Friday, April 8, 2011

Descartes’ “trademark” argument

Descartes presents three arguments for God’s existence in the Meditations: a version of the ontological argument; the “preservation” argument, which is an eccentric variation on the idea of God as First Cause; and the “trademark” argument.  Each of these is problematic, though each is also more interesting and defensible than it is usually given credit for.  I have said something about ontological arguments in a couple of recent posts (here and here), and I might have something to say about the “preservation” argument in a future post.  For now let’s consider the “trademark” argument – probably the most maligned of the three.

The basic thrust of the trademark argument is that the idea of God could not possibly have gotten into the mind unless God Himself put it there.  Its presence in the mind thus constitutes a kind of divine signature or trademark, and therefore shows that God exists.  Like Descartes’ other arguments for God’s existence, the trademark argument starts from premises that can be known by someone in the epistemic situation Descartes finds himself in by the Second Meditation:  He knows that he exists as a thinking thing, but so far that’s all he knows.  Hence he has to work from knowledge of himself and of his ideas alone if he is to come to know anything else.

Descartes is of course well aware that people first come to learn about God from other people, such as parents.  What is at issue is whether this teaching is a matter of introducing into the mind something that wasn’t there before at all, or rather of drawing out of it something that was there already but only unconsciously (like the geometrical knowledge Plato famously has Socrates draw out of the slave in the Meno).  Descartes takes it to be the latter.  But even if it weren’t, we would still need to ask where our parents got the idea of God, where the people they got it from got it, and so on, and Descartes’ argument is intended to show that one way or another, directly or indirectly, the idea of God could only have originated with God Himself.

How is the argument supposed to work?  To understand it requires a prior understanding of several background assumptions that Descartes either borrows from Scholasticism (altering them somewhat in the process) or develops on the basis of Scholastic concepts.  The first is his distinction between the formal reality and the objective reality of an idea.  A thing’s formal reality might be thought of as analogous to its “form” as that would be understood in Scholastic thought – though only analogous, since Descartes rejects the Scholastic doctrine of formal causes.  It is in any event that which a thing has simply by virtue of being the kind of thing it is.  Hence all ideas have the same formal reality since, qua ideas, they are all just modes of a thinking substance.  Ideas differ in their objective reality, however, insofar as they represent different things – as a contemporary philosopher might say, they differ in their “intentional objects” (and thus are in that sense “objectively” different).

Despite the awkwardness of the terminology, the basic idea is simple enough, and can be understood by comparison with other kinds of representations, such as words or pictures.  “Dog” and “cat” are the same kind of thing – they are both words – and thus have the same formal reality.  But they differ in what they refer to – the first refers to dogs, the second to cats – and thus differ in objective reality.  A blueprint of a house and a blueprint of a computer are the same kind of thing – they are both blueprints – and thus have the same formal reality.  But they differ in what they represent – the first represents a house, the second a computer – and thus they differ in objective reality.  Similarly, the idea of a stone and the idea of God are the same kind of thing – they are both ideas – and thus have the same formal reality.  But they differ in what they represent – the first represents stones, the second represents God – and thus they differ in objective reality.  (This marks another respect in which Descartes differs from the Scholastics, who did not regard thought as involving inner “representations.”

Next we have the distinction Descartes draws between degrees of formal reality, of which there are three: Modes have the lowest degree of formal reality; finite substances have a higher degree; and an infinite substance would have the highest degree of reality.  A “mode” would be something like the shape, size, or motion of a stone, which exists only insofar as it inheres in the stone, in contrast to the stone itself which, as a substance, does not inhere in anything.  That’s why it makes sense to say “All I’ve got in my pocket is a stone,” but not “All I’ve got in my pocket is the shape of a stone” – there’s no such thing as the shape of a stone apart from a stone which has it.  The stone thus has an independent existence in a way its shape, size, motion, and other modes do not, and in that sense has a higher degree of reality than they do.  As a finite substance, though, the stone comes into existence and passes out of existence, depends on other things for its existence, and is limited in various other respects as well.  In this way it has a lower degree of reality than an infinite substance – namely God, if God exists (which at this point Descartes does not yet claim to have shown, lest he argue in a circle) – which neither comes into being nor passes away, existing necessarily rather than contingently, and without limitations.  An idea has a particularly low degree of reality since it is not only a kind of mode, but, qua mode of a thinking substance, something with no mind-independent reality at all (which even the modes of the stone have).

The final background assumption we need to understand is something commentators on Descartes often refer to as the Causal Adequacy Principle, according to which a total efficient cause must have, either formally or eminently, at least as much reality as its effect.  This is a variation on the Scholastic Principle of Proportionate Causality (which I discuss and defend in Aquinas).  What it means can be illustrated by a simple example.  Suppose you come across a puddle of thick, red liquid on the ground near an outdoor water faucet.  You know that a leak in the water line could not have caused it all by itself, because a leak might generate a puddle, but not a thick, red puddle, specifically.  There had to be an additional factor as well, such as someone’s spilling cherry soda, or perhaps dropping a “fizzy” tablet into the water.  For whatever is in the effect must in some way or other be in the cause as well, otherwise it couldn’t have gotten into the effect.  Now, it might be in the cause “formally” – that is to say, in the same manner in which it is in the effect – as it is when the cause is red soda and the effect is a red puddle.  Or it might be in the cause “eminently,” as it is when the fizzy tablet is not red but has the causal power, by virtue of its chemical structure, to generate redness in a puddle when it hits the water.  Moreover, the “reality” of the effect might all be present (either formally or eminently) in a single cause – as when the effect is a puddle of red soda and the cause is a can of red soda – or it might instead be in several causal factors acting together as a total cause – as when the effect is the red puddle and the cause is water from the line together with the fizzy tablet.

When we combine the distinction between degrees of formal reality with the Causal Adequacy Principle, we get the result that any cause can, by itself, produce an effect only of the same or a lower degree of reality.  An infinite substance, if there is one, can cause either a finite substance or a mode to exist.  A finite substance can cause either another finite substance or a mode to exist, but cannot cause an infinite substance.  A mode can cause another mode to exist, but cannot cause a substance, whether finite or infinite.  An idea can, all things being equal, cause another idea, but it cannot cause a mind-independent mode to exist.  For a cause cannot give what it doesn’t have to give.  An idea doesn’t have mind-independence, so it can’t impart mind-independence to anything; mind-independent modes don’t have the stronger kind of independent existence substances have, so they can’t impart such independent existence to a substance; and finite substances don’t have the kind of unlimited, necessary existence an infinite substance has, so they can’t impart this sort of existence to an infinite substance.

