Saturday, August 20, 2011

Addendum

I want to call my readers' attention to Eric MacDonald’s blog post of earlier today, and in particular to the combox discussion it has generated.  As you will see from the latter (scroll down to my exchange with him), MacDonald has graciously and honorably offered to bury the hatchet, and I very happily accept his offer.  As you will also see, he and I and some of his readers have been having a fruitful discussion. 

168 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wish you'd point out the difference between what "morally repugnant" means on your metaphysics, and on his.

On yours, if I understand you correctly, something that is "morally repugnant" is something that does objective harm to us, conflicts with our natures, and is contrary to God Himself.

On his, it's what he doesn't like to whatever degree he doesn't like it, at the moment.

There isn't exactly parity there, regardless of whose metaphysics is correct.

Proph said...

Happy to see a relatively peaceful resolution to this, and MacDonald deserves credit for concluding the discussion in a classy way.

Hopefully this will go some way toward convincing him that Aristotle (and Aquinas) may have been on to something, after all.

Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty funny that one of the main replies being given over there seems to be 'well, those (materialist) theories of mind and intentionality are ridiculous, Ed's a bad person for even taking those arguments seriously enough to refute/criticize them'.

Dennett should avoid sidewalks when atheists are around, because they can't seem to throw him under a bus fast enough.

Anonymous said...

Dennett is a big, tall man. You'd need at least four of those scrawny Internet nerdlings to push him around.

ABS said...

Also, the comments section smacks of people who want desperately to disagree with Ed, but who have not read the book and have no intention to. See the long, weird comment about the "ultimate purpose" of a bear's paw and how things can have multiple purposes. Talk about being off-base.

Matthew G said...

And despite all the talk about peace, some of the comments on that post still display the standard internet atheist combination of arrogance and ignorance. Echo chamber indeed.

Mr Veale said...

Well, thank goodness for that! Well played Dr Feser!

Daniel Smith said...

Dr Feser,

On MacDonald's blog you argue: "We Aristotelians hold that whether teleology exists and whether a divine “designer” exists are separate questions; the second doesn’t follow directly from the first. (Some of us think it follows indirectly, with further premises.)"

What exactly are these "further premises"?

My assumption is that you are referring to the Fifth Way here and that one of the premises is Aquinas' statement that teleology must be mind-dependant.

Is that the case?

If so, what is (are) the other premise(s)?

I know you're working on a paper on the Fifth Way and I'm really looking forward to an in-depth exposition of this subject!

Daniel Smith said...

(after further thought...)

I guess what I'm most interested in is how the Aristotelian explains "mindless" teleology and how the Thomist refutes that. That disagreement is more interesting to me than the Thomist/Paleyian one.

I'm also hoping you'll go into detail on how teleology eminating from the Platonic "third realm" differs metaphysically from teleology eminating from the divine mind.

Thanks!

Steersman said...

Anonymous said: I wish you'd point out the difference between what "morally repugnant" means on your metaphysics, and on his. …. On his, it's what he doesn't like to whatever degree he doesn't like it, at the moment.

I am also likewise happy to see some “substantive” and “fruitful” discussions taking place, in large part because I largely agree with one of Feser’s central arguments, to wit, that “teleology, as an objective feature of reality and not a mere heuristic, cannot be eliminated”.

However, relating to my fairly substantial reservations about the rest of his philosophy – at least that which I’ve so far had the opportunity to read – and to your comment, one might reasonably argue that your and Feser’s definition of “morally repugnant” is likewise dependent on whatever it is that you, he and (or) God happens not to like at the moment.

But, unfortunately and most problematically, MacDonald’s definition is his own and highly subject to the opinions and responses of other real human beings, while your ascription of such to God is the ultimate argument from an authority who, supposedly on the basis of the classical theist argument, is simply unavailable for subsequent querying and discussion on the finer points of what “He” might have actually meant.

Which provides, in my view, some justification for MacDonald’s argument that theocracy – in general and in all its variants – entails a “besetting problem for the religious [and the rest of us], because they do, in the end, insist on speaking for God.” Premises which lead – all too often – to some decidedly “callous and inhuman conclusions”.

Anonymous said...

However, relating to my fairly substantial reservations about the rest of his philosophy – at least that which I’ve so far had the opportunity to read – and to your comment, one might reasonably argue that your and Feser’s definition of “morally repugnant” is likewise dependent on whatever it is that you, he and (or) God happens not to like at the moment.

No, one can't 'reasonably argue' that. 'At the moment' would not apply to God, since 'moments' don't apply. It would not apply to an Aristotilean or a Thomist, because their philosophy is that morality is informed by natural law - which is what it is regardless of what we think 'at the moment'.

For people with MacDonald's metaphysics, personal opinion is all he has and ever will have. Even if he gives some external standard of morality, it's only a standard by virtue of himself and others deciding it is so, and he can change his mind at any moment. Aristotileans can't say "alright, I'm changing the nature of man now".

