Author Topic: God Exists  (Read 16237 times)

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #200 on: June 27, 2022, 02:45:36 PM »
If a god has a plan for his people but obscures access to that plan through a mechanism that is absolutely indistinguishable from brainwashing for no reason other than his desire to do so, and then provides disincentives to deviate from his plan in the form of eternal second-class status (let along punishment), I have no qualms about calling such an entity evil.

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #201 on: June 27, 2022, 03:06:33 PM »
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?

I sort of skipped over this earlier to think about how to answer. It's a really loaded question. We'd need to define which version of it you mean, specified by which philosopher (Aquinas, Spinoza, Leibniz). The specifics matter. To be honest I've never read Spinoza although I have a friend whose expertise is partially in Spinoza. I've read one Leibniz book. So this isn't my best area in terms of being a historian of these ideas. If you asked me offhand whether I think there are things that literally have no explanation, i.e. whether the universe fundamentally doesn't make sense, I'd say no. I think everything makes sense on some level. The question is what level. Some phenomenon in nature - could it involve randomness? Could it involve God's interference? Maybe something else? My answer is: maybe? I have theories about what God does and doesn't do. But they're not axioms I would insist are true.

I don't know if all things are ultimately intelligible to us, even if they do have a final explanation. You end up with Kierkegaard's problem if you want to assert that we can actually say things all have understandable causes: you need God's level of information to see if this is true or not. We can act as if this is true, and that can be very useful. That's different from asserting it as dogma.

So we get back to the language thing: are we in a position to be able to frame things well enough to find solid ground? I would say no; or not yet maybe. Our words are not good enough to act as stand-ins for real explanations of really deep things. We do seem to be able to think well about some stuff, but how often are we fooling ourselves? To know whether we're thinking clearly about something we may need to know what thought is; when I come up with an idea, what am I really doing? And are the words I write down able to even contain my idea? We may run into an epistemology problem here too.

I have to admit that my current position is that more or less everyone between Plato and Nietzsche were failing to recognize the severity of how to frame and go after problems in philosophy. Nietzsche had a big problem with metaphysics, and for a good reason. Plato knew that you can't just throw words around as if you know what they mean. It took the entire 20th century for people to start to realize how serious these problems are. I still don't think they're caught up to Nietzsche, if you want my opinion.

So does the PSR hold? My best short answer is: yes, but not in any way we can utilize to our ends. Even if there are explanations for everything, we cannot know them or make use of them in formal argument, nor can we assert what type of explanations things might take, nor can we use analogies we are familiar with to try to edge our way sideways into making this like something we already know. The analogy game is a dead-end avenue to understanding things that are obviously beyond us (at least for now).

I'm not sure if this answer was helpful to our discussion...

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #202 on: June 27, 2022, 03:12:19 PM »
If a god has a plan for his people but obscures access to that plan through a mechanism that is absolutely indistinguishable from brainwashing for no reason other than his desire to do so

Who says He obscured access? Maybe we did. That's the Judeo-Christian claim, anyhow, that we made our own bed and that lying in it may suck for a number of reasons. The long and short of free will in this context is that rather than being a sort of toy to play with, it's a gigantic responsibility that can have dire consquences through its misuse. I think where the good/evil argument might come into it is what we think of the prospect of granting the powers of co-creation to finite beings. I can see someone thinking it 'evil' to give a dumb child the powers of a god. So the Eden scenario would have to be plumbed out more to assess this.

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #203 on: June 27, 2022, 03:32:01 PM »
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I can see someone thinking it 'evil' to give a dumb child the powers of a god.
It is only through an omnipotent god's inaction that we could ever be dumb children (depending of course on your definition of "omnipotent." If it's just "causes all things to happen" instead of "can do all things that are possible," obviously that sort of omnipotence is functionally useless.)

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #204 on: June 27, 2022, 03:40:22 PM »
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I can see someone thinking it 'evil' to give a dumb child the powers of a god.
It is only through an omnipotent god's inaction that we could ever be dumb children (depending of course on your definition of "omnipotent." If it's just "causes all things to happen" instead of "can do all things that are possible," obviously that sort of omnipotence is functionally useless.)

I'm not saying humans were dumb, I said I could see someone seeing it that way. By being finite we would necessarily be less intelligent than God, obviously. The question is whether we were sufficiently intelligent to choose correctly, which is all we would need to be. Either way, "choice" means nothing if there's no chance and no way to choose wrongly. What kind of goof-off would choose wrongly, if given sufficient information to choose rightly? That is actually a deep matter to explore. We do assert that a person will still sometimes choose wrong even if given 100% of the necessary information of what is right (or best). This is actually a claim that flies in the face of Socrates' thinking, where every bad choice is due purely to error. Everyday life seems to contradict Socrates' thesis.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #205 on: June 30, 2022, 02:46:09 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.

I thought that was just a joke. Your hypothesis doesn't work for a number of reasons. Here are a few:

1. Something which necessarily exists cannot cease to exist. If there are conditions under which it can cease to exist, then it is not the thing that necessarily exists from the proof in the first post; it doesn't fulfill the logic. Your goat is one of the contingent things named in my first post, and its existence still must ultimately be explained by something which necessarily exists.

2. As you acknowledge in your second paragraph, we need to explain why things persist. Your proposed property of persistence is not a sensible explanation.  Properties do not exist independent of things. In order for a property to have existence, it must be in a thing which has existence. That is to say, properties can only have existence in the context of a thing which has existence. If you posit a property of persistence, you create a circular cause of existence: the property's existence depends on the thing's existence, and the thing's existence depends on the property's existence. A circular cause of existence doesn't explain existence. P implies Q and Q implies P is not logically equivalent to P and Q. It is equivalent to (P and Q) or (`P and `Q).

3. The nature (or essence) of things is independent from their existence. We can see this by describing to a child the nature of an elephant, a dinosaur, and a unicorn. If you then asked the child which one exists, which one did exist, and which one never existed, he couldn't tell you. That is because in all contingent things existence is something that is added to the essence of the thing. It seems difficult to recognize this and then suggest that things have a nature of persistence in existence.



JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #206 on: June 30, 2022, 03:16:20 AM »
Quote from: JoshuaD
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.

Rocks don't have agency, regardless of what some ancient person might have thought. If you want to take the contrary position rather than just pointing out that someone else once thought it, we can have that discussion. If not, as I mentioned back on page 2 or 3, I don't see the value of talking about those arguments. I will openly posit that for virtually every view I am suggesting as true here, there was some philosopher who thought the opposite thing. If you told me how electricity worked and said, vaguely, "well, there were people in the 1000's who didn't believe in electricity and people in the 1800's who thought it worked entirely differently" you'd recognize that was just rhetorical noise. In the same way, invoking some philosophy you don't subscribe to seems to me to be rhetorical noise.

Secondly, living intelligence is itself a sliding scale.

No it's not. Humans are a category different than the other animals of the earth.* Within the animal world, there is a sliding scale; dogs are smarter than cats and cats are smarter than mice and mice are smarter than ants, and so on. But a human possesses rationality,


*It is possible, albeit very unlikely, that an animal like an octopus actually possesses rationality. If that were shown to be true, it wouldn't undermine my point here. Rationality is categorically different thing than an animal's powers of sense, judgement, memory, etc. Humans possess an intellect, a will, and the ability to understand abstractly. A dog cannot comprehend justice or beauty or truth abstractly, while a human can.

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Is it possible for a chimpanzee to be sapient? Or a dolphin?

No, all of the evidence we have when studying these animals is that they do not possess rational minds.

That being said, if it turns out that there are other rational animals on earth, then great. It's not a problem to these arguments I'm making if there are other rational animals in the world or the universe.

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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?

No. I have a toddler and although he can speak less than 50 words, his intelligence is a much greater than than the intelligence of a dog or a cat, even a very bright dog or cat.  He doesn't know things yet, but his ability to think and understand is already showing through.

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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?

It is the unborn child's nature to be human from the first moment of life, which the best science tells us is the moment of conception. Whenever life begins, the child's nature is to be an intelligent thing. It may not exercise that power, just like it might not be able to exercise its power of sight yet, but it is still the sort of thing which sees. A dog's nature is not to be intelligent; it has certain estimative powers and memory and the like, but its intellect is not rational in nature.

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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.

We are jumping around a lot now.  I did not intend to drag this thread into theology or the problem of evil, especially given that we can't even yet agree about the principle of sufficient reason. I don't mind talking about any one of these things, but by jumping around so much, we're not really talking about anything.

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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.

A self-programming computer is perfectly predictable and this is obviously true: you can a duplicate of it, give it the same set of inputs, and get the same results. A self-programming computer doesn't have free will or intelligence. In addition, adding randomness as an input somewhere won't change that fundamental property.

The Chinese room problem firmly shows that a computer cannot possess consciousness, and I would not call a computer intelligent in the way that I call humans intelligent.

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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.

You can think whatever you'd like. Free choice is the immediate reality we all experience and, upon reflection, is the best-fit explanation for what we experience. The philosophies which permit choice in their model flourish and succeed while the philosophers who attempt to reject choice fall flat and fail, often refusing to even have the courage of their own beliefs (as you did earlier in the thread, and as Hume famously did when he acknowledged he could not live in line with the extreme-skeptic philosophy he professed).

Quote from: Tom
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.

Why?

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #207 on: June 30, 2022, 03:19:23 AM »
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.

I don't have a problem with a large vocabulary, I have a problem with large posts. With that quote I am nudging you, as a friend, to consider writing a bit more succinctly.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #208 on: June 30, 2022, 03:21:18 AM »
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

It is option 1; you are missing something. Our education system has clouded our ability to think clearly and confidently. The principle of sufficient reason really does imply theism, and the principle of sufficient reason would be unobjectionable in any context other than in one where someone desperately wants to resist the conclusion of theism. 

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #209 on: June 30, 2022, 03:25:32 AM »
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.

Aquinas did not depend on the syllogism anymore than the modern scientist does. The scientist performs his experiments, makes his measurements, and finally, using a syllogism draws a general conclusion. It is no different with Aquinas. You are misrepresenting Aquinas's philosophy and then criticizing your misrepresentation. But I'm not here to defend everything Aquinas wrote; I am not equipped for that monumental task.

I have put forward an argument for the existence of God. It has a discrete number of steps. Instead of pointing generally at the thing and making a meta-criticism about the sort of reasoning it uses, please point to the first specific step which you believe fails and let's talk about it.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #210 on: June 30, 2022, 03:52:14 AM »
What Chesterton is talking about is using longer words only to appear smart in a journalistic sense.

That is not what he's saying in this quote, by the way. You should read the full context. He is very much criticizing the use of vague words as a poor substitute for concrete thought. link.  It's the first paragraph in Chapter VIII The Romance of Orthodoxy.

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It is customary to complain of the bustle and strenuousness of our epoch. But in truth the chief mark of our epoch is a profound laziness and fatigue; and the fact is that the real laziness is the cause of the apparent bustle. Take one quite external case; the streets are noisy with taxicabs and motorcars; but this is not due to human activity but to human repose. There would be less bustle if there were more activity, if people were simply walking about. Our world would be more silent if it were more strenuous. And this which is true of the apparent physical bustle is true also of the apparent bustle of the intellect. Most of the machinery of modern language is labour-saving machinery; and it saves mental labour very much more than it ought. Scientific phrases are used like scientific wheels and piston-rods to make swifter and smoother yet the path of the comfortable. Long words go rattling by us like long railway trains. We know they are carrying thousands who are too tired or too indolent to walk and think for themselves. 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 #211 on: June 30, 2022, 03:59:43 AM »
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.

In my first post I am talking about a hierarchical series of causes (i.e. right here in this moment) so talking about time-travel isn't responsive. Posit whatever scifi you want about the arrow of time; I am talking about right here in this single timeslice.

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

It is certainly not canon that our prayer can affect the past. The Church is silent on this question. While people are permitted to pray for anything they'd like, the Church does not affirm or deny that it can be effective. Interestingly, Aquinas talks about this question here and rejects the possibility of God changing the past as he believes it would create a contradiction.

