Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hitchens versus Haldane

Here’s the first of a ten-part series of YouTube clips of a debate between Christopher Hitchens and John Haldane, at Oxford, about secularism and faith in the public square.

88 comments:

Jeff said...

Prof. Haldane is evidently a learned, intelligent, and decent man, and I don't doubt there's profit to be had from reading him (as I have a snatch or two). But as a debater he is completely out of his depth in this exchange, to an extent that makes it painful to watch. He allows Hitchens to hit his wonted rhetorical homers out of the park (e.g., on Benedict and the clerical abuse of children, on the barbarity of a redemption accomplished by the Son's crucifixion, and on the unintelligibility of a Creator's imposing free will on us) without a word of rebuttal, and instead natters on about the postulates that will satisfy the conditions that will securely ground claims concerning the intrinsic value of human life, zzz. If you're a theist, what's the use in putting up against Hitchens someone whose qualifications are limited to being a competent academic (and therefore, as often as not, a crashing bore -- I speak as a member of the tribe)? It only makes sense to give a platform to so accomplished a rhetorical performer if his opposite number can hold at least a flickering candle to him in debate.

Maolsheachlann said...

Notice how Hitchens visibly plays to the gallery again and again. It's true that he's a rhetorical performer in that he gets down to brass tacks. But sometimes it seems to me as though him and his NA buddies LITERALLY don't understand that there can be no objective standards of goodness and no objective meaning in a materialist universe. I thought they were just dodging the question but I'm really beginning to believe that they just don't get it-- which is almost incredible.

Dr. Evangelicus said...

Let's be honest

-- what we really all want to see is:

C. Hitchens vs. Ed Feser !!!

I'd pay money to attend that!

Maolsheachlann said...

In his critique of the "courtier's defence" rhetorical tactic, Dr. Feser seemed to suggest that a defence of theism inevitably requires some rather involved philosophising. So presumably that makes it difficult for apologists to engage populist atheists like Hitchens.

In his excellent article on the metaphysics of conservatism, he seemed to say that real conservatism required metaphysical truth claims to underpin it.

But does that mean that a debate on abortion or euthanasia has to begin with first principles, to tackle abstract notions like the essence of the human being?

That question has been troubling me.

Maolsheachlann said...

(I meant, of course, the so-called "courtier's reply".)

rkirk said...

Maolsheachlann: While I obviously can't know how Hichens and co reason, your characterization resonates quite well with how I used to think back in my atheist days. (Don't worry -- I'm much better now.) Morality without God was a massive blind spot for me: I never really thought seriously about it, and whenever someone brought it up in a debte I would feign indignation or quickly change the subject. I suspect this is how it is for quite a few people today, religious or not: they're frightened by the implications of both moral subjectivism or moral objectivism, so they end up loudly championing a sort of nonsensical middleground position.

Crude said...

Actually, I'd pay to see a debate between Ed Feser and a fellow theist. William Lane Craig, or Bill Dembski. I've seen enough of the NA shenanigans - something substantial is in order now.

But does that mean that a debate on abortion or euthanasia has to begin with first principles, to tackle abstract notions like the essence of the human being?

I imagine it depends on the context, really. Perhaps in an ultimate sense one has to go back to first principles, but that seems to be the case for almost anything.

Eric said...

I think this is the first Hitchens debate about which it can plausibly be said that Hitch was defeated in the all important "charming, urbane and sophisticated accent" debate category.

normajean said...

Eric, this has nothing to do with anything here. I just wanted to thank you for your wit, wisdom, and humility over at Debunking Christianity. You're a blessing to a lot of us, skeptic and Christian.

Eric said...

Normajean, I think my humility, or whatever I had of it, just went out the window when I read your comment, ;)

Seriously though, thank you very much.

Jime said...

I published in my blog the debate between Hitchens and William Lane Craig:

http://subversivethinking.blogspot.com/2010/06/christopher-hitchens-vs-william-lane.html

I think Craig destroyed Hitchens there, Hitchens seems unable to grasp some of the basic Craig's arguments, specially the moral argument. He consistently misconstructs it.

If atheist apologists like Hitchens cannot grasp (and hence cannot refute) Craig's easy to understand and well-known arguments, do you imagine Hitchens (or Dawkins, or any other new atheist) trying to refute Feser's Thomistic arguments for God's existence, like the first way?

I imagine Hitchens replying "Feser, if everything has a cause, tell me, what caused God?"

Certainly, I'd like to watch a Feser vs. any-New-Atheist too (but it's only because I'd like to see the new atheists' butt being kicked)

But I only would pay to watch a debate between Feser vs William Lane Craig on catolicism!

:-)

normajean said...

Sorry about that, Eric. Stay solid and take care, man!

Anonymous said...

Here is an instructive exchange at 1:27 of video #7.

Hitchens: I can make a statement of objective truth easily enough, as can you. But can you make a statement of absolute truth? While we wait?
...
Haldane: If you say give us an example of something that might be an absolute truth -- maybe we share this but on a different foundation -- that something like, "Human life, innocent human life, is something to be respected and not violated."
Hitchens: That's a PRECEPT, not a truth.
Haldane (hesitatingly): Well I'm not sure what you're taking that difference to be...
Hitchens: Well, innocent humans die in the millions every year for no reason than they're born to a primate species on a very harsh planet. We can't say we DISLIKE that.
Haldane: That's a description of what might happen. Mine was a claim about what we ought or ought not to do. But look, I mean--
Hitchens: That is not a state--what you just said is in NO way a truth statement...NO SENSE a truth statement.
-------------------------

This is why I cannot take Hitchens too seriously and why I find it incredible that some people seem to. On the one hand, at "Well, innocent humans die in the millions..." he offers up a non-sequitur that must even have made his supporters scratching their heads. Was he trying to accomplish anything with that statement other than strive not to appear cornered simply by saying anything at all, or perhaps groping toward some idea which made sense for a moment but which then broke down mid-sentence but he kept going anyway?

But even once he hits a dead end, he quickly falls back on repeating, with great fervor, the same ignorant response that someone with next to no philosophical education would be apt to put forward: he weirdly distinguishes precepts from truths in an attempt to get around the idea that he accepts any absolute truth. So is Hitchens saying there are no "moral truths," then? I feel it would be useless to press him on this because he doesn't grasp the basic concepts at work: ethics, truth, objectivity, and so on. He seems to have some vulgar or idiosyncratic notion of what these terms mean--he uses them, after all--but they're so far removed from the way they're used in philosophical discourse, and he so insists on his own usage, that arguing with him gets you nowhere.

It just seems to me that Hitchens isn't even aware of what philosophy as a branch of study is, or that he has been wandering about in it recklessly ever since he turned his attention to criticizing theism. I suppose I used to think he deemed philosophy not worth studying, that he has all the answers and relevant distinctions and arguments without being open to learning what others have had to say on these matters. Maolsheachlann's above comment about Hitchens' literally not understanding the point of the moral argument for God struck me. This now has me wondering if Hitchens may not just be, for whatever reason, inured to philosophical thinking of any depth. Whether this is because he came to it quite late in life, or because he developed a certain way of thinking during his time as a journalist, or whatever the explanation may be, I have no way of knowing.