But, unfortunately and most problematically, MacDonald’s definition is his own and highly subject to the opinions and responses of other real human beings, while your ascription of such to God is the ultimate argument from an authority who, supposedly on the basis of the classical theist argument, is simply unavailable for subsequent querying and discussion on the finer points of what “He” might have actually meant.

Again. no. Insofar as we can investigate and observe natures, our morality is informed under the A-T view. Yes, MacDonald's definition is his own.

There is a lack of parity between the two, even in principle.

Premises which lead – all too often – to some decidedly “callous and inhuman conclusions”.

All too often? Really? What's the measure of "all too often" here?

And "callous and inhuman"? According to who? We're right back to the gulf between MacDonald and classical theists given their metaphysics.

Anonymous said...

Ed, I'm glad that things between you and MacDonald are getting better. I was about to propose we settle this issue like men with a game of association football, I'd get you this shirt.

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

Anonymous (their name is Legion) said: 'At the moment' would not apply to God, since 'moments' don't apply.

That would seem to depend on knowing the nature of and the existential status of God to begin with which seems to be the bone of contention at the moment and on which a great many theologians and philosophers have contrary opinions. For example:

I am honoured by and grateful for Prof. Kenny’s review. In defence of his rejection of Aquinas’s proofs for God’s existence, Prof. Kenny refers us to arguments he has defended in his book The Five Ways

And it would seem that Feser also acknowledged that in his article on Classical Theism with his reference to theistic personalism and its support by Plantinga and Swinburne, two “very important philosophers indeed”.

… morality is informed by natural law - which is what it is regardless of what we think 'at the moment'.

Yes, I will certainly agree that “natural law is what it is”, but, again the question is whether our various perceptions, definitions and understandings of it are correct, are actually true. And, given that yours and Feser’s are apparently heavily dependent on the aforementioned attributes of god – which is, again, a matter of dispute if not a “formally undecidable proposition” – it would seem that your position is little more than opinion – based on what you think at the moment. Putting you in the same boat, more or less, with MacDonald who at least has the decency of not arrogantly claiming that he has God in his back pocket to justify those opinions.

Aristotelians can't say "alright, I'm changing the nature of man now".

Again, a statement I don’t have any problem accepting the essential truth of – they can say that but that does not change it. However, the question is, again, whether Aristotelians actually have a true and accurate understanding of that nature.

Insofar as we can investigate and observe natures, our morality is informed under the A-T view.

Well, by that “insofar” hangs a tale, or at least a question: How far is that? An informed morality is most likely to be better than an uninformed one and I will cheerfully concede that the A-T view may actually have some utility, even if only as a point of reference. However “informed” does not necessarily mean entirely right and true – and Prof. Kenny, for one, would probably assert that it was not (if it was he would presumably accept Aquinas’ proofs for God) .

All too often? Really? What's the measure of "all too often" here? And "callous and inhuman"? According to who?

Certainly somewhat subjective, but I might point to the many heresies that the Church has dealt with rather harshly over the years not to mention the many consequences of the Church’s position on sexual ethics – for example, the many back-alley abortions that took place before the process was legalized.

Anonymous said...

That would seem to depend on knowing the nature of and the existential status of God to begin with which seems to be the bone of contention at the moment and on which a great many theologians and philosophers have contrary opinions.

Sure they do. That doesn't matter here, because it comes down to "given Feser's metaphysics" and "given MacDonald's metaphysics".

Your entire response boils down to, "aha, but it's possible that Feser and company are wrong". And my response is, wonderful: It doesn't matter. There's still a world of difference between "morally repugnant given Feser's view", and "morally repugnant given MacDonald's view."

And once you give MacDonald's view, morality is just what grinds his gears anyway. Who cares, unless I already agree with him?

Certainly somewhat subjective,

Great. Why should I care, given MacDonald's view? Because he feels strongly about it? Because you do? I feel otherwise.

As for the consequences, I think back alley abortions are the consequences by and large of sex, usually consensual sex according to statistics. To hear some people put it, if a woman has an affair with a man, gets pregnant, then has an abortion, everyone but them are to blame. Or "everyone except for the woman" if the right kind of feminist is in the room.

If moral repugnance is not an offense against the objective natural order or the nature of God, but "that which offends Erin MacDonald", then man. Moral repugnance has never sounded more fun.

Steersman said...

Anonymous said: Great. Why should I care, given MacDonald's view? Because he feels strongly about it? Because you do? I feel otherwise.

Well, that looks like progress to me, that we have a level playing field, that we’ve got to the point of presenting our “strong feelings”, our opinions, about various ethical conundrums without bringing in the question of whether god exists or not and its nature if so. At which point we can rationally, one hopes, address what criteria should be accepted for ethical behaviour – and minimizing harm seems like a good starting point to me.