When in turn we combine these themes with the distinction between the formal and objective reality of ideas, we get the result that the cause of an idea must have within it as much formal reality as the idea has objective reality.  Once again, though the terminology is forbidding if one isn’t familiar with it, the basic idea is fairly simple.  Consider again a blueprint for a computer: If you find such a blueprint lying on the kitchen table one morning, you know it wasn’t the dog or your five-year-old son who drew it.  The reason is that there is nothing in the “formal reality” of the dog or the five-year-old – in particular, nothing in the mind or the drawing capacities of either – that corresponds to the “objective reality” of the blueprint – that is, the design plan for the computer that is represented by the blueprint.  You know that only someone with the requisite knowledge of electrical engineering could have been its ultimate source, that even if someone who had no such knowledge had drawn it, that is only because he had (say) copied it from a blueprint made by someone who did have such knowledge. 

Of course, you could also suppose instead that it was drawn from scratch by someone who knew nothing about electrical engineering but just by accident had come up with a diagram that looked like the blueprint for a computer.  But in that case you can, for that very reason, no longer regard it as truly a blueprint at all, but instead only as something that looked as if it were a blueprint.  If it really is a blueprint, though, really, literally represents a computer, then only someone with the relevant knowledge could have been the ultimate source of the diagram.  That is to say, only someone with sufficiently sophisticated concepts could have the “formal reality” to produce a blueprint with the “objective reality” in question.

[I put aside for the moment the question of whether something non-human – another computer, say – could have produced the blueprint, or whether natural selection could produce something of comparable sophistication, in the form of the “program” encoded in DNA.  Suffice it for present purposes to note that if either a computer or natural selection could do such things, that could only be because the information that ends up in their products already pre-existed in some form or other in the total cause (i.e. all the relevant causal factors taken together, which might be the computer or natural selection together with other factors).  Misguided ID theorists should take note, however, that the issue has nothing whatsoever to do with “probabilities” or with “complexity” per se.  It is not “highly improbable” but rather metaphysically impossible for even the slightest bit of information to arise out of a total cause that did not already have it in some fashion, whether “formally,” “eminently,” or “virtually” (as the Scholastics would put it – again, see the discussion of the Principle of Proportionate Causality in Aquinas).  I have discussed these issues in earlier posts, here and here.]

Note that it isn’t just that a dog or a five-year-old couldn’t build an actual computer; again, they couldn’t come up with even the blueprint for a computer, since the information content contained in the blueprint is the same as that contained in the computer itself, and that is what the dog and the five-year-old don’t have.  And for the same reason, neither could come up with even the idea of a computer merely from the resources they’ve got qua dog or five-year-old.  A dog couldn’t come up with the idea no matter how much time you gave it, and a five-year-old couldn’t come up with it unless he first learns a lot more than the typical five-year-old does or is capable of learning.

Now, what about the idea of God?  It couldn’t come from some entirely unthinking mode or substance, precisely because they are devoid of any ideas whatsoever and thus can’t impart ideas.  So it must come from something that already has within it, in some way or other (whether formally or eminently), ideas or the capacity to generate them.  Nor could the idea of God come merely from other ideas all by themselves, apart from a thinking substance which has the ideas.  For even the ideas of (say) pure actuality, omnipotence, omniscience, and the like, considered individually, would need to be combined by some mind in order for them together to form the idea of God.  That leaves only a finite thinking substance or an infinite thinking substance – that is, God Himself – remaining as the possible ultimate sources of the idea of God.  And whatever its ultimate source is must have as much formal reality as the idea of God has objective reality, just as the source of the blueprint for a computer has to have at least the sophistication that the computer itself has (as the mind of an electrical engineer does). 

But in Descartes’ view, no finite substance, thinking or otherwise, can possibly have the requisite formal reality.  For the idea of God is the idea of something infinite, and finite substances, precisely because they are finite, do not have of themselves the formal reality to generate even the idea of infinity, any more than a dog or a five-year-old could generate all by themselves even the idea of a computer.   And this essentially gives us the “trademark” argument, which we can now summarize as follows:

1. I find within myself the idea of God: a supremely perfect [i.e. purely actual] being, infinite, independent, supremely intelligent, supremely powerful, and creator of everything other than Himself.

2. Whatever caused this idea must have at least as much formal reality as the idea has objective reality.

3. But anything other than God has less formal reality than the idea of God has objective reality.

4. So only God Himself could be the ultimate cause of my idea of God.

5. So God exists.

What should we think of this argument?  As I have said, it is almost universally rejected, and with scorn.  (Though for an interesting recent defense, see Steven Duncan’s The Proof of the External World: Cartesian Theism and the Possibility of Knowledge.)  But I think that the scorn, at least, is misplaced.  Certainly the background principles are, in my view anyway, correct (or at least their more consistently Scholastic analogues are correct).  Those who reject the Causal Adequacy Principle, for example, tend either not to understand it, or are overly impressed with what are in fact easily-answered objections, or perhaps dismiss it merely because it smacks of medieval ideas of the sort that aren’t fashionable in contemporary philosophy. 

But there are, nevertheless, some serious objections that can be raised against the trademark argument.  An objection that Descartes himself considers is that he could have arrived at the idea of God all by himself merely by negating the idea of what is finite.  For example, he could start with the idea of knowledge, which he has to a limited degree, and negate those limits so as to arrive at the idea of omniscience.  But Descartes responds that this has things backwards: In his view, the idea of what is finite itself presupposes the idea of what is infinite, just as a boundary presupposes a larger expanse outside the boundary.  (Compare: The notion of an imperfect circle presupposes the idea of a circle, which just is the idea of a perfect circle.)

A more serious difficulty, though, is one that John Cottingham raises in his book Descartes.  We can grant that a sophisticated blueprint of a computer is beyond the capacity of the average five-year-old to produce.  But suppose instead that we came across a drawing of a box-like object with the words “supremely complicated computer” written on it.  Here, of course, we might well suppose that the five-year-old could have drawn it.  Now, is our idea of God as a supremely perfect being more like the blueprint for a computer, or more like the box-like object with the words in question written on it?  If it is more like the former, then Descartes may have a case for saying that it could not have originated with us.  But if it is more like the latter, then it seems he does not.

This is an objection a Thomist is bound to take seriously, for from a Thomistic point of view we cannot in the strict sense grasp God’s essence, and thus cannot form an idea of God that captures anything close to what God is like in Himself.  This, you will recall, is the reason Aquinas rejects Anselm’s ontological argument, and it would seem to entail a rejection of the “trademark” argument as well.  If we fully grasped the divine essence, then we would see from that essence alone that God cannot fail to exist, just as Anselm says; but in fact we do not fully grasp it.  Similarly, if we fully grasped the divine essence, we would have an idea of God of which only God Himself could have been the source, just as Descartes says; but, again, in fact we don’t fully grasp it. 