To anyone: I tend to be very cautious about being so critical of any thinker, so please feel free to correct anything I said if you think it's misguided.

Just Thinking said...

Ji,e's vids show Craig to be arguing theologically most of the time, not solely philosophically.

I side with Hitchens that the onus is on proving God, not proving no-God.

How can I prove a unicorn does not exist?

The Craig debate was better than the Haldane one.

Aaron said...

"Haldane: If you say give us an example of something that might be an absolute truth -- maybe we share this but on a different foundation -- that something like, "Human life, innocent human life, is something to be respected and not violated."

Hitchens: That's a PRECEPT, not a truth."

I think at this point Haldane should have asked Hitchens how his last statement is not a false dichotomy. Why exactly can't a precept also be a truth? Why must the two be mutually exclusive?

I don't mean to be too presumptuous here, but when Kant said that one of the things that fill his mind with ever new and increasing wonder and awe is the moral law within him, I find it quite plausible that Kant would have found that moral law to not only be a law (or precept), but also to be a *truth,* and a rather profound truth at that.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Is it a moral truth, binding on the private and public conscience, that all moral statements are precepts rather than truths?

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

Ji,e's vids show Craig to be arguing theologically most of the time, not solely philosophically.

I think Craig draws theological consequences from scientific and philosophical premises. And it's what most philosophers of religion do when arguing about God.

I side with Hitchens that the onus is on proving God, not proving no-God.

I disagree. Both the atheist and the theist make factual claims about reality (the atheist makes a negative claim "God doesn't exit", and the theist a positive one "God exists"), so both of them have the burden of proof regarding their respective positions.

Only an agnostic, who makes no claim whatsoever, have no burden of proof (since he doesn't make any assertion)

How can I prove a unicorn does not exist?

This is disanalogous regarding God.

In fact, atheists have tried to prove that God's attributes are logically inconistent, what would imply that God doesn't exist.

Also, the problem of the evil is a standard argument against God's existence, and for atheism.

The idea that proving a negative is not possible is simply false, and every philosopher and logician knows that. (In fact, in formal logic, proving P implies proving that non-P is false, which amounts to prove a negative claim)

Philospopher (and atheist) Steven Hales has a paper about proving a negative claim:

http://departments.bloomu.edu/philosophy/pages/content/hales/articles/proveanegative.html

In the abstract of that paper you can read: "It is widely believed that you can’t prove a negative. Some people even think that it is a law of logic—you can’t prove that Santa Claus, unicorns, the Loch Ness Monster, God, pink elephants, WMD in Iraq and Bigfoot don’t exist. This widespread belief is flatly, 100% wrong. In this little essay, I show precisely how one can prove a negative, to the same extent that one can prove anything at all."

Atheist apologists like Hitchens possibly know that too (otherwise, they would't defend the argument of evil against theism), but they try to hide that in order to avoid the burden of proof of their own atheistic positions.

No philosopher would be taken in by that debating trick.

The Craig debate was better than the Haldane one.

Craig is a great debater, and it's amazing that he has used for more than 20 years a standard case for God's existence and atheists haven't rebut it satisfactorily (at least, as far I've read or hear the Craig's debates).

Reading and hearing Craig's debates with atheists have convinced me that the contemporary philosophical case for atheism is very weak indeed.

Just Thinking said...

Given that theists do not agree on what the nature of God has to be, so much more vague would be the conceptions of God held by a theist and an atheist.

So, unlike P and not P, it is difficult to even state what it is that an atheist must disprove.

On that idea, Craig spoke of 5 proofs, but I'd bet there are theists who would only accept one, or two as being applicable to their concept of Deity.

Jime said...

It's clear that there could exist a debate about God's attributes. But assuming at least one clear conception of God, then both the theist and atheist will have to present arguments for their position.

If I ask you "Do you believe in gstystyasjsys"?", you cannot answer unless you know what I mean by "gstystyasjsys". The rational position about it would be agnosticism, not belief for or against it.

So, if the atheist argue that the concept of God is not clear, it is not an argument for atheism, but for agnosticism.

You cannot affirm or deny a proposition that you cannot understand.

On that idea, Craig spoke of 5 proofs, but I'd bet there are theists who would only accept one, or two as being applicable to their concept of Deity

Craig's argument for religious experience is the less convincing for me. It is not an argument for God, but for the rationality of the belief in Him.

I'm more interested in arguments for and againt God as such.

In one of his debates, Craig defended an argument for abstract objects, but he didn't use it anymore.

I think that argument is a very strong argument against naturalism. Naturalists's best reply to such argument would be to defend some version of Platonic realism, but it's open to serious objections to it (see e.g. Feser's discussion in the Last Superstition) and to the fact that naturalism itself (given its ontology and empiricist epistemoogy) seems to be unable to account for it (see Moreland's book Consciousness and the Existence of God for a discussion of the naturalist epistemology and ontological constraints)

In my opinion, the best arguments for God's existence are:

1-Aquinas' first way.

2-The Kalam argument.

3-The moral argument

4-The argument from consciousness

5-The argument for abstract objects

Aquinas'first way (if sound) is demostrative of God's existence as a pure Being or Being itself.

The rest of the arguments are useful specially as a cumulative case for God.

Crude said...

Jime,

Atheist apologists like Hitchens possibly know that too (otherwise, they would't defend the argument of evil against theism), but they try to hide that in order to avoid the burden of proof of their own atheistic positions.

No philosopher would be taken in by that debating trick.


I think you're giving too much credit to philosophers - plenty of them get sandbagged, let inanities pass, etc. But I agree that the argument about who has what onus is often far less about truth or reasonableness, as opposed to rhetorical maneuvering. "Debating tricks" as you say.

My own anecdotal experience is this: People who pride themselves on being skeptics typically hate, absolutely hate, being on defense. The fun of skepticism is being able to take aim at claims and see how much damage you can do - or how much damage you can appear to do. At worst, one of your attacks won't do much damage, one of your charges won't stick. But otherwise, the only thing that can happen is your target can be worse for wear.

Being on defense for a belief, though? That's a different matter entirely. Now you're the one being taken aim at. The best that can happen is you stand up to the attacks. Otherwise, the only place to go is down. Now, there's plenty of people willing to do this normally - they have a belief they wish to defend, etc. But if your primary wish isn't to defend any particular belief but just cripple ones you dislike, well.. why bother?

I'd say it's the difference between boxing and beating up someone you dislike. If all you want to is the latter, the former's something to avoid. If you just dislike someone and want to do them harm, why box if you can help it? Why let them hit back? Better to hit with no risk to yourself.

Eric said...

"My own anecdotal experience is this: People who pride themselves on being skeptics typically hate, absolutely hate, being on defense. The fun of skepticism is being able to take aim at claims and see how much damage you can do - or how much damage you can appear to do."

Crude, I agree. That's an excellent insight into the psychology of the skeptic.

feser_fan said...

JT-

"Given that theists do not agree on what the nature of God has to be, so much more vague would be the conceptions of God held by a theist and an atheist."