Anonymous said...

Well, that looks like progress to me, that we have a level playing field, that we’ve got to the point of presenting our “strong feelings”, our opinions,

Why should I, or anyone else, care about someone else's "strong feelings" or opinions, yours included? The game is over the moment we've decided that morality is nothing but individual or group personal feelings of the moment.

It looks like progress to you because you imagine the next step is "now we sit down and try to work out an agreement, and maybe I can make a persuasive case". But given the system, there's nothing really wrong with a man drawing a weapon and letting that do all the "rational addressing" for him. That level field won't remain very level for long.

Like I said, the morality of MacDonald and those who agree with him is a joke when compared to the metaphysical alternatives. Moral repugnance adding up to "Erin MacDonald will feel bad about this" is moral repugnance people can live with.

Josh said...

At which point we can rationally, one hopes, address what criteria should be accepted for ethical behaviour – and minimizing harm seems like a good starting point to me.

Sorry I don't agree; I'd like a different starting point...level playing field though. Guess subjectivism/emotivism/nonsense non-morality never gets off the launching pad. Ha! Mere "assertion and counter-assertion," as Alasdair MacIntyre said. He was on the mark.

Good on you anonymous

Steersman said...

Anonymous said: The game is over the moment we've decided that morality is nothing but individual or group personal feelings of the moment.

That is so much horse-feathers, one very large and thinly stuffed straw-man. But maybe you’re putting too much emphasis on the “of the moment”. I was hardly thinking that morality was to be a moment-to-moment thing and had more in mind the idea of deciding, by consensus, at one moment and using that as the basis for subsequent actions. Essentially that is the case in a great many countries throughout the world where god – and the morality that “He” has presumably promulgated – is not a factor in their societies. And I note that generally speaking those societies do better by various standards – number of gun deaths, poverty, STDs, drugs, etc – than many areas of the US, notably the Bible belt.

But given the system, there's nothing really wrong with a man drawing a weapon and letting that do all the "rational addressing" for him.

And then the society would incarcerate or execute him. I hardly think a consensus system of morality – as is essentially the case now in most secular societies – precludes dealing with those who overstep the agreed-upon rules. Odd that you would apparently think so.

Like I said, the morality of MacDonald and those who agree with him is a joke when compared to the metaphysical alternatives.

You mean metaphysical alternatives the way the Taliban see and implement them? Because that’s what your insistence on tying your idiosyncratic concept of god to the morality everyone else is supposed to adhere to really amounts to.

Moral repugnance adding up to "Erin MacDonald will feel bad about this" is moral repugnance people can live with.

Apart from the fact that I don’t understand what you mean by that I think his name is Eric, not Erin.

Anonymous said...

That is so much horse-feathers, one very large and thinly stuffed straw-man. But maybe you’re putting too much emphasis on the “of the moment”. I was hardly thinking that morality was to be a moment-to-moment thing and had more in mind the idea of deciding, by consensus, at one moment and using that as the basis for subsequent actions.

Of course. That's what you favor - at the moment. And if the next moment you decide 'actually, whatever I want to do right now is moral, and damn the committee', that will work too.

Do you really think that adding bureaucracy somehow fleshes out your morality? That all that was missing was a committee?

And I note that generally speaking those societies do better by various standards – number of gun deaths, poverty, STDs, drugs, etc – than many areas of the US, notably the Bible belt.

You mean those societies where, until very recently, Christianity was a major factor? And where Christianity is often still a major cultural factor, right down to state-sanctioned churches? Usually tiny nations at that, measured in the ones of millions? And that in other standards, they do worse? And that the only way those various measurements could be as bad as they are would be to, in many cases, be acting in opposition to Christian moral teaching?

Nevermind that the question is not one of performance, but morality. I bet you the chinese 'by many standards' are pretty damn spiffy with their system. It doesn't make it moral.

And then the society would incarcerate or execute him. I hardly think a consensus system of morality – as is essentially the case now in most secular societies – precludes dealing with those who overstep the agreed-upon rules. Odd that you would apparently think so.

Incarcerate or execute? Sure. Unless he had the right friends. Unless he had the right power. Unless he wasn't caught. And even if he didn't have the right friends, even if he didn't have enough power, even if he was caught, all you're telling me is that "If you do the wrong thing, I'll **** your **** up." Again, not exactly a moral concern.

In fact, once you have the ability to "incarcerate or execute" those people who do things you dislike, that's pretty much it for morality in your world. Decide to do what you like if you have the power, there is no wrong answer. There are only tactical errors.

You mean metaphysical alternatives the way the Taliban see and implement them? Because that’s what your insistence on tying your idiosyncratic concept of god to the morality everyone else is supposed to adhere to really amounts to.