Of course, that does not by any means entail that we cannot know that God exists, or that we can know nothing about His nature.  We can know that God exists, but (contrary to what Descartes supposes) only a posteriori, through arguments like the Five Ways (when properly understood in terms of the Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics underlying them – once again, see Aquinas).  And we can know a great deal about the divine attributes, but relatively speaking our knowledge of the divine nature is bound to be more like the five-year-old child’s knowledge of the computer than the electrical engineer’s knowledge of it.

So, Descartes’ “trademark” argument, while of greater interest than it is often given credit for having, ultimately fails.  Like Descartes’ “clear and distinct perception” argument for dualism, what’s true in it isn’t new, and what’s new in it isn’t true.

60 comments:

Domini Canes said...

Thanks for the excellent post (and book recommendations!).

Out of curiosity, would you take a similar stance to St. Bonaventure's illumination argument? It struck me, at least, as giving better grounds for an immediate knowledge of the Divine Essence than does Descartes.

Anonymous said...

But what if our five year old was placed in a machine shop and (improbably, but not impossibly) managed to put pieces together until it formed a working Macintosh computer?

We wouldn't say that the object only LOOKED like a Macintosh computer, would we? We would say, "Wow, what are the odds that a child who didn't know how to do so would put together a Macintosh computer like that? How incredible!" Still, we'd accept as a Macintosh, not something that only looked like a Macintosh.

Just looking for some clarification on this, I'm a bit confused.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Ed,

I had never heard of that argument before, and once again I am impressed about the sheer number of arguments for theism. Indeed I have lost count. Some of them, including perhaps Descartes’ trademark argument, may not be very strong as you argue. Many other arguments though are certainly not weak, as evidenced by the fact that atheologians still write papers raising objections to them. In comparison it is striking how few arguments there are for naturalism, and how weak those few seem to be. Very recently I read an issue of Philo dedicated to naturalism, and the only argument for naturalism I found there was one in a paper by Evan Fales, which basically argued on the grounds that we only observe embodied minds, and further that the theistic side has failed to offer any good evidence for the existence of disembodied ones.

So here is a thought: Can’t one produce yet another theistic argument (or meta-argument) on the grounds that there are simply too many arguments for theism in comparison to arguments for naturalism? There is overwhelming evidence that reality is such (or, perhaps more precisely, the epistemic status of the human condition is such) that the arguments for God swamp in number the arguments for naturalism. Given that according to naturalism reality is ultimately purposeless, it seems wildly improbable that it would nevertheless be such as to almost insistently put the idea of God in the our mind. In other words, the fact that there is such an imbalance between arguments for theism versus arguments for naturalism is far more probable on theism than on naturalism, which by itself evidences theism.

Whether the above argument has any merit or not, it seems to me that it works in the neighbourhood of Descartes’ trademark argument: Reality appears to be made in a way to impress into us the idea of God which can only be explain by the existence of God.

Martin said...

@DG
Peter Kreeft has said much the same a you do but I'm not convinced. A near miss to me seems still to be a miss.

Daniel Smith said...

Couldn't a similar argument be made - only in reverse - for man's existence as a rational being?

If no cause can produce what it does not have to give, doesn't it follow that man's creator must be at least a rational being?

Daniel Smith said...

Then, can't you also say that the originator of Life must at least be alive?

It's metaphysical ID!!!

Lee Faber said...

Objective reality comes from Scotus, apparently (as various contemporary scholars have noted). It is the sort of being that an object of thought has, nothing more. Scotus seems to have been using the term to distinguish mental contents from intelligibile species that are accidental qualities inhering in the possible intellect.

Also, theories of representation abound in scholastic thought. Aquinas thinks that the divine essence represents creatures to the divine mind, Scotus thinks that esse obiectivum is equivalent to esse repraesentatum, even Ockham held to a representationalist theory for a while. Representation generally comes up in discussions over intelligibile species, and how they relate to the items of which they are species.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

@Lee: Where would you point me for a sampling of Scotus' writing on Divine cognition?

For all interested, representationalism in Aquinas, Descartes, and more is discussed by Gyula Klima here.

Lee Faber said...

Leo, the loci classici are Sent. I d. 3, d. 35-36. For some snippets, check my "intelligibile being" tag (another term equivalent to esse obiectivum):

http://lyfaber.blogspot.com/search/label/Intelligibile%20Being

Edward Feser said...

DC,

Yes, I'm dubious about illumination arguments, though I agree that they are more plausible than Descartes' argument. (The reason is the same as the reason I regard Anselm's ontological argument as more plausible than modern versions. In both cases the argument seems to go through if one grants the underlying Neo-Platonic metaphysics and epistemology. As an A-T kind of guy, I don't grant that, but I regard Neo-Platonism as the most serious rival to Aristotelianism-oriented systems.)

Anonymous,

Your example is ambiguous. If the machine shop was filled with computer parts and the child made a computer-like machine out of them, then I'd say it is a computer, because part of the total cause are the designers of the parts and the intentions they had for them. But if the shop was full of nothing but wires, bolts, and the like, and the kid made something computer-like, I'd say it was not a computer, no more than the set of marks a trail of ants makes that looks vaguely like Winston Churchill is really a picture of Churchill (to borrow and example from Putnam).

DG,

I'm inclined to endorse Martin's point. What matters is not how many arguments there are for a view, but how good they are. Still, though not all arguments for theism are good, a fair number of them are. (I'd count at least seven: The Five Ways, plus the kalam cosmological argument and the argument from eternal truths. Maybe more.) And I don't think there are any very strong arguments for naturalism.

Daniel,

Yes, there is in God something analogous to what we call intelligence and life in us. But this has nothing whatsoever to do with ID, and everything to do with arguments of the sort I just mentioned in my reply to DG.

Lee,

I didn't say the Scholastics didn't think the mind represents things. Of course it does. I said they didn't believe in "inner 'representations,'" and what I was alluding to is the "inner theater" conception of the mind that developed in post-Cartesian philosophy once the doctrine of the formal identity of thoughts and their objects was abandoned and replaced by a theory of "ideas" (mental images in the case of the empiricists, "sentences in the head" in the case of some computationalists, etc.)

Stacy Trasancos said...

I really, really enjoy reading what you write. Thank you!

machinephilosophy said...

Daniel Smith, I think you are onto something there. My question would be:

What does the result of a set of conditions imply about those conditions themselves?

Daniel Smith said...

Ed Feser: "this has nothing whatsoever to do with ID, and everything to do with arguments of the sort I just mentioned in my reply to DG."

Which is why I referred to it as "metaphysical ID".
:)

Daniel Smith said...

machinephilosophy: "What does the result of a set of conditions imply about those conditions themselves?"

You mean besides A-T actuality/potentiality? Or is that what you're referring to?