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #212 on: June 30, 2022, 09:45:09 AM »
The farting goat example was not a joke, although it was deliberately ridiculous. That said, I specifically did not ask you to tell me the ways in which it failed to meet certain metaphysical descriptors, because I intentionally framed the question in a way to not require the use of linguistic puffery like 'necessary;" as generally happens when people mix metaphysics with logic (and then try to use the result to invent reasons for observed physical reality), you're confusing one with the other. Let us imagine for a moment that an entity lacking all the attributes of an entity that you consider "necessary" is not in fact required for the universe to exist. What is our hypothetical goat lacking that would not produce a universe indistinguishable from our own?

We run into similar problems when you assert that a physical property is dependent on the existence of an object to exist, as opposed to simply being an emergent descriptor of a necessary condition. (Again, qualia don't exist.) If I say "diamonds are hard," and go on to define exactly what I mean by that -- the density and strength of a diamond, and how much compression per square centimeter it might resist, etc. -- then that remains true even if diamonds don't exist, and I'm just positing that certain forms of carbon, compressed and heated in certain scenarios, might form a material that, based on my conclusions regarding its theoretical composition, would have certain properties. The concept of "hardness" exists whether or not diamonds do. Scientists actually do this all the time, speculating on the properties of an undiscovered or as yet unsynthesized material prior to observing it or even confirming its possible existence. This is, again, because qualia do not exist, and physical "properties" in the real world are just descriptions of how types of matter express interaction with physical law in predictable ways. If you'd prefer to get away from the word "property" because it contains too much baggage, and would prefer to untether the concept of "persistence" from the thing that's persisting, you can reframe the assertion this way: "it is a fundamental physical law of the universe that, once matter or energy exists, it continues to exist." If it helps, it should be noted that this formulation is completely compliant with a strict reading of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

Anyway, to get past the terminology, I submit to you that the requirements we're really looking for are as follows:

PREMISE: the Universe is theoretically comprehensible, even if we do not comprehend all of it, and does not admit logical impossibilities
THEREFORE: all things that happen, stop happening, or do not happen do so for a proximate cause/reason
PREMISE: the Universe has not always existed in its current form
THEREFORE: something happened to produce the Universe in its current form
THEREFORE: the thing that happened could not have had a proximate cause that depends on the Universe in its current form
THEREFORE: either Premise #1 is wrong, Premise #2 is wrong, or something is able to cause an effect in this Universe without first being caused by something else in this Universe
PREMISE: things appear to persist once they exist (and, in fact, we have never observed something ceasing to exist)
THEREFORE: either things do not really persist; things are made to persist; or it is the default nature of things to persist once they exist, and they must be made to cease existing

Would you agree that these are less loaded (and less fraught) restatements of the primary claims?

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We can see this by describing to a child the nature of an elephant, a dinosaur, and a unicorn. If you then asked the child which one exists, which one did exist, and which one never existed, he couldn't tell you. That is because in all contingent things existence is something that is added to the essence of the thing.
Here's the problem with that logic: Describe to a child the nature of the Christian God. Now describe to a child the nature of Zeus. Now describe to a child the nature of dark matter. Can he tell you which exists? If not, does that mean that they are all contingent things, or does that mean that you failed to include in your description of "nature" the line "and this one DEFINITELY exists, so be sure to remember to say so when I ask?"

Of course, the real problem here is the use of "thing" to describe a "concept." I'd argue that of all our talk about categorical differences, the difference between a thing and an idea is the most "categorical" of them all.

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Rocks don't have agency, regardless of what some ancient person might have thought. If you want to take the contrary position rather than just pointing out that someone else once thought it, we can have that discussion.
I mention animism only because your assertion that we don't talk about rocks "choosing" to fall from mountains is false on its face. We do still impute agency to objects, both as symbolic narrative and literal religious belief. It is not at all the case that we as humans are able to make easy, clear distinctions between a sapient being's "choice" and the falling of sufficiently complicated dominos. You may have observed that we as a species anthropomorphize anything; put googly eyes on a trash bin and suddenly it appears to have emotions. We feel sorry for the Mars landers and program them to sing themselves "Happy Birthday"; we pity the Voyager space probe as it fails, even as we upload code that allows it to detect its own failures for the first time -- and although we know rationally that we aren't creating a neurotic computer, we still feel a little bit bad about letting it know how often it's screwing up. Empathy is coded into most human brains at a very low level, so functional people project ourselves onto and consequently empathize with everything.

This makes conclusive statements about "rationality" very difficult, because it certainly appears to us that many animals are capable of making emotionally complex, rational decisions. We know that quite a few species are self-aware, have persistent memories, and can create narrative justifications for their own behavior. As you point out, none of your assumptions so far rely on the uniqueness of human rationality, but I'm going to make the argument that what we consider that to be is itself just a form of narrative. Can we justify our actions to ourselves and others? Then we're "rational."

This is why I'm a little baffled by the assertion that I don't have the courage of my own convictions. Given that I believe selfhood and free will to both be convenient fictions, how should I live? What should I do differently, if I sincerely believed that I'm a bunch of subroutines steered by a couple competing processes reacting to complicated stimuli? Should you treat people differently if you believed this of them -- and if so, why? I mean, we already say things like, "I'm sorry I snapped at you; my blood sugar was low" -- recognizing that our concept of self can hold the responsibility for our actions, but that the failure of various subroutines can be considered exculpatory.

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It is the unborn child's nature to be human from the first moment of life, which the best science tells us is the moment of conception.
I'm a little confused by what you're considering "the best science." I also think metaphysics is tripping you up, here; by asserting that a clump of human cells are by nature intelligent because some such cells, in certain situations, might turn into an intelligent human, you're falling into Platonism. And, yeah, that's going to drag you into the Problem of Evil. I only mentioned it because you rather unfairly slapped yossarian down, but certainly positing that all human cells should be considered to carry a God-given property of "intelligence" in a way a dog's cells would not exposes you to a whole bunch of such problems.

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The Chinese room problem firmly shows that a computer cannot possess consciousness...
Firmly? Are you under the impression that the Chinese Room Argument is considered authoritative? Or even that its definition of "consciousness" is generally accepted?

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You can think whatever you'd like. Free choice is the immediate reality we all experience and, upon reflection, is the best-fit explanation for what we experience.
You believe you experience unbounded choice? On what basis?

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The philosophies which permit choice in their model flourish and succeed while the philosophers who attempt to reject choice fall flat and fail...
I'm honestly very curious -- although this a digression -- to hear how one might recognize a "successful" philosophy.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2022, 09:49:59 AM by Tom »

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #213 on: June 30, 2022, 07:35:29 PM »
I don't have a problem with a large vocabulary, I have a problem with large posts. With that quote I am nudging you, as a friend, to consider writing a bit more succinctly.

!

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #214 on: June 30, 2022, 07:46:39 PM »
That is not what he's saying in this quote, by the way. You should read the full context. He is very much criticizing the use of vague words as a poor substitute for concrete thought. link.  It's the first paragraph in Chapter VIII The Romance of Orthodoxy.

I've read Orthodoxy several times. One thing to keep in mind with Chesterton is he himself is a journalist, so he's often in the habit (stylistically) of writing in his famous 'paradoxical' prose with quite cute structure to his statements. He's a journalist first, not a logician or philosopher; and although I like and relate to much of what he says in Orthodoxy, he's not exactly aiming for precision or completion in his assertions. He makes them, but rarely backs them up. That's ok; but it forces one to draw one's own conclusions. In the quote you provided I don't think he's talking about literal laziness since it would be quite remarkable to imply that intellectuals and academics are trying to avoid labor. My poly-sci professor friend jokingly calls himself an intellectual laborer, likening most academic work to mental work in a field. It's pretty much the opposite of laziness. So I surmise that Chesterton is referring to something a bit deeper, like style standing in place of bold views of life, and so forth. Hence: he's talking about people using pretentious sentences to sound smart when it fact that's not what makes someone smart. I never heard him accuse anyone of writing a long response to a question...

But joking aside, per your suggestion that I should be brief in my answers, I admit fully that I have always chosen clarity over readability. I intentionally give up making short and pithy statements, in order to (hopefully) increase the chance that what's being said is understood. In a forum (and world) where most people talk past each other, it's a price I pay gladly. If I was a journalist this would be a major writing fault, and if I was writing a book I would have a very different objective in my style. But here I hope to get people seeing the same thing before agreeing or disagreeing about it. So let me offer you the reverse advice: perhaps it's the short and simple syllogism that leaves too much vague and unclear, that requires a lengthy treatment. I don't think a proposition such as your OP offers can really be dissected adequately in space short of a book, to be honest. So we try to be quicker than that here, but it's really hard to know we aren't just blowing wind at each other. That's what I want to work through - do we really mean the same things, and see the same issues. Look how long it's taking for you and Tom to agree on the actual requirements of the argument, no less whether your version of it holds water? And that's not a bad thing; it should require a lot of back and forth.

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #215 on: July 01, 2022, 10:25:41 AM »
In my first post I am talking about a hierarchical series of causes (i.e. right here in this moment) so talking about time-travel isn't responsive. Posit whatever scifi you want about the arrow of time; I am talking about right here in this single timeslice.

I know. But if your reasoning isn't up to knowing all the mysteries of the finite, how can it be up to figuring out how the infinite works? As I've mentioned, I don't even disagree in the slightest that the idea of the divine propping up present reality makes sense. My only issue is whether you can present it as an indisputable fact. The issue about non-linear causality was only to address the part of the argument that included finite causes of events, since you were talking about what allows balls to roll and so forth. If you eliminate that issue and are now strictly talking about the property of sustaining reality then perhaps that argument isn't useful, no. But then I would also argue that most of the reasoning process in OP is a bit misleading. I know that you are always talking about why things exist at all, yet the language inescapably refers to the "why" of things, which can't help but be chronological. I'll give a few examples of this:

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things exist and we can see that there are reasons for why things exist

This line was one of my biggest problems with the syllogism, first and foremost because I don't agree that "we can see that there are reasonings for why things exist." We may guess such, but we don't see it. It's not an observation but rather a model. Regardless, what we do see is our interpretation of a chain of causation: this thing happened because that thing happened. So what you are referring to here isn't mathematical theorems, but real-life inference that things cause other things. We most certainly do not see the infinite propping up of existence; if we did you could just state that as an axiom and it would be your full argument. Therefore your argument needs to fundamentally rely on our attempts at interpretation of chronological facts. Now we do mathematics as well, which are (we propose) purely theoretical, and this does seem to work; we can see this especially since it's borne out in engineering. So on a practical level we do have a way to test whether our logic works or is full of hot air. But more on this in the next point:

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But science and philosophy do fu[n]ction, and we can use reason and our senses to learn about reality.

To the extent that they function it's because we put them to practical purpose. Sometimes our reasoning process is wrong, and this gets winnowed out eventually in practical failure. Sometimes our logic is valid and the results show that. But it's always been bad to trust out reasoning process with no test, because we could be totally wrong and not know it. Plenty of people thought epicycles made total sense to explain orbits. Well maybe they did, but it was wrong anyhow. Good abstraction (well, arguable) but factually incorrect. How can we assert any abstraction is definitely correct if it's not testable? When we're talking about an abstraction that is literally not about the mechanics of physical reality we don't have any other examples of philosophy "working" in this sense. So how can we assert that our ability to learn about reality translates into knowledge of the infinite? We don't have any other tested knowledge of the infinite to show that this reasoning process is reliable. Now I'm not saying we can't think about it, or even that we can't think about it in very interesting ways. But we have no basis to say that we *know* we can do it correctly. And in this case it could be epicycles and we'd never know it because there's no empirical system to show us our error.

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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).

Here we have another issue with chronological language and thinking: we see a thing and ask why it "exists". But things are not really things, as Tom pointed out: matter is always transitioning, even if slowly. So we can only really ask why reality exists, not discreet things. But we don't actually see reality: we see things in their moment to moment changings. We see chronology, or at least we apparently do. It is already a difficult philosophical topic to address how we know there is continuity in a thing between one moment and the next. But it's worse when we consider that our entire observational and thinking apparatus is geared toward swimming in the current, if you will. We don't see still water, but movement. So it is very hard if you look at all scales at once to say we see why individual things exist. As I mentioned, we'd have to say we see that existence exists. Its apparent persistence is that makes you ask what force causes it to persist, but I would argue that this black hole in our knowledge of the finite makes it very hard to even say what it is we are seeing: is physical space and distance an illusion: are we living on a 2D surface in a holographic reality? And yes, even that reality would perhaps need a cause, but my point is that if we are basing our premises on our viewing of everyday reality and saying that our knowledge of it 'works' and 'makes sense' our arguments will always be grounded in our everyday kind of thinking, and so will our framing of the question.