Idiosyncratic? Because, what, the Taliban are noted defenders of natural law theory or neoplatonism? And hey, you think you're better than the Taliban? "Hey, at least when I incarcerate and execute people who do things I disagree with, I have other people on my side and it isn't religiously motivated." Said Stalin. Said Mao.

Why do some people seem to act as if the 20th century never happened nowadays? This idea that there's never been an oppressive government without religious motivation - this idea that even oppressive governments with religious motivation weren't absolutely rife with secular motivations and interests - is so quaint.

Apart from the fact that I don’t understand what you mean by that I think his name is Eric, not Erin.

Eric, Erin, close enough. And I think the meaning is crystal clear. If I support something and the moral injunction against it is "MacDonald really doesn't like it", so much the worse for MacDonald. Why should I care?

Oh wait, you answered that: Execution and incarceration. Hey, that's a good reason for me to care what the Taliban thinks too, come to think of it! Golly, I hope they formed a committee before they decided how to implement their laws. That would make them A-OK.

Anonymous said...

I know Comrades, we can call such a committee a soviet. I think this will work.

What is interesting is that the lowest rates of STD (such a cervical cancer, syphilis seropositivity, HIV, hepatitis, etc) are among Catholic nuns. In contrast some of the more progressive (and educated) communities in the West have a major problem with HPV induced cancer, HIV, hepatitis and other STIs. In fact some innocenty bystanders called hemophiliacs (and other blood/plasma transfusion recipients, many of them children) had to suffer and die prematurely because of how some behaviours played out.

Anonymous said...

Anon said:
"I wish you'd point out the difference between what "morally repugnant" means on your metaphysics, and on his."


And if our ancestors’ repugnance had carried the day, we never would have had autopsies, vaccinations, blood transfusions, artificial insemination, organ transplants and in vitro fertilization, all of which were denounced as immoral when they were new.

When did your 'rock solid metaphysical sense' of repugnance change? By committee? Popular opinion?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Feser, you said that macdonald wrote that “Catholics got a bad bargain, I’m afraid, when they got him.” I just want you to know that you make me very proud to be a Catholic. Nice work!

Anonymous said...

And if our ancestors’ repugnance had carried the day, we never would have had autopsies, vaccinations, blood transfusions, artificial insemination, organ transplants and in vitro fertilization, all of which were denounced as immoral when they were new.

Right. Keep on repeating those historical myths, save for IVF which has despicable practices.

When did your 'rock solid metaphysical sense' of repugnance change? By committee? Popular opinion?

None of the above. Where did you learn history? From the comments section of an atheist blog?

cl said...

Ed, I'm glad that things between you and MacDonald are getting better. I was about to propose we settle this issue like men with a game of association football, I'd get you this shirt.

LOL x 8967586743 !!!!!!

TheOFloinn said...

"callous and inhuman"

Operational definition: any conclusion at odds with my own socio-political preferences.

+ + +

number of gun deaths

This depends on the size of the population. Also, why guns, specifically, and not murder?

many areas of the US, notably the Bible belt.

In 2008 (last year tabulated) the murder rates (incl. nonnegligent manslaughter)
for metropolitan areas was 5.7,
for nonmetropolitan cities 3.5,
for nonmetropolitan counties 3.4

so the argument can be made that urban living rather than Bible-beltedness leads to crime. Looking closer, the murder rate per 100,000 peeps is:
New Orleans (63.6)
St. Louis (46.9)
Baltimore (36.9)
Detroit (33.8)
Washington DC (31.4)
Oakland CA (28.6)
Kansas City MO (25.5)
Newark (23.9)
Cleveland (23.5)
Pittsburgh (23.2)
Philadelphia (23.0)
Cincinnati (21.9)
Memphis (20.5)
2011 Statistical Abstracts of the United States:
http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/11statab/law.pdf


City-wise, the list does not strike me as having Bible-beltedness in common. New Orleans has never been known as a Bible-thumping puritanical town. There may be some other factor more or less common to the cities on the list, but less so to Honolulu (2.0), El Paso (2.8), Henderson NV (2.0), or Chandler AZ (2.4)

Yours for empiricism,
TOF

TheOFloinn said...

And if our ancestors’ repugnance had carried the day, we never would have had autopsies...

First done in the medieval West. (There were two Hellenistic Egyptian Greeks who evidently vivisected condemned prisoners, but all human dissection was forbidden by the pagan Roman authorities.) The Chinese did some autopsies for criminal cases, never for instruction of doctors*, but they were carried out by magistrates, not medical doctors as in the Latin West.

(*) Because doctors in China were not produced by a systematic university instruction anyway.

...vaccinations, blood transfusions, artificial insemination, organ transplants and in vitro fertilization, all of which were denounced as immoral when they were new.

Really? I know there are legends about them being denounced. The only two for sure are in vitro fertilization, which typically requires the killing of multiple babies in order to get one. (It's called "reduction.") Artificial insemination is problematical only insofar as it separates the production of offspring from the act of love. See Brave New World for details.