Because what it implies, to me, is that the set of conditions must have the potential to produce the result. They can't produce what they don't have the potential to produce.

I'm probably missing some deeper point though!

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Ed,

An argument can be only as good as the epistemology on which it is based, which can explain why equally reasonable people may judge differently the strength of the same argument. So what ultimately counts are one’s epistemological commitments. I, for example, am very committed to the reliability of my senses, and especially of my moral sense. Indeed that’s the reason I am not an A-T kind of guy: A-T’s moral implications contradict my moral sense. Given how sharp the minds of the old and new Scholastics is I suppose that the respective reasoning is sound, so I conclude there must be some error with A-T’s epistemological foundation. Anyway, it would be much appreciated if you posted a piece with your views on the nature of epistemology.

As for philosophical argumentation, I’d like to suggest that there are different levels of theistic arguments:

1. At its most basic there are arguments against naturalism’s purposeless and hence mechanical view of reality (i.e. against naturalism), which leaves the view of a purposeful and hence personal reality as the only viable one.

2. Then there are arguments for a Dimiurge, a being of great power and intelligence who has designed, created, and continuously causes all that exists and its order. (I believe it’s here where Aquinas’ five ways, as well as Descartes’ trademark argument, belong.)

3. Then there are arguments for the God of the great monotheistic religions, whose attributes are concisely given by St. Anselm’s definition.

4. Finally there are arguments for the God of Christianity, the Trinitarian God of love whose incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth establishes atonement.

My contention is that the number, quality, and cumulative strength of theistic arguments on the first level are simply overwhelming. It seems that reality is such that after a little thought it is impossible to miss the fact that reality is of a fundamentally personal nature, or at least that the foundations of reality are not less than personal.

One Brow said...

An objection that Descartes himself considers is that he could have arrived at the idea of God all by himself merely by negating the idea of what is finite. For example, he could start with the idea of knowledge, which he has to a limited degree, and negate those limits so as to arrive at the idea of omniscience. But Descartes responds that this has things backwards: In his view, the idea of what is finite itself presupposes the idea of what is infinite, just as a boundary presupposes a larger expanse outside the boundary. (Compare: The notion of an imperfect circle presupposes the idea of a circle, which just is the idea of a perfect circle.)

I think you are underestimating the strength of this objection, or overestimating the response. The notion of the finite does not come from a notion of infinite. Rather, both are arising from concepts that more experiential, that of "so few I can count them" (cows in my barn) and "too many for me to count" (grains of sand on a beach). Both of these experiences actually represent something that is finite, the inital boundary is what a person can do. The infinite only comes after the abstaction of this boundary to "too many for any group to count under any circumstances". It appears as teh limit of something acutally experiencd, not as an exclusion of what is experience. Similarly, before you have the notions of an imperfect circle and a perfect circle, you being with notions of what is circular, usually informed by something you see. Again, the basis for omnisicence would the be experiential "smarter than me". As we learn of smarter and smarter people, the idea of omniscience is built as a limit, not an exclusion.

Brandon said...

The infinite only comes after the abstaction of this boundary to "too many for any group to count under any circumstances".

This is all mere arbitrary supposition and handwaving. There is nothing about the description "too many for any group to count under any circumstances" that implies the infinite (there is no reason to think that there aren't finite numbers that no group could count under any circumstances unless we already assume things like infinite time to count), it fails adequately to account for questions of infinite precision, which we know historically are usually the first unambiguous accounts of infinity to arise in most cultures, and there is precious little in the way of actual evidence that our ideas of the infinite actually arise in the way you are suggesting. Further, your response misses the point of Descartes's argument, which is that what needs to be explained are these supposed abstractions from the finite, in which removing the bounds of the finite gives us not nothing but the infinite; certainly, if we merely posit arbitrarily that we can do it there's no problem. Later Cartesians like Malebranche would argue that any such abstraction, involving as it does finite operations on finite information by finite minds, cannot guarantee any actual idea of the infinite, and could not in any case make a principled distinction, essential for the mathematical use of the infinite, between the infinite and the indefinitely large. It was largely because of the pressure of rationalist arguments along these lines that later empiricists like Berkeley and Hume backed off the crude Lockean account of the infinite and attempted to give accounts of the infinite more consistent with empiricist principles.

Anonymous said...

One Brow, have you ever seen an argument for theism that has impressed you?

Anonymous said...

I think One Brow is trying to make a weak argument for Humean skepticism and or empiricism.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

@Dianelos:

How does A-T violate your moral sense?

Billy Blue Boots said...

The notion of the finite does not come from a notion of infinite. Rather, both are arising from concepts that more experiential

I don't think that's how a view or concept of infinite actually comes about. While the grains of sand on a beach might be too much to count (by one or many persons) no one would go from that to the thought "I think there's no limit to the amount of sand on this beach".

Lamont said...

The following argument draws on a number of sources, (including Descartes) and has proven very useful in stimulating discussion about the existence of God.

The Anthropological Argument

1. Human intelligence, morality, and freedom are not the result of any merely physical or biological process, but are evidence for the presence of an immaterial or spiritual soul.

2. There must be a cause that is sufficient to explain the existence of the human soul.

Therefore: There must be an intelligent, moral, and free being who is capable of creating the human soul, and this being we call God.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Leo,

You write: “How does A-T violate your moral sense?

I understand A-T implies that, for example, lying is wrong but deceiving others without lying is kind of OK. What I on the other hand perceive is that lying is wrong when it is used to deceive. More seriously, I have a problem with A-T’s implications about killing others, namely that killing others is justified in some cases, such as in defense, in a just war, in a lawful execution, and, conversely, that it is never justified in euthanasia. My moral sense tells me the exact opposite. And frankly my reading of the Gospels, the very spirit that permeates the text, tells me the opposite too.

Brandon said...

Billy Blue Boots has basically the right idea; it was along these lines that Descartes, and to a greater extent later Cartesians, argued that empiricist accounts of the idea of the infinite couldn't distinguish the infinite from the indefinitely large.

Anonymous @ 1:28 PM:

Perhaps empiricism, but the argument isn't consistent with a genuinely Humean skepticism; Hume's handling of the idea of the infinite (particularly where it comes up most for him, in infinite divisibility and geometrical equality) is far more sophisticated, as it would have to be, given that Hume was acquainted with rationalist attacks on naive empiricist accounts of the idea of the infinite.

Martin said...

I believe I borrow from Augustine here,
1. Murder is the taking of innocent life.
2. murder is wrong
3. Euthanasia is the taking of innocent life.
. . .

One Brow said...

Brandon said...
This is all mere arbitrary supposition and handwaving.