All this to say - framing the language of the question is really, really hard. I know you want short posts from me but there's literally no way to illustrate these points in a shorter time. Frankly I've done them a disservice by writing them so briefly.

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It is certainly not canon that our prayer can affect the past. The Church is silent on this question. While people are permitted to pray for anything they'd like, the Church does not affirm or deny that it can be effective. Interestingly, Aquinas talks about this question here and rejects the possibility of God changing the past as he believes it would create a contradiction.

This point I can actually show pretty trivially: if God exists out of time, and if God materially affects reality at various points in time, then God not only sees all of reality as one, but with knowledge of that one communes with and adds to the system throughout. When seen this way, it would actually be a contradiction to say God could not observe a prayer from the future and answer it in the past, because it would imply that he didn't know the future when interacting with the past, which we know is not true. Of course He could, He is in communion with the whole thing at once. I could give a lot more, but this is a short version. As for canon, I agree it doesn't necessarily agree you can 'change' the past, but it does say you can change the future (not the present, the future).

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #216 on: July 05, 2022, 04:57:17 AM »
The farting goat example was not a joke, although it was deliberately ridiculous. That said, I specifically did not ask you to tell me the ways in which it failed to meet certain metaphysical descriptors, because I intentionally framed the question in a way to not require the use of linguistic puffery like 'necessary;" as generally happens when people mix metaphysics with logic (and then try to use the result to invent reasons for observed physical reality), you're confusing one with the other. Let us imagine for a moment that an entity lacking all the attributes of an entity that you consider "necessary" is not in fact required for the universe to exist. What is our hypothetical goat lacking that would not produce a universe indistinguishable from our own?

I've given compelling reasons why Tom's Goat is not a sufficient or final explanation of why the Universe exists. Calling it linguistic puffery does not constitute a response.

To summarize my longer post above, Tom's Goat lacks:
* Finality in its explanation -- the question remains, "where did Tom's Goat come from?"
* The power to sustain the universe it created in existence. In this moment, Tom's Goat no longer exists; a thing which doesn't exist cannot be an explanation for why I exist in this timeslice. It can be an historical cause, but that is not a complete explanation. As you acknowledge, you would need something like the sustaining property you posited, and I've shown you why that property doesn't make any sense.

We run into similar problems when you assert that a physical property is dependent on the existence of an object to exist, as opposed to simply being an emergent descriptor of a necessary condition. (Again, qualia don't exist.) If I say "diamonds are hard," and go on to define exactly what I mean by that -- the density and strength of a diamond, and how much compression per square centimeter it might resist, etc. -- then that remains true even if diamonds don't exist, and I'm just positing that certain forms of carbon, compressed and heated in certain scenarios, might form a material that, based on my conclusions regarding its theoretical composition, would have certain properties. The concept of "hardness" exists whether or not diamonds do. Scientists actually do this all the time, speculating on the properties of an undiscovered or as yet unsynthesized material prior to observing it or even confirming its possible existence. This is, again, because qualia do not exist, and physical "properties" in the real world are just descriptions of how types of matter express interaction with physical law in predictable ways. If you'd prefer to get away from the word "property" because it contains too much baggage, and would prefer to untether the concept of "persistence" from the thing that's persisting, you can reframe the assertion this way: "it is a fundamental physical law of the universe that, once matter or energy exists, it continues to exist." If it helps, it should be noted that this formulation is completely compliant with a strict reading of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

It is compliant with the PSR, but you then need to then explain why the universe has that property. The whole point of the PSR is that it rejects bruteness; just asserting a brute fact a few layers deep doesn't explain anything and is a betrayal of the PSR.


Anyway, to get past the terminology, I submit to you that the requirements we're really looking for are as follows:

PREMISE: the Universe is theoretically comprehensible, even if we do not comprehend all of it, and does not admit logical impossibilities
THEREFORE: all things that happen, stop happening, or do not happen do so for a proximate cause/reason
PREMISE: the Universe has not always existed in its current form
THEREFORE: something happened to produce the Universe in its current form
THEREFORE: the thing that happened could not have had a proximate cause that depends on the Universe in its current form
THEREFORE: either Premise #1 is wrong, Premise #2 is wrong, or something is able to cause an effect in this Universe without first being caused by something else in this Universe
PREMISE: things appear to persist once they exist (and, in fact, we have never observed something ceasing to exist)
THEREFORE: either things do not really persist; things are made to persist; or it is the default nature of things to persist once they exist, and they must be made to cease existing

Would you agree that these are less loaded (and less fraught) restatements of the primary claims?

No, I do not think line two holds, for the reasons I've outlined in this thread. Existence and non-existence don't have the equality you are setting up here.

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We can see this by describing to a child the nature of an elephant, a dinosaur, and a unicorn. If you then asked the child which one exists, which one did exist, and which one never existed, he couldn't tell you. That is because in all contingent things existence is something that is added to the essence of the thing.
Here's the problem with that logic: Describe to a child the nature of the Christian God. Now describe to a child the nature of Zeus. Now describe to a child the nature of dark matter. Can he tell you which exists? If not, does that mean that they are all contingent things, or does that mean that you failed to include in your description of "nature" the line "and this one DEFINITELY exists, so be sure to remember to say so when I ask?"

If a child could understand the essence of the Christian God, the child would know that God exists, because God's existence is his essence. As I outlined a few times above, if God's existence was distinct from his essence, he would not satisfy the PSR; something would have had to given existence to his essence.

If a child could understand the essence of Zeus, he would not be able to know whether Zeus exists. Perhaps demigods do exist, perhaps they don't. Nothing about their essence tells us which it is. It is similarly the case with dark matter.

Of course, the real problem here is the use of "thing" to describe a "concept." I'd argue that of all our talk about categorical differences, the difference between a thing and an idea is the most "categorical" of them all.

A thing has existence; it has being. A concept does not have existence in that way. They are different.

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Rocks don't have agency, regardless of what some ancient person might have thought. If you want to take the contrary position rather than just pointing out that someone else once thought it, we can have that discussion.
I mention animism only because your assertion that we don't talk about rocks "choosing" to fall from mountains is false on its face. We do still impute agency to objects, both as symbolic narrative and literal religious belief.

Once again, if you'd like to pick up animism and defend it, we can talk about why its a terrible idea. If you just want to bring it up as a vague "someone somewhere disagrees with you", I don't get the point. Someone somewhere disagrees with virtually everything anyone has ever said.

It is not at all the case that we as humans are able to make easy, clear distinctions between a sapient being's "choice" and the falling of sufficiently complicated dominos.

Yes we are. Dominoes don't act anything like humans. They don't act like animals. They don't even act like plants. Dominoes act like dominoes, which is similar to all other inanimate things. Living things act entirely differently.


it certainly appears to us that many animals are capable of making emotionally complex, rational decisions. We know that quite a few species are self-aware, have persistent memories, and can create narrative justifications for their own behavior. As you point out, none of your assumptions so far rely on the uniqueness of human rationality, but I'm going to make the argument that what we consider that to be is itself just a form of narrative. Can we justify our actions to ourselves and others? Then we're "rational."

That is not what I mean when I use the word rational. To be rational is to have the power to know and the power of will.

Animals have lots of powers: they can move, remember, imagine, estimate, perceive, and so on. Humans can have knowledge of universals and can judge and reason in a way that animals cannot. Humans have free will while animals choose through instinct alone. Rationality is those powers: the intellect and the will.

This is why I'm a little baffled by the assertion that I don't have the courage of my own convictions.

I was referencing your memristor's comment a few pages back.


Given that I believe selfhood and free will to both be convenient fictions, how should I live? What should I do differently, if I sincerely believed that I'm a bunch of subroutines steered by a couple competing processes reacting to complicated stimuli? Should you treat people differently if you believed this of them -- and if so, why? I mean, we already say things like, "I'm sorry I snapped at you; my blood sugar was low" -- recognizing that our concept of self can hold the responsibility for our actions, but that the failure of various subroutines can be considered exculpatory.

If selfhood and will are fictions, there is no "should". There is only "must". You must live exactly how you must live, which was dictated by the first moment of the Universe. There is no meaning to the word "should" outside of the context of free choice. There is only the cold iron of "must".

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It is the unborn child's nature to be human from the first moment of life, which the best science tells us is the moment of conception.
I'm a little confused by what you're considering "the best science." I also think metaphysics is tripping you up, here; by asserting that a clump of human cells are by nature intelligent because some such cells, in certain situations, might turn into an intelligent human, you're falling into Platonism. And, yeah, that's going to drag you into the Problem of Evil. I only mentioned it because you rather unfairly slapped yossarian down, but certainly positing that all human cells should be considered to carry a God-given property of "intelligence" in a way a dog's cells would not exposes you to a whole bunch of such problems.

Science tell us that the unborn child has life independent from its mother's life, and that it has unique human DNA. Of course, the child is highly dependent, like us all, on its environment. That is not what I mean by independent.

The child's nature is to think. When a person is in a coma and ceases to think or be conscious, their nature doesn't change. They don't suddenly become just a clump of cells in the shape of a 40 year old body. They remain a person, even though they aren't currently conscious. We can no more justly kill the unborn child than we can kill the 40 year old man in the coma.

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You can think whatever you'd like. Free choice is the immediate reality we all experience and, upon reflection, is the best-fit explanation for what we experience.
You believe you experience unbounded choice? On what basis?

No. I believe we experience bounded choice. On the basis that it is what I experience. I put two coins on the table in front of me and I truly can pick either. I can choose to try to have another child or not. I can choose to go to sleep now or wait an hour. That is the immediate and most obvious experience every person has. You can deny it, but the philosophical cost is high, and that cost needs to be justified. Your hovel of a philosophy of materialism and determinism does not offer any justification; it just offers despair and nihilism.

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The philosophies which permit choice in their model flourish and succeed while the philosophers who attempt to reject choice fall flat and fail...
I'm honestly very curious -- although this a digression -- to hear how one might recognize a "successful" philosophy.

A philosophy is successful insofar as it is true or is a good approximation of the truth. It is successful when it models the full range of human experience in a coherent way and enables you to think and understand reality better.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #217 on: July 05, 2022, 05:19:27 AM »
In my first post I am talking about a hierarchical series of causes (i.e. right here in this moment) so talking about time-travel isn't responsive. Posit whatever scifi you want about the arrow of time; I am talking about right here in this single timeslice.

I know. But if your reasoning isn't up to knowing all the mysteries of the finite, how can it be up to figuring out how the infinite works?

I have not referenced the infinite in my posts aside the obvious assertion that an infinite series of contingencies does not create an actuality.

As I've mentioned, I don't even disagree in the slightest that the idea of the divine propping up present reality makes sense. My only issue is whether you can present it as an indisputable fact.

I think it is disputable; everyone disputes everything. I am here to talk about those disputes. I think the argument on the first page is a compelling proof; I am not using the word proof in the sense that mathematicians use it in the context of math. I am using it in the sense that philosophers use it in the context of philosophy.

I think the argument should convince someone to take a serious look at monotheism.  I don't think my 30-line summary represents an iron-clad thing; I think it is a summary of a proof. There are plenty of things to talk about in the gaps, and I'm here glad to talk about them.

But then I would also argue that most of the reasoning process in OP is a bit misleading. I know that you are always talking about why things exist at all, yet the language inescapably refers to the "why" of things, which can't help but be chronological. I'll give a few examples of this:
Quote from: JoshuaD
things exist and we can see that there are reasons for why things exist

This line was one of my biggest problems with the syllogism...

As I have mentioned, that line is invoking the Principle of Sufficient Reason; nothing less and nothing more. Do you dispute the PSR?

Quote from: JoshuaD
But science and philosophy do fu[n]ction, and we can use reason and our senses to learn about reality.