Organ transplants insofar as they lead to organlegging, the financial pressure on the poor to sell their organs, and this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/20/peru-gang-killing-human-fat

Also denounced were eugenics, which was supported by all the progressives of the day.

machinephilosophy said...

TOF,

Good work on both posts. Exemplary.

DNW said...

Anonymous at August 21, 2011 1:26 PM quotes and comments:

" ' Premises which lead – all too often – to some decidedly “callous and inhuman conclusions”.'

All too often? Really? What's the measure of "all too often" here?

And "callous and inhuman"? According to who? We're right back to the gulf between MacDonald and classical theists given their metaphysics."

I'm also at a loss to understand the pseudo-objective moralizing or the moral mimicry that radical mechanists continue to engage in lomg after they have on their view, deconstructed objective moral principles into expressions of arbitrary preferences.

Why take the trouble to theatrically rage against a cruel JudeoChristian God, when cruelty is not an objectively bad thing, and the species doesn't even objectively exist?

What standard are they using and what generates it?

Can they possibly be that stupid? Or is it just a cynical scam [read Darwinian adaptation], wherein emotionally evocative "share with me" noises continue to be made long after any intellectual justification has disappeared?


I recently reviewed one of my college biology texts, and was amazed to see much of the same thing. A militant denial of purpose and significance, accompanied by a puling objection to a world filled with "cruelty" toward the "innocents": two terms which are rendered objectively meaningless on the author's own analysis.

Scientific socialism was proposed as man's hope. LOL

What "man"?

Anonymous said...

"... LOL

What "man"?"

...and they continue the rants with rage, secure in their knowledge of objective absolute morality and full of emotional security that their place is at the center of the universe.

Despite having it all figured out, somehow they still rage.

Anonymous said...

Yup. The rage many of these guys feel can be explained as a throwback to some evolutionary adaptation which was meant to fool the primate into getting off his butt and doing something active (eg protecting his mate or resources from competitors). Then love is just an illusory pleasurable feeling designed to fool the clever ape into caring for his spouse and children. Yet despite knowing this these guys continue to place moral decisions based on 'conscience' or rather as they see it love or pleasure or compassion or other illusory states whose purpose was only to let the species survive. Along with this we hear appeals to 'reason'. Oh well....

Anonymous said...

"...and they continue the rants with rage, secure in their knowledge of objective absolute morality and full of emotional security that their place is at the center of the universe."

As opposed to letting the level of inner happiness at that moment decide whether an action is right or wrong. That to me is belief that one is at the centre of the universe. That to me is more arrogant than any religious belief.

Anonymous said...

LOL come on. Isn't it ironic that all this talk of naturalistic ethics, 'survival of clever apes' and whatnot is happening exactly when the West finds itself in a time of obvious moral, economic and demographic decline?

Anonymous said...

"LOL come on. Isn't it ironic that all this talk of naturalistic ethics, 'survival of clever apes' and whatnot is happening exactly when the West finds itself in a time of obvious moral, economic and demographic decline?"

I'll take this 'obvious moral, economic, and demographic decline' (I love how it's all so obvious) to the 12th and 13th century Medieval Inquisition or the 15th and 16th century Spanish and Roman Inquisitions when your moral absolutism was all the rage.

Anonymous said...

"That to me is more arrogant than any religious belief."

Religious belief = motivated 'reasoning' to find why I'm the center of it all. Or worse, just assuming you're the center of it all.

Yes. That's arrogant.

"As opposed to letting the level of inner happiness at that moment decide whether an action is right or wrong."

Strawman scarecrow.

Anonymous said...

"As opposed to letting the level of inner happiness at that moment decide whether an action is right or wrong."

It that really the depth of your knowledge of other arguments?

Or are you just expressing your stoopidity?

word verification: unprobd (exactly!)

TheOFloinn said...

Religious belief = motivated 'reasoning' to find why I'm the center of it all.

Perhaps you are confusing 'religious belief' with 'humanism,' which really did make humans the center of it all. As I understand it, most religions make God (or some other central Good) the center of it all. Humans are seen as lowly and unenlightened.

Steersman said...

Josh said:

“At which point we can rationally, one hopes, address what criteria should be accepted for ethical behaviour ….”

Sorry I don't agree; I'd like a different starting point ….

Good on you anonymous.


Apropos of which, quoting the good Dr. Feser:

Step 5: Exchange further high fives with your fellow New [Theists].

Step 6: Repeat 1 - 5 until your disconnect from reality is complete.

Steersman said...

Anonymous [one of many: why don’t you (all) do the ethical thing and tag your posts so we can differentiate who is who? Don’t have enough “courage of your convictions” to at least post using an avatar?] said:

Do you really think that adding bureaucracy somehow fleshes out your morality? That all that was missing was a committee?