I supose that's true. I mean, it's based on how I see mathematics actually taught in textbooks, but's that's only anecdotal evidence. I'm certainly open to a discussion of how notions such as "perfect circle", "infinite", or "omniscience" can arise without reference to notions we actually experience, such as "circular", "very many", or "very knowledgable". Do you have a reference for that?

There is nothing about the description "too many for any group to count under any circumstances" that implies the infinite (there is no reason to think that there aren't finite numbers that no group could count under any circumstances unless we already assume things like infinite time to count),

I agree that the notion of inifinite is not implied by having too many to count. If it were, among other things, there would be no need for the Axiom of Infinity. However, I was thinking of suggestions and abstractions, not implicaitons.

it fails adequately to account for questions of infinite precision, which we know historically are usually the first unambiguous accounts of infinity to arise in most cultures,

Is not infinite precision (by which in this sentence I presume you mean the complete lack of measurment error) itself an abstraction of the notion of reducing measurement error further and further until it no longer exists? Did you mean some other notion of precision, which would translate to infinitesimal distances, for example? Again, not only would infinitesimal distances represent an abstraction of distances being shortened, but they lso represent the abstraction of having an infinite number of smaller distances combined to an overall distance. Either way, I don't see your example as going against the notion that our concepts of these ideals are not founded on what we experience.

and there is precious little in the way of actual evidence that our ideas of the infinite actually arise in the way you are suggesting.

I'm open to evidence they arise another way, if you have some.

Further, your response misses the point of Descartes's argument, which is that what needs to be explained are these supposed abstractions from the finite, in which removing the bounds of the finite gives us not nothing but the infinite; certainly, if we merely posit arbitrarily that we can do it there's no problem.

It's normal human behavior to seek out the best way of doing something. We try to play error-free chess, or Tic-Tac-Toe. We don't know how to play the most optimal game of the former, and do know for the latter. Is that supposed to be because God put into our heads the notion that there could be a perfect way to play chess or TicTac-Toe? If we seek to the unltimate in games, why not in other things?

Later Cartesians like Malebranche would argue that any such abstraction, involving as it does finite operations on finite information by finite minds, cannot guarantee any actual idea of the infinite, and could not in any case make a principled distinction, essential for the mathematical use of the infinite, between the infinite and the indefinitely large. It was largely because of the pressure of rationalist arguments along these lines that later empiricists like Berkeley and Hume backed off the crude Lockean account of the infinite and attempted to give accounts of the infinite more consistent with empiricist principles.

I'm not aware of any accounts of the infinite that are consisent with empirical principles, that would make for some fascinating reading. I see the notions of infinity as existing formally, helpful for creating useful mathematical models, but with no empirical basis.

One Brow said...

Anonymous said...
One Brow, have you ever seen an argument for theism that has impressed you?

Not in many years. But you never know, a convincing one could be around the next web page.

I am curious what this has to do with the quality of the response to the objection in the argument Decartes uses. Are you saying that if I had seen an impressive argument for theism at some time in my past, then this particular response would be of a higher quality? I'n not sure how that is.

Anonymous said...
I think One Brow is trying to make a weak argument for Humean skepticism and or empiricism.

I am far too ignorant of Humean skepticism and empiricism to argue in favor of it. I can barely argue for my own skepticism and thoughts on epistemology. However, if you feel that there is a particular argument that is relevant, I'd enjoy reading it.

Billy Blue Boots said...
I don't think that's how a view or concept of infinite actually comes about. While the grains of sand on a beach might be too much to count (by one or many persons) no one would go from that to the thought "I think there's no limit to the amount of sand on this beach".

I agree that no one would assume the amount of sand on an individual beach was infinite. Rather, I was trying to say that "infinite" seems to be a natural extension of the notion of "too many to count", an attempt to take that idea to the pinnacle, so to speak.

Brandon said...
Billy Blue Boots has basically the right idea; it was along these lines that Descartes, and to a greater extent later Cartesians, argued that empiricist accounts of the idea of the infinite couldn't distinguish the infinite from the indefinitely large.

I do agree there is no good empirical way to describe the infinite.

Perhaps empiricism, but the argument isn't consistent with a genuinely Humean skepticism;

Thank you for clarifying that.

Billy Blue Boots said...

I agree that no one would assume the amount of sand on an individual beach was infinite. Rather, I was trying to say that "infinite" seems to be a natural extension of the notion of "too many to count", an attempt to take that idea to the pinnacle, so to speak.

You seem to be thinking still that conceptions of the infinite mainly came about because there's a really big/numerous finite. A very large pile of something or a very long duration of some event.

But I think the notions mainly came about because theologians or philosophers appreciated the temporal and spatial position of their existence. Augustine seemed to 'get' that the world he existed in came into being with time. Time was not the backdrop/stage upon which the universe came into existence and played out. Time was very much part of this new thing: the universe.

Brandon said...

I see the notions of infinity as existing formally, helpful for creating useful mathematical models, but with no empirical basis.

This isn't quite what's at issue here; the question is not what the status of the notion of the infinite is (whether, for instance, it is purely formal or empirical when we have it) but how it is that we have such an idea at all. For it to be useful for creating any useful mathematical models we first have to have the notion of the infinite, so our notion of the infinite must come from something other than those models. The rationalist position, owed to Descartes, is precisely that it is impossible to account for our even having the notion of the infinite on any empirical basis: finite mental operations on finite sensory information by finite minds cannot even yield the idea, and all accounts that try to suggest otherwise ultimately can be shown to be smuggling it in as a presupposition somewhere.

For instance, it's certainly true that we can "seek the ultimate" in lots of areas of life. Nothing about this gives the idea of the infinite, though, unless we are assuming that the ultimate is infinite. But how would we know that if we didn't already have the idea of the infinite to recognize that we had to go that far to reach the ultimate?

Likewise if we had no idea that anything required infinite precision we could still make sense of reducing measurement errors to zero; and nothing about reducing measurement errors to zero on its own provides a reasonable account of how we get even the idea that at least sometimes this involves infinite precision. Certainly if we have the idea of the infinite already, we can recognize that this is the case; but we're here trying to account for our even having the idea of the infinite, and so cannot appeal to it.

In short: mathematicians already have the idea of the infinite; we know this as a fact; and many of their standard practices assume the idea from the get-go. So they aren't getting the idea of the infinite from those standard practices; rather, the practices simply involve particular applications of the idea they already have. You've already conceded that you can't actually get the notion of the infinite on empirical principles, or at least that it's not obvious that you can. And you keep appealing to abstraction without giving any account of how, without assuming the idea of the infinite, it actually gives us the idea of the infinite in the first place. And, indeed, a Cartesian will say that the whole idea is simply mumbo jumbo: that you are claiming that if you start out with finite sensory information, and put it in a finite mind that is only capable of finite operations, you can by some magic voodoo turn this all into an idea of the infinite. At least, the challenge is: what is the proof that this abstraction actually explains what you are claiming it explains, and isn't just a bit of sleight of hand in which you explain why we have the idea of the infinite by an operation that presupposes that we have the idea of the infinite?