To the extent that they function it's because we put them to practical purpose. Sometimes our reasoning process is wrong, and this gets winnowed out eventually in practical failure. Sometimes our logic is valid and the results show that. But it's always been bad to trust out reasoning process with no test, because we could be totally wrong and not know it. Plenty of people thought epicycles made total sense to explain orbits. Well maybe they did, but it was wrong anyhow. Good abstraction (well, arguable) but factually incorrect. How can we assert any abstraction is definitely correct if it's not testable? When we're talking about an abstraction that is literally not about the mechanics of physical reality we don't have any other examples of philosophy "working" in this sense. So how can we assert that our ability to learn about reality translates into knowledge of the infinite? We don't have any other tested knowledge of the infinite to show that this reasoning process is reliable. Now I'm not saying we can't think about it, or even that we can't think about it in very interesting ways. But we have no basis to say that we *know* we can do it correctly. And in this case it could be epicycles and we'd never know it because there's no empirical system to show us our error.

That line is a short defense of the principle of sufficient reason and your response misses my point. Whether or not a particular explanation we come up with is accurate or not, that process of trying to explain things indicates there is an explanation. Philosophy and science rely upon the PSR, and their successes argue that the PSR is true.

Quote from: JoshuaD
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).

Here we have another issue with chronological language and thinking: we see a thing and ask why it "exists". But things are not really things, as Tom pointed out: matter is always transitioning, even if slowly. So we can only really ask why reality exists, not discreet things.

No, things really exist, we are not just a flow of constantly changing matter. You really exist. I really exist. We were born, we will live for some time, and we will die. Our names aren't just labels we put on a little tiny portion of a river of ever-changing matter; we are real.

But we don't actually see reality: we see things in their moment to moment changings. We see chronology, or at least we apparently do. It is already a difficult philosophical topic to address how we know there is continuity in a thing between one moment and the next. But it's worse when we consider that our entire observational and thinking apparatus is geared toward swimming in the current, if you will. We don't see still water, but movement. So it is very hard if you look at all scales at once to say we see why individual things exist. As I mentioned, we'd have to say we see that existence exists. Its apparent persistence is that makes you ask what force causes it to persist, but I would argue that this black hole in our knowledge of the finite makes it very hard to even say what it is we are seeing: is physical space and distance an illusion: are we living on a 2D surface in a holographic reality? And yes, even that reality would perhaps need a cause, but my point is that if we are basing our premises on our viewing of everyday reality and saying that our knowledge of it 'works' and 'makes sense' our arguments will always be grounded in our everyday kind of thinking, and so will our framing of the question.

All this to say - framing the language of the question is really, really hard. I know you want short posts from me but there's literally no way to illustrate these points in a shorter time. Frankly I've done them a disservice by writing them so briefly.

I appreciate the effort, and I feel bad that I've come after you in a few places lately. You just happened to hit my two most common frustrations in long-form discussions like this.

We do actually see reality. We don't see it fully, but we do see it. Our senses are not possessed by tricky demons. Go outside and bury your hands in the cool dirt; that really is dirt, and it really is real.

The fact that reality is complex doesn't undermine the argument I presented in the first post.

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It is certainly not canon that our prayer can affect the past. The Church is silent on this question. While people are permitted to pray for anything they'd like, the Church does not affirm or deny that it can be effective. Interestingly, Aquinas talks about this question here and rejects the possibility of God changing the past as he believes it would create a contradiction.

This point I can actually show pretty trivially: if God exists out of time, and if God materially affects reality at various points in time, then God not only sees all of reality as one, but with knowledge of that one communes with and adds to the system throughout. When seen this way, it would actually be a contradiction to say God could not observe a prayer from the future and answer it in the past, because it would imply that he didn't know the future when interacting with the past, which we know is not true. Of course He could, He is in communion with the whole thing at once. I could give a lot more, but this is a short version. As for canon, I agree it doesn't necessarily agree you can 'change' the past, but it does say you can change the future (not the present, the future).

:shrug:. I don't have a horse in this race. The only point I am making is that you were wrong when you said this "since afaik it's canonically accepted that you can pray for people in the past, present, or future, and that this works".

It is it not canonically accepted. The Church is silent on the question.

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #218 on: July 05, 2022, 09:36:07 AM »
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* Finality in its explanation -- the question remains, "where did Tom's Goat come from?"
Where did your hypothetical God come from? From the perspective of this universe, that goat has always existed. Maybe it was born of another goat in another universe; that's not knowable, and -- more importantly -- it doesn't matter. Remember, we're looking for an explanation that satisfies all your requirements, and nowhere in your requirements do you demand an explanation for things that exist outside of our timestream. In fact, your alternate hypothesis absolutely relies on such a thing, with no further explanation posited.

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As you acknowledge, you would need something like the sustaining property you posited, and I've shown you why that property doesn't make any sense.
No, you haven't. Go ahead and give it another shot, if you'd like. I've acknowledged the need for some explanation of persistence, and have asserted that existence can simply be a property of matter -- that, in fact, a strict reading of the PSR mandates the persistence of things that exist, unless they are given a reason to cease existing. Feel free to prove otherwise, but don't waste our time by pretending that metaphysical "properties" somehow need to attach to physical objects before they can exist as concepts. That sort of linguistic laziness doesn't have any place in an argument attempting to refine a philosophy that models reality.

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It is compliant with the PSR, but you then need to then explain why the universe has that property.
Nope. This fundamentally misunderstands the PSR. Otherwise anything we could not explain but which almost certainly has an explanation -- like, say, solar weather -- would violate it.

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Existence and non-existence don't have the equality you are setting up here.
Why is non-existence a default, again?

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If a child could understand the essence of the Christian God, the child would know that God exists, because God's existence is his essence.
Can you explain how that differs functionally from what I said -- namely, that a child would only "know" this because, in your description of God, you also said, "Oh, yeah, and this God also definitely exists, because that's how we're defining this hypothetical?" This is not a valid argument, I'm afraid. There is absolutely nothing preventing someone from asserting that the essence of Zeus is that he's real and responsible for all the humans on this planet, and thus necessarily exists. A child would have absolutely no way of telling which assertion is true. (This is partly because no evidence for Zeus or God actually exists, and thus any such claims are untestable.) Here I'm just pointing out the weakness of this rhetorical thrust, of course; I don't particularly care what a child would say, but think it's important to note that "existence" is only part of a given god's "essence" if someone defines the god that way -- at which point the whole thing becomes pointlessly circular.

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Animals have lots of powers: they can move, remember, imagine, estimate, perceive, and so on. Humans can have knowledge of universals and can judge and reason in a way that animals cannot.
Since this is an unprovable assertion, let's put it to bed and stop using it as an argument. I simply reject it, and argue that you cannot support your claim. Robots can move, remember, estimate, and perceive, and can even be made to "imagine" depending on your definition. Animals can in fact judge and reason, and some have demonstrated knowledge of what you're calling "universals" here. The lines are far, far fuzzier than you're asserting.

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If selfhood and will are fictions, there is no "should". There is only "must".
Sure. But you've dodged my question. If I sincerely believed in a deterministic universe -- and, let me reiterate, I do -- how should I live? How must I live? What would someone who sincerely believed do differently that someone who lacked the courage of his convictions would not?

I argue that there is no observable difference between life in a universe where you can choose "freely" between two coins and a universe where you're going to inevitably pick one of those two coins.

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We can no more justly kill the unborn child than we can kill the 40 year old man in the coma.
You recognize that the current primary medical standard for death is in fact brain death, right? Someone merely in a coma is not brain dead -- but a clump of cells that has not yet developed EEG activity, or an adult who registers as fully brain-dead, is not considered alive.

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You can deny it, but the philosophical cost is high, and that cost needs to be justified.
Not only do I believe that the cost is not particularly high, but I also believe I have justified that cost in my earlier post. What part do you dispute? I do not, for example, believe that I am particularly saddled with despair. Neither am I a nihilist. Perhaps the issue is that you, personally, find existence lacking without a properly comforting story?

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A philosophy is successful insofar as it is true or is a good approximation of the truth. It is successful when it models the full range of human experience in a coherent way and enables you to think and understand reality better.
So I need to observe two things, here: 1) by your own definition, the popularity of a philosophy is not evidence of its success; 2) even if a philosophy leads to despair, by your definition that philosophy is more successful if it correctly models reality. Do you still agree with your definition?

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #219 on: July 05, 2022, 01:21:44 PM »
I have not referenced the infinite in my posts aside the obvious assertion that an infinite series of contingencies does not create an actuality.

Are you suggesting that the god (or necessary cause) behind all things may be fininite in its nature? If that were so then it would especially wrought to call that thing God, I think.

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As I have mentioned, that line is invoking the Principle of Sufficient Reason; nothing less and nothing more. Do you dispute the PSR?

You can see my answer to this earlier on this page. We can take this Wiki summary of differing versions of PSR as a reference point:

The principle has a variety of expressions, all of which are perhaps best summarized by the following:

For every entity X, if X exists, then there is a sufficient explanation for why X exists.
For every event E, if E occurs, then there is a sufficient explanation for why E occurs.
For every proposition P, if P is true, then there is a sufficient explanation for why P is true.


We could perhaps quibble about whether there's a better way to state it, but I'll address this version. The long and short of it is that things happen for reasons, and cannot lack a cause. This is an axiom since I don't know how we can demonstrate it, but I do happen to agree that we should assume that reasons exist for things. However nowhere in this set of proposition does it say that for every sufficient explanation that exists, human beings in the current era can discover and understand that explanation. And that's taking the three clauses at face value. It is perfectly consistent with this PSR to say that there are reasons, and that these reasons are currently beyond us; and also to say that the reasons are not knowable to us ever. It's Aristotle's conceit that not only are all things intelligible, but additionally that just using pen and ink he could figure them all out quickly.

Now I could also go into language issues with this type of clause. As we've covered previously, when we say "why X exists", does this refer to the mere fact of existence as a whole (e.g. "why is there anything?"), or rather does it inquire about the causal circumstance leading a particular phenomenon (or being) into its current state (e.g. "how did that chair come to exist?"). The former we have been discussing, but I would suggest that this is probably not the primary purpose of clause 1 since it's referring to X, implying X will be substituted by all number of things. If all it meant was existence itself then the clause being formulated this way would be misleading. I think clause 1 maybe is meant to be more scientific than metaphysical: it is suggesting that we can figure out why things are the way they are. And in that case we need to define what things are in great detail and can't just rest on our language laurels and assume the statement is self-evident. Further, if we are looking rationally at natural causes, it becomes troublesome to ask "why" about anything; natural philosophy seems to show time and again that we figure out how and what, but not why. We can perhaps say what happens when protons and electrons interact; but none of this tells us why there are protons and electrons. Maybe at some point physics will get us there, but right now we don't really tackle 'why'. So in clause 1 "why" either means "explain how and of what something is constituted" or else it is asking for first reasons, which we don't have, in which case clause 1 is really suspect. How can we ever prove we have found a metaphysical 'why' for something?

Clause 2 seems to ask more process-oriented issues; how things move and transition. Maybe we can derive rules about this. But our induction-deduction system is a self-contained system which doesn't reference exterior truths if there are any. It's a model of function, where the model is called 'laws'. And again, unless clause 2 is really only asking "why does anything happen" (i.e. "God does it") then it would seem to involve what we now call scientific thinking. But that type of induction-deduction is empirical, not metaphysical.

For clause 3 we run into a possible translation issue: as I haven't read Spinoza at all, or Leibnitz in German(?), I can't be sure if this clause means mathematical propositions or empirical modelling propositions. These are very different and have different standards of evidence. Saying that a "proposition", if true, will have a reason for being true, means something very different if it's a theorem versus a current model of physical motion. If it's a theorem then part of the reason is wrapped up in the axioms of the math system, and part if it has to do with how humans think (i.e. its statement is partially a restatement, or reiteration, of how we think). If we're talking about a physical model then its truth-content would be found in accuracy and repeatability. However in this case we wouldn't really assert "truth" to its findings, but rather a pragmatic statement that it seems to work.

Personally I have a problem with how these 3 clauses are formulated. I think even their phrasing suggests a weak understanding of reality is constituted. I don't have a problem with saying things have reasons, but do have a problem with being too cocksure that we can just spell out how things work or why they work. That "why" is a huge problem. And I would suggest that if we are divorcing the mechanics of physical reality (i.e. what science investigates) from what these clauses are for then my best guess would be that we're actually diverging from what the philosophers using PSR thought it meant. I don't think a medieval thinker would have necessarily distinguished between natural science and metaphysics. But we need to.
 
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That line is a short defense of the principle of sufficient reason and your response misses my point. Whether or not a particular explanation we come up with is accurate or not, that process of trying to explain things indicates there is an explanation. Philosophy and science rely upon the PSR, and their successes argue that the PSR is true.

I don't think you understand my point: a wrong statement about PSR (or one based on it) will never be subject to disproof since it's just an axiom. Some aspects of philosophy in the past have been shuffled over into science: those are subject to winnowing since we can be proven wrong. Those areas still remaining in metaphysics are not subject to our wrongness being shoved in our faces by practical results. Therefore we don't have any grounds to say that 'success' in philosophy shows that PSR holds. As Tom and I have mentioned, I don't even know what "successes in philosophy" would look like, no less that they argue that PSR is true. Even if philosophy has successes, maybe they suggest something else is true rather than PSR? PSR is just an attempt to explicate how we can accomplish things. Maybe it's not the right explanation.

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No, things really exist, we are not just a flow of constantly changing matter. You really exist. I really exist.

I'm not sure you realize how fraught this area of philosophy is. Just to show continuity of a person alone (in physical terms) would be a major piece of work. You could do your life's work on it. As for thing, no; the understanding most Ancients had about things is demonstrably wrong. Heraclitus was an interesting case of an out-of-box thinker, but most people seemed to take it for granted that words and things were simple. A chair is not just a chair, a lot is going on there. The details matter. But it does seem to retain shape over time: how does it do this, and for how long? If a chair can exist for a few thousand years before it disintegrates, does the timescale of 1 year somehow show that it's not a flow of changing matter, since over millions of years that chair will assuredly not be a chair anymore? And if timescale matters, then what we're talking about is rate of flow, rather than static existence. No one prior to recent times knew that (other than Heraclitus, of course!), but it directly affects what "thing" means in a formal sense.

yossarian22c

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #220 on: July 05, 2022, 01:30:32 PM »
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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.

Why can you ascribe this perfect simplicity with God and not the matter/energy of the universe? The matter/energy of the universe exists. I know it exists because we live in this universe. I don't know about God's existence or essence because God doesn't exist (to an observer) within our universe.

A God absolutely begs the question of how? where? what? why? Just as the existence of the universe begs those questions. You're just abstracting up one layer, saying God did it all like that actually answers any of those fundamental questions.

yossarian22c

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #221 on: July 05, 2022, 01:39:30 PM »
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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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Define what you mean by rationality here. Other animals problem solve, communicate, form relationships, and have emotions. We do it with a slightly greater degree of complexity. What's the essential uniqueness of humans? That we do all of these with a larger degree of complexity than our ape cousins?

yossarian22c

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #222 on: July 05, 2022, 01:53:36 PM »
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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'm not making an argument about should human's have been designed better. I'm making the argument that the cosmos are mostly hostile to biological life of any kind. And very, very, minor tweaks to physical laws could make dwarf stars that last trillions instead of billions of years an ideal place for biological life. And with only slight variances in Venus and Mars they could be hospitable for life as well. So did "God" design the universe for life to be exceedingly rare? If so, why? You've posited that human rationality is one of the special purposes of creation. If so why not a cosmos that is hospitable to life. Why not a society on Mars we could debate meta-physics with? If you're going with both grand design and humans/rational beings are special then why will humans exist for such a small portion of the length of time of the cosmos? Absent colonizing other stars we have at best (assuming we don't kill each other off first) a couple billion years before the Earth isn't so nice any more. So all time/space and everything exists for rational life to float around an average star for a short period of time in the grand scheme? What's the simple explanation for that? More space and time are easy to create so God said why not?

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #223 on: July 05, 2022, 03:53:08 PM »
Btw, sorry Joshua that I had to write another long response. I tried editing it down...but not sure how to cut more of it without failing to say what I wanted to say...

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #224 on: July 05, 2022, 04:51:37 PM »
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* Finality in its explanation -- the question remains, "where did Tom's Goat come from?"
Where did your hypothetical God come from?

This is why I am telling you that you aren't understanding the thing I'm saying. God didn't come from anywhere. He necessarily exists. If he came from somewhere, then there would be a cause for that, and then he wouldn't be the thing I am pointing at. It might be a celestial farting goat or it might be Zeus, but he wouldn't be God. And the existence of those things -- if they did exist -- would argue for the existence of the God I am pointing at just as much as the flower in my garden argues for the existence of God.

From the perspective of this universe, that goat has always existed. Maybe it was born of another goat in another universe; that's not knowable, and -- more importantly -- it doesn't matter. Remember, we're looking for an explanation that satisfies all your requirements, and nowhere in your requirements do you demand an explanation for things that exist outside of our timestream. In fact, your alternate hypothesis absolutely relies on such a thing, with no further explanation posited.

The thing I am talking about is not limited to "our timestream". If the goat was born, it does not satisfy the requirements for the argument of the first post, because it doesn't necessarily exist. I don't want to keep going around on this point.

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It is compliant with the PSR, but you then need to then explain why the universe has that property. The whole point of the PSR is that it rejects bruteness; just asserting a brute fact a few layers deep doesn't explain anything and is a betrayal of the PSR.
Nope. This fundamentally misunderstands the PSR. Otherwise anything we could not explain but which almost certainly has an explanation -- like, say, solar weather -- would violate it.

I am not saying we need to know the explanation, I'm saying that there has to be one. Your proposed law of nature is just a brute assertion. Nothing about it is coherent; the nature of it is that it requires further explanation, but you refuse to explain it further.

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If a child could understand the essence of the Christian God, the child would know that God exists, because God's existence is his essence.
Can you explain how that differs functionally from what I said -- namely, that a child would only "know" this because, in your description of God, you also said, "Oh, yeah, and this God also definitely exists, because that's how we're defining this hypothetical?" This is not a valid argument, I'm afraid. There is absolutely nothing preventing someone from asserting that the essence of Zeus is that he's real and responsible for all the humans on this planet, and thus necessarily exists. A child would have absolutely no way of telling which assertion is true. (This is partly because no evidence for Zeus or God actually exists, and thus any such claims are untestable.) Here I'm just pointing out the weakness of this rhetorical thrust, of course; I don't particularly care what a child would say, but think it's important to note that "existence" is only part of a given god's "essence" if someone defines the god that way -- at which point the whole thing becomes pointlessly circular.

It's not circular. We see things which have essences which are distinct from their existences all around us. Through seeing that and with reason we can see that there must be something whose essence is its existence, which is perfectly simple, and which causes all other things to be compound in that way.


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Animals have lots of powers: they can move, remember, imagine, estimate, perceive, and so on. Humans can have knowledge of universals and can judge and reason in a way that animals cannot.
Since this is an unprovable assertion, let's put it to bed and stop using it as an argument. I simply reject it, and argue that you cannot support your claim. Robots can move, remember, estimate, and perceive, and can even be made to "imagine" depending on your definition. Animals can in fact judge and reason, and some have demonstrated knowledge of what you're calling "universals" here. The lines are far, far fuzzier than you're asserting.

Yeah, this is why your philosophy fails. It "simply rejects" plenty of obvious and immediate truths. And often only when it is convenient to do so. Of course humans are categorically different than animals: look at every single legal system ever created and every single functioning society. They are successful because they rely upon this obvious truth in this constitution.

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If selfhood and will are fictions, there is no "should". There is only "must".
Sure. But you've dodged my question. If I sincerely believed in a deterministic universe -- and, let me reiterate, I do -- how should I live? How must I live? What would someone who sincerely believed do differently that someone who lacked the courage of his convictions would not?

You would live as the big-bang (or Tom's Goat, or a necessitarianist God) requires. There would be no morality to your actions because there is no choice. You just do whatever it is you have to do, like a puppet on a string.

I argue that there is no observable difference between life in a universe where you can choose "freely" between two coins and a universe where you're going to inevitably pick one of those two coins.

1. Humans seem to make choices. Things seem to move according to laws of nature. Even complex things like computers.
2. Your philosophy cannot account for consciousness. This is the most immediate and obvious experience we all have, and your materialist deterministic philosophy just sweeps it under the rug with some techno-babble and a dogmatic assertion about material.

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We can no more justly kill the unborn child than we can kill the 40 year old man in the coma.
You recognize that the current primary medical standard for death is in fact brain death, right? Someone merely in a coma is not brain dead -- but a clump of cells that has not yet developed EEG activity, or an adult who registers as fully brain-dead, is not considered alive.

Let me count all of the ways I care zero about what the "current medical standard" is. Black people were once animals according to the "current medical standard". Men can mutilate their bodies and become women according to the "current medical standard". Slicing up the brain was once a good idea according to the "current medical standard".

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You can deny it, but the philosophical cost is high, and that cost needs to be justified.
Not only do I believe that the cost is not particularly high, but I also believe I have justified that cost in my earlier post. What part do you dispute?

You haven't offered a compelling reason for why we should contort reality and human experience, and ignore subjective experience and reject the realness of morality, in favor of a materialist, deterministic system. You just shrug and say "yeah, we should do that."

I do not, for example, believe that I am particularly saddled with despair. Neither am I a nihilist. Perhaps the issue is that you, personally, find existence lacking without a properly comforting story?

You don't live coherently with your philosophy. You were born into a Christian culture and you take for granted Christian moral beliefs without any proper philosophical support for them. We see the crumbling of the old order every day; you might be able to hold onto some of its assertions as brute beliefs, but the philosophy doesn't support them, and society will follow the philosophy not Tom's personal biases.

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #225 on: July 05, 2022, 04:57:25 PM »
Before we go any further: why does your hypothetical god need to be necessary in a way that my hypothetical goat does not? I ask because the requirement of "necessity" in the way you mean it is, I submit, thoroughly optional.

NobleHunter

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #226 on: July 05, 2022, 05:15:42 PM »
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We see things which have essences which are distinct from their existences all around us.

Can you provide an example? And particularly how such things cease to exist?

ETA: Also, once you become wedded to the idea that humans are uniquely special, it is a very small step to decide that some humans are more special than others.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2022, 05:22:51 PM by NobleHunter »

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #227 on: July 05, 2022, 06:04:22 PM »
I have not referenced the infinite in my posts aside the obvious assertion that an infinite series of contingencies does not create an actuality.

Are you suggesting that the god (or necessary cause) behind all things may be fininite in its nature? If that were so then it would especially wrought to call that thing God, I think.

Good point. God is infinite. I didn't rely on God's non-finite nature in my arguments, but they do ultimately point at something which is not finite.

Quote from: Fenring
he long and short of it is that things happen for reasons, and cannot lack a cause. This is an axiom since I don't know how we can demonstrate it, but I do happen to agree that we should assume that reasons exist for things

No, it's not an axiom simply because it's not strictly demonstrable in some framework you require. I believe in teh PSR for reasons; not as a blind assertion of faith. You could say that my belief in the senses to be a source of truth is sort of an axiom. The PSR is a bit further down the line than that.

These four paragraphs about the PSR are an example, by the way, of my frustration with your writing style. I don't see a sentence which represents your beliefs as they relate to the PSR; it just kind of swirls and swirls.

I believe the PSR is true. Here are a few ways I would render it:

* "Everything which is has a sufficient reason for existing"
* "Everything is intelligible"
* "There is a sufficient reason or adequate necessary objective explanation for the beingo f wahtever is and for all attributes of any being.".

I copped these from Edward Feser, who in turn copped them from Garrigou-Lagrange and Wuellner.

The nice thing about my expression here is that, although I don't immediately anticipate and respond to every counter argument that someone might levy against me, I am telling you loud and clear exactly what I mean.

Can you tell me clearly what you mean? I read your paragrahs a few times, and maybe I'm just stupid, but I just kinda see a haze of swirling confusion, doubt, and concerns. I don't see a single clear idea where I can say "this is what Fenring thinks".

It doesn't need to be short, but that's usually a good sign. It does need to be clear and distinct. Maybe start with a signle word: yes or no, do you think the PSR (as I rendered it above) holds true?

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No, things really exist, we are not just a flow of constantly changing matter. You really exist. I really exist.
I'm not sure you realize how fraught this area of philosophy is.

Lol. I am aware of many of the arguments that many people have made, and I am aware that there are people who disagree with me. Those people are wrong; the views I am articulating are right. I don't feel the need to constantly articulate ideas I disagree with. If you'd like to pick up one of those ideas and run with it, go ahead. I'll dance with you. If not, I'm comfortable leaving them in the dustbin where they belong. I don't talk about how 2+2 _doesnt_ equal 5 6 7 8 or 9 or 10 or 2 or apple. I just say 2+2=4, and if you want to offer a specific different alternative as truth, we can talk about why I think it's wrong.

Just to show continuity of a person alone (in physical terms) would be a major piece of work. You could do your life's work on it.

Here's the cool part: really smart people already did! I could never have created a computer all by myself, but now that other people have done the work, I can recognize that technology X is better constructed than technology Y.

It is the same with philosophy. I don't need to dedicate my life to developing my own unique ideas. My job is to get a good sense of what the other people are saying, where they start from and where they end, and then see which one is true. It is a lot easier to determine the truth of two philosophical propositions than it is to create them yourself.

As for thing, no; the understanding most Ancients had about things is demonstrably wrong.

Yes. I am not holding with "most ancients". I am holding with the basic ideas of metaphysical "things" that Aristotle put forward, moderate realism.

Heraclitus was an interesting case of an out-of-box thinker, but most people seemed to take it for granted that words and things were simple. A chair is not just a chair, a lot is going on there. The details matter. But it does seem to retain shape over time: how does it do this, and for how long? If a chair can exist for a few thousand years before it disintegrates, does the timescale of 1 year somehow show that it's not a flow of changing matter, since over millions of years that chair will assuredly not be a chair anymore? And if timescale matters, then what we're talking about is rate of flow, rather than static existence. No one prior to recent times knew that (other than Heraclitus, of course!), but it directly affects what "thing" means in a formal sense.

Chairness is not like humanness, because chairs do not have souls. The souls is the thing which provides clear continuity in living things.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #228 on: July 05, 2022, 06:16:28 PM »
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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.

Why can you ascribe this perfect simplicity with God and not the matter/energy of the universe? The matter/energy of the universe exists. I know it exists because we live in this universe. I don't know about God's existence or essence because God doesn't exist (to an observer) within our universe.

Yeah. The main reason is that matter and the Universe is complex; it is not simple. The Universe has all sorts of parts, like atoms and electrons and trees and stars, and those parts all have internal complexities. The fundamental elements aren't simple, we've found they're comprised of particles. And the particles of the most popular particle theory today also aren't simple, there is a multitude of them and they have different properties.

A God absolutely begs the question of how? where? what? why? Just as the existence of the universe begs those questions. You're just abstracting up one layer, saying God did it all like that actually answers any of those fundamental questions.

No, if I were doing that I would completely agree with your argument. That is how Tom is understanding me (and why he thinks his Goat analogy is interesting when it is not).

I am saying that, as a matter of pure logic, there are only three ways a thing can exist:

(1) It is caused by something extrinsic, meaning that its existence is contingent.
(2) Its cause is entirely within itself, meaning that its existence is necessary.
(3) It was not caused; it is a brute fact.

The Principle of Sufficient reason rejects the possibility of (3). We all agree that things that have the shape of (1) are all around us.

I am saying that because of the foregoing -- because we see (1) and we reject (3) -- there must be something which fulfills (2).

In very short summary, I say that because the contingent things around us depend on some external cause. And those causes in turn depend on external causes. There is either an infinite chain of causation or the chain of causation begins with something which fulfills (2).  An infinite chain of contingencies does not create an actuality for all all of the reasons I've outlined here. Therefore, something which fulfills (2) must exist.

There is certainly a lot of mystery around that line of reasoning; we don't know the full chain of causation between us and God. We don't know God's internal states. But we can know some things about him.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #229 on: July 05, 2022, 06:19:04 PM »
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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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Define what you mean by rationality here. Other animals problem solve, communicate, form relationships, and have emotions. We do it with a slightly greater degree of complexity. What's the essential uniqueness of humans? That we do all of these with a larger degree of complexity than our ape cousins?

Yeah. The intellect and the will. The ability to know universals (goodness as goodness, justice as justice, beauty as beauty, numbers abstractly, etc.) and the ability to truly choose between alternatives. Animals choose through instinct; humans choose based on reason.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #230 on: July 05, 2022, 06:22:37 PM »
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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.
...

I'm not making an argument about should human's have been designed better. I'm making the argument that the cosmos are mostly hostile to biological life of any kind. And very, very, minor tweaks to physical laws could make dwarf stars that last trillions instead of billions of years an ideal place for biological life. And with only slight variances in Venus and Mars they could be hospitable for life as well. So did "God" design the universe for life to be exceedingly rare? If so, why? You've posited that human rationality is one of the special purposes of creation. If so why not a cosmos that is hospitable to life. Why not a society on Mars we could debate meta-physics with? If you're going with both grand design and humans/rational beings are special then why will humans exist for such a small portion of the length of time of the cosmos? Absent colonizing other stars we have at best (assuming we don't kill each other off first) a couple billion years before the Earth isn't so nice any more. So all time/space and everything exists for rational life to float around an average star for a short period of time in the grand scheme? What's the simple explanation for that? More space and time are easy to create so God said why not?

You're saying that you think the Universe could have been designed better. I'm saying that it can always seems that way. Perhaps apples could be a little sweeter, perhaps the air could be a little more climate. Perhaps the planet could be a little larger or the air a little more fresh. There is no limit to that chain of reasoning; there is no Universe you could look at and say "OK yeah, this one is perfect." So the fact that you don't look at this one and think it's perfect doesn't really change anything.

The basic problem is you are accepting the wrong values for judging whether the Universe is good. What is good?

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #231 on: July 05, 2022, 06:23:08 PM »
Before we go any further: why does your hypothetical god need to be necessary in a way that my hypothetical goat does not? I ask because the requirement of "necessity" in the way you mean it is, I submit, thoroughly optional.

See my response a few posts above to yossarian.

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #232 on: July 05, 2022, 06:26:29 PM »
That doesn't explain why the god that created this universe needs to be necessary (as you define necessary). Why, again, could the creator of this universe not have been a farting goat that may or may not have been caused by something external to this universe?

Remember, we're only dealing with requirements for this universe because there is no -- and cannot be -- logical continuity across universes, since time is meaningless without space.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #233 on: July 05, 2022, 06:29:21 PM »
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We see things which have essences which are distinct from their existences all around us.

Can you provide an example? And particularly how such things cease to exist?

Sure. Humans have an essence which is distinct from their existence.

ETA: Also, once you become wedded to the idea that humans are uniquely special, it is a very small step to decide that some humans are more special than others.

Falsehood is always close to truth. Any truth can be slightly misrepresented to create a falsehood.  Recognizing that humans are special to God doesn't lead to an endorsement of slavery or some such thing.


JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #234 on: July 05, 2022, 06:29:58 PM »
That doesn't explain why the god that created this universe needs to be necessary (as you define necessary). Why, again, could the creator of this universe not have been a farting goat that may or may not have been caused by something external to this universe?

Remember, we're only dealing with requirements for this universe because there is no -- and cannot be -- logical continuity across universes, since time is meaningless without space.

You're taking too local a view of the word "universe". You're imagining we're in a universe that's nested inside of some other universe. I'm saying the whole thing. All of it.

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #235 on: July 05, 2022, 07:09:50 PM »
We can make no speculations based on observation regarding anything other than our local universe. This means that everything you're claiming as a deduction -- like, say, necessity -- is in fact just something you're asserting as an axiom. (Just as one example: it is almost certainly the case, based on our understanding of both physics and mathematics, that time is non-linear outside of our observable dimensions. This plays silly buggers with any reliance on traditional causality; as a silly example, the goat that birthed our universe while standing outside it could have been caused by the death-throes of the goat our universe will eventually produce -- and there is no reason to believe this to be impossible, beyond the stubborn insistence that what we see in our local universe is the only way things can be.) Are you willing to concede that you're basing your logic on axiomatic assumptions?

(I get confused by your "necessity" claim, by the way, because you're actually making an argument from first cause here rather than the classical argument from necessity. This routinely trips me up, because you're not using "necessity" the same way that, say, Aristotle used the term, or Aquinas applied it.)
« Last Edit: July 05, 2022, 07:14:33 PM by Tom »

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #236 on: July 05, 2022, 08:39:53 PM »
These four paragraphs about the PSR are an example, by the way, of my frustration with your writing style. I don't see a sentence which represents your beliefs as they relate to the PSR; it just kind of swirls and swirls.

I don't have 'beliefs' about PSR, I have analysis of it, which includes the language of it. That's the problem: having a belief about complex issues plagues America right now. We don't need beliefs about them, we need thinking about them. You are getting my analysis, which is much more valuable (to me) than some belief I may have picked up in elementary school. My instincts matter too, but those do fuel my thinking as well.

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Can you tell me clearly what you mean? I read your paragrahs a few times, and maybe I'm just stupid, but I just kinda see a haze of swirling confusion, doubt, and concerns. I don't see a single clear idea where I can say "this is what Fenring thinks".

What Fenring thinks is that the propositions of PSR were probably originally meant to be much closer to what we'd now call scientific reasoning. If that's true - and I would entertain dispute on this point - then rejecting the empirical way of looking at things would be counter to the purpose of PSR. I think that there is order in nature, and yes, that this order is due to having been ordered. But I also think that how you're looking at PSR has most likely been impacted by the shunting out of the sciences from the philosophy department over the centuries. I think aspects of reason point toward God; I would be very hesitant to say that it is easy to show that God must exist. I do think God exists, but I also don't think I can show it to a third party unless they are willing to go through some personal stuff.

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It doesn't need to be short, but that's usually a good sign. It does need to be clear and distinct. Maybe start with a signle word: yes or no, do you think the PSR (as I rendered it above) holds true?

I have a hunch it's not an entirely coherent proposition, so I'm unwilling to say it's not true. But I can't endorse it, either. I think it does questionable things with language, putting things we don't grasp into neat categories.

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Chairness is not like humanness, because chairs do not have souls. The souls is the thing which provides clear continuity in living things.

This is surely an axiomatic statement, no? I don't see how you can 'observe' that souls are the thing providing clear continuity to living things, which works separately from unliving things. Actually a good friend of mine did his dissertation on the soul, and I really need to pick his brain one day about this. I don't actually know what most people mean when they refer to the "soul" (yes, funny thing for a Catholic to say). But I am speaking formally when I say this. Someone once asked me if I believe in "love", and I admitted that I had no idea what he meant, and he got upset, as if I was trolling him. This kind of thing happens a lot to me...call it a weird pattern :p   But I've never been able to just assume I understand something that everyone else says they obviously do.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #237 on: July 07, 2022, 02:49:33 AM »
We can make no speculations based on observation regarding anything other than our local universe.

...

(Just as one example: it is almost certainly the case, based on our understanding of both physics and mathematics, that time is non-linear outside of our observable dimensions. This plays silly buggers with any reliance on traditional causality; as a silly example, the goat that birthed our universe while standing outside it could have been caused by the death-throes of the goat our universe will eventually produce -- and there is no reason to believe this to be impossible, beyond the stubborn insistence that what we see in our local universe is the only way things can be.)

Could you get in a lane on this? Can we make speculations or can't we?

This means that everything you're claiming as a deduction -- like, say, necessity -- is in fact just something you're asserting as an axiom....Are you willing to concede that you're basing your logic on axiomatic assumptions?

Sort of, but certainly not the places you keep pointing at. My confidence in the senses and their ability to tell us truth about reality is something like an axiom. My belief that the syllogism is a valuable tool is something like an axiom. Descrates rejects the first and Hume rejects both, and their ideas are reasonable (albeit wrong).

(I get confused by your "necessity" claim, by the way, because you're actually making an argument from first cause here rather than the classical argument from necessity. This routinely trips me up, because you're not using "necessity" the same way that, say, Aristotle used the term, or Aquinas applied it.)

Aquinas's third way uses necessary in the same way that I am using it here. (Additional link with commentary).

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #238 on: July 07, 2022, 03:11:51 AM »
These four paragraphs about the PSR are an example, by the way, of my frustration with your writing style. I don't see a sentence which represents your beliefs as they relate to the PSR; it just kind of swirls and swirls.

I don't have 'beliefs' about PSR, I have analysis of it, which includes the language of it. That's the problem: having a belief about complex issues plagues America right now. We don't need beliefs about them, we need thinking about them. You are getting my analysis, which is much more valuable (to me) than some belief I may have picked up in elementary school. My instincts matter too, but those do fuel my thinking as well.

Yeah, you have analysis, but you don't have an analysis. We set out to make a pencil and you're holding up shavings.

Another Chesterton quote comes to mind: "Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
Can you tell me clearly what you mean? I read your paragrahs a few times, and maybe I'm just stupid, but I just kinda see a haze of swirling confusion, doubt, and concerns. I don't see a single clear idea where I can say "this is what Fenring thinks".

What Fenring thinks is that the propositions of PSR were probably originally meant to be much closer to what we'd now call scientific reasoning. If that's true - and I would entertain dispute on this point - then rejecting the empirical way of looking at things would be counter to the purpose of PSR. I think that there is order in nature, and yes, that this order is due to having been ordered. But I also think that how you're looking at PSR has most likely been impacted by the shunting out of the sciences from the philosophy department over the centuries. I think aspects of reason point toward God; I would be very hesitant to say that it is easy to show that God must exist. I do think God exists, but I also don't think I can show it to a third party unless they are willing to go through some personal stuff.

I'm not interested in the flux of your intellectual process, I'm interested in the conclusion and you don't seem to have one. The PSR is a pretty straightforward assertion. There are just three categories of responses:  yes, no, or I don't know. There can be some nuance in those categories, but that's really all there is. Right now, you seem to me to be in the "I don't know" category.

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
It doesn't need to be short, but that's usually a good sign. It does need to be clear and distinct. Maybe start with a single word: yes or no, do you think the PSR (as I rendered it above) holds true?

I have a hunch it's not an entirely coherent proposition, so I'm unwilling to say it's not true. But I can't endorse it, either. I think it does questionable things with language, putting things we don't grasp into neat categories.

I have lots of hunches; hunches are not analysis or conclusions. In this thread, you've written 30 (300?) paragraphs in the vague direction of maybe kinda-sort rejecting the PSR or at least not putting too much weight on it; maybe we can flirt with it a little, but we can't actually rely on it.

I don't have any interest in that. I don't care if a firm assertion makes you feel queasy. I thought about the PSR and I'm comfortable putting weight on it. If you aren't (but you're also not willing to outright reject it). maybe think that through. Think it through all the way and come to a conclusion. If you want to bat the PSR back and forth to develop your thoughts, we can do that. But if you're stuck there, let's stay there. It's step one of the proof on page one; of course you're going to be uncomfortable climbing to the top of that ladder if you haven't actually inspected the first rung.

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
Chairness is not like humanness, because chairs do not have souls. The souls is the thing which provides clear continuity in living things.

This is surely an axiomatic statement, no? I don't see how you can 'observe' that souls are the thing providing clear continuity to living things, which works separately from unliving things. Actually a good friend of mine did his dissertation on the soul, and I really need to pick his brain one day about this. I don't actually know what most people mean when they refer to the "soul" (yes, funny thing for a Catholic to say). But I am speaking formally when I say this. Someone once asked me if I believe in "love", and I admitted that I had no idea what he meant, and he got upset, as if I was trolling him. This kind of thing happens a lot to me...call it a weird pattern :p   But I've never been able to just assume I understand something that everyone else says they obviously do.

Lol, no. It's not an axiomatic statement. As I observe the world, it seems really clear there are living things and non-living things. We can start by defining the soul as simply "the first principle of life", that is to say, the thing that makes living things different than non-living things. Whatever the cause of that difference is, we start by calling it the soul. The other properties of the soul that you are familiar with can be shown later, but I'm not asserting them here. I'm just putting a label on a thing which is implied by the existence of living things.

I recognize some people (Tom here, for example) embrace physicalist reductionism and reject that there is a categorical difference between the living and non-living and therefore reject the existence of the soul. That's fine. I look at the world, our scientific knowledge, and the philosophy which follows from that belief, and I'm sure he's wrong. A tree is categorically different than a rock. We can see that intuitively with our observation, and analysis supports that belief. 

The vast majority of science is predicated on that observation, and physicalist reductionism looks specious; we haven't been able to reduce the science of chemistry to physics, let alone biology. Those who assume PR are asserting it as an axiomatic belief contrary to our best understanding of science.

« Last Edit: July 07, 2022, 03:15:00 AM by JoshuaD »

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #239 on: July 07, 2022, 08:58:55 AM »
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Can we make speculations or can't we?
You're being cute, here, but my point is clear: nothing we posit about another universe need be bound by laws we have observed in this one, including assumptions regarding the linearity of time. Saying that you're applying your rules to a metaverse creates a lot of problems for you, from things suddenly no longer being a posteriori but also falling afoul of petitio principii in a way they did not when you posited an entity potentially outside of time.

If you're making Aristotle's argument from necessity, by the way, you'll first need to demonstrate that things stop existing in such a way that there could be nothing in the universe. This contracts observed reality.

-----------

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I thought about the PSR and I'm comfortable putting weight on it.
To be fair, you can't possibly have thought about it too much. :)

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We can start by defining the soul as simply "the first principle of life", that is to say, the thing that makes living things different than non-living things.
More metaphysics! *shudder*

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we haven't been able to reduce the science of chemistry to physics, let alone biology.
I'm a little curious about your application of claims, here. Are you saying that all forms of science must be unified before we can assert that the supernatural does not exist? (Also, are you saying that chemistry is not physics? I know several chemists and several physicists who would be surprised by that assertion.)

--------

Oh, hey, one more question: to you, what makes a tree categorically different from a rock is not what you're calling its soul, right? Because you're openly dismissive of animism. What does make a tree categorically different from a rock?
« Last Edit: July 07, 2022, 09:03:28 AM by Tom »

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #240 on: July 07, 2022, 11:38:55 AM »
Yeah, you have analysis, but you don't have an analysis. We set out to make a pencil and you're holding up shavings.

Do you mean I must immediately arrive at a final answer to what I see as a complicated problem - how language actually pertains to reality? I think working at it is a pretty good plan, I don't feel bad about about not providing a yes/no answer.

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Another Chesterton quote comes to mind: "Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

Religious people have a (well-deserved) reputation for saying they know all the answers to everything, so I don't think I'm being evasive to decline to make final judgements on areas that are contentious. I can name plenty of things I'd rest my hat on; the fact that PSR (as stated) isn't one of them can hardly make me squeemish about making declarations! If you knew me better you'd realize how funny it is to attribute Chesterton's quote to me  :)

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The PSR is a pretty straightforward assertion.

That's the point I'm disputing. Don't you see that?

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There are just three categories of responses:  yes, no, or I don't know. There can be some nuance in those categories, but that's really all there is. Right now, you seem to me to be in the "I don't know" category.

This is a false dilemma/trilemma. Suppose I offered you this proposition:

For all fish sandwich landgruben.
Landgruben sned durfel mintel.
Therefore mintel!

And suppose I demanded you tell me whether you agree or disagree with this proposition (or possibly "don't know"). You would obviously not agree. But you would also be hard-pressed to say you disagree; on what basis could you claim to disagree since you are not even sure it's an actual proposition? Even "don't know" is misleading, since it also implies the proposition is coherent but you don't know whether it holds. All three answers give credence to it that I'm not willing to give to PSR. PSR may be as nonsensical as my proposition above. That is my point. If PSR is not a real proposition then I would just reject it as bad language, rather disagree with it on the merits of its logic.

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I don't care if a firm assertion makes you feel queasy.

Heh, I wish that was my problem in life  :P

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But if you're stuck there, let's stay there. It's step one of the proof on page one; of course you're going to be uncomfortable climbing to the top of that ladder if you haven't actually inspected the first rung.

Well I already did state quite clearly my problems with the first rung, in my first long post on pg 1 of the thread. I don't really think you ever substantively addressed those objections. The most notable of them is that I disagree flatly with the assertion that we can see that there are reasons why things exist. Even as an axiom I would reject it; but as an observation about life I don't think almost anyone would say they can see the reasons why things exist.

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As I observe the world, it seems really clear there are living things and non-living things. We can start by defining the soul as simply "the first principle of life", that is to say, the thing that makes living things different than non-living things. Whatever the cause of that difference is, we start by calling it the soul.

You really don't think this is an axiomatic statement? While I do agree that life is unique from non-life in an important way, I could create a coherent case for this not being the case if I had to argue that position. It's not a stupid position. I used to entertain this type of position myself, resting the difference on complexity and structure (not entirely dissimilar to what LR and Tom have said). I changed my mind, but I can't prove to a third party that my new position is right. My life experience led me to where I am now, but I can't communicate that to someone through argument.

Let's keep in mind that I do agree that the universe is intelligible and that we can find out the reasons for many things. However I think this is a working axiom; I don't really have a basis to say that I can prove this. It's a combination of pragmatic philosophy with moral realism: there is a truth, but our attempts to get at it will consist of carving out better and better models. This is different from bona fide pragmatism, which says there is in fact no objective truth, but merely the artifacts of our processes.

I didn't want to get into the weeds of my own beliefs, but if we need to go there so you can understand a bit more why a simple metaphysics is a problem: suppose Catholicism is right about everything. Let's just assert that as a hypothesis. It would have to mean two things: (1) Creation is meant to be ordered and intelligible, and (2) Reality consists of Creation + spirits + God + maybe other created stuff like spirits that we don't know about. (1) already causes us a problem, since if reality is fallen what does that mean about how ordered Creation is now? (2) gives us a problem with mechanics: how can we make claims about properties the spirit realm has if we can't directly observe it? Sure, we can hope that spirits operate on intelligible and ordered principles, we can even have faith in it; but how can we say what we observe within Creation tells us something about how spirits work? You can't get from the one to the other. And if reality consists of more than just Creation, what good is it to merely observe Creation and say this tells us how things work outside of Creation?

So even if we assert all Catholic teaching as a premise I still think we have a problem using PSR to tell us something about how everything must be set up. Our observations pretty much stop at fallen reality within this system. I would say this is a pretty weak basis upon which to make claims about what must be. It does not, however, stop us saying how we believe things to be, which I am happy to do.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #241 on: July 08, 2022, 01:47:55 AM »
Quote
Can we make speculations or can't we?
You're being cute, here, but my point is clear: nothing we posit about another universe need be bound by laws we have observed in this one, including assumptions regarding the linearity of time. Saying that you're applying your rules to a metaverse creates a lot of problems for you, from things suddenly no longer being a posteriori but also falling afoul of petitio principii in a way they did not when you posited an entity potentially outside of time.

You keep missing a key point of the first argument. It is not an argument backwards through time; it is an argument right here in this moment. Something here in this moment must necessarily exist and be imparting existing to all other contingent things.

If you're making Aristotle's argument from necessity, by the way, you'll first need to demonstrate that things stop existing in such a way that there could be nothing in the universe. This contracts observed reality.

I'm making the arguments I've made. Aristotle's great but people have improved his work.

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we haven't been able to reduce the science of chemistry to physics, let alone biology.
I'm a little curious about your application of claims, here. Are you saying that all forms of science must be unified before we can assert that the supernatural does not exist? (Also, are you saying that chemistry is not physics? I know several chemists and several physicists who would be surprised by that assertion.)

Did you watch the 9 minute video I linked to explaining that assertion?

Oh, hey, one more question: to you, what makes a tree categorically different from a rock is not what you're calling its soul, right? Because you're openly dismissive of animism. What does make a tree categorically different from a rock?

A tree has a vegetative soul. It's a living thing. Something must be the first principle of its life.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #242 on: July 08, 2022, 02:09:17 AM »
Yeah, you have analysis, but you don't have an analysis. We set out to make a pencil and you're holding up shavings.

Do you mean I must immediately arrive at a final answer to what I see as a complicated problem - how language actually pertains to reality? I think working at it is a pretty good plan, I don't feel bad about about not providing a yes/no answer.

I think if you don't have an answer to the question you should think on it and come to an answer there.

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Another Chesterton quote comes to mind: "Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

Religious people have a (well-deserved) reputation for saying they know all the answers to everything, so I don't think I'm being evasive to decline to make final judgements on areas that are contentious. I can name plenty of things I'd rest my hat on; the fact that PSR (as stated) isn't one of them can hardly make me squeemish about making declarations! If you knew me better you'd realize how funny it is to attribute Chesterton's quote to me  :)

Modern philosophers spend their lives asserting there is no truth and they know nothing.  I'm good on that. We can know things. We can't know everything, but we can know that the rock in our hand exists. We can know that a dog is fundamentally different than a rock.

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There are just three categories of responses:  yes, no, or I don't know. There can be some nuance in those categories, but that's really all there is. Right now, you seem to me to be in the "I don't know" category.

This is a false dilemma/trilemma. Suppose I offered you this proposition:

For all fish sandwich landgruben.
Landgruben sned durfel mintel.
Therefore mintel!

And suppose I demanded you tell me whether you agree or disagree with this proposition (or possibly "don't know"). You would obviously not agree. But you would also be hard-pressed to say you disagree; on what basis could you claim to disagree since you are not even sure it's an actual proposition? Even "don't know" is misleading, since it also implies the proposition is coherent but you don't know whether it holds. All three answers give credence to it that I'm not willing to give to PSR. PSR may be as nonsensical as my proposition above. That is my point. If PSR is not a real proposition then I would just reject it as bad language, rather disagree with it on the merits of its logic.

Sure. For me, nonsense statements fall under the category of "no", but if you want to put them in a separate category I have no objection to that.

"A triangle with four sides" is a nonsense statement.
"A rock so big God can't lift it" is a nonsense statement.

Why do you think the PSR is a nonsense statement?

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I don't care if a firm assertion makes you feel queasy.
Heh, I wish that was my problem in life  :P

What things, aside from mathematics and science, do you believe firmly and not through faith? What philosophical convictions do you have?


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But if you're stuck there, let's stay there. It's step one of the proof on page one; of course you're going to be uncomfortable climbing to the top of that ladder if you haven't actually inspected the first rung.

Well I already did state quite clearly my problems with the first rung, in my first long post on pg 1 of the thread. I don't really think you ever substantively addressed those objections. The most notable of them is that I disagree flatly with the assertion that we can see that there are reasons why things exist. Even as an axiom I would reject it; but as an observation about life I don't think almost anyone would say they can see the reasons why things exist.

I understood your objection there to be regarding the casual language I used in the explanation I wrote up for my non-philosophical friend. What exactly is your concern with the more rigorous definition of the PSR I provided above? I'm still not clear on what you're saying. You seem to be vaguely rejecting it for something having to maybe with it being an incoherent sentence and idea. Is that right? If so, why is it incoherent?  Where specifically is the problem you see?

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As I observe the world, it seems really clear there are living things and non-living things. We can start by defining the soul as simply "the first principle of life", that is to say, the thing that makes living things different than non-living things. Whatever the cause of that difference is, we start by calling it the soul.

You really don't think this is an axiomatic statement?

No. I think it for reasons: living things are different than non-living things and there must be some cause for why that is the case. Let's label that thing, whatever it is, "the soul" and keep investigating.

While I do agree that life is unique from non-life in an important way, I could create a coherent case for this not being the case if I had to argue that position. It's not a stupid position. I used to entertain this type of position myself, resting the difference on complexity and structure (not entirely dissimilar to what LR and Tom have said). I changed my mind, but I can't prove to a third party that my new position is right. My life experience led me to where I am now, but I can't communicate that to someone through argument.

No you couldn't. Two contrary ideas can't both be true. One is true and coherent, the other is false and incoherent. Just because someone wrote a book defending an argument doesn't mean we must always doubt ourselves anytime we think the opposite thing. One can argue that rocks and humans have the same basic nature. One can argue all sorts of things.

It seems like you have an instinctive retreat to the hyper-skepticalism of Hume, but with an glaring exception for the explorations of modern science. You seem to believe symbolic manipulations are true as far as they go, but mapping some logical thing onto the real world is basically impossible (except when a scientist does it). You seem to think that we can't know anything at all from our senses (unless we're in a scientific lab). We can kinda sorta maybe know a little, but we have to always treat it with an extreme doubt and skepticism (unless we're reading a scientific journal). Do I have your basic frame right?

Let's keep in mind that I do agree that the universe is intelligible...

No, you don't seem to. "Things are intelligible" is another expression of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. The alternative to intelligibility is brute facts; things just happening with no intelligibility and no reason. To be intelligible is mean that there are reasons. To say that there are reasons for things is to reject bruteness and embrace the PSR. You can have doubts about the universality of the PSR, but if so, you are stuck with bruteness. There is no middle ground.


I didn't want to get into the weeds of my own beliefs, but if we need to go there so you can understand a bit more why a simple metaphysics is a problem: suppose Catholicism is right about everything. Let's just assert that as a hypothesis. It would have to mean two things: (1) Creation is meant to be ordered and intelligible, and (2) Reality consists of Creation + spirits + God + maybe other created stuff like spirits that we don't know about. (1) already causes us a problem, since if reality is fallen what does that mean about how ordered Creation is now? (2) gives us a problem with mechanics: how can we make claims about properties the spirit realm has if we can't directly observe it? Sure, we can hope that spirits operate on intelligible and ordered principles, we can even have faith in it; but how can we say what we observe within Creation tells us something about how spirits work? You can't get from the one to the other. And if reality consists of more than just Creation, what good is it to merely observe Creation and say this tells us how things work outside of Creation?

So even if we assert all Catholic teaching as a premise I still think we have a problem using PSR to tell us something about how everything must be set up. Our observations pretty much stop at fallen reality within this system. I would say this is a pretty weak basis upon which to make claims about what must be. It does not, however, stop us saying how we believe things to be, which I am happy to do.

I don't think (and I have not argued) that the PSR tells us how everything is setup. I say that the PSR along with the existence of contingent things implies that God exists. We're not going to get to the Catholic ideas of angels or Satan or Mary or Jesus or the parting of the red sea through the PSR. I'm not saying that the PSR implies Catholicism. The God that we can discover through reason and philosophy is compatible with Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, some Islam, some other Christianities, and some Judaism.

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #243 on: July 08, 2022, 02:29:33 AM »
You keep missing a key point of the first argument. It is not an argument backwards through time; it is an argument right here in this moment. Something here in this moment must necessarily exist and be imparting existing to all other contingent things.

Sorry to intrude again on your comments to Tom, but I do want to mention something I highlighted once but want to emphasize: you've said you don't want this to be about chronological causes but rather a single current cause of reality existing. But as I mentioned before a lot of the language you used is bound up in chronological considerations. Aquinas' 2nd and 3rd ways are both at least in part talking about a chronological chain of causation: in the 2nd way he refers to efficient causes of things, and how infinities are impossible; but this could only be true if he's talking about materially subsequent events. If he was talking about the single cause of everything existing there would be no chain of efficient causes, no middle term, nothing; just God and all the things He - in one efficient cause - wills to exist. So that argument surely must actually be about linear time and how it can traced back to its Creator. It may also be about the direct God-us cause, but can't be just about that. And his 3rd way is more or less strictly a linear-time argument about how things must have gone before, and this proving there's a God (the Parmenides 'nothing comes from nothing' argument). The 4th and 5th ways don't help us in this regard since they're on about something else, while the 1st is indeed on about chronology but you've specifically said you are not talking about the Prime Mover argument so we can drop that one. My point is just to say that both of Aquinas' relevant arguments that lend themselves to your version of it at all include linear chronology in them. So yours would be different in that you're only talking about propping up existence rather than finding a chain of causation. I think this departs from what the older versions (such as Aquinas) saw as the schema in the arguments. If you want to drop that aspect of it then fine, but then what does our science and philosophy from step 1 on pg 1 actually tell us of use about what props everything up right now?

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #244 on: July 08, 2022, 02:48:17 AM »
You keep missing a key point of the first argument. It is not an argument backwards through time; it is an argument right here in this moment. Something here in this moment must necessarily exist and be imparting existing to all other contingent things.

Sorry to intrude again on your comments to Tom, but I do want to mention something I highlighted once but want to emphasize: you've said you don't want this to be about chronological causes but rather a single current cause of reality existing. But as I mentioned before a lot of the language you used is bound up in chronological considerations. Aquinas' 2nd and 3rd ways are both at least in part talking about a chronological chain of causation: in the 2nd way he refers to efficient causes of things, and how infinities are impossible; but this could only be true if he's talking about materially subsequent events. If he was talking about the single cause of everything existing there would be no chain of efficient causes, no middle term, nothing; just God and all the things He - in one efficient cause - wills to exist. So that argument surely must actually be about linear time and how it can traced back to its Creator. It may also be about the direct God-us cause, but can't be just about that. And his 3rd way is more or less strictly a linear-time argument about how things must have gone before, and this proving there's a God (the Parmenides 'nothing comes from nothing' argument). The 4th and 5th ways don't help us in this regard since they're on about something else, while the 1st is indeed on about chronology but you've specifically said you are not talking about the Prime Mover argument so we can drop that one. My point is just to say that both of Aquinas' relevant arguments that lend themselves to your version of it at all include linear chronology in them. So yours would be different in that you're only talking about propping up existence rather than finding a chain of causation. I think this departs from what the older versions (such as Aquinas) saw as the schema in the arguments. If you want to drop that aspect of it then fine, but then what does our science and philosophy from step 1 on pg 1 actually tell us of use about what props everything up right now?

Which of the arguments that I have expressed here rely on an historical chain of causation?  I don't believe I have made those arguments.

I'm not here to defend every argument made by every Catholic. I'm not equipped for the job. I'm here to defend the arguments I've made and I find compelling.

I do think the arguments which rely on chronology hold, but I don't want to debate sci-fi with you and Tom, and I find it easiest to sidestep that whole mess by talking about a hierarchical chain of causation rather than an historical one.

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #245 on: July 08, 2022, 03:29:50 AM »
I do think the arguments which rely on chronology hold, but I don't want to debate sci-fi with you and Tom, and I find it easiest to sidestep that whole mess by talking about a hierarchical chain of causation rather than an historical one.

Hierarchical in what sense? It seems to me that if you're only talking about God propping up reality, as I mentioned above there is no hierarchy or order of efficient causes. God wills it, and we persist. But your argument uses elements from Aquinas' formats which are talking about chronology, such as saying contingent things require causes, but cannot cause each other to infinity, and so forth. You're ruling out infinite regress and time loops because you want to trace that chain to a final destination; but a final destination doesn't exist in the God--> us supports us with His will direct argument. You don't need intermediary causes to even have to worry about excluding infinite regress. But what evidence in science and philosophy give us the information needed to say God supports us all right here and now in this moment? What successes have we had that can demonstrate we can deduce this type of result?

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #246 on: July 08, 2022, 08:44:27 AM »
Quote
Something here in this moment must necessarily exist and be imparting existing to all other contingent things.
Leaving aside that this is definitely not Aristotle's use of "necessary," why do you believe this is the case? Why could all the contingent things not be contingent upon something that made them exist at the beginning of the universe, and not since then?

I ask this because in abandoning chronological chains, you actually abandon the core of Aquinas (and, incidentally, the utility of the PSR to your argument.) The idea that things need an active, intentional underpinning from a non-underpinned entity to exist right now is, I submit, an a priori axiom and not defensible by observation or conclusion.

I'm afraid that I found the video you linked to be empty Catholic pontificating (heh). It was like watching Jordan Peterson; the guy's very confident of his thought, but doesn't seem aware of the fragility of his claims and consequently is preaching to the choir and hoping to snare the un-critical. Which part of it did you find valuable to your own argument?

Quote
Something must be the first principle of its life.
Why?
Leaving aside my extreme dislike of "principles" of this sort, it's worth observing that one of my friends is very close -- probably within three years -- to creating lab-made bacteriological life. Are you asserting that at the moment he does so, that emergent bacteria will acquire a "bacteriological soul" in the way your tree has a hypothetical "vegetable soul?" Which of the chemical reactions that led to the bacteria imparted a soul to it?
« Last Edit: July 08, 2022, 08:54:44 AM by Tom »

Tom

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #247 on: July 08, 2022, 09:00:31 AM »
I missed the edit window, so I'm just popping in here to mention that I'm willing to discuss the video and the horrific abuse of the word "intuition" the speaker commits in it, but I'd much rather see you answer a few of my open questions first. You've ignored or dodged quite a few of them, and I think some of them are fairly important.

Fenring

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #248 on: July 08, 2022, 02:37:06 PM »
It was like watching Jordan Peterson

Dude.

JoshuaD

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Re: God Exists
« Reply #249 on: July 08, 2022, 04:17:39 PM »
It was like watching Jordan Peterson

At no point did the brother say "bucko", "it's not obvious to me that...", or break down crying. Not a fair analogy.