Seems many if not most Catholics are of that opinion given that the Vatican would seem to qualify as a bureaucracy of the first order composed of multiple committees. Or are you going to claim some divine connection authenticated by papal infallibility? If the latter was really true then I, and most no doubt, would be happy to concede the point. But absent some tangible evidence for that connection all you are doing is presenting your own opinion – in which event the former case would seem most accurately to describe the true state of affairs.

In which case I think your position, practically by definition, would qualify as flagrant hypocrisy.

Steersman said...

Anonymous said: Dr. Feser, you said that MacDonald wrote that “Catholics got a bad bargain, I’m afraid, when they got him.” I just want you to know that you make me very proud to be a Catholic. Nice work!

While there’s a bunch of subtext – some parts more accurate than others – to MacDonald’s statement I would call it at least somewhat intemperate. While I very much disagree with much of the Catholic dogmata, rejecting everything that Dr. Feser has said and been saying smacks too much of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” for my tastes.

But – apropos of those dogmata and considering that I will happily concede that the Catholic Church has, at least at times, advanced the cause of knowledge and humanity and has done and continues to do significant charitable works – I have to wonder how that pride is affected by the Inquisition and the Church’s rather heavy-handed dealing with many other heresies, notably the one leading to the Albigensian Crusade. Maybe there’s a systemic problem, a fatal flaw associated with the authoritarian structure of the Church?

Seems to me that we need less of “blowing our own horns” and more of “accentuating the positives and eliminating the negatives”. Or maybe you think there aren’t any negatives to be eliminated?

Steersman said...

TheOFloinn said:

"callous and inhuman"

Operational definition: any conclusion at odds with my own socio-political preferences.


Do please tell me, absent some conclusive evidence of god – classical theist or theistic personalist or any other variation, how anything else informs your own definitions of that or of the analogous “moral repugnance”. Seems to me that we are all in the same boat in starting from the same point. And if that is the case then maybe we can start to talk reasonably about which preferences make sense and why without talk of various gods and their putative existence muddying if not roiling the waters.

so the argument can be made that urban living rather than Bible-beltedness leads to crime. Looking closer, the murder rate per 100,000 peeps is

That may not be as tenable an argument as I thought which was, in part, based on a study discussed in the Wikipedia article on “Criticism of Religion”. That study – supported by some researchers and not supported by others as described by Wikipedia – was by one Gregory S. Paul published in the “smallish” (?) Journal of Religion and Society and which concluded, among others, that:

There is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms (Aral and Holmes; Beeghley, Doyle, 2002).

However, as indicated in the article, that Journal subsequently published “A Research Note” in which it argues that:

It is the opinion of the authors that once all of the methodological issues are considered, Paul’s findings and conclusions are rendered ineffectual. In closing, various suggestions are offered in the hopes of advancing Paul’s hopes for “future research and debate on the issue” of comparative analysis of religiosity, secularism, and democratic social health.

In addition I note from the Wikipedia article, which is generally inconclusive as far as positive and negative effects of religion are concerned, that one counterargument to those of Paul is:

Finally, a recent systematic review of 850 research papers on the topic concluded that "the majority of well-conducted studies found that higher levels of religious involvement are positively associated with indicators of psychological well-being (life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale) and with less depression, suicidal thoughts and behavior, drug/alcohol use/abuse."

While that may be the case one might argue that if in fact there is no god undergirding any of those beliefs then those believers are living in a fool’s paradise. Which ultimately tends to be seriously counter-productive ….

Yours for empiricism,
TOF


:-)

grodrigues said...

@Steersman:

"Finally, a recent systematic review of 850 research papers on the topic concluded that "the majority of well-conducted studies found that higher levels of religious involvement are positively associated with indicators of psychological well-being (life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale) and with less depression, suicidal thoughts and behavior, drug/alcohol use/abuse."

While that may be the case one might argue that if in fact there is no god undergirding any of those beliefs then those believers are living in a fool’s paradise. Which ultimately tends to be seriously counter-productive …"

So for you, *not even* empirical evidence counts for anything as there is always psychology to explain the evidence away.

At least, now we know that rational discussion with you is impossible.

Josh said...

Aw, c'mon Steersy, if you are going to serve up the big meaty curveball of "I was hardly thinking that morality was to be a moment-to-moment thing and had more in mind the idea of deciding, by consensus, at one moment and using that as the basis for subsequent actions" then who can excuse a little high-fiving when it's sent to the bleachers?

You can't get a rationally binding ethics without some metaphysical baggage. Legally binding, sure. But what is that really...

Anonymous said...

...metaphysical baggage...

Meaning : I'll make it up with definitions that make me feel good. Or base it on 'revealed' wisdom.

Geez. Sounds like were kinda in the same boat.

TheOFloinn said...

I have to wonder how that pride is affected by the Inquisition and the Church’s rather heavy-handed dealing with many other heresies, notably the one leading to the Albigensian Crusade.