To take the sand on the beach example, you say, ""infinite" seems to be a natural extension of the notion of "too many to count", an attempt to take that idea to the pinnacle, so to speak." But why would you even think that you could do this without assuming the idea of the infinite? Why wouldn't you take 'too many to count', in this indefinitely large but not necessarily infinite sense, as itself the furthest pinnacle?

Billy Blue Boots said...

I see the notions of infinity as existing formally, helpful for creating useful mathematical models, but with no empirical basis.

This, along with your comment as infinity just being an extrapolation of alot of 'something'.

Is this really how most ever conceived of the notion of the infinite?
As a kid (as probably many kids do) there's the thought "how far does the universe stretch?".
I remember being bothered by the thought of it going on forever. I'd think, "there has to be an end... a point where it just doesn't continue." Like a brickwall. But that never calmed my mind: if there's one side of a wall there's another side of it as well - so back to the question "what is beyond that brick wall?".

This was all child's folly. But a very real question. Not simply the product of looking at alot of 'something'.
Even as I got older and learned about the Big Bang the thought would come back, "what is the universe expanding into?" At the edge of the universe, even if I can't cross that border... something can.

One Brow said...

Billy Blue Boots,

That's very impressive on Augustine's part, or very lucky.

I think the notion of stretching out forever is a lot of something, in this case, a lot of distance.

One Brow said...

Brandon,

I agree "what infinite is" is a distraction from the current discusson of how we got the notion at all. However, other than as an analogy, I think it's equally irrelevant to consider all the areas of life that, when perfected/abstracted, don't lead to the ultimate. Further, if you are removing what the infinite is from the discussion, than you are also ruling out empirical arguments for or against it. We don't need an empirical basis for the concept of "infinite" any more than we need an emprical basis for the concept of "griffon". After all, it's not like the finite and the infinite depend on each other for their definitions. I am having trouble seeing the emprical arguments as being more than confusion of an actuality with the concept thereof, and we are dicussing the concept, not the actuality.

As you noted, we can arrive at an idea of zero measurement error, and by extension that would mean an infinitesimal distance from something. That's the inevitable result of Achilles and the turtle, as well. It's a very small step from there to the infinite.

And you keep appealing to abstraction without giving any account of how, without assuming the idea of the infinite, it actually gives us the idea of the infinite in the first place.

Any number of ways. Achilles must pass the turtle, but can't do it in a number of stages equal to any known number, so how many stages does he use? Can a set have equal cardinality to a proper subset? What would it mean if there were a beach that, no matter how many people you had to count them, there could never be enough? Where is the end of the universe? None of those presupposes a finite/infinite divide, yet at least three will need an infinite answer.

Why wouldn't you take 'too many to count', in this indefinitely large but not necessarily infinite sense, as itself the furthest pinnacle?

Too many to count for one person can by counted by five, or ten, or a thousand. Can you get too many to count for any number of people?

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Martin,

You write: “Euthanasia is the taking of innocent life.

I have several problems with that, at least in some specific cases. I don’t think that one “takes” a life when one helps somebody who wants to end her current condition of life because her terminal suffering has rendered it meaningless to her, but is unable to do so because of her suffering. When euthanasia is an act motivated by selfless love I don’t see the relevance of the distinction of the sufferer being innocent (never mind that I don’t see who we are to judge innocence in the first place.)

Anyway, my point does not depend on how I would justify or reason about my moral beliefs to a third party. My point is that some (I believe well reasoned) moral implications of A-T violate my moral sense, and while I am committed to the veridicality of my moral sense I have grounds to reject A-T.

Martin said...

I have several problems with that, at least in some specific cases. I don’t think that one “takes” a life when. . .

This is what I get for not being precise, lets use the word "end"for the word "take".

When euthanasia is an act motivated by selfless love I don’t see the relevance of the distinction of the sufferer being innocent (never mind that I don’t see who we are to judge innocence in the first place.)

Huh? - which part of the definition of murder takes into account my intentions? As for judging someone innocent this is simply clarifying that we do not include state executions, acts of war, and self-defense as murder.

Brandon said...

OneBrow, I get the feeling that there is some serious miscommunication here, because your answers seem to get farther and farther from the question at hand. Let me try to explain further, using two points in your answer:

After all, it's not like the finite and the infinite depend on each other for their definitions.

But this is blatantly false: any definition of finite that doesn't directly entail that it is not infinite is wrong, and any definition of infinite that doesn't directly entail that it is not finite is wrong. Identifying anything as one is logically equivalent to the fact that it is a denial of the other.

It is also simply false to say that we have no empirical basis for the idea of a griffon: we get the idea of a griffon by blending ideas that do have an empirical basis (lions, eagles, and the like). This is one of the most elementary and obvious facts about empirical accounts of ideas: they are not refuted merely by the existence of ideas of imaginary things. There is no analogy to the idea of the infinite (no finite blending of finite things in the imagination will yield an infinite thing; infinite things cannot even properly be imagined).

As you noted, we can arrive at an idea of zero measurement error, and by extension that would mean an infinitesimal distance from something.

If you already have the idea of the infinite. Again, you are simply changing the subject.

Achilles must pass the turtle, but can't do it in a number of stages equal to any known number, so how many stages does he use? Can a set have equal cardinality to a proper subset? What would it mean if there were a beach that, no matter how many people you had to count them, there could never be enough? Where is the end of the universe? None of those presupposes a finite/infinite divide, yet at least three will need an infinite answer.

Again, you assume that we have an idea of the infinite, so that we can recognize that an infinite answer would be needed. With regard to (1), it only delivers an infinite if you already know that the set of all finite numbers (not all 'known' numbers which leaves open the possibility of unknown numbers) is infinite. The second question can't even be seen as relevant to the question unless cardinality is redefined, as Cantor redefined it through closer analysis of numbers, to make sense of transfinite numbers. Your third question blatantly appeals to the infinite already ('never'), and your fourth question has finitistic and agnostic answers. Indeed, all of your questions have finitistic and agnostic possible answers; it's just that mathematicians and others reject the finitistic ones (because they have the idea of the infinite and thus can see its value) and don't need the agnostic ones (because they have the idea of the infinite and can apply it).

So, again, you are avoiding the question: how do we get the idea of the infinite in the first place? NOT how do we apply it once we have it, NOT what is it relevant to you once we can make sense of it, NOT whether there are questions we can answer with it if we have it, but how can we have it or know it at all given that we are merely finite beings with finite minds that have finite operations about finite experiences of finite things? And Descartes and the other Cartesians argue that it can't be that we simply recognize these things as finite and remove the limits because recognizing something as finite is already recognizing it as not infinite; so it would have to be some other kind of account. Without such an account, none of your answers are relevant to Descartes's argument.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

A passing note from Aquinas' Summa contra gentiles, I, 43:

"[10] Our intellect, furthermore, extends to the infinite in understanding; and a sign of this is that, given any finite quantity, our intellect can think of a greater one. But this ordination of the intellect would be in vain unless an infinite intelligible reality existed. There must, therefore, be some infinite intelligible reality, which must be the greatest of beings. This we call God. God is, therefore, infinite."

Brandon said...

(cont'd)

Further, contrary to your claim, the definitions of the finite and the infinite obviously do include each other, at least in the sense that any definition of the finite that does not directly entail that the finite is not infinite is wrong, and any definition of the infinite that does not directly entail that the infinite is not finite is wrong. So if we have an idea of the finite we already have an idea of the infinite, because recognizing something as finite is just the same thing as recognizing that it is infinite. And this is where Descartes sets his argument:

(1) We obviously do have an idea of the infinite; mathematicians, for instance, use it all the time, and even some common notions (like 'any' and 'never', at least in some uses) already presuppose it.

(2) We have to get ideas from somewhere.

(3) There are only two possible accounts of how we get the idea of the infinite: either we get it from things that are finite, somehow, or we get it from something infinite, somehow.

(4) We can't get it from something finite, because we ourselves are only finite, you can heap up finites all you want and never get an infinite: finite minds capable of only finite operations of finite complexity cannot get any notion of the infinite from their finite expereinces of finite things. How could they? And, Descartes argues, all the abstraction theories that people propose for how you can get the idea of the infinite already presuppose that you have it so as to be able to identify some things as not infinite.

(5) Therefore we get it from something infinite, somehow.

(6) Therefore, since we have an idea of the infinite, and it can only come from something infinite (somehow), something infinite exists, from which our idea derives (somehow).

You keep giving responses that sound like you intend to provide an alternative to (4), but all of the things you've suggested either obviously presuppose that we have the idea of the infinite or leave it entirely mysterious how that would explain how we can make sense of the idea in the first place; Descartes and the later Cartesians have already criticized answers of exactly the sort you are giving and shown that they either don't explain anything or that they presuppose that we already have the idea of the infinite in order to be able to use it.

Brandon said...

Dang it, that last comment was in two parts, and Blogger ate the first part.

Edward Feser said...

It ended up in the spam filter, Brandon, sorry -- I've liberated it (see above), though Codgitator's comment got stuck between the two parts.

Brandon said...

Ed,

Thanks; I've been having problems with that recently, for some reason.

Codge,

I've always found that an interesting passage. I discuss it briefly, with some (not especially definitive) thoughts about how it relates to Malebranche's very strongly rationalist argument here:

http://branemrys.blogspot.com/2009/05/aquinas-and-malebranche-on-mathematical.html

Malebranche, of course, has a much stronger position than Descartes on this point, because he uses it to argue not merely for God's existence but for ontologism.

Someone really needs to do a systematic study of infinite intelligible arguments for God's existence; from Descartes to about the middle of the nineteenth century they were extraordinarily popular, but (1) they seem to have died out quite quickly; and (2) they seem to come in several different kinds. Brownson has a version of it, Rosmini a version; Hegel adapts it, and so as usual his adaptation is very different; and so forth. On the Catholic side the condemnations of ontologism are possibly what killed it -- broadly Malebranchean, and thus ontologistic, versions being the best known and easiest to follow. But it was found outside Catholic circles (Brownson, if I recall correctly, first argued for it before he converted to Catholicism, as a Transcendentalist), so I'm not sure what else contributed. Studying it would be an extraordinarily large project, though.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Martin,

You write: “which part of the definition of murder takes into account my intentions?

No part of your definition of “murder” takes into account the intentions of the killer, and that’s I think a problem.

Anyway, I’d love to discuss this with you, but this issue is way off subject in this thread. Perhaps Ed will post something on epistemology and its relationship to our senses (including our ethical sense), and give us the opportunity to continue this discussion on a better footing.

One Brow said...

Brandon,

If you are goig to insist that the definition of infinite can only be "not finite", and no other, than you can probably win this argument to your satisfaction on that definition. I'm actually fine with that. I find your determination that there can only be this proper defintion, and no other, amusing, but I've learned you can't talk people out of something like that. So, I'll concede this debate to you on that note.

Just out of curiousity, if we have been given the notion of infinite, why didn't it seem to show up until about 2500 years ago, and only about 100 years or so after philosophy was first being discussed? Where was it before that? Is that timing a coincidence? These questions are out of curisouity only, not a challenge.

Brandon said...

If you are goig to insist that the definition of infinite can only be "not finite", and no other, than you can probably win this argument to your satisfaction on that definition.

This is not what I said. I said that any definition of the infinite that does not directly entail that what is infinite is not finite, and vice versa, is obviously an incorrect definition. What conceivable definition of 'finite' could you have in mind where you could identify something as definitely finite and still be leaving open the possibility that it is also infinite on exactly the same point, without contradicting yourself? What examples of things do you have that are simultaneously finite and infinite in exactly the same respect?

Since I've merely been pointing out that your responses to Descartes's argument don't seem to address any of the concerns of the argument, and since Descartes doesn't address historical issues of the sort you are asking about, your question puts us in a different sort of discussion. But Descartes, while remaining consistent with his principles, could say both

(1) That we don't in fact know that it shows up only 2500 years ago; that's only about the time we start getting clear written record. There are lots of things that don't show up in the record until about the same time; it doesn't follow that they all popped up at once in the first references we have of them.

and

(2) That we can have ideas but not pay sufficient attention to them to be consistent about their use or about what we say about them; and obviously people do at times confuse the infinite with the indefinitely large, even though the human mind is capable of sharply distinguishing them if it pays enough attention. The mere fact that we have an idea doesn't mean that we've paid enough attention to it to know it clearly and distinctly.

Billy Blue Boots said...

If you are goig to insist that the definition of infinite can only be "not finite", and no other, than you can probably win this argument to your satisfaction on that definition. I'm actually fine with that. I find your determination that there can only be this proper defintion, and no other, amusing, but I've learned you can't talk people out of something like that.

OneBrow,
you act like this is such a crazy thing for him to state?

The infinite is "not finite". How is this such a wacky idea that you'd prefer to make the "I'm going to let you sink on your boat" comment?

One Brow said...

One Brow: If you are goig to insist that the definition of infinite can only be "not finite", and no other,

Billy Blue Boots said...
The infinite is "not finite". How is this such a wacky idea that you'd prefer to make the "I'm going to let you sink on your boat" comment?

I have bolded the specific aspect of Brandon's position to which I was referring. If you feel I have mischaracterized Brandon's position on what a legitimate definition of infinite could entail, I am open to the correction. I do hate to misrepresent people.

Feel free to address this passage, in partiuclar, if you feel I misrepresented him.

Brandon:
Further, contrary to your claim, the definitions of the finite and the infinite obviously do include each other, at least in the sense that any definition of the finite that does not directly entail that the finite is not infinite is wrong, and any definition of the infinite that does not directly entail that the infinite is not finite is wrong.

StopCallingMeShirley said...

This blog leaves alot to be desired.
Some loud mouth over at a movie forum mentioned this blog and I have to say I'm not impressed in the least.

But since I see alot of you are god believers why don't you come and take my challenge:

http://diaryofanatheist.blogspot.com/

The one guy on here that seems to know what he's talking about is One Brow.
One Brow, check out my post - I think you'll find it very interesting.

Martin said...

Shirley you must be joking.

At least the internet is better than the old west when a guy with a couple of beers in him would wave a gun and call everyone fools. Now they just start a blog.

Anonymous said...

Dear StopCallingMeShirley -- why don't you address the arguments here in the combox, instead of just spamming?

Unless you just want to be ignored.

By the way, "leaves alot to be desired" is not an argument. Just sayin'.

StopCallingMeShirley said...

I'm not spamming.
I've read information here and I'm just not impressed.
But don't worry, I'm more than happy to debate the finer points.

Anonymous said...

I'm not spamming.

Sure, let's find a better term for "come to my blog and debate there instead of here."

I've read information here and I'm just not impressed.

That takes at least a few hours (it's ~3 years of material). You are either an extremely gifted reader or a liar. I'll assume the former out of charity.

But don't worry, I'm more than happy to debate the finer points.

Well, what are you waiting for?

StopCallingMeShirley said...

Don't worry, Anon.
I happen to be a pretty busy man. Sorry I don't have all of the free time in the world to get too detailed.

But one thing I find pretty interesting; it's odd to see a bunch of atheists call another group of atheists out for not believing in god.
Because by the looks of it you're all atheists too. I just go one god further than you're willing to.
None of you are professing belief in Zeus, right?

One Brow said...

StopCallingMeShirley,

Thanks for the compliment, but on many of the topics here I know less than a a few of the theists.

Far be it from me to tell a person what they should or should not do on a journey of knowledge, but it occurs to me that your posts so far are usful primarily for providing confirmation to those subject to confirmation bias concerning atheists. Your confidence/knowledge ratio seems a little high to me. Having read your three most recent posts on your blog, I saw little to change that.

Of course, I'm much more of a skeptic who happens to be an atheist than an atheist who uses skepticism to justify that positon, so my advice might fit you like clown shoes. Either way, I wish you luck on your path.

Anonymous said...

I happen to be a pretty busy man. Sorry I don't have all of the free time in the world to get too detailed.

So, were you lying when you said you had read the information in this blog? That would be very sad if true. I thought you were an amazingly quick reader, because I like amazingly quick readers.

But one thing I find pretty interesting; it's odd to see a bunch of atheists call another group of atheists out for not believing in god.
Because by the looks of it you're all atheists too. I just go one god further than you're willing to.
None of you are professing belief in Zeus, right?


Well, I would like to ask you two things:

1. How do you know that I/we disbelieve in the Greek Pantheon? Not that I mean to be overly nitpicking, but an assumption is an assumption. The commenters in this blog come from all the walks of life!

2. Do you believe that "one-god-further" is a good argument? If so, why? I think it has many sweeping assumptions, which have been addressed correctly before.

Have a good day.

StopCallingMeShirley said...

but it occurs to me that your posts so far are usful primarily for providing confirmation to those subject to confirmation bias concerning atheists. Your confidence/knowledge ratio seems a little high to me. Having read your three most recent posts on your blog, I saw little to change that.

Gee, thanks One Brow.
You sure you're not a theist in wolf's clothing?
What kind of comment is that? my confidence to knowledge ratio? Cute back handed slap.
Do this, show my one thing wrong with my Jesus/Asteroid comment.
Christians are hoping for end times BUT they want to protect the earth from asteroids - you can't be so blind as to see he contradiction.

One Brow said...

StopCallingMeShirley said...
Gee, thanks One Brow.

You're welcome.

You sure you're not a theist in wolf's clothing?

Very sure. I'm a skeptic. In all the skeptical forums I have participated in, we feel we have to keep each other sharp, because the theists are so seldom up to the task. You sharpen an axe by grinding it.

What kind of comment is that?

It was intended to be straght-forward and direct.

my confidence to knowledge ratio? Cute back handed slap.

Back-handed? Sorry, I'll try to be more direct next time.

Do this, show my one thing wrong with my Jesus/Asteroid comment.

Well, I'm not sure if all that is true but it certainly wouldn't be good and could very well mean the end of humanity.

The destruction from previous such events took hundreds of years to take their full effect. No end-time scenario has hundreds of years of destruction, to my knowledge. Further, as omnivores capable of cultivation, humans are well-positioned to survive such an event. So asteroid colisions do not match what the Christian sects with which I am familiar think of as the end-times.

Christians are hoping for end times BUT they want to protect the earth from asteroids - you can't be so blind as to see he contradiction.

Not every Christian sect thinks of the end-times as a literal event. Of those that consider it literal, not all see it as a time of strife. Of those that see it as a time of strife, very few see the strife coming from asteroids. Earthquakes are a much more likely source for this type of argument, as they are at least mention in the Bible as being a sign of the end times.

Billy Blue Boots said...

Oh come on.
Is this Jesus vs Asteroid thing even serious?
Either the guy running that blog is a complete moron or alot of you have been had.
I think it's a joke for this one reason - there's only that one blog posting. Well two reasons, it's truly fitting of the word "retarded".

Billy Blue Boots said...

Oh wow. I stand corrected.
I just went back to that blog for a good laugh at the joke but the postings actually go back to 2007.
Either this is a very elaborate joke or the guy there is indeed a moron.
I've switched: I think the guy is a moron.

Shirley, if that is indeed your post please tell us what you were thinking and why you haven't taken it down to save yourself the embarrassment.

Luke said...

For the record, I changed the masthead title not because I now disagree with "When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours" but rather because the subject matter of my blog has substantially changed.

BenYachov said...

But Luke it still sucks as an argument.

It's an intellectually lazy one size fits all equivocation of the word "god".

Even if I denied God as I understand him tomorrow I would still think this.

It's a hopeless stupid argument.

BenYachov said...

BTW Luke you posted on the wrong thread.

Maybe a repost is in order.

Peace to you.