I think this is a bit of an overstatement. At the beginning of any debate we can define what we're talking about and what our "arena" is. While most theists probably would not agree exactly on what they believe the nature of God to be, such differences do not make the Atheist's attempt impossible. This point you raise is exactly why an Atheist should have an actual grounding in philosophy and philosophical theology, which quite obviously (and regrettably) Chris Hitchens does not. But if all parties in the debate have such a grounding, it seems apparent to me that fruitful discussion can result.

"On that idea, Craig spoke of 5 proofs, but I'd bet there are theists who would only accept one, or two as being applicable to their concept of Deity."

I'm not exactly sure why you think this. Certainly most of us here probably consider the approach of Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastics a superior method to that of modern 'Intelligent Design' theorists when it comes to proving the existence of God, but strictly speaking I think most people would say they believe that both methods would ultimately lead to the same sort of Being. It seems to me that from Aquinas you get, along with a good philosophy of nature, single distinct arguments for the existence of God that also make the qualities most theists attribute to Him immediately apparent. I believe that modern theists can accomplish the same task, but doing so often seems to require a whole boatload of different arguments which are often not as persuasive and must be arranged into an organized whole- a tricky task to say the least. Yet ultimately, if both were done flawlessly (which, let's face it, they never are, since we are only humble philosophers after all) I do think they'd lead to the same Being, or at least two conceptions that were very close to identical.

Just Thinking said...

the approach of Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastics a superior method to that of modern 'Intelligent Design' theorists ... I do think they'd lead to the same Being, or at least two conceptions that were very close to identical.

Remember the recent AT vs ID skirmish that involved numerous blog sites?

The observation about skeptics is very interesting. It mimics the difference between progressives vs conservatives in politics.

I've a hunch that the NA debates will lead to a synthesis of the thesis/antithesis of theism; the reigning stance of modern skepticism will produce a new agnosticism that is somewhat acceptable to both sides.

The Middle Way.

Crude said...

I don't think a 'new agnosticism' is in the cards, at least one of agnosticism about God's/gods' existence. Between cosmological speculations, technological advancement, and the weirdness (compared to that once-upon-a-time 'pebbles in a box' image) of modern physics, the "middle ground" I see is likely going to be minimal theism(s) and standard deism(s) of various forms. That's where the action is.

Just Thinking said...

On second thought, you are likely right, crude.

Unitarianism is as close to a structured agnosticism as I am avare of (in the western tradition), and they have never enjoyed great numbers of members.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Ed can handle Craig in a debate. I'm not even sure Plantinga could and he smokes Craig!

hype said...

Just Thinking....
You're not smart.
Unicorns do exist...
Ever hear of a narwhal?

In all of your attempts to be cute, you just come across as stupid.

I think you're just another me.

hype said...

Guess Chris's bro Pete feels different:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io1sNfw9-TA

Just Thinking said...

I think the Platonic unicorn is way more beautiful. But, alas, I am so stupid.

Bjørn Are said...

What we really do need is Hitchens vs. Chesterton.

Now, could someone be as kind as arrange that?

I think Hitch needs it to understand a few things.

Jime said...

This is off-topic, but perhaps of interest to some of you philosophy fans:

Craig has a podcast regarding catholicism that you may download here:

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/RF_podcast/What_About_Catholicism_.mp3

On other topic, in one of my previous comment, I commented about Steven Hales. I'm reading his paper on "change" where he comments and criticizes David Oderberg's view about change:

http://departments.bloomu.edu/philosophy/pages/content/hales/articlepdf/timeforchange.pdf

I don't know if Oderberg knows that paper and has replied to it.

Hales constructs Oderberg's argument like this:

1.Object X changes from being F to being not-F =df. X is wholly
present at t and (at t) X is F, and X is wholly present at t+1
and (at t+1) X is not-F.

2. According to perdurantism, objects are not wholly present at
a time; instead objects have temporal extension and are
“spread-out” over time.

3. Since the definition of change requires that objects are wholly
present at a time, change is incompatible with perdurantism

Hales comments about it: "The preceding is not a terrible argument; it is valid and we concur that the second premise is true. While the first premise has intuitive plausibility, there are reasons to doubt it. For example, consider the mereological sum of Aristotle and David Oderberg. For endurantists, Oderberg is wholly present now and Aristotle was wholly present then, although it does not seem that the sum is wholly present now. If x is a part of y and x changes, then y changes. Thus when Aristotle underwent change, the Aristotle+Oderberg sum changed, although it was not wholly present at any particular time."

Does Hales' reply suffice to cast doubts on Oderberg's argument?

Just Thinking said...

Jime,

From the Wiki:

Stage theorist [perdurationists] take you to be identical with a particular temporal part at any given time. So, in a manner of speaking, a subject only exists for an instantaneous period of time. However there are other temporal parts at other times which that subject is related to in a certain way (Sider talks of 'modal counterpart relations', whilst Hawley talks of 'non-Humean relations')

Given how poorly other metaphysical systems are viewed by Ed and most commenters here, I am a bit hesitant to point out that this fix for Oderberg's hylomorphic substantial change is none other than the theory of change that forms the basis of Whitehead's process metaphysics.

Crude said...

I don't think most regulars here have a deeply "poor view" of other metaphysics, aside from materialism (for obvious reasons). Speaking frankly, process metaphysics is just a bit of a joke lately because of one guy who kept showing up angrily demanding everyone start talking about process metaphysics. (Note: It's not like HE talked about process metaphysics either. He just demanded everyone else would. It was.. weird.)

I mean, Ed's happily brought up - with some compliments - Platonic theories, idealism, neutral monism, etc, and credits Russell for helping open his eyes to some deeper metaphysical views. I myself am fascinated by panpsychism for a number of reasons. Most of us here have some off-track views, I think. A casual approach is best.

Just Thinking said...

"I think. A casual approach is best."

x2

Panpsychism interests me, also. What I am more and more drawn to, however, is the realization of our over-dependence on language to frame our understanding. (This was an issue with logical positivists.)

It's relevance is how our words and cultural background lead us in our presumptions that there is some 'hard' objective stuff in mutual exclusion of 'soft' mentality. Too Eastern for most folk, but I have been called stupid, already, so whats the harm with a bit more open-ness?

Space-time is a bit wacky, too, and here, I am in respectable company.

normajean said...

What's a good Thomist say about space-time? As much as I like Craig, I cannot understand his time and eternity. I wonder what Tom had to say.

hype said...

Dr. Feser,
in your opinion.... who won this debate?

Just Thinking said...

"What's a good Thomist say about space-time? As much as I like Craig, I cannot understand his time and eternity. I wonder what Tom had to say."

That is what I wonder, too. As best as I get Tom, God is timelessness itself, so all changes we experience are specific willed acts of the creator-sustainer.

This prtdurance notion of change is not compatible with A-T substance metaphysics, but it practically completely spells out a process metaphysics. It also seems much more resonant with our intuitive experience of the present than endurantism.

Just Thinking said...

Clarification...

Hales perdurance notion of change is not compatible with A-T substance metaphysics, but it practically completely spells out a process metaphysics. It also seems much more resonant with our intuitive experience of the present than endurantism.

Anonymous said...

God is timelessness itself, so all changes we experience are specific willed acts of the creator-sustainer.

Uh, God is changless, so this is just wrong.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Sigh. I have a very low opinion of perdurantism, to put it mildly.

1) It begs the question by saying an object's parts are, well… PARTS. Parts belong to whole and parts cannot belong to wholes unless the wholes actually exist. Ergo, one cannot refer to a part of a whole at time t if the whole does not also exist at t.

2) Perdurantism is more or less an embarrassed way of admitting what substantial metaphysics has always asserted, namely, that an existent's substance is not purely, nor wholly, physically quantifiable. What perdurantism latches onto is the fact that, in a materialistic spacetime manifold, no finite observer––nor any physically 'enmeshed' observer even infinite perceptual powers––can ever observe all of an existent's matter at one instant in time; ergo, no existent is materially wholly present at any instant. But this is just to admit that 'what a real thing is' (viz., its substantial essence) is not a material but an immaterial, and therefore nonquantifiable, reality. A thing's essence is what it is, perfectly, regardless how 'fragmented' its nonessential material components may be in the spacetime manifold. Hence, perdurantism really comes down––again, in an embarrassed but ultimately hollow way––to saying that, since none of an existent's spatiotemporal parts "all exist together at one instant," therefore those discrete parts are not essential to––not exhaustive of––the existent. But this––distinguishing between a thing's essential and non-essential parts while still speaking of THE THING ITSELF––is just to be a hylomorphist. As I wrote in a post nearly two years ago:

"Hylomorphism does not mean an object or thing is wholly and completely present in each part of itself, but only that each part of a thing is wholly and conjointly present to that thing's form as the integral substance of its material divisibility. The front of a train may exist in a different time-frame from the back of the train, as special relativity indicates, but this does not mean the train is only partly present in different time-frames. All it means, hylomorphically, is that the essence of a train formally unites the different sections of the train in different time-frames. All the parts, in every time-frame, are still under the formal power of the train as a substantial entity."

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...


3) I find the notion of infinitely divisible "time slices" incoherent on its very face. For, if we slice finely enough, we are left with non-extended, infinitely thin time slices. But a stack of infinitely thin sheets of paper is itself infinitely shallow. As I wrote in a post a year or two ago:

"…[An idea] I got from David Oderberg's essay, ["Hylomorphic Dualism," is that] it is incoherent to say a thing's spatiotemporal structure is comprised of spaceless, timeless slices. In other words, offering two trillion totally worthless pennies to the cashier is no better or worse than offering only two. Since perdurantism denies there are substantial wholes which exist as wholes over multiple points of spacetime, it must also deny that any of the time slices "in" an "object" endure over any extended amount of spacetime. Ergo, each time slice is infinitely thin and infinitesimally brief. Unfortunately, however, stacking two trillion infinitely thin plates under your feet gets you no higher than stacking only two infinitely thin plates under them. Likewise, if I give you all my money for an infinitesimal amount of time, it really just means I do not give you my money. There is no coherent natural way to get spatiotemporally extended objects from spatiotemporally non-extended parts."

Consider also the most rudimentary elements of the Standard Model in physics. Some of the earliest components in the origin of the cosmos last on the order of 10^-43 sec. What room do we really have here for saying such an "object" has infinitely many parts in the span of so little time? For if we cut into that narrow window of happening, we have actually cut the happening into a wholly different phenomenon. The explosion and dissolution of leptons, for instance, include in their very nature to exist at a precise temporal instant, not at many arbitrary (and arbitrarily fictional, I might add) instants, so to scatter them over many instants is to destroy in their essential spatiotemporal "fragility."

In any case, here is a link to all I seem to have penned at my blog with the word "perdurantism" in it: http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/search?q=perdurantism

Best,

Just Thinking said...

Codge

Come back when you have something to say ;). I will reread your post here a few more times. BTW, I enjoyed some of the linkable Thomism references you provided in your teleology comment. The address by McInerny on the scope and goal of a phil of nature was insightful. He seems to say such a Thomistic phil is needed to move around in an everyday way, and it is not necessarily meant to be scientifically compatible. I always felt like this might be so, but I see folks like Ed and Oderberg and others trying to square the two.

On perdurance, note that the limit as delta x or t goes to 0 has NO physical counterpart in space or time. A duration of time is requisite to provide for an event or experience (conscious or otherwise). Each of a contiguous group of parts can be said to be experiencing time in such durations that even may be of different lengths for each parts. The pistons of a car doing 3 mph are experiencing a lot more change than the connected tires, nystagmus of your eye is far more active in the time it takes for you to have a thought about it, etc.

So by placing the focus on the processes of the parts rather than the action of the whole lends itself to perdurance, and eddurance applies better for the whole substance.

David said...

Jime, quoting Hales contra Oderberg: "Thus when Aristotle underwent change, the Aristotle+Oderberg sum changed, although it was not wholly present at any particular time."

I imagine Oderberg would say that there's no such thing "Aristotle+Oderberg", i.e. no actual substance, so the objection doesn't make sense. Saying "Aristotle+Oderberg changed" would amount some kind of verbal shorthand for saying "Aristotle changed and/or Oderberg changed", which is fairly simple and unproblematic.

Codgitator: In other words, offering two trillion totally worthless pennies to the cashier is no better or worse than offering only two.

Mathematically, that doesn't add up (to coin a phrase (so to speak!)). I agree that perdurantism seems a bit confused, but ignoring the other aspects, the idea of infinitesimal parts is not necessarily a problem in itself. Sure, two or two trillion infinitesimal slices won't get you anywhere, but an infinite number will — if the parts are infinitely small, then you need infinitely many of them, that's all.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

David: "...if the parts are infinitely small, then you need infinitely many of them, that's all."

I was careless in some of my comments, so I want to reiterate that 3a) the problem I have with infinitely small time-slices, and thus perdurantism as such, is not that "they're just so damned small!" but rather that such 'independent' parts are ontologically illicit in perdurantism. An infinitely small time slice has zero spatiotemporal extension, and therefore it does not exist for any amount of time.

1a) The other problem with these time slices, which I implied in my objection that perdurantism begs the question of wholes by focusing on PARTS, is that the parts have no more coherent existence in perdurantism than do the wholes. If integral wholes are a problem for the perdurantist, why are not sub-integral wholes (aka time slices) equally problematic? Otherwise, it's unparsimonious in the extreme. If I (my whole self) can't/don't exist all together at one time, and therefore endurantism is wrong, then none of my parts can/does exist altogether at one time, and therefore perdurantism is false. This is because each 'part' of me is a respectable whole in its own right, but allegedly the very idea of wholly present substantial 'wholes' is verboten for perdurantism. What decides how large or small a part is? There is nothing formally substantial about me or any of my time slices, so we can't meaningfully invoke either of them, if perdurantism is true. As such, perdurantism has nothing with which to articulate its own position.

5) Lastly, I should add that perdurantism is perhaps the only popular 'scientific' ontology that flagrantly violates the Scholastic razor (aka Ockham's razor). David Lewis's modal realism is equally flagrantly "hyper-ontic" and 'scientific' but, understandably, not as popular as perdurantism. Alas, such is academic whimsy.

Best,

Just Thinking said...