The Cathars were puritans who scorned the material world as unworthy. The church debated with them in public debates for three generations, and the Cathars began losing members. Since they regarded sex as "dirty" they found it hard to keep members (esp. men) and to maintain their population.

But most importantly, they denied that oaths were binding. This would be like a modern group - the Montana Militia comes to mind - denying that written contracts were binding. Since the whole feudal system was based on interlocked webs of oaths of fealty, this doctrine struck at the very roots of secular society.

Even so, there might not have been a violent suppression had the Cathars not assassinated the Papal legate.
+ + +
As for inquisitio, it was an invention of the Late Roman Republic and marked an improvement over the accusatio in criminal cases. Instead of the plaintiff gathering evidence, tracking down witnesses and compelling their appearance in court on his own, the people were represented by State magistrates who investigated crimes and who prosecuted the offenders. The distinction between accusatio and inquisitio survives as that between civil and criminal law; most especially in the modalities of grand juries, coroner's inquests, and special prosecutors.

Inquisitiones conducted by Church tribunals used juries called the boni viri, composed of local men of good reputation. These dudes read transcripts of the testimony with all the names of people redacted (and replaced by Latin pseudonyms). This was because they believed redacted written material would be less subject to prejudice and emotional appeals.

In capital cases, convictions could not me obtained on circumstantial evidence alone. You had to:
a) be caught red-handed (i.e. in the act)
b) be impeached by two credible and independent witnesses
c) confess
Given that a) and b) were rare, there was too much reliance on confessions. A spontaneous confession could mitigate a death penalty. In Church tribunals, even a coerced confession and a promise to be good in the future could remit the death penalty.
If there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to otherwise indicate guilt, torture was used to coerce a confession. (It was not legally used for punishment.) The coerced confession must be affirmed voluntarily afterward, and a second session of torture on the same charge was not permitted. Neither could the old, infirm, etc. be subject to torture.

There was always opportunity for abuse, and there are cases of Papal legates freeing everyone in an inquisitorial prison and imprisoning the investigating magistrates in their place for precisely this reason.

The problem was that with the Rediscovery of Roman Law, the kings and emperors began asserting their authority over prosecution of heretics. This is because heresy often was a front for political subversion and disloyalty. The secular power was less careful of rights - as were the lynch mobs - and the ecclesiastic powers asserted their authority to try heretics. The percentage of executions was much smaller.

So, the lesser of two evils.

TheOFloinn said...

Do please tell me, absent some conclusive evidence of god – classical theist or theistic personalist or any other variation, how anything else informs your own definitions of that or of the analogous “moral repugnance”.

The post-modern mind, informed by socialism, cannot imagine any regime that is not imposed by a Triumphant Will to Power, whether that will is some Divine General Secretary or a more earthly one.

A good start is here:
http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.html
But basically the good is what perfects our nature. So, a good lioness is one that is successful at reproduction, finding prey and mates, and so on. Similarly, a good doctor is one who cures or maintains his patients, a good meal is one that satisfies without bloating, is tasty, etc. Since human nature is to be a rational animal, the good is that with provides for a healthy mind in a healthy body. The healthy mind part leads to the seven strengths of the intellect (understanding, knowledge, wisdom) and the volition (justice, temperance, courage) plus the linch-pin between them (prudence). This all follows pretty rationally.

Josh said...

"I'll make it up with definitions that make me feel good."

Pardon me, but that sounds precisely like emotivist ethics, not what I was referring to at all...perhaps you are confused.

StoneTop said...

So, a good lioness is one that is successful at reproduction, finding prey and mates, and so on. Similarly, a good doctor is one who cures or maintains his patients, a good meal is one that satisfies without bloating, is tasty, etc. Since human nature is to be a rational animal, the good is that with provides for a healthy mind in a healthy body.

Yet "be a rational animal" is just the way that humans reach the same goals as the lioness... getting food, mating, reproducing. Rationality is our primary tool for accomplishing that.

TheOFloinn said...

getting food, mating, reproducing. Rationality is our primary tool for accomplishing that.

I hear it's also good for getting published in the journals.

Recall that "rational animal" consists of two words.

Steersman said...

grodrigues said: So for you, *not even* empirical evidence counts for anything as there is always psychology to explain the evidence away.

And do please tell me; by what logic and premises do you reach that conclusion?

In any case, are you telling me then that you totally reject the conclusions and perspectives of psychology? That would at least seem somewhat incongruous as Dr. Feser himself would appear to subscribe to at least some tenets of the field:

... the case of people who make this accusation against natural law theory is a pretty obvious example of what pop psychologists call “projection”. But the “New Atheists”, it seems, must be numbered among these projectors, and it is important to correct their distortions. [The Last Superstition; pg 141]

Pretty difficult to see how he thinks he has a case there against the “New Atheists” unless he agrees with at least one concept from pop psychology.

In addition, my argument – which you apparently want to dismiss without even considering its merits – was based on the idea that if people believe things that aren’t true then such false beliefs can come back and bite them – “counter-productive” in my original phrasing. Little hard to see how you think we can have a “rational discussion” if you’re so unwilling to consider such obviously true premises – it really shouldn’t take very much thought to imagine cases in which that is an accurate statement.

At least, now we know that rational discussion with you is impossible.

I expect what you’re seeing and referring to is that fact that we are starting from different premises – and-or using different rules of inference – which isn’t the same thing as being irrational.

Steersman said...

TheOFloinn said: The post-modern mind, informed by socialism, cannot imagine any regime that is not imposed by a Triumphant Will to Power, whether that will is some Divine General Secretary or a more earthly one.

Not quite sure what you mean by some “Divine General Secretary”, but if you’re thinking of some theistic personalism version of god then I would tend to agree with you. Likewise with the “more earthly one”. One might argue that they’re variations of group-think, an abandonment and a suppression of the individual – most problematic.

Thanks for the link. And your synopsis certainly provides some eminently commendable, sensible and worthwhile goals and terms of reference. However, to coin a phrase, “the devil is in the details”: if the “good” – about which “honest men may disagree” – is highly dependent on some particular idiosyncratic conception of god or some highly questionable prejudices then I think we’re back at square one.

Steersman said...

Josh said: ... Aw, c'mon Steersy ... who can excuse a little high-fiving when it's sent to the bleachers?

Well – Josh-ums, apart from the fact that you probably meant “fault” instead of “excuse”, that’s only justified if you have actually done so. And from where I’m sitting it looks like neither you nor Anonymous1 (?) have actually addressed, much less taken an honest swing at, the points that I’ve raised.

You can't get a rationally binding ethics without some metaphysical baggage. Legally binding, sure. But what is that really...

Well, for starters, how about a civil society rather than a theocracy? [I do think there are more of the former than the latter in the world – most fortunately.] Or maybe you think that various traffic laws including driving on the right side of the road, and paying your taxes entails a whole pile of “metaphysical baggage”?

grodrigues said...

@Steersman:

"I expect what you’re seeing and referring to is that fact that we are starting from different premises – and-or using different rules of inference – which isn’t the same thing as being irrational."

You really do not get it, do you? Let us go over again what you responded to TheOFloinn, shall we?

"Finally, a recent systematic review of 850 research papers on the topic concluded that "the majority of well-conducted studies found that higher levels of religious involvement are positively associated with indicators of psychological well-being (life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale) and with less depression, suicidal thoughts and behavior, drug/alcohol use/abuse."

While that may be the case one might argue that if in fact there is no god undergirding any of those beliefs then those believers are living in a fool’s paradise. Which ultimately tends to be seriously counter-productive …"

TOF presents a piece of empirical evidence and what is your answer? Well, since on your view theists are obviously wrong the evidence must be explained away, so you pull out of your arse the usual wishful thinking canard. Which of course, is purely question-begging since it smuggles in the premise "if in fact there is no god undergirding any of those beliefs", which is the whole point of contention in the first place.

An aside: even granting that these people do live in a fool's paradise, so what? "Humankind cannot bear very much reality" so if holding onto these illusions produces such good results, in the name of what standard are they "wrong"? On an atheistic naturalist view, is there anything better than "life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale"?

But the real point is that I can play this psychological bullshit game too. Since Steersman is an atheist, he is obviously wrong, so hmm, what could the explanation be? Why, it is obvious that Steersman has problems with authority. Since it is *obvious* that God exists -- I mean the evidence is all around us! -- the problem is that Steersman does *not* want to believe in God, he does *not* want binding moral code, he does *not* want to submit the Will to the higher power of the Intellect, so he will paint himself into a corner, delude himself with flimsy arguments and raise an emotional cocoon to prevent any contrary evidence to shatter his bias. In a sentence, Steersman lives in a fool's paradise. Now that I got my psychological explanation up and running, why engage any of your arguments? See how easy it was to dismiss you? See why rational discussion becomes impossible?

TheOFloinn said...

Well, for starters, how about a civil society rather than a theocracy?

When and where have there ever been theocracies? Granted the Queen of England is also Head of the Church of England; but that is actually a subordination of the Church to the State born of the advent of the Total National State in the EMA. The Papal States might count, save that they were only estates intended to support the papacy in a secular sense. Everyone needs an income. I understand Calvin ran Geneva as a theocracy, and that appears to have been rather grim; yet that grimness seems more a product of Calvinism than of theocracy per se.
+ + +
Or maybe you think that various traffic laws including driving on the right side of the road, and paying your taxes entails a whole pile of “metaphysical baggage”?

Have you ever driven in India? There are three lanes on Beach Road north of Chennai. The northbound and southbