybe a complete afterthought if anything.

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #159 on: June 22, 2022, 12:33:09 PM »
Fenring: Before I respond to you point-by-point, can I ask you why you are taking up the other side of this argument?

Hm, hm. To me there is only one side to any argument: seeing to its logical fortitude and pointing out flaws. There is no conclusion so good that I'll overlook a bad argument, and no conclusion so bad that I'll ignore its good arguments. To me the great debilitator is the lack of real communication, so establishing that is primary for me over and above hoping someone will agree with my conclusions.

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I know you to be Catholic, which means you must believe the things I am saying to be true. What is your point and motivation?

That's a tricky point, isn't it? I can agree with a conclusion and disagree with a chain of reasoning, correct? And what's even trickier, is if a conclusion is framed within its chain of reasoning then I actually have to disagree with both if one is problematic. That's the issue with language: you could just say God is responsible for everything as an axiom, and I'd say sure. But if you frame it as being because all things need causes then it follows that God is responsible for everthing that's a totally different proposition, and I wouldn't accept it unless it was ironclad, which I don't believe it is. There's a difference between a good argument, and a necessary argument, as I mentioned earlier. It's not dumb to suppose that God (or a god) could have done all this; but it's also not dumb to suppose it could be something else. As long as we're sticking to paper arguments one must not be stuck struggling to prove a conclusion we already believe is true. It is not true that because something is right that we can prove it, and certainly not trivially. Incompleteness theorem already shows that in principle not all true propositions can be proven. Having a belief as a starting point, and trying to work it backward to reach all the necessary premises to reach it, is going to have problems, not the least of which is we are mixing up types of proposition. If I were to say "I believe in God" that is not a proposition in the form of a paper argument, but rather a combination of life experience, moments of revelation, identification of patterns, knowing what stirs people's souls and what does not, and indeed, also science knowledge and pure logic. All of this combined is what I would call "reason", and any derivation of how a belief is reached would have to include all of these types of experience. Paper logic alone is not a lived experience, and is not God, so in terms of, shall we say, fealty, I think we are only required to be on the side of truth insofar as it accords with life itself. A paper argument can be flawed in so many ways, the greatest of which is failure to accord with actual reality and with life. How can we know that the words employed in such an argument really match something in reality, or accord with some real thing and aren't just wordplay? That's what I was getting at earlier, and why resting on such arguments as important proofs is risky. They are interesting, yes; worth takling about, for sure; can teach us how to think, definitely. But imagine how bad it would be to be shackled to a line of reasoning: imagine if one day you realize it's bad reasoning - does that mean your faith is shaken? So the reasoning must work on its own grounds, not because you need it to be true. As it happens I think many of Aquinas' arguments (similar to your OP) are deeply problematic, but that fact is not deeply problematic to me. He was just one thinker. That said I'm not an Aquinas expert, and I only based this off reading around 200 pgs of the Summa, so this is not some final expert conclusion on my part. But I could easily go over any major section and point out serious problems, many of which have to do with the types of analogies the Ancients used to prove conclusions. Just as a tiny example, the Greeks loved to employ opposites in arguments; e.g. light is the opposite of dark, heat is the opposite of cold. But these are physically incorrect ways to understand light and heat, and so the analogies are useless. Heat is not the opposite of cold. In fact it would be hard to find opposites of any kind in nature. Maybe spin direction, maybe electric charge. Even those may not really be opposites if we understood them more deeply. You get the idea.

The trouble Tom has, I think, with Catholic theology and logic, is that it unfortunately ends up being trouble to try to take a broad position and argue against it. For instance if he takes issue with Aquinas, which in fact I do as well, that doesn't really speak to 'Church theology' since that would be like disagreeing with Descartes and saying that 'Western philosophy' is flawed. He's just one guy, who does exist within a context and tradition, but nevertheless he's one guy. The difficulty is that most philosophy in the last 2,000 years in the Western world exists within the Church, and that just means it's a ton of work to sift through all the thinkers involved to see who makes great arguments and who doesn't. I like that you decided to try to make the argument in the OP your own since it's better to understand the moving pieces and construct your own argument, rather than resting on the authority of one thinker.

Sorry to have taken so long to answer a simple question, but you see how weak words are? I can work with people in an arts setting and identify when their eyes light up, when something deep and important is touched through our work; I can see when weight is lifted from people's minds, when meaning fills up something they previously was just an abstraction to them. I can see "whoa!" moments and moments where pieces of life get put together and fit somehow. And it is true as well that for some few people paper arguments can do this do: mathematicians can find revelation in pure reason for sure. So that is also part of it. But even they know that what they've discovered is only a little piece of the puzzle, carving out a tiny corner of the wondrous total. For a paper argument to employ terms like "good" and "intelligent", and indeed, even "fully actual", requires that we really can see what those might be in reality. That's no small task!
« Last Edit: June 22, 2022, 12:36:45 PM by Fenring »

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #160 on: June 22, 2022, 01:20:58 PM »
Since I went on far too long in my last response I'll try to be super-brief this time, and instead mostly quote another source:

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Quote from: JoshuaD
I think it's a fair use of language to call that God. It is a subset of the Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish conception God.

If using that term creates confusion rather than understanding then it might be fair but it's not useful. Surely a main purpose to formulating such debates is to get through to people who initially disagree?

No one here is confused by what I mean when I say God. No one I have ever met in having these conversations is confused. And if they are, they can quickly say "Wait, do you mean Jesus?" and I can respond to that in a sentence or two.

It's strange you should say this, since I personally think much of the lack of understanding between religious people and atheists rests in a miscommunication about what "God" is supposed to mean. Just how many people think Jews and Christians are talking about the Man in the Sky? In fact, just how many Jews and Christians think so too? "I AM THAT AM" is so much to unpack...anyhow, I think there's plenty of room for confusion, especially when what your OP is presenting is not identical with Jesus/God. You do believe they're identical, but the argument does not claim they're identical. That alone is confusing.


Quote from: JoshuaD
I'm no ecumenist and I'm no evangelist. I am trying to talk about ideas that I find compelling.

Here's a link to a page from the Catechism:

https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20071203_nota-evangelizzazione_en.html

Some excerpts:

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2. The term evangelization has a very rich meaning.[4] In the broad sense, it sums up the Church’s entire mission: her whole life consists in accomplishing the traditio Evangelii, the proclamation and handing on of the Gospel, which is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16) and which, in the final essence, is identified with Jesus Christ himself (cf. 1 Cor 1:24).

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8. Evangelization also involves a sincere dialogue that seeks to understand the reasons and feelings of others. Indeed, the heart of another person can only be approached in freedom, in love and in dialogue, in such a manner that the word which is spoken is not simply offered, but also truly witnessed in the hearts of those to whom it is addressed. This requires taking into account the hopes, sufferings and concrete situations of those with whom one is in dialogue.

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Thus one understands the urgency of Christ’s invitation to evangelization and why it is that the mission entrusted by the Lord to the Apostles involves all the baptized.

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In any case, it needs to be remembered that, in transmitting the Gospel, word and witness of life go together.

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IV. Some ecumenical implications

12. From its beginnings, the ecumenical movement has been closely connected with evangelization. Unity, in fact, is the seal of the credibility of missionary activity and so the Second Vatican Council noted with regret that the scandal of division “damages the most sacred cause of preaching”.[43] Jesus himself, on the night before his death, prayed “that they all may be one.. so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).

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Different dimensions of the work of ecumenism can be distinguished: above all, there is listening, as a fundamental condition for any dialogue, then, theological discussion, in which, by seeking to understand the beliefs, traditions and convictions of others, agreement can be found, at times hidden under disagreement. Inseparably united with this is another essential dimension of the ecumenical commitment: witness and proclamation of elements which are not particular traditions or theological subtleties, but which belong rather to the Tradition of the faith itself.

Just food for thought. I'm not accustomed to linking religious sources since I try here to focus on the arguments themselves, but since you asked me a direct question I think it's a propos to at least make a sideline into the meta-argument (inspecting the nature and purpose of the argument itself).

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #161 on: June 22, 2022, 02:23:46 PM »
The claim that the "essential meaning" of free will requires that people have the ability to make fully random choices, choices uninfluenced by their biology and their environment, is false on its face. After all, even the most Catholic among us would not suggest that their God does not know what they're going to choose; He is not surprised by anyone's choice. Does this mean that their freedom is an illusion? Or do we agree that "free will" means that the aggregated entity we consider a "person" is able to choose from a number of options, but that this choice is sharply constrained by physical factors and will, given the same inputs and the same circumstances, be expected to generate a predictable result?

I spent a lot of time reply to Joshua and I don't want to bog the thread down. But lest it appear that I'm only arguing against his position, I'll note that this particular issue is well-worne territory, i.e. how can God know the future unless it's deterministic. You can take my word for it, or maybe we can go down this path if you like, but there isn't really any problem with free will being an actual thing and God knowing what happens. Mainly this is due to God being outside of time, not due to Him being able to 'guess' what we will do next as if He was stuck in chronology as we are. So internal consistency doesn't demand we assert that there is no free will if we want to also assert that God is omniscient. It does, however, require us to be very careful about what we mean by free will. You are certainly right that it must be sharply constrained. The question is whether it is totally constrained; if it is then there is no free will, only an illusionary epiphenomenon. So putting foward free will is an enormous claim, one that cannot be trivially dismissed since defining it is in itself a task and a half.