Codge

There are two main theories about the persistence of objects through time: endurantism and perdurantism. Endurantists hold that objects are three-dimensional, have only spatial parts, and wholly exist at each moment of their existence. Perdurantists hold that objects are four-dimensional, have temporal parts, and only partly exist at each moment of their existence. In this paper we argue that endurantism is poorly suited to describe the persistence of objects in a world governed by Special Relativity, and can accommodate a relativistic world only at a high price, one that we argue is not worth paying. Perdurantism, on the other hand, fits beautifully with our current scientific understanding of the world. Furthermore, we make this argument from implications of the Lorentz transformations, without appeals to geometrical interpretations, dimensional analogies, or auxillary premises like temporal eternalism.

You would need to argue your case to Hales (you could start reading his conclusion to get your blood boiling):
http://departments.bloomu.edu/philosophy/pages/content/hales/articlepdf/endurantism.pdf

I do not share your perceptions, so when Jime first alerted us to Hales paper and perdurance (well, a first for me, anyhow), it was an epiphany.

Just Thinking said...

On a lighter note, I now understand that it had to be a perdurantist who first said "time is so everything doesn't happen at once"!

Just Thinking said...

One way to speak of Hales is to say that at the subjective level, a person senses completeness in the present, but objectively (publicly), the subject appears to be temporally diffuse.

This is consonant with process thought: what has passed is now objective and the basis for the subjective experient's present time duration which is modifying and establishing what will happen in the future.

David said...

Codgitator: An infinitely small time slice has zero spatiotemporal extension, and therefore it does not exist for any amount of time.

I don't see the problem. An infinitesimal value isn't really zero, so it's no worse than infinitesimally small points in space. And if single points in time (or space) were problematic, then endurantism wouldn't work either, because everything would only ever exist for an instantaneous, zero-length present moment. (In fact, it's in a worse position, because there's only one infinitely small present, vs. an infinite number of moments for something that perdures for even a nanosecond.)

If I (my whole self) can't/don't exist all together at one time, and therefore endurantism is wrong, then none of my parts can/does exist altogether at one time, and therefore perdurantism is false.

Is that really what perdurantism says, though? I thought that it claimed you can't exist at one time because you in fact exist at multiple times, and therefore must be "spread out" across time, i.e. have temporal parts. Something could perdure for only a single moment, at least theoretically, I think. (But such an "instant" entity couldn't change, because it would have to last for at least two moments of time or more; you obviously do change, so for the perdurantist it follows that you couldn't exist for only one moment, but that's a historically contingent fact, not a metaphyiscal necessity.)

I do agree with your earlier point about this requiring a form to underlie all the "points" of time and explain what makes them parts of one thing. (Otherwise, the whole idea is rather, er, pointless.) And it doesn't help any with explaining the really tricky part of time, which is how our consciousness of it changes. The perdurantist view is basically what physics uses, and it works, that's fine for explaining a purely physical object; but try to apply it to consciousness, and you end up with our minds looking down on these four-dimensional objects from the "outside" — except we don't see all of time at once, the way God does by His being outside time. Instead, the only way to make that work is for our minds to exist inside some kind of "meta-time" which is just as mysterious and inexplicable as "original time" was.

Just Thinking said...

The bicyclist/trainer/barn thought experiment in Jimes' Hales paper where with simultaneous reference frames the cyclist who just finished a near speed of light spurt and a stationary trainer both saw a different barn at the same time.

What really intrigues me is if it were possible to further tweak the scenario so that the cyclist could return to the trainer's side and say the vane is missing but the trainer says, no, there is still a vane - when suddenly he too sees the vane blow off?

Does anyone know if this could occur in SR theory?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

David: "Something could perdure for only a single moment, at least theoretically, I think."

We're in a sort of Bonaventure-Aquinas cycle about the infinity of the created world. What I think we both agree on, which rather dissolves the technical disputes about infinite divisibility and ontic coherence, is that there must be SOMETHING of which the parts are… parts. In your quotation above, it begs the very same question: what do you really mean (as a rehearsed perdurantist) by "something"? There are no "somethings", only parts of fictitious whole-things. The perdurantist has no grounds for saying this 'something' is a distinct whole amidst a larger Humean-related 'whole' and as such has no grounds for saying this preferred something exists for an infinitesimal time.

Best,

David said...

Codgitator: what do you really mean (as a rehearsed perdurantist) by "something"? There are no "somethings", only parts of fictitious whole-things.

Let me see if I understand you: we start with the problem of change. How can X be one thing before, and another thing after; what makes it still X, still "a thing"? The perdurantist comes along and says, easy, "before" and "after" are merely different parts of X (the real, whole X). But "a part" has to be "a thing", and if being "a thing" is explained by having (temporal) parts, then a (single, instantaneous) part — having no further temporal sub-parts itself — cannot be a thing, and thus everything is made up out of no-things.

To which the perdurantist objects, no, not everything is made up of parts; only changing things. An instantaneous part does not (cannot!) change, so it needs no further explanation. And I think that's OK, as far as it goes. Of course, it doesn't go very far; what makes a set of parts into a whole? Is it merely being adjacent somehow? The same question applies to what makes spatial parts into "one" thing? If perdurantism is an attempt to escape forms, then either everything is reduced to single, unconnected, atomic points (in time and space), or else the only "thing" is just the whole universe, here and there, now and then, all making up one big everything.

So as a proposal to do without forms, perdurance doesn't fare any better than endurance. In fact, some examples of perdurance vs. endurance both sound like the same thing to me, just in slightly different words, and more importantly, they sound like examples of form vs. matter (e.g. SEP). I guess we agree that it's another example of modern philosophy tying itself in knots to solve a problem that the ancients already solved, if only they knew it.

The interesting part (if I may use that word) of perdurantism is the four-dimensionality, an idea I was familiar with before I'd ever heard of "perdurance". I don't know whether 4-D is truly required because of relativity, that is, as opposed to presentism. The problem would presumably be that Special Relativity tells us there's no one frame of reference that we can say is the "real" present as opposed to somebody else's idea of the present in a different inertial frame. But that only tells us that no one frame is physically unique, not there is one single 'present' that is metaphysically unique.

Of course, if there is a preferred frame, it is presumably God's "frame of reference", except that since God is outside of time, He surely sees past, present, and future all at once, i.e. God's view is four-dimensional. Indeed, it's the God's-eye view that leads me to prefer 4-D even without relativity. However, as mentioned above, that still leaves the problem of conscious time; and, although I like 4-D, if "real", conscious time can be explained, that may be sufficient to explain physical time in presentist 3-D terms as well.

David said...

"What really intrigues me is if it were possible to further tweak the scenario so that the cyclist could return to the trainer's side and say the vane is missing but the trainer says, no, there is still a vane - when suddenly he too sees the vane blow off? Does anyone know if this could occur in SR theory?

No, it couldn't. When the cyclist returns to the trainer's side, they are both in the same frame of reference, and thus they both have to see the same things. The trainer would "catch up" to the cyclist's version of events while the cyclist was slowing down/turning around to get back to the trainer's position.

Just Thinking said...

No, it couldn't. When the cyclist returns to the trainer's side, they are both in the same frame of reference, and thus they both have to see the same things. The trainer would "catch up" to the cyclist's version of events while the cyclist was slowing down/turning around to get back to the trainer's position.

Thanks David, I knew it was a form of time travel otherwise.

In your opinion, what other implications arise for the case of perdurantism when at a specific time when two simultaneous observers report 2 different observations of the same thing (like t1 in the barn/cyclist/trainer example). At the atomic level of a thing (like our body), are there different frames of reference due to faster motions than for our biological systems (cardiovascular, muscular, digestive). Even in the brain, there are simultaneously electrical and chemical activities.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Okay, let me try it this way.

If a time slice of me (M:ts1) has an infinitesimally small temporal extension, its spatial dimensions can just as easily be shrunken to infinitely small proportions. As such, according to perdurantism, 'I' can exist 'in' a ts with infinitesimally small spatiotemporal extension, which, when taken to its logical conclusions, means 'I' can exist in a simple mathematical point (M:ts^-∞): infinitely unextended. At that point (…), though, what sense does it make to claim that 'I', perduring 'in' M:ts^-∞, am in fact a material entity? Are ideal mathematical points material entities simpliciter?

Insofar as perdurantism takes for real what are in fact merely infinite abstract incisions in real existents, it dissolves into idealism. Just because I can 'find' an infinite number of sections in a cigarette or a candy bar, that doesn't entail the cigarette or candy bar are actually infinitely extended. Perdurantism is Zeno's paradox for physics nerds, and it's no coincidence that Aristotle opposed Zeno's paradox as an integral step in his substantialist ontology.

Best,

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

David:

I appreciate your back and forth on these things. (Not a snub to JT, mind you, but right now I'm addressing David.)

I want to return to something you said which ties in to my latest comment: You said:

"I don't see the problem. An infinitesimal value isn't really zero, so it's no worse than infinitesimally small points in space. And if single points in time (or space) were problematic, then endurantism wouldn't work either, because everything would only ever exist for an instantaneous, zero-length present moment."

This is a good point and I will only reply with two thoughts. 1) Maybe my thinking is just woolyheaded about infinitesimals in ontology, in which case, lead on, Magister. 2) If I am not fatally wooolyheaded, I would aver that single-point existence is not bad for endurantism at all. For the point is that there is a some-thing which "underlies" ('substat') each material entity's existence in contradistinction to the sensible features of that entity qua THAT entity. Instants versus substant, so to speak.

And, my woolyheadedness be damned, I would aver, once more, that the reason infinitesimal parts are illegitimate for perdurantism is any part is itself a kind of whole. Authentic perdurantism is a kind of stuttering ontology: "This, no, th-this is, no, no, th-th-this is the part, the part of the par-part, of th-the whole that interests m-m-meeee." Any part that is not utterly zero is a genuine whole; and an ontology that posits wholes, of any size, is endurantism. Are my parts made of parts as well? If so, am I actually made of my parts or are my parts' parts made of 'me'?

Best,

Just Thinking said...

"Are my parts made of parts as well? "

I say yes.

"If so, am I actually made of my parts or are my parts' parts made of 'me'?"

You are your parts. Artificial hips and knees are not made of me (and they are way better than the originals, generally).

David said...

Just Thinking: are there different frames of reference due to faster motions than for our biological systems

Technically, I guess there are; but any differences would be so small as to be meaningless. At a speed of 10m/s, the relative time dilation is about 99.99999999999994%, and to get all the way up to a 99.5% difference, you'd have to go over 67 million miles per hour. If one part of your body were moving that much faster than another part, I don't suppose you'd survive long enough to notice anything! Similarly for extreme gravitational effects in General Relativity. So I don't think there are any other implications that are substantially different from the cyclist example.

David said...

Codgitator: As such, according to perdurantism, 'I' can exist 'in' a ts with infinitesimally small spatiotemporal extension

Well, it depends on what the definition of "is" is, oops, I mean, "I". What we normally refer to as "I" would, in 4-D talk, really be short for "I at this present moment" or "the part of me that is right here and now". "You" are not your hand or your leg, and neither are you the part of you that is here "now". In other words, the perdurantist says that "you" can't exist with infinitesimally small extension, either in time or space, although maybe a teeny tiny piece of you can.

How small depends on the laws of physics, I guess. If we assume that time, space, and matter are all infinitely divisible, then yes, we could carve you down to a single point in space, and in time. That point would be just an infinitesimally small piece of you, though, and I don't see any metaphysical problem with that. Of course, matter appears to have limits on how small it can really get, and if space/time were quantised too, then there would be a smallest possible piece of you. I don't think that matters for this discussion, though, at least not insofar as "you" are involved, because "you" are the whole thing, across space and across time.

Are ideal mathematical points material entities simpliciter?

I've actually been wondering about that recently. A "point" piece of you would have to be a material entity (assuming we could carve out a single point, which might require different laws of physics, but we can imagine God has created such a universe). We often distinguish a "body" from a "spirit" as being extended in space; but it can't be that any mathematical (geometrical) object is material. It has to be something like matter is extended and sensible. But that runs into my question from the post next door (Churchland and how Mary sees redness when it isn't in the matter). Maybe it comes down to our minds, our consciousness being "embedded" in this particular mathematical world, being "attached" to it somehow.



it's no coincidence that Aristotle opposed Zeno's paradox

But Aristotle didn't know calculus. Zeno's paradox isn't really a paradox at all, it simply requires a bit of calculus to understand it. I'm sure Aristotle would have come to some different conclusions about infinity if he had had our modern mathematical knowledge about calculus, transfinite arithmetic, etc. (Though I'm still impressed at the caution the ancients and mediaevals exhibit about infinity considering how easily "common sense" could have led them astray.)

I don't think perdurantism relies on actual infinitesimals all that heavily, though. It relies on non-presentism, in that the past and future parts have to really exist as much as the present does; but beyond that, the temporal "pieces" can be whatever works, just as the spatial pieces can be. If infinitesimal slices won't work (either because they contradict physics, or because they contradict metaphysics), that's fine, it means our temporal parts are finitely small, just as our spatial parts are. I'm not sure if you allow for any other kinds of 4D-ism other than perdurantism, but what's your response to the Relativistic puzzles otherwise?

David said...

Codgitator: I appreciate your back and forth on these things.

Thanks, and likewise! 



1) Maybe my thinking is just woolyheaded about infinitesimals in ontology, in which case, lead on, Magister.

My thinking is always woolyheaded... but I know the math works, so infinitesimals must at least be ontologically possible. And they might be physically impossible, but I still think that would be contingent, since God could have created any kind of world that logically/mathematically consistent.

Instants versus substant, so to speak. 


Oh, I like that phrase. And I agree, but then I would also say that any 4-D theory needs substants too. In the two papers by Hales linked above, he just equates "perdurance" with 4-D objects, though other places talk about it in term of questions about what underlies change in "a" object; in the latter case, I would say that a form-less perdurance is never going to work, any more than form-less endurance could, and if you have a substantial form, then 4-D will work as well as 3-D (maybe better, since physics works better in 4-D). I don't know what card-carrying perdurantists would say, though, so maybe we don't disagree so much except that I'm being too lenient in my definition of "perdurance".

Any part that is not utterly zero is a genuine whole; and an ontology that posits wholes, of any size, is endurantism.

I agree that any part is itself a whole. But I don't see why wholes necessarily mean endurantism. Or at least, not 3D-ism. You could have 3-D wholes, or you could have 4-D wholes, either of which need an underlying form which "binds" the parts into one thing. 4-D wholes more easily match up with physics than 3-D wholes, so I'm prepared to view physical bodies at 4-D objects. If that's all perdurantism is defined as, then great. If it's defined as something else, then... well, they need to get a clearer definition!


Daniel Smith said...

Artificial hips and knees are not made of me (and they are way better than the originals, generally).

That's not even close to true.

Artificial hips and knees wear out much faster than those made by God.

Ilíon said...

"Artificial hips and knees wear out much faster than those made by God."

I friend has just had to have his replacements replaced. Also, the artificial joints aren't as "robust" as the originals ... for instance, when you have artificial knees, you are no longer allowed to kneel, which is a right nuisance to a gardener. Now, he's not even allowed to ride/drive his lawn tractor because of the artificial joints.

Ilíon said...

Just Thinking: "I side with Hitchens that the onus is on proving God, not proving no-God."

It has been proven, time and time again, that God is ... and still there are persons, such as Hitchens, waving away the proffered proof and ever demanding more proof.

The problem isn't a lack of proof; the problem is a lack intellectual integrity.

Well, that and the fact that far too many on the "theistic" side don't have the balls to call (and attack those who do) the likes of Hitchens on his bullshit.

Just Thinking said...

Yeah, Ilion, why don't you tell us what you really think!

I am probably best pegged as theist-leaning-agnostic. I will not take all my Catholic baggage. Philosophical study has helped me see that I am in godd, intelligent company.

Kant is saying something like 'neither side is gonna prove a damn thing, so quit trying.' How many converts have ever been 'won over' because they lost a philosophical argument?

I know many who have experienced a new lease on life with artificial joints.

Just Thinking said...

One other thing.

I was once challenged here to arrange for a personal conversation/encounter/experience with God. When I replied wanting a more detailed personal explanation/description of what God is like...nothing.

So I guess I am asking someone with intellectual God certainty the same thing now.

Ilíon said...

"Yeah, Ilion, why don't you tell us what you really think!"

I generally do; and I generally manage to offend the self-proclaimed atheists ... and the self-proclaimed "theists" who are functional atheists (and who frequently come closer to actual atheism than most self-proclaimed atheists manage).

Just Thinking said...

Can I get a witness?

Just Thinking said...

Nothing?

So you can see why intellectual (theoretical) certainty that God is real is unconvincing if you cannot describe your experience with this real existent.

Ilíon said...

Now you've just being ...
(to tone down what I'm really thinking) silly, illogical, and anti-rational. Perhaps you should consider calling yourself 'Just Pretending to Think.'

Just Thinking said...

Why attack Hitchens for refusing to answer a certain genre of question, when you are doing the same thing now?

Ilíon said...

I don't know about attacking Hitchens for refusing to answer a question.

But the genre of the question you're asking is the one in which "Can God create a stone too heavy for himself to lift?" and "So, have you stopped beating your wife, yet?" dwell.

Just Thinking said...

By what means of analogy-making can you possibly say that what I have asked of you is similar to what you've just said?

Others read this combox, too, so please explain this analogy clearly here. And I really would like an answer as to what your experience of God is like (other than intellectual certainty).

Just Thinking said...

Nothing? Didn't think so.

Ilíon said...

Your behavior betrays your … insincerity.

And I don’t waste my time with insincere persons.

Just Thinking said...

IOW, you have no experience to support your theoretical God. Yet anyone who sees a no sale in your notion of God must be judged inferior and ridiculed.

Don't worry, folks that think like you are not unusual - unconvincing, yes/

Steve said...

Can I get a witness?

I would try Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, or Padre Pio...just to name a few.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

This thread may be cold but having only now perused the comments after my last contribution here, I must say, with all due respect, that I do find JT's challenge a bit, well, unwieldy, if not downright slippery. I'll be brief (...for me), since it's a simple point.

JT, or some interlocutor of the same mind, wants explicit, personalized, transferrable KNOWLEDGE of a vital relationship with God, but then when a simple believer expounds on his daily affection for and closeness to God, even in the most embarassingly saccharine terms (parking spaces, lines of work, spouses, tears of gratitude, etc.), all that is taken as mere naive subjectivism, religious romance. Then, on the other hand, when a vigorous theoretical, philosophical account of God is presented, that is taken as too remote, too abstract, too 'metaphysical' for anyone to really LIVE by (Lessing's ditch, etc.).

So which is it? Is "I know Jesus is real, because I talk to Him every day" a legitimate argument? If not, why not? Then again, if a philosophical defense of God is intellectually compelling but devotionally arid, why should the defender be blamed for any number of possible emotional, social, cognitive defects on the part of the 'arid' objector which keep him from embracing what reason presents?

I am reminded of a Chestertonianism Dr. Liccione recently recalled:

"But as Chesterton loved to show, the Catholic Church has always faced mutually incompatible charges. That's one of the reasons I'm Catholic. When you're always damned if you do and damned if you don't, you're probably on firmer ground than your enemies."

http://mliccione.blogspot.com/2010/06/at-least-theyre-our-perverts.html

Best,

Ilíon said...

Exactly, Codgitator. And won't play that game.

Just Thinking said...

You won't believe me when I tell you I've read the mystics and more recently Merton, listen to Monks of Weston Priory, Gregorian Chant, and John Michael Talbot.

I am trying to make the point that converts are made when the God-in-the heart is presented, not the God-in-the-intellect. Few people are that interested in philosophy, and few of them put much stock in metaphysical accounts of God.

In a way, Hitchens is saying something close to my point when he refuses to engage in metaphysical arguments about God, BUT asks what difference does he make in a believer's agency.

Something is real if it makes a difference in the world. If you cannot express an experience of the God of classical theism, then you probably are not getting any enrichment from your theorizing about Him.

Just Thinking said...

To be more accurate - and this is especially apparent in the Craig debate:

...Hitchens is saying something close to my point when he refuses to engage in metaphysical arguments about God, BUT asks what unique-only-to-theists difference does God make in a believer's agency.

In essence, you guys are simply adding further to the list of people who have not given him an answer.

David said...

Just Thinking: In essence, you guys are simply adding further to the list of people who have not given him an answer.

Hitchens has been answered many times, he just ignores the answers he doesn't like.

I think the problem is that it's not clear what you mean by "experience". Hearkening back to the discussions of qualia, nobody else can feel your feelings. But anyone else can have your ideas, which is why metaphysical arguments are never far away. And of course, there are plenty of people who are converted by arguments of reason, though they may be the minority — that is, people converted solely by philosophical arguments; those converted purely from, say, mystical experiences are equally in the minority. The majority of people, though not great theoretical philosophers, still want rational explanations.

But from your further comments, I don't think "experience" is quite what you (or Hitchens) is looking for. (Everyone knows that God is ineffable, so that cannot be the kind of "expression" you want.) If I understand, you want to know the practical side of faith in God, the difference it must make if it's something real. Of course, (one of) Hitchen's problems is that he tends to reduce "the world" to the "material world", which is effectively begging the question. It's not like faith causes you to sprout new limbs or something. ("If we ignore any of the possible ways that might be different, then —aha!— we discover that the believer is just like the unbeliever!") Certainly faith will affect the state of one's soul, or one's afterlife, even if those are not things that can be put under a microscope.

(continued...)

David said...

But God's existence is what makes everything else possible. From the simplest reason of causing everything to exist in the first place, to more specific possibilities like free will. (Everybody believes in some kind of ultimate cause (well, anyone who accepts reason), but if you believe that, say, the physical universe is that ultimate entity (which is effectively some kind of pantheism), then free will is an illusion.) So we need the God of classical theism for any of us to have any "agency" in the first place. Which leads to one answer to Hitchens: God makes the same difference (in many ways) to the believer as to the unbeliever. Hitchens (being pretty ignorant of classical theology, of course) seems unaware that God enriches the just and unjust in many of the same ways (such as with existence, free will, morality, rain, etc.)

Then there are the differences that do separate the faithful from the unfaithful. Just because the afterlife isn't here yet, doesn't mean it's not real. But while Hitchens likes to bring up morality, he seems never to have considered the ten commandments: while atheists can keep many of them (because, of course, God makes it possible!), just look at the very first one. An unbeliever cannot, by definition worship God. You cannot offer praise or gratitude to someone you don't believe in. Even if it were possible to give meaning to your own life (=lift yourself up by your bootstraps), it is a very different thing to be given meaning by an infinite God. The existence of God affects everything about your existence; not because you grow new limbs or stop eating or start flying, but because everything, even all the ordinary things you do that are the same on the outside as the things everybody else does, are coloured in a special way.

The same circumstances may lead the believer to act differently from the unbeliever, or to act the same way for different reasons. Sometimes they act much the same way for much the same reasons because the unbeliever is plagiarising the believer's reasons — or because the believer is not living up to his principles. And sometimes there is not much difference because we are the same kind of creature, living in the same kind of universe, and God made us a community: no man is an island (at least not in this life), and so we are bound to pull each other along, for good and for ill. Thus even the unbeliever experiences God, because he cannot be separated from the community of believers, or from the universe of God's.

David said...

But God's existence is what makes everything else possible. From the simplest reason of causing everything to exist in the first place, to more specific possibilities like free will. (Everybody believes in some kind of ultimate cause (well, anyone who accepts reason), but if you believe that, say, the physical universe is that ultimate entity (which is effectively some kind of pantheism), then free will is an illusion.) So we need the God of classical theism for any of us to have any "agency" in the first place. Which leads to one answer to Hitchens: God makes the same difference (in many ways) to the believer as to the unbeliever. Hitchens (being pretty ignorant of classical theology, of course) seems unaware that God enriches the just and unjust in many of the same ways (such as with existence, free will, morality, rain, etc.)

Then there are the differences that do separate the faithful from the unfaithful. Just because the afterlife isn't here yet, doesn't mean it's not real. But while Hitchens likes to bring up morality, he seems never to have considered the ten commandments: while atheists can keep many of them (because, of course, God makes it possible!), just look at the very first one. An unbeliever cannot, by definition worship God. You cannot offer praise or gratitude to someone you don't believe in. Even if it were possible to give meaning to your own life (=lift yourself up by your bootstraps), it is a very different thing to be given meaning by an infinite God. The existence of God affects everything about your existence; not because you grow new limbs or stop eating or start flying, but because everything, even all the ordinary things you do that are the same on the outside as the things everybody else does, are coloured in a special way.

The same circumstances may lead the believer to act differently from the unbeliever, or to act the same way for different reasons. Sometimes they act much the same way for much the same reasons because the unbeliever is plagiarising the believer's reasons — or because the believer is not living up to his principles. And sometimes there is not much difference because we are the same kind of creature, living in the same kind of universe, and God made us a community: no man is an island (at least not in this life), and so we are bound to pull each other along, for good and for ill. Thus even the unbeliever experiences God, because he cannot be separated from the community of believers, or from the universe of God's.

David said...

...
But God's existence is what makes everything else possible. From the simplest reason of causing everything to exist in the first place, to more specific possibilities like free will. (Everybody believes in some kind of ultimate cause (well, anyone who accepts reason), but if you believe that, say, the physical universe is that ultimate entity (which is effectively some kind of pantheism), then free will is an illusion.) So we need the God of classical theism for any of us to have any "agency" in the first place. Which leads to one answer to Hitchens: God makes the same difference (in many ways) to the believer as to the unbeliever. Hitchens (being pretty ignorant of classical theology, of course) seems unaware that God enriches the just and unjust in many of the same ways (such as with existence, free will, morality, rain, etc.)

Then there are the differences that do separate the faithful from the unfaithful. Just because the afterlife isn't here yet, doesn't mean it's not real. But while Hitchens likes to bring up morality, he seems never to have considered the ten commandments: while atheists can keep many of them (because, of course, God makes it possible!), just look at the very first one. An unbeliever cannot, by definition worship God. You cannot offer praise or gratitude to someone you don't believe in. Even if it were possible to give meaning to your own life (=lift yourself up by your bootstraps), it is a very different thing to be given meaning by an infinite God. The existence of God affects everything about your existence; not because you grow new limbs or stop eating or start flying, but because everything, even all the ordinary things you do that are the same on the outside as the things everybody else does, are coloured in a special way.

The same circumstances may lead the believer to act differently from the unbeliever, or to act the same way for different reasons. Sometimes they act much the same way for much the same reasons because the unbeliever is plagiarising the believer's reasons — or because the believer is not living up to his principles. And sometimes there is not much difference because we are the same kind of creature, living in the same kind of universe, and God made us a community: no man is an island (at least not in this life), and so we are bound to pull each other along, for good and for ill. Thus even the unbeliever experiences God, because he cannot be separated from the community of believers, or from the universe of God's.

David said...

(Oops, sorry for the repeated posting! Google tricked me with an error message instead of admitting it had really already accepted my comment...)

Just Thinking said...

Good posts, David. Keep in mind that I am skeptically theistic. Actually, I was asking for an experiential 'witness' to make my point about the God-in-the-heart as more real than theory.

I suppose William James' radical empiricism gets at this, and thus his book on religious experience.

I am mindful of the quote “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Just Thinking said...

It is insightful to look at Hume's skeptical epistemology which is probably the turning point towards modern subjectivist interests.

His 'Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion' pretty well contain the essence of the vast majority of what Ed's blogs generally argue against. For some reason, Ed seems not to have done a blog on Hume (based on the 22 references that come up on a Hume search). Ed uses the same phrase just about each time he needs to bring Hume into a post - Hume is a either puzzling or else paradoxical.

The Dialogues should be held up whenever someone wishes to debate Hitchens - just read the book and save the money in staging the debate. Its the same material under discussion.

When I called myself a skeptical theist, I was moved to go back and look at Hume. Now I see why you guys here seem to think I am puzzling, paradoxical, etc. 250 years after Hume's revolutionary works, we are not one step advanced in metaphysics, as he predicted.

I urge you to go read the Dialogue and try to keep an open mind.

Ilíon said...

"... 250 years after Hume's revolutionary works, we are not one step advanced in metaphysics, as he predicted."

That's an amusing assertion.

How, exactly, could a Humean ever recognize an "advance in metaphysics" (much less admit it)?