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #162 on: June 22, 2022, 02:53:13 PM »
*sigh* To be fair, ALL of this is old ground for me, Fenring. I wasn't exaggerating about having studied it extensively in college. I'm merely pointing out that asserting that "free will" is an illusion in a deterministic universe is dependent entirely on what you consider "free," and obviously cannot preclude decisions that are predictable when given perfect information. The idea that determinism invalidates "free will" is a linguistic exercise, not a philosophical one.

To that point, apropos of your assertion: I don't really comprehend what it might mean to not be "totally constrained" in this context. Does it mean that, given exactly the same circumstances, you will not always make the same choice? If you would choose differently, why would you choose differently?

I'm personally fine with dismissing the question of "free will" as trivial when discussing the necessity of god(s) for the same reason that I'm fine with dismissing the question of a singular self: both will and selfhood are at the bare minimum convenient if not wholly necessary fictions. We pretend we are singular entities possessed of singular purpose and driven by our own volition because it is useful for us to believe that in most scenarios. It's almost certainly an evolutionary advantage, and it simplifies a lot of cultural baggage. When someone commits rape or assault, we don't sentence their endocrine system or blood sugars. We will sometimes consider those factors to have clouded their "judgment," but still consider them at best to be ameliorating factors in a decision made by an independent entity -- simply because any conceivable alternative is currently too complex for us to contemplate.

« Last Edit: June 22, 2022, 02:59:33 PM by Tom »

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #163 on: June 22, 2022, 03:12:49 PM »
To that point, apropos of your assertion: I don't really comprehend what it might mean to not be "totally constrained" in this context. Does it mean that, given exactly the same circumstances, you will not always make the same choice? If you would choose differently, why would you choose differently?

It would have to mean that, yes. But the "totally constrained" clause implies that you don't necessarily have a totally open range of options. These can be constrained by physical realities, or by your own prior choices. This latter type especially is what I would focus on. And I don't mean the physical realities of your past choices, but the moral realities of your past choices. Note that if we are nothing but chemicals then these are identical. So a required premise is that there is more to us in some way than our physical bodies. This can include non-local memory, or group consciousness, or whatever you like. Also note that in-the-moment decision is not necessary the only thing on the table. For instance it's conceivable that in a given instant our will is not free, but that when contemplating our future self we can 'wish' (or pray for) our actions to be a certain way, and this can dictate what does or doesn't happen. One take on the Catholic idea of the final judgement, for instance, is a funny situation: you get a 'choice', except that your ability to choose yes is not totally free but rather is governed by your spiritual habits (or lack thereof) leading up to your death. So it may be the case that this 'choice' is in fact an amalgamation of your previous choices; temporally the choice is not co-incident with the action taken. It's just easier to imagine this in the case of the final judgement.

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We pretend we are singular entities possessed of singular purpose and driven by our own volition because it is useful for us to believe that in most scenarios. It's almost certainly an evolutionary advantage, and it simplifies a lot of cultural baggage.

As it happens Catholics do not believe that we are singular entities driven by our own volition, so at least we can cross that off our list :)

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #164 on: June 22, 2022, 03:21:02 PM »
FWIW, I've always been absolutely fine with spiritual claims that are conscious of their unverifiable premises. If you believe that we have unconstrained "free will" because we can make decisions contingent upon the state of a hypothetical "soul," but recognize that the "soul" is itself an unverifiable claim (at least presently), I'm okay with that in the same way that I'm okay with the claim that undergoing transubstantiation turns some wine and a wafer into the literal body of Christ in a very real and absolute way without physically changing it at all. Where I start having difficulties is when people start making follow-up claims based on those claims, without first making sure that everyone else impacted is on board with all the original premises -- or when they argue from their conclusion, saying things like "we must have a soul, because I'm uncomfortable thinking that I don't have unconstrained free will."

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #165 on: June 22, 2022, 03:49:16 PM »
I've always been absolutely fine with spiritual claims that are conscious of their unverifiable premises.

I would add a quibble to this, which is that I do think many of these things can be verified or affirmed on a personal level, but cannot be proven to a third party. We'd have to get into the topic of spiritual discernment and related topics, and how these experiences are more or less non-transferrable to an arbitrary reader or psych study.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #166 on: June 23, 2022, 03:06:28 AM »
Do you see no distinction between a cause and a LACK of a cause? Are you suggesting, for example, that God could not choose to die?

Yes. That is what necessary means. God exists necessarily. God cannot choose to cease to exist. It's a nonsensical sentence. A square cannot have three sides. God cannot cease to exist. God is existence. Existence exists; existence cannot become non-existence.

The Big Bang itself, one of the most popular "uncaused causes," is not still ongoing in the classic sense (depending on your theory); things exploded, and we're living in the result. Your uncaused cause could absolutely stop due to an uncaused anti-cause. Again: your uncaused cause is not only an exception but derives its entire conceptual framework from being that exception. Why can't it stop existing, again?

The big bang wasn't an uncaused cause. The fact that it happened means that there must be reasons for why it happened. God didn't happen; he never started; he isn't in time; he cannot end; he has no parts; he is perfectly simple; he possesses no potential.

You aren't fully understanding the thing I am describing.  This whole post of yours demonstrates that.

It's worth noting that circular causation is not necessarily paradoxical from a physics standpoint. But, more importantly, your question is not "who wrote this book" but rather "where did the molecules to create this planet that led to the evolution of this person who then made this ball come from?" The ball is red because it was made with things that express the color red. Those things exist because, since the literal dawn of time, there have been mechanisms in place that generated them. At what point does a "god" need to enable redness? If it's JUST the dawn of time, and He hasn't done anything for us since, why does He still need to be around?

Something must have caused time to dawn. In addition, all of the things we see have conditioned existences. They exist due to causes. Without a primary cause of existence, right here in this moment, they cannot exist.

A circular fundamental causation of existence or actualization is paradoxical from any point of view, for the reasons I've explained. Two mirrors reflecting back and forth do not create the image of a man.

Quote from: JoshuaD
1. If you reject that humans are more than their constituent parts, then you still need to provide an accounting for the existence of matter....Why did that happen?
Why? Or how? Either way, who knows? Something happened.
Note that this is the EXACT SAME as your answer, except that I'm not trying to prove that the something in question is sapient, eternal, and infinitely good, because I'm not arguing from my conclusion.

Yes, we often cannot know all of the steps of causation, but we can know that there must be a cause (or set of causes) for why matter exists. You agree that it doesn't exist necessarily, because it did not exist at some point. So there must be a cause for its existence, both historically and right here in this time-slice.

Quote from: JoshuaD
2. If you assert that humans are nothing more than the matter in their bodies and that that matter operates according to the laws of physics and nothing more, there are numerous problems with this view:
 a. You cannot begin to give any sort of account of consciousness.
 b. You have to reject free will (or redefine it in such a way to reject its essential meaning).
 c. In rejecting free will, you have to reject morality (or, again, redefine it in such a way to reject its essential meaning).
Nah. Persistent consciousness could just be a matter of writable biological memory being stored in a way that's more efficient than we've considered before, interacting with multiple inline subroutines. I'm currently intrigued by the recent discovery that our nerve cells appear to act as three-state memristors, but that's just one possibility and not one that I'm married to.

This is just made up nonsense that has a shelf-life of 10 years. People accuse theists of arguing for "God of the cracks". But that's what you've got here; materialism of the cracks. You are demonstrating a dogmatic faith in materialism. Although there is no compelling reason to believe that consciousness can be approached by the physical sciences, you state your belief that it can be. That is faith or dogmatism or both.

The claim that the "essential meaning" of free will requires that people have the ability to make fully random choices, choices uninfluenced by their biology and their environment, is false on its face.

Not random. Not strictly caused by the prior moment. Free will, guided by the intellect, but actually free to choose. Not random. Not cause-and-effect. A third thing which is neither of those things. Present in God and given to us by God.

After all, even the most Catholic among us would not suggest that their God does not know what they're going to choose; He is not surprised by anyone's choice. Does this mean that their freedom is an illusion?

God knows what we will choose because he does not exist in time with us. I had free will yesterday and I chose to watch a movie. The fact that I now know what I chose does not change the fact that I chose freely. I truly have free will, and since God is not in time with us, he knows how I will exercise it.

Or do we agree that "free will" means that the aggregated entity we consider a "person" is able to choose from a number of options, but that this choice is sharply constrained by physical factors and will, given the same inputs and the same circumstances, be expected to generate a predictable result?

Free will is not completely free, it is constrained. I am an adult human man. I cannot choose to become a car or a woman or a child. I cannot choose to live forever. I cannot choose to sprout wings and fly. I can choose whether to go lie down or stay on the internet writing this post. And that choice is actually free: it is not dictated by the prior state of the universe, nor is it random. It is free choice. Choice is a fundamental aspect of reality.

So if God knows what you're going to do, is morality fictional?


No. we truly make choices freely and our choices have real consequences in reality. The fact that God knows how the story ends doesn't mean that we're not writing it.

If I know my son well enough to know that, given the choice, he will always take a candy bar put in front of him, is it immoral of me to cast him out of a Garden for doing so?

No you don't. People's wills are not fully fixed while they are alive. I am certain there are circumstances under which your son would not take the candy bar. For example, if he knew doing so would kill you, or kill him, he would choose not to take it, because he comprehends a higher good than getting the candy bar.

To my mind, morality is a cultural construct that says, "this entity is functioning in a way we are willing to tolerate." A malfunctioning entity -- one who behaves incorrectly -- is considered to be behaving immorally.

This is refreshingly honest: you admit that you believe morality is just whatever Tom wants. You don't believe morality is not some appeal to a some principle, it's just power and violence. And you hope to win to get your way.

Note that this is not a particularly high cost to pay, philosophically -- or, rather, not a uniquely high cost. Because outside of the realm of religious apology, most philosophers have been reckoning with what it means to be "moral" in a universe where our choices are constrained by biology and environment for a long, long time. Heck, once you get rid of the idea of an absolute external moral arbiter who can tell you what is good -- who can, for example, insist that wiping out all but one family on the entire Earth is the morally correct thing to do -- then you open up massive philosophical questions like "is it wrong to oppose your creator based on your limited understanding of the appropriateness of their actions?"

The philosophers who are trying to cast morality and will in a determinist or materialist or compatabilist frame are chasing an idiotic idea. They might be really bright individuals, but their ideas are deeply stupid.


I recognize that any answers that come from this sort of question are going to be harder and less comforting answers than "God did it; this is what God wants; and God is infinitely good and we should do what He wants." It is because some people will only be satisfied with simple, comforting answers that simple theologies are still enormously popular. But "this has to be true because it is what I find most comforting" doesn't even pass Socratic argument.

I found Buddhism comfortable. I find Catholicism less comfortable. I am not here because I find the idea of eternal damnation or carrying a cross comforting. I have moved here because its ideas are more compelling.

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The best and most accurate model of reality acknowledges that living things are categorically different than non-living things, and that humans, with our rational minds and wills, are categorically different than the other creatures on earth.
I wholly and completely reject this claim, except insofar as the word "categorically" implies that we're perfectly capable of defining nonsensical categories. (After all, beavers are occasionally fish.)

You can verbally reject it, but you don't actually reject it. You recognize that something categorically worse happened when a woman is raped than when a stone is smashed. You recognize that something categorically worse happened when a cow is slowly cut to pieces than when a tree is slowly cut to pieces.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2022, 03:10:36 AM by JoshuaD »

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #167 on: June 23, 2022, 03:17:47 AM »
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1.There are reason for why things happen and why stuff exists.

If stuff didn't exist we wouldn't be around to question its existence or not. The only universe in which we can ask questions is a universe that exists, I don't see the necessity for a God to make such things exist.

Forget God for a moment. Let's just talk about whether something must necessarily exists. Stuff exists; given the line of reasoning I provided, that means something has to necessarily exist, right?

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2. If there were not reasons, then science and philosophy wouldn't work. But they do work.
Science requires consistency. We ascribe laws or reasons to that consistency based on our understanding of the processes at the time. Its why our understanding of orbits (gravity) has changed from ancient times to Newton to Einstein. Based on the current open questions in physics its likely to change again, either soon or maybe in another 400 years. But consistency is the key here not reasons. Consistency can be a property of reality that doesn't require a creator, which the more loaded term reasons implies intent.

Why do things behave consistently?

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3. As a matter of logic, either the reasons for stuff is found:
  a. in some other stuff
  b. in the thing itself, that is to say, the thing is self-explaining.
4. Stuff exists. That requires explanation, because stuff isn't self-explaining.
5. The existence of all of the stuff we see can be explained by external causes (as in 3a) but, of course, then those other things all also require explanation.

Best scientific argument for stuff is the big bang. Somehow there was a lot of matter/anti-matter/energy that was and somehow the matter/anti-matter wasn't quite in symmetry. Matter was greater than anti-matter by about 1 part per billion. Hence a matter universe. Do we know the reason for the big bang, not really. Are we the event horizon of a 4d black hole, maybe. Are we part of some infinite multiverse, possibly. Are we one of many universe bubbles that pops into existence and ours just happened to have the right properties to exist for quite a while. Big bang/God. I see no argument for intelligence there either way something just existed/happened and we're living in the after effects.

you're missing the forest for the trees. Why did the big bang happen? Whatever caused that, why did that that thing happen? And why did that next thing happen? And so on and so forth. Either you have to say its an infinite chain or you have to say it starts with something that didn't "happen", but just is.

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6. Either there's an infinite chain of causes for existence like that, or it terminates in something that has the property imagined in 3b.
7. An infinite chain of contingent causes doesn't make any sense; I can't copy a textbook infinitely without there being an original textbook that provides the text to be copied.
8. Therefore, there must be at least one thing which is self-explaining, and which provides existence to all of the other stuff we see (either directly or through a chain of things).

Still at its root you come back to stuff exists. Why is there a universe instead of complete nothingness and no time or space or God or anything? We'll probably never be able to fully answer that. Saying I don't know why things exist or that things are consistent (post big bang) doesn't mean that there was some intelligent all powerful entity ("God") that somehow had the power and energy to instantly create the entire universe.

You misunderstand me. I am not saying that we can map the entire chain. I am saying that we can do a meta-analysis of what the chain of causation must look like.

If I were to concede (for the sake of a different argument) of such an entity. We can also debate the "goodness" of your God. I see no reason why we think such an entity would care about biological life more than they would care about the supermassive blackhole at the center of galaxies. Most (roughly 2/3rds) of the milky way is hostile to biological life. Too many supernovas nearby, not enough heavy elements, too close to the center of the galaxy. The universe as a whole, counting the space between galaxies is extraordinarily hostile to biological life. At the very best such an entity ("God") thinks of biological life as an afterthought or curiosity to their grand structure of creation. Looking out at the universe and the scarcity of intelligent life, no SETI signals, no signs of multi star civilizations. Biological life absolutely isn't the purpose of creation. Maybe a complete afterthought if anything.

We could debate that, but if we can't even agree that God is necessary and fully actual, there's no point talking about why I believe he has intellect, will, perfection, or goodness.

The rest of your stuff here has nothing to do with anything. We don't live in the center of the galaxy; we live on earth, and earth is perfectly hospitable to us. The fact that the universe is physically big doesn't change anything about how human nature is special.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #168 on: June 23, 2022, 03:20:13 AM »
Hm, hm. To me there is only one side to any argument: seeing to its logical fortitude and pointing out flaws. There is no conclusion so good that I'll overlook a bad argument, and no conclusion so bad that I'll ignore its good arguments. To me the great debilitator is the lack of real communication, so establishing that is primary for me over and above hoping someone will agree with my conclusions.

In a sentence or two, which part of my first post do you disagree with and why? If there is no disagreement there, jump forward to the post where I have bolded headings for a handful of the divine properties; in a sentence or two, which is the first point you disagree with there and why?


JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #169 on: June 23, 2022, 03:31:15 AM »
FWIW, I've always been absolutely fine with spiritual claims that are conscious of their unverifiable premises. If you believe that we have unconstrained "free will" because we can make decisions contingent upon the state of a hypothetical "soul," but recognize that the "soul" is itself an unverifiable claim (at least presently), I'm okay with that in the same way that I'm okay with the claim that undergoing transubstantiation turns some wine and a wafer into the literal body of Christ in a very real and absolute way without physically changing it at all. Where I start having difficulties is when people start making follow-up claims based on those claims, without first making sure that everyone else impacted is on board with all the original premises -- or when they argue from their conclusion, saying things like "we must have a soul, because I'm uncomfortable thinking that I don't have unconstrained free will."

The existence and immateriality of the soul is knowable through reason.The soul is our essence and that which makes us alive. Life cannot be explained in matter alone because matter is not necessarily alive. Something makes us different than rocks and that thing is the immaterial soul.

I'm okay with that in the same way that I'm okay with the claim that undergoing transubstantiation turns some wine and a wafer into the literal body of Christ in a very real and absolute way without physically changing it at all.

This was a surprising comment. Do you agree that there are true things which are not verifiable through the scientific process?

Where I start having difficulties is when people start making follow-up claims based on those claims, without first making sure that everyone else impacted is on board with all the original premises -- or when they argue from their conclusion, saying things like "we must have a soul, because I'm uncomfortable thinking that I don't have unconstrained free will."

You don't actually have a problem with this in principle. I disagree with a number of your political views which are not rooted in demonstrable beliefs (in fact, I think many of your beliefs are contradicted by demonstration and reason). Despite that, you have no problem using the apparatus of the state to enforce your views on me.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #170 on: June 23, 2022, 03:39:21 AM »
*sigh* To be fair, ALL of this is old ground for me, Fenring. I wasn't exaggerating about having studied it extensively in college. I'm merely pointing out that asserting that "free will" is an illusion in a deterministic universe is dependent entirely on what you consider "free," and obviously cannot preclude decisions that are predictable when given perfect information. The idea that determinism invalidates "free will" is a linguistic exercise, not a philosophical one.

We all studied lots of things in college; that doesn't make our studies comprehensive. You may have studied classical theism in college, but (as I pointed out above) you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the arguments. You can choose to disagree with them all you want and that's fine, but you're not even disagreeing with what is believed by the classical theists; you're disagreeing with a misrepresentation of them.

To that point, apropos of your assertion: I don't really comprehend what it might mean to not be "totally constrained" in this context. Does it mean that, given exactly the same circumstances, you will not always make the same choice? If you would choose differently, why would you choose differently?

Yes, given the exact same circumstances, humans possess the power to choose between alternatives and their choices are not fully predictable. We would choose differently because we have free will, which was given to us by God, who also possesses free will.

I'm personally fine with dismissing the question of "free will" as trivial when discussing the necessity of god(s) for the same reason that I'm fine with dismissing the question of a singular self: both will and selfhood are at the bare minimum convenient if not wholly necessary fictions. We pretend we are singular entities possessed of singular purpose and driven by our own volition because it is useful for us to believe that in most scenarios. It's almost certainly an evolutionary advantage, and it simplifies a lot of cultural baggage. When someone commits rape or assault, we don't sentence their endocrine system or blood sugars. We will sometimes consider those factors to have clouded their "judgment," but still consider them at best to be ameliorating factors in a decision made by an independent entity -- simply because any conceivable alternative is currently too complex for us to contemplate.

It's worth noting that when you want to reject the existence of free will you still talk in a way that assumes it one step back.

In a determinist system, nothing is chosen. The man commits murder because the first moment of time dictates that he must. The prosecutor is over-agressive in his sentencing because the first moment of time dictates it. Nothing is useful because nothing can be done differently; in determinism everything happen exactly as it was dictated from the first moment. No decision is made by an independent entity and no factors actually inform that entity; that entity is dependent on the first moment of time just like the criminal was, and his acts are forced like every action ever has been.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #171 on: June 23, 2022, 03:44:13 AM »
Quote from: JoshuaD
I'm no ecumenist and I'm no evangelist. I am trying to talk about ideas that I find compelling.
Here's a link to a page from the Catechism...

I was tired when I wrote that last bit to you, so I was a bit more cheeky and less to the point than I intended. My main point is that I disagree with your analysis on what is the most effective form of communication. We could talk about that if you wanted, but I don't want to intermix it with the conversation on God. You're kinda jumping around a bunch: telling me how best to express my arguments (which you don't agree with); telling me what Tom thinks; telling Tom what I think; and so on. I'd mostly prefer just to talk about the thing directly: what do you think of the argument I made, and why?

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #172 on: June 23, 2022, 09:59:59 AM »
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The fact that it happened means that there must be reasons for why it happened.
Citation needed.

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You aren't fully understanding the thing I am describing.
No, I am. I am trying to explain to you why the thing you are describing is not the only possibility that fulfills the (very simple) requirement of causing the universe to exist.

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A circular fundamental causation of existence or actualization is paradoxical from any point of view...
This is not, I'm afraid, true. You are accepting this as something axiomatic and proceeding from that premise.

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You are demonstrating a dogmatic faith in materialism. Although there is no compelling reason to believe that consciousness can be approached by the physical sciences, you state your belief that it can be.
I can reproducibly demonstrate that matter and energy exist and behave in predictable ways. Moreover, we have a clear pattern throughout history of looking at things that we once had to relegate to an unknown spirit or supernatural entity and eventually discovering materialistic causes for them. There is, quite frankly, far more reason to believe that we will find materialistic causes for everything in the universe than to assume that we will discover supernatural causes for the deaths of sparrows.

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I truly have free will, and since God is not in time with us, he knows how I will exercise it.
Can you clarify a point of dogma for me? Are you saying that the only reason God knows what will happen is that He exists outside of time? That His omniscience is a consequence of His timelessness, and nothing else?

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I am certain there are circumstances under which your son would not take the candy bar. For example, if he knew doing so would kill you, or kill him, he would choose not to take it, because he comprehends a higher good than getting the candy bar.
I agree; I can absolutely imagine such circumstances. And, again, if I knew all those circumstances and knew my son well enough, his decision would be perfectly predictable.

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This is refreshingly honest: you admit that you believe morality is just whatever Tom wants. You don't believe morality is not some appeal to a some principle, it's just power and violence.
That piece of dribble, by contrast, strikes me as disappointingly dishonest -- to the point that, frankly, I am forced to assume that you were absolutely rubbish at being a Buddhist.

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You recognize that something categorically worse happened when a woman is raped than when a stone is smashed. You recognize that something categorically worse happened when a cow is slowly cut to pieces than when a tree is slowly cut to pieces.
I think sapience is a valuable trait. I do not believe that humans are the only creatures capable of sapience. I also believe, on a personal level, that harm is axiomatically bad, and it is possible from this axiom to conclude that causing someone or something to experience harm is definitionally worse than causing harm which cannot be experienced.

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Something makes us different than rocks and that thing is the immaterial soul.
As long as you're citing this as a matter of faith rather than any sort of logically inevitable conclusion, more power to you. But if you're going to insist that it's logically inevitable, you're stuck down in the apologia gutter with the rest of the crap philosophers.

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Do you agree that there are true things which are not verifiable through the scientific process?
Probably fewer than you do, but sure. One-time events with no downstream effects aren't going to be verifiable, for example.

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given the exact same circumstances, humans possess the power to choose between alternatives and their choices are not fully predictable
Why do you think so?

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It's worth noting that when you want to reject the existence of free will you still talk in a way that assumes it one step back.
*points up to the whole "convenient fiction" bit*
Free will is a convenient narrative. We pretend that we are singular beings with singular decision-making ability, and interact with each other and the world as if this were true. It is absolutely not necessary that it be true, however.

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In a determinist system, nothing is chosen.
You are defining "choice" incorrectly in this scenario. We choose as much as it is possible for anything to choose. As variables change, our choices change. Whether or not we control those variables personally is completely irrelevant; we make choices based on our understanding of those variables, and we pretend that such choices are in fact open. As you point out, I could present my son with a chocolate bar and create a scenario in which his decision to take the bar will, he believes, lead inexorably to my death. I could also raise my son in a way that ensures that he considers my death to be a benefit. These factors will influence his choice, and will do so in predictable ways.

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #173 on: June 23, 2022, 10:28:32 AM »
Quote from: JoshuaD
I'm no ecumenist and I'm no evangelist. I am trying to talk about ideas that I find compelling.
Here's a link to a page from the Catechism...

I was tired when I wrote that last bit to you, so I was a bit more cheeky and less to the point than I intended.

Ok. But what I quoted is a really big deal, even if it's a meta-point. In Acts, the apostles spoke everyone else's language to evangelize, rather than expecting others to learn theirs.

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I'd mostly prefer just to talk about the thing directly: what do you think of the argument I made, and why?

I would say that my primary reaction to the type of syllogism presented in OP can be found in my Dec 15, 2021 post where I initially responded at length. Not wanting to belabor the point or be excessive about it, I've chosen to spend the rest of the threat trying to help avoid miscommunication between posters, since as I think has been amply demonstrated, it's very difficult to actually debate the same points rather than have people talk past each other. The concept of "necessarily exists" (aka fully actual), for instance, seems to be stumping people, and I think there's a reason for that. If you wanted my objection in a sentence, it's that language is a barrier too big to ignore in trying to get at truths. You can't just make a proposition using language and expect that its meaning is self-evident or even coherent. Socrates/Plato showed quite well that "obvious" statements are not obvious at all. I would have reacted differently if the thread topic was something like "a decent argument supporting why there might be a God". That might sound like a weaksauce proposition, but on the other hand presenting a proof (which is fundamentally what your OP is) requires every single clause to be ironclad, entirely understandable on its own terms, and able to support subsequent predicate manipulations. If we're going to start with a claim like “we can see that there are reasons for why things exist” then I think we have to stop the locomotive right away because this is a very loaded claim, required unpacking and proof of its own. I’m not being pedantic; this is a required step in a proof where the claim being made is that the conclusion is necessary. And this is not an attack against brevity: if you did try to unpack that claim alone I believe you would not be able to reach an end to it in any amount of time. This is the key: if you had merely suggested that it would make sense to suppose a God does all this, that would be a very different proposition than saying it’s an unavoidable conclusion. Even a claim like “an infinite regression is nonsensical” seems to me a deeply problematic one. Why is it nonsensical? I can see how it’s undesirable, but that's an aesthetic objection rather than a factual one. I see no self-evident reason why an infinite regress must be discarded out of hand, so in each step of your proof, rather than the subsequent claims resting on an initial axiom, every claim seems to simply be a new axiom, which I have observed is a general issue with this type of proof. I hope you see what I mean by all this, that to act as foundation a line must really be solid. And it’s difficult to make a solid statement - much harder than one expects. An Ancient Greek-style pyramid-argument (or ladder argument), where each line builds a higher tower based on the last line, any time *any* line has the slightest issue the entire ladder doesn’t work. That’s the problem with this type of argument. I’ve seen large book-sized texts that were constructed in a ladder-approach, and in the very first sentence found the initial axiom to be problematic, and then – BOOM, the entire book is invalid based just on that. All subsequent arguments don’t matter if the first fails (or the second, etc).

So the language matters a great deal; not just word choice but the very question of whether your concepts and terms actually point to something real, on a 1-to-1 basis with no foggy or muddy messiness. How do you show a term points to something real? That’s hard enough! Let’s say a person was standing right in front of you, and I was trying to demonstrate to you that my statement “there’s a person near you” was pointing to a reality. I could try a few tactics: I could suggest you touch the person; or I could suggest you talk to the person; or I could suggest you try to pretend they’re not there and walk thought them. And I might have to do other things like explain what “near” means and define measurement.

Or take a syllogism that sounds simple:
-All people who are rained on get wet.
-It is raining on you.
-Therefore you are wet.

Well we actually can’t accept these propositions, can we? Are we actually sure we know what “raining” means? Is that any liquid coming from above? Or just water coming from rainclouds? What if it’s a drizzle where the droplets are far apart from each other? If a person in a drizzle doesn’t happen to have been hit by a droplet yet, does it count as being rained on? And what if the person in question has an umbrella, or a dry suit? And what is wet? Lots of water on you, a bit of water on you? Since we are made mostly of moisture, could it not be argued that even when it’s not raining there is moisture on your skin? Does that not mean that the conclusion might be misleading if you’re ‘wet’ due to causes not outlined in lines 1+2? And so on and so on. The physical realities of the situation can be far more complex than the propositions allow for, therefore this type of syllogism is really a non-starter if you’re making a reality-claim with it. If you’re just using it to explain how to use a predicate calculus then that’s different.

Do you see what I mean?
 

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #174 on: June 23, 2022, 10:32:14 AM »
As a more direct (if facetious) example of what Fenring is talking about:

Why, given the assumptions you've made about the universe, could it not have been farted out by a psychedelic goat existing outside of Time, who then promptly died? This literally meets all the requirements for necessity that have been put forward, provided that one of the properties of the farted-out matter is "exists until caused to not exist."

yossarian22c

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #175 on: June 23, 2022, 10:32:20 AM »
...
If I were to concede (for the sake of a different argument) of such an entity. We can also debate the "goodness" of your God. I see no reason why we think such an entity would care about biological life more than they would care about the supermassive blackhole at the center of galaxies. Most (roughly 2/3rds) of the milky way is hostile to biological life. Too many supernovas nearby, not enough heavy elements, too close to the center of the galaxy. The universe as a whole, counting the space between galaxies is extraordinarily hostile to biological life. At the very best such an entity ("God") thinks of biological life as an afterthought or curiosity to their grand structure of creation. Looking out at the universe and the scarcity of intelligent life, no SETI signals, no signs of multi star civilizations. Biological life absolutely isn't the purpose of creation. Maybe a complete afterthought if anything.

We could debate that, but if we can't even agree that God is necessary and fully actual, there's no point talking about why I believe he has intellect, will, perfection, or goodness.

The rest of your stuff here has nothing to do with anything. We don't live in the center of the galaxy; we live on earth, and earth is perfectly hospitable to us. The fact that the universe is physically big doesn't change anything about how human nature is special.

Human nature and life is special. Is human nature that much more special than other highly intelligent mammals or birds? And if this special nature is a goal of creation, why is so much of the universe absolutely hostile to biological life? Why not other little pockets of humanity scattered throughout the cosmos? Why not a Mars that is twice as massive that kept a magnetic field and atmosphere that is hospitable to biological life? Why not a Venus that started with a thinner atmosphere that could be cool enough to support life? This stuff is relevant. If your argument is that an all powerful deity created the universe with the purpose of the specialty of human nature in mind. They did a lot of creating for one tiny pocket of humanity. Looking at the universe as a giant experiment, grand design, whatever you wish to call it, biological life is absolutely an afterthought in such a design. If you wanted better conditions for life, you would subtlety tweak the laws of physics so that red dwarf stars that burn for trillions of years would be more magnetically stable so they wouldn't occasionally irradiate everything around them. All of this is relevant if you want to look out at the vastness of the cosmos and claim there is a creator who thinks biological life is special. Even within the vastness of our own solar system biological life seems very rare. With very minor tweaks in the formation of our solar system there could be 3 habitable planets. Venus is at the very close end of a possible habitable zone and Mars is on the other side. Small tweaks the right aspects of their mass, core, atmosphere and composition could make both conducive to life.

I'll may get back to the other stuff later. But I think we're going to just talk in circles. I concede stuff is. At that level of meta physics you need to start asking what time is. There are explanations of GR that remove time (see Godel). So maybe there is no before, no after. That before/after and time are just human's imperfect perception of reality. Things always were and always will be. Either way: the universe just was or "god" just was. I don't find the latter any logical than the former.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #176 on: June 27, 2022, 02:49:58 AM »
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Human nature and life is special. Is human nature that much more special than other highly intelligent mammals or birds?

Yes. It is much worse to kill your neighbor than it is to kill your neighbor's dog. Human's rational minds makes us more special and valuable than animals. Rationality isn't necessarily exclusive to humans, although it appears that way on earth.

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And if this special nature is a goal of creation, why is so much of the universe absolutely hostile to biological life?

The earth is pretty comfy. We live here, not in space.

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Why not a Mars that is twice as massive that kept a magnetic field and atmosphere that is hospitable to biological life? Why not a Venus that started with a thinner atmosphere that could be cool enough to support life? This stuff is relevant. If your argument is that an all powerful deity created the universe with the purpose of the specialty of human nature in mind. They did a lot of creating for one tiny pocket of humanity.

I think you imagine it was work for God to create the cosmos; that it would have been less labor to build something less large. That's not the case.

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Looking at the universe as a giant experiment, grand design, whatever you wish to call it, biological life is absolutely an afterthought in such a design.

It doesn't appear that way to me at all.

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If you wanted better conditions for life, you would subtlety tweak the laws of physics so that red dwarf stars that burn for trillions of years would be more magnetically stable so they wouldn't occasionally irradiate everything around them. All of this is relevant if you want to look out at the vastness of the cosmos and claim there is a creator who thinks biological life is special. Even within the vastness of our own solar system biological life seems very rare. With very minor tweaks in the formation of our solar system there could be 3 habitable planets. Venus is at the very close end of a possible habitable zone and Mars is on the other side. Small tweaks the right aspects of their mass, core, atmosphere and composition could make both conducive to life.

Yeah, and the earth could be an infinite plane. Or we could all have 10 higher IQ points. Or we could breath underwater. Or cheetahs could run 10 MPH faster.

It is the case that God made limited creatures that are less perfect than him. That is fitting and isn't an argument against his existence.

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I'll may get back to the other stuff later. But I think we're going to just talk in circles. I concede stuff is. At that level of meta physics you need to start asking what time is. There are explanations of GR that remove time (see Godel). So maybe there is no before, no after. That before/after and time are just human's imperfect perception of reality. Things always were and always will be. Either way: the universe just was or "god" just was. I don't find the latter any logical than the former.

None of the theories that remove time from physical equations have made much headway, and none of them can account for our subjective experience of moving through time.

Given our knowledge of the big bang, it seems much more scientific and reasonable to believe the universe had a beginning. In addition, there are real problems with positing that something which is complex has always existed; when two things are put together the question naturally is begged: why are those things put together? God is perfectly simple; his essence is his existence; so his existence doesn't beg this question.


JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #177 on: June 27, 2022, 03:12:34 AM »
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The fact that it happened means that there must be reasons for why it happened.
Citation needed.

We're starting to loop and I don't have any sense that you've fully comprehended the arguments I've presented. The citation here is the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which I've named and defended previously in the thread.

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You aren't fully understanding the thing I am describing.
No, I am. I am trying to explain to you why the thing you are describing is not the only possibility that fulfills the (very simple) requirement of causing the universe to exist.

You are missing one of the main thrusts of these arguments: I am not just talking about an historical cause for the existence of the universe. I am talking about the cause for existence right here in this moment. I have presented arguments why "it existed previously" is not a sufficient explanation for its existence now. You haven't responded substantively to this point, to the argument from necessity, to the argument from potential, or to many of the other point's I've made.  (Note: blustering scoffs do not constitute a response).

Most importantly, the responses you have provided continue to demonstrate a misunderstanding of the arguments I'm presenting.

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A circular fundamental causation of existence or actualization is paradoxical from any point of view...
This is not, I'm afraid, true. You are accepting this as something axiomatic and proceeding from that premise.

It is not an axiomatic statement; I have provided reasoning for why this is the case. I provided the example of the copied textbook and the mirrors. In both cases, I have illustrated how a circular dependency doesn't cause anything.

In formal logic (P -> Q) and (Q -> P) does not exclude ~(P and Q).  P and Q can be either true or false and satisfy this relationship. If domino A causes domino B to fall, and domino B causes domino A to fall, something else still needs to cause one of them to fall in order for either or them to fall.

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You are demonstrating a dogmatic faith in materialism. Although there is no compelling reason to believe that consciousness can be approached by the physical sciences, you state your belief that it can be.
I can reproducibly demonstrate that matter and energy exist and behave in predictable ways. Moreover, we have a clear pattern throughout history of looking at things that we once had to relegate to an unknown spirit or supernatural entity and eventually discovering materialistic causes for them. There is, quite frankly, far more reason to believe that we will find materialistic causes for everything in the universe than to assume that we will discover supernatural causes for the deaths of sparrows.

There are plenty of good reasons to believe the universe has a great deal of settled order. There is no good reason to believe the universe is deterministic and materialistic, and plenty of reasons to reject those views, the foremost of which is that they are philosophies that are unable to account for the full range of experience.

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I truly have free will, and since God is not in time with us, he knows how I will exercise it.
Can you clarify a point of dogma for me? Are you saying that the only reason God knows what will happen is that He exists outside of time? That His omniscience is a consequence of His timelessness, and nothing else?

No I don't think I would say say that. It is one way of understanding it but I don't think it is the full story.

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I am certain there are circumstances under which your son would not take the candy bar. For example, if he knew doing so would kill you, or kill him, he would choose not to take it, because he comprehends a higher good than getting the candy bar.
I agree; I can absolutely imagine such circumstances. And, again, if I knew all those circumstances and knew my son well enough, his decision would be perfectly predictable.

Again, this is just a dogmatic belief you have. There is no evidence to support that we can perfectly predict human behavior with the physical sciences.  The physical sciences aren't even one science, and there are compelling reasons to think that things like physics and chemistry are not able to be united, let alone biology.

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Something makes us different than rocks and that thing is the immaterial soul.
As long as you're citing this as a matter of faith rather than any sort of logically inevitable conclusion, more power to you..

It's not a matter of faith, it's a matter of reason. If matter was able to be the first principle of our life, then matter would necessarily be alive. But matter is often not alive, so the first principle of our life must be something beyond our physical bodies, it must be something immaterial.

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given the exact same circumstances, humans possess the power to choose between alternatives and their choices are not fully predictable
Why do you think so?

It is my apparent experience; I need a reason to reject what apparently is. In addition, belief in free will (as I mean the term) provides for the most comprehensive model of reality, where the philosophies which reject free will provide much less complete and coherent models of reality.

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It's worth noting that when you want to reject the existence of free will you still talk in a way that assumes it one step back.
*points up to the whole "convenient fiction" bit* Free will is a convenient narrative. We pretend that we are singular beings with singular decision-making ability, and interact with each other and the world as if this were true. It is absolutely not necessary that it be true, however.

I agree it is not necessarily true (as far as we can reason). In the same way, particle physics is not necessarily true.

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In a determinist system, nothing is chosen.
You are defining "choice" incorrectly in this scenario. We choose as much as it is possible for anything to choose. As variables change, our choices change. Whether or not we control those variables personally is completely irrelevant; we make choices based on our understanding of those variables, and we pretend that such choices are in fact open. As you point out, I could present my son with a chocolate bar and create a scenario in which his decision to take the bar will, he believes, lead inexorably to my death. I could also raise my son in a way that ensures that he considers my death to be a benefit. These factors will influence his choice, and will do so in predictable ways.

I am familiar with the compatabilists' definition games and that's all they are. There is no choice in the laws of physics. You don't talk about a rock "choosing" to fall from the mountain. It falls as a matter of necessity. In the same way, in the determinist model, humans don't choose; they act as a matter of necessity.

If human action is fully governed by the laws of physics, the human is no different than the rock; the human does what he does as a matter of necessity. The fact that the human's movements are more complex than the rock's doesn't suddenly introduce choice into the equation. In deterministic materialism, there is no fundamental difference between rocks and human, and neither rocks nor humans choose their acts.

« Last Edit: June 27, 2022, 03:45:55 AM by OrneryMod »

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #178 on: June 27, 2022, 03:15:16 AM »
@Fenring: Whenever I read your posts I think of this excerpt:

Quote from: GK Chesterton
It is a good exercise to try for once in a way to express any opinion one holds in words of one syllable. If you say "The social utility of the indeterminate sentence is recognized by all criminologists as a part of our sociological evolution towards a more humane and scientific view of punishment," you can go on talking like that for hours with hardly a movement of the gray matter inside your skull. But if you begin "I wish Jones to go to gaol and Brown to say when Jones shall come out," you will discover, with a thrill of horror, that you are obliged to think. The long words are not the hard words, it is the short words that are hard. There is much more metaphysical subtlety in the word "damn" than in the word "degeneration."


JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #179 on: June 27, 2022, 03:17:33 AM »
Quote from: Fenring
I would say that my primary reaction to the type of syllogism presented in OP can be found in my Dec 15, 2021...

Quote from: Fenring, Dec 15, 2021
Clause 1 "the universe exists and is intelligible" is the axiom here; "things exist and we can see..." is apparently an explanation, or elaboration, of what this axiom is supposed to mean. But the problem arises inevitably: how to define a tricky axiom without resort to terms that require even more definitional apparatus than the axiom does. One huge example of this becomes immediately apparent: what does it mean to say that "we can see" that "there are reasons for why things exist"? Who is this "we"? Is this really an axiom with a baked in principle that the following applies to everyone by definition? And that thing that "we" can see is that there are "reasons" for why things exist. I can explain trivially why this is too much to bite off: I personally couldn't even agree that "I see that there are reasons for why things exist." In fact I have no knowledge at all about why things exist. To use Hume's argument, the only reason I can even say they exist at all is through experience; it just so happens this is how it always was when I was young, and still appears to be now; but nothing in this suggests either a law or an explanation; just the mere fact itself that these things are there and continue to be there each day. This is a huge issue, because there is a potential limitation built-in to things about what I can say about them sight unseen. Pure reason cannot tell me why things exist, even though empirical experience can make me used to the fact that they do. Before I spend an eon taking on axiom 1, let's move on for a moment.

Either you think the principle of sufficient reason holds or you don't. Let's not move on from that. Let's stay right here. Do you think it holds or not? If not, why not?


JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #180 on: June 27, 2022, 03:22:04 AM »
Quote from: Fenring
That might sound like a weaksauce proposition, but on the other hand presenting a proof (which is fundamentally what your OP is) requires every single clause to be ironclad, entirely understandable on its own terms, and able to support subsequent predicate manipulation

Yes, I think the original line of reasoning is solid in that way. I think by looking at reality around us, we can see that there is something which exists necessarily.

To be sure, there are some assumptions baked in. I am rejecting belief in the Cartesian demon who deceives our senses; I do not accept his restriction to the theater of the mind; i think our senses are a source of truth. I am similarly rejecting Hume's rejection of the syllogism and his school of hyper-skepticalism.

I'd be OK if someone wanted to pick up those philosophies and talk about it. I have reasons why I reject those things and I think they are compelling reasons, but I do not think they are rejected as a matter of course; I think both Descartes and Hume were brilliant and their ideas are worthy of consideration. I considered them and concluded they were wrong, but I don't think they are wrong in the same way that 2+2=5 is wrong.

Similarly, in my later posts I rely upon the philosophical conclusions of men like Aristotle and Aquinas, but I'm open to talking about why I think they have the most compelling ideas. I'm not setting them up as axiomatic, but I'm also not trying to write a book defending every step. If you find something questionable, question it and we can talk about it.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2022, 03:24:08 AM by JoshuaD »

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #181 on: June 27, 2022, 03:25:20 AM »
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Even a claim like “an infinite regression is nonsensical” seems to me a deeply problematic one. Why is it nonsensical? I can see how it’s undesirable, but that's an aesthetic objection rather than a factual one.

I have provided two examples of how an infinite regression of explanation, especially here in this moment, makes no sense. I have not appealed to aesthetics. You can think about what I said and either refute it or distinguish from it. You can't just shrug at them and put the ball back in my court.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #182 on: June 27, 2022, 03:27:06 AM »
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I see no self-evident reason why an infinite regress must be discarded out of hand, so in each step of your proof, rather than the subsequent claims resting on an initial axiom, every claim seems to simply be a new axiom, which I have observed is a general issue with this type of proof.

Yes, this arguments requires that you think. They're not axioms. They are statements in reason. Think about them, see if they make sense, and if they don't make sense to you feel free to express why and we can have a conversation. This meta-retreat from reason is deeply confusing to me. Put on your thinking cap friend.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #183 on: June 27, 2022, 03:33:15 AM »
Quote from: Fenring
Or take a syllogism that sounds simple:
-All people who are rained on get wet.
-It is raining on you.
-Therefore you are wet.

Well we actually can’t accept these propositions, can we? Are we actually sure we know what “raining” means? Is that any liquid coming from above? Or just water coming from rainclouds? What if it’s a drizzle where the droplets are far apart from each other? If a person in a drizzle doesn’t happen to have been hit by a droplet yet, does it count as being rained on? And what if the person in question has an umbrella, or a dry suit? And what is wet? Lots of water on you, a bit of water on you? Since we are made mostly of moisture, could it not be argued that even when it’s not raining there is moisture on your skin? Does that not mean that the conclusion might be misleading if you’re ‘wet’ due to causes not outlined in lines 1+2? And so on and so on. The physical realities of the situation can be far more complex than the propositions allow for, therefore this type of syllogism is really a non-starter if you’re making a reality-claim with it. If you’re just using it to explain how to use a predicate calculus then that’s different.

Do you see what I mean?

No, this is mental masturbation. The syllogism holds as far as it goes. Rain makes people wet. If you get rained on, you will get wet. Is it absolute? No. If I have a raincoat on, I will get wet in a different way than if I were naked. 

But nothing about the recognition of nuance undermines the value of the syllogism or the truth statements.

Perhaps you could say all humans are "wet" because they are made of water, but you would not be using the word "wet" in the same way it is used when someone talks about humans being rained upon. You would be using the word "wet" analogically, not univocally.  Your example wouldn't have any meaning in the original context.

It's really not controversial at all to say that rain makes us wet. If you can't see that you are very deeply lost in the sauce.

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #184 on: June 27, 2022, 08:59:20 AM »
Joshua, can you explain why my farting goat hypothesis -- namely, that the universe was created by an extradimensional goat living outside our timestream who farted it out and then promptly died -- does not satisfy your requirements? Assuming again that persistence is a property of matter, or that non-existence is not in fact a default (which is personally something that I use in my own (stricter, IMO) formulation of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which asserts that there must be a reason for something's non-existence as well)?

I ask because your arguments seem to rely heavily on regressing chains but you keep insisting that they actually rely on active maintenance of in-the-moment persistence -- and yet I completely fail to understand why they cannot be satisfied simply by persistence as a default state.

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #185 on: June 27, 2022, 09:16:20 AM »
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There is no choice in the laws of physics. You don't talk about a rock "choosing" to fall from the mountain. It falls as a matter of necessity. In the same way, in the determinist model, humans don't choose; they act as a matter of necessity.

If human action is fully governed by the laws of physics, the human is no different than the rock; the human does what he does as a matter of necessity. The fact that the human's movements are more complex than the rock's doesn't suddenly introduce choice into the equation. In deterministic materialism, there is no fundamental difference between rocks and human, and neither rocks nor humans choose their acts.
I want to address this because I think it elides over a great deal of the complexity in this question.

First off, the ancients once imputed -- as some modern religions still do -- choice and agency to rocks and mountains. They would look at the sea sinking a ship and see in it hostility and volition. Later on, this volition was assigned first to animating spirits, and then to gods who oversaw certain "domains" of nature. This is because sometimes acts of nature certainly appear to be intentional, and/or we find it convenient and comforting to assign narrative and motive to them.

Secondly, living intelligence is itself a sliding scale. Slime molds grow through a maze towards a nutrient source with what appears to be a great deal of spatial intelligence; they do not send out feelers down "dead ends" for very long at all, implying that somehow they're able to comprehend the shape of a maze and can -- even without sending exploratory runners down each dead end -- understand that sometimes the most direct path between two points is unavailable. Certain species of flatworms are so predictable in their movement towards light that you can build elementary computers based on flatworm movement; it's completely instinctual to them. We understand the neurological systems of flies well enough that we can hook up remote controls to them and pilot them around a room. And viruses, of course, are so completely programmed, so lacking in any situational processing power, that scientists actually debate whether they should be considered "alive" or just a really complicated series of physio-chemical processes. Is it possible for a chimpanzee to be sapient? Or a dolphin? Mary Robinette Kowal has a cat who communicates with her using vocal buttons and appears to have a vocabulary of around 50 words. It's not any smarter or communicative than a toddler, but it appears to be as smart and communicative as a toddler. Is it intelligent in the same categorical way that a human is?

Thirdly, there's the question of -- if "life" or "intelligence" are properties bestowed upon a creature and not simply descriptions of phenomena -- when these properties are bestowed. Has a dog been given intelligence? Has a virus been given life? At what point in an embryo's lifecycle is "intelligence" inserted into it, and it becomes a creature capable of making magical choices? You had previously asserted that the hostility of the universe to our kind of life -- to our obvious inferiority to God relative to our ability to occupy the enormity of the universe He created -- could not be interpreted as a failure of God's power or character. But I would assert that a valid example of the Problem of Evil is the fact that the vast majority of embryos die well before birth or very shortly thereafter, and if they are in fact being bestowed with sapience by God immediately before their deaths, that does create a moral quandary.

Finally, let's consider the possibility of a self-programming computer. Such a computer will never make a decision that is not perfectly predictable and supported by its hardware. But it will absolutely work in ways that its original designers did not anticipate and might not immediately understand. At what point is this "intelligence?" This is especially relevant because this is what I'm asserting living beings do, and how we think: we make choices that are perfectly predictable and supported by our hardware, but are also capable of rewriting our "code" and even changing our hardware to make new paths possible.

The idea that a "choice" must somehow not be the consequence of one's nature and environment is, I submit, a wholly artificial and frankly immature -- almost petulant -- requirement.


Edited to add:
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It's not a matter of faith, it's a matter of reason. If matter was able to be the first principle of our life, then matter would necessarily be alive.
I also wanted to note that the above quote supplies almost the distilled essence of why I think almost all metaphysics is useless wankery.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2022, 09:20:40 AM by Tom »

rightleft22

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #186 on: June 27, 2022, 11:40:30 AM »
Always felt that metaphysics ought to be held lightly as eventually discussions intended to prove something end up tripping over the problem of language and ending in the absurd and or silence.
 
« Last Edit: June 27, 2022, 11:51:45 AM by rightleft22 »

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #187 on: June 27, 2022, 12:20:19 PM »
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A circular fundamental causation of existence or actualization is paradoxical from any point of view...
This is not, I'm afraid, true. You are accepting this as something axiomatic and proceeding from that premise.

It is not an axiomatic statement; I have provided reasoning for why this is the case. I provided the example of the copied textbook and the mirrors. In both cases, I have illustrated how a circular dependency doesn't cause anything.

In formal logic (P -> Q) and (Q -> P) does not exclude ~(P and Q).  P and Q can be either true or false and satisfy this relationship. If domino A causes domino B to fall, and domino B causes domino A to fall, something else still needs to cause one of them to fall in order for either or them to fall.

It's worth noting simply that your analogy doesn't work, and this is why Tom (and I) don't accept that you've proven why circular causality can't work. Two dominos falling is a very bad way to envision what circular causality would entail. One thing is for sure: it requires that time be able to function in non-linear ways, and/or space be something whose physical limitations are not really limitations if you have the right know-how. It's worth noting, by the way, that Catholic teaching seems to require us to accept non-linear causality (which is not quite identical with circular causality), since afaik it's canonically accepted that you can pray for people in the past, present, or future, and that this works.

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Again, this is just a dogmatic belief you have. There is no evidence to support that we can perfectly predict human behavior with the physical sciences.

This point, is, I think, almost tautologically true (in a good way) since if we could prove perfect deterministic causalisty it would mean mastery of space and time, which certainly we have not achieved. Until we can prove this is at least possible in theory, whether or not it's possible in practice, I see no grounds to assert that all outcomes can be determined in advance. It is a plausible theory, but literally cannot be more at present.

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I am familiar with the compatabilists' definition games and that's all they are. There is no choice in the laws of physics. You don't talk about a rock "choosing" to fall from the mountain. It falls as a matter of necessity. In the same way, in the determinist model, humans don't choose; they act as a matter of necessity.

If human action is fully governed by the laws of physics, the human is no different than the rock; the human does what he does as a matter of necessity. The fact that the human's movements are more complex than the rock's doesn't suddenly introduce choice into the equation. In deterministic materialism, there is no fundamental difference between rocks and human, and neither rocks nor humans choose their acts.

I fully agree with Joshua about this point: either things are fully determined from initial conditions or they are not. if they are not fully determined then they are not determined at all. What would distinguish us from rocks is level of complexity and nothing more. "Choice" would just be a more sophisticated whirlpool in a stream. Take this passage from Wiki about compatibilism:

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Compatibilists often define an instance of "free will" as one in which the agent had the freedom to act according to their own motivation. That is, the agent was not coerced or restrained. Arthur Schopenhauer famously said: "Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills."[14] In other words, although an agent may often be free to act according to a motive, the nature of that motive is determined. This definition of free will does not rely on the truth or falsity of causal determinism.[2] This view also makes free will close to autonomy, the ability to live according to one's own rules, as opposed to being submitted to external domination.

I'm sure there are other formulations of free will, but in this one it's merely defined as a choice made that is not constrained by exterior human coersion. But this is a typical case of the humanities not being in touch with the sciences: they are mixing up levels of analysis, in one case physical determinism, in another, the everyday experience of people making you do things against your will. But this is just mixing up apples and oranges. Why should human 'interference' in your choice be counted as any different from a lion eating you or the wind knocking you down? Or for that matter, the mere fact of gravity coercing you to not to be able to fly?

A more cogent argument, and one I have heard often, is that your choice is just an illusion, something you have to feel but that doesn't represent a physical reality. That is possible, but what is not possible is that your feeling of choosing should somehow exist in a separate physics than billiard balls do. At least, it's not possible from a materialist/determinist standpoint. It is in fact totally possible to envision a universe where our choice really does operate in a different physics than billard balls, but that's not the proposition compatibilism makes.

I will remark, though, that it's interesting that we tend to find the materialist argument coming from left-wing thinkers, and that the left also tends to view human choice as being environmentally determined in a social sense; whereas the right is more prone to bootstrap arguments and viewing choice as existing independently for each person. And the metaphysics seems also divided left/right in the same way: choice is an illusion and everything is determined by starting environmental conditions, whereas conservative philosophers seem much more amenable to blaming a bad choice on the person's free will rather than on external constraints. It sometimes seems as if both sides are already fixed in their conclusion, and try to retroactively find arguments that will support their pre-established conclusions.

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #188 on: June 27, 2022, 12:23:42 PM »
Quote
if they are not fully determined then they are not determined at all
I'm not sure I'm willing to concede this. On a quantum level, for example, it appears that at least some elements of the universe are ontologically random. This doesn't mean that we couldn't perfectly predict the results of a decision tree as determined by its environment, but it does mean that it may be impossible to perfectly predict the environment in which that decision is made. I'm fine with calling that "as deterministic as possible." 

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It sometimes seems as if both sides are already fixed in their conclusion, and try to retroactively find arguments that will support their pre-established conclusions.
I actually suspect -- trying to be fair to everyone, here -- that the opposite is true, and something like "conservative" or "liberal" thought emerges as a consequence of one's relationship to "blame."
« Last Edit: June 27, 2022, 12:29:31 PM by Tom »

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #189 on: June 27, 2022, 12:27:01 PM »
@Fenring: Whenever I read your posts I think of this excerpt:

I'm a Chesterton fan, so I'm ok with throwing him at me. In my case I think you may misunderstand. In academia I believe it's standard to use impenetrable terms because they are impenetrable. Call this a kind of job security. In my case I actually pick words carefully. IMO we have English as an advantage since it appears to be the supreme technical language, maybe co-owning that title with German. We have so many words that have nuanced differences, and I try to make full use of that. I guess you have to take my word that if I changed my posts to use different words I would be doing worse at communicating what I want to. It's a bit ironic, though, you saying my posts are too verbose when my basis thesis in this thread is that words are the problem! You might consider reading the Chesterton quote in reverse, and supposing that if someone says "degenerate" they might means something very specific that "damn" would not communicate. "Damn" might be a more generally useful word, but not in all contexts. That's why we have a separate word for each. What Chesterton is talking about is using longer words only to appear smart in a journalistic sense. He is not actually saying that philosophical texts need to contain only monosyllabic words.

NobleHunter

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #190 on: June 27, 2022, 12:33:12 PM »
I keep checking this thread in hopes that I will determine which of the following is true:
  • I have completely missed something
  • I have not missed it but I failed to understand it, whether from insufficient attention or its complex or abstract
  • We're in "imagine a perfectly spherical, frictionless mass" territory and at least one person doesn't realize it

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #191 on: June 27, 2022, 12:35:44 PM »
Metaphysics, everybody! :)

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #192 on: June 27, 2022, 12:38:27 PM »
No, this is mental masturbation. The syllogism holds as far as it goes. Rain makes people wet. If you get rained on, you will get wet. Is it absolute? No. If I have a raincoat on, I will get wet in a different way than if I were naked. 

But nothing about the recognition of nuance undermines the value of the syllogism or the truth statements.

I've bolded and underlined the important takeaway: the syllogism holds as far as it goes, and it is not absolute. So it might be roughly suitable for sometimes figuring out whether someone is wet from rain. It might confuse us if, concurrent with the rainfall, there was a leaky city pipe that expoded up from the ground; or if someone nearby splashed that person with a non-H2O liquid. Now we have a scenario where not only does "wet" get complicated, but the causality of the wetness becomes almost impossible to trace. But the point is that you would not want to take this simple syllogism and start building a castle of logic upon it as if it was so unassailable that, as Aquinas did, we could count it as being so certainly true that we can make a string of positive deductions from it. Note that there is no such thing as "the exception which proves the rule": if a syllogism can be shown to be false in even a single instance, logically speaking we have to reject it as being solid. Scientifically it may be 'good enough' until replaced by a better piece of induction, in the sense Kuhn meant it. You can make use of the above syllogism to test for wetness until you find a better model, but a guy working in a lab would have to know that this is a pragmatic use and not representative of it being an immutable law of the universe. For your OP to work each proposition has to be an immutable law of the universe, no exceptions, no chance of the words being muddy or lacking a clear meaning.

It's not that my syllogism is useless, it's just that we can't accept it as being ironclad. Whereas in a mathematical/logical proof the propositions cannot be muddy. I'm not sure you're really taking seriously how much of a problem language is in these matters.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2022, 12:41:30 PM by Fenring »

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #193 on: June 27, 2022, 01:00:41 PM »
Quote
if they are not fully determined then they are not determined at all
I'm not sure I'm willing to concede this. On a quantum level, for example, it appears that at least some elements of the universe are ontologically random. This doesn't mean that we couldn't perfectly predict the results of a decision tree as determined by its environment, but it does mean that it may be impossible to perfectly predict the environment in which that decision is made. I'm fine with calling that "as deterministic as possible."

Sure, that falls under "deterministic with randomness", one of the usual categories. It means there is no free will but also that you cannot make positive predictions due to the random element. So human choice may come out in unexpected ways, due to a combination of complexity, lack of information, and random effects. This also renders free will as being an illusion, even though it's even harder to predict than we thought. Note that a determinist argument doesn't actually require showing you can predict the future; in fact Kierkegaard presented a soft proof of the fact that even if the material universe is fixed and determined you couldn't predict it anyhow since you'd need more info than the universe contains to do so (you would need a God POV). So predictability is not really the core of the material determinist position, since by definition it can't be done.

Quote
Quote
It sometimes seems as if both sides are already fixed in their conclusion, and try to retroactively find arguments that will support their pre-established conclusions.
I actually suspect -- trying to be fair to everyone, here -- that the opposite is true, and something like "conservative" or "liberal" thought emerges as a consequence of one's relationship to "blame."

Yeah this is a big topic getting into neuroscience and biology. I'm not expert enough to offer a positive opinion on it, but I've heard arguments of various sorts on the topic. Jordan Peterson has at times compared morality to an immune response to potental threats. It's all very interesting, but we're only getting started on it. I'm talking more on a conversational level, that even within particular arguments people are set on a position (such as you are in feeling that choices are constrained purely by material effects) that is assumed without proof; and likewise with right-wing people who insist that each person has the freedom to choose. Blame can come into it, sure, and it would be a cool side-discussion to see where that fits into it. It seems to me that blame can't be the end of it, since positive assertions are also made: like a person succeeds at something, and can pick how to interpret that:

-I did that. ME!!!
-I was only enabled by others/environment.
-I was lucky.
-etc

This is a similar (not quite opposite) scenario where we're looking for how to interpret a result and trace whether or how human choice played into that.

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #194 on: June 27, 2022, 01:05:22 PM »
Metaphysics, everybody! :)

I know a lot of people are down on metaphysics. Nietzsche said he was. It's worth pointing out that since it's a potentially airy-fairy arena we do need to figure out where the boundaries are of this field. Unlike Aristotle, we can't just metaphysik ourselves into understanding how procreation works (On the Generation of Animals, for those curious). I don't agree that it has been reduced to nothing by science: in fact figuring out exactly how it has been constrained and how it has not been constrained by science is itself probably part of the relevant field of metaphysics. Even if in a million years we could determine that the only function left of metaphysics would be to determine that it has no other function than this one, that one would still be valuable!

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #195 on: June 27, 2022, 01:45:06 PM »
Quote
if they are not fully determined then they are not determined at all
I'm not sure I'm willing to concede this. On a quantum level, for example, it appears that at least some elements of the universe are ontologically random. This doesn't mean that we couldn't perfectly predict the results of a decision tree as determined by its environment, but it does mean that it may be impossible to perfectly predict the environment in which that decision is made. I'm fine with calling that "as deterministic as possible." 

Tom, I just realized I may have crossed wires on this point in my last response: I think maybe you were just saying that if there is a random element then things at the start of the universe would not determine alone the end condition down the line. That part is ok, now that I see what I think you meant. By saying "if they are not fully determined then they are not determined at all" I was still in the free will argument, in that we have a complex billiard ball situation where we are fully constrained by the physical realities, even if randomness affected the starting conditions at the moment of a choice. So the 'choice' would be fully determined based on the starting conditions, even though the starting conditions here were not themselves fully determined as of the big bang. The question is whether there is any escaping the billard balls, regardless of whether they were always there or popped into existence randomly. Is it possible that randomness is not random, or that God can use the quantum unknown to His purposes? Is it possible that, in addition to randomness, there is another X-factor just as powerful? Is it possible that there is a second system in play, call it the 'divine system', that allows us to escape the billard balls and do something totally out of sync with how they push us? These would be the questions to answer. If we are stuck in a pinball machine, however complex and random, then free will is not free but just complex and unknowable.

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #196 on: June 27, 2022, 01:49:38 PM »
Will the last philosopher of metaphysics turn off the universe on his way out, please?

---------

And,  yeah, your response just now (that I nearly posted on top of) is entirely correct; I was talking more about perfect deterministic chains, as you deduced.

My own position is that there's no reason to believe that there's anything but matter and energy in the universe, so assuming a spiritual dimension without any evidence in favor of it in order to make sense of concepts like free will unnecessarily adds complexity. But I'm certainly willing to accept the possibility that there's some dimension of Soul and Essence that somehow informs our own, or that we're all just programmed heads in jars, or any of the other theoretical explanations of selfhood. I just don't think there's a need for them, because certainly nothing I think is so complicated that I need another universe to explain it.

I suppose I'm definitionally agnostic on the subject of free will; I think we'll never be able to tell whether our will is "free" enough to satisfy some people, but that it doesn't matter in the slightest because we pretend that we have free will in the same way we pretend that we're singular entities. As I noted earlier, no one arrests somebody's endocrine system, even if that endocrine system is directly responsible for the crime they committed in a way the rest of their body or mind is not. It's simply not possible for us to divorce that system from the rest of the entity in a practical way. That said, we might well treat that malfunctioning entity's endocrine system with drugs or therapies in hopes that the entity stops malfunctioning overall -- which is perfectly consistent with the way we would treat a machine with a broken part. The difference between trying to find a way to fix someone's endocrine system and just jailing them for life is the difference between buying a replacement motor for a blender and throwing the blender away. Where this gets confusing with sapient beings is that they're self-programming; if I've coded my brain over a lifetime of stimulus in a way that causes me to malfunction, you'd somehow need to re-code my brain to fix me.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2022, 01:56:37 PM by Tom »

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #197 on: June 27, 2022, 02:02:44 PM »
I'm certainly willing to accept the possibility that there's some dimension of Soul and Essence that somehow informs our own[...]
I just don't think there's a need for them, because certainly nothing I think is so complicated that I need another universe to explain it.

The question is whether anything subjectively changes the more you believe in free will. If it does, then there is something true about it, even if it's hard to state what. What's more, imagine a situation where your outcome was governed mostly by choice rather than circumstance: you would need a whole different calculus to assess whether you are better or worse off. The religious claim is troubling: don't believe it and indeed you get nothing; believe it more and things start to show as patterns more. Is that due to faulty logic, or a real experience? Pray for real and you get results, but study it cynically and you don't. That's an annoying proposition: the fact that it's rendered objectively untestable is not actually an argument against it. But it's subjectively testable, so long as you're not using it as a test. Actually this is super-annoying: you need to be committed to a thing you believe you have no reason to commit to, and to find your answer once you stop trying to find an answer; and you need to do this for a reason other than trying to prove it right or wrong. If the system was rigged like this then indeed it would be frustrating for people on the fence or anti.

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #198 on: June 27, 2022, 02:24:57 PM »
Well, yes. Inarguably, if that scenario were true, then an omnipotent God would also be an evil one.

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #199 on: June 27, 2022, 02:41:28 PM »
Well, yes. Inarguably, if that scenario were true, then an omnipotent God would also be an evil one.

No, sir; it would merely be annoying if your goal in life was to not have anyone tell you they know better than you. There is nothing evil in suggesting that faith and good intent are required in order to get the best conclusion. We all have faith in something or other; we can't think without it. We need axioms, worldview, heuristics. I also think there are many roads to Rome, so the language employed isn't the end-all. Maybe the sticking point for many is the apparent conflict between free will and being told there is essentially only one right answer. How free is that? That's a different discussion! That requires us to define what free will is, which is sort of the issue I raised above. What are we even talking about? And that goes back to Joshua's OP: what are we even talking about? The fine details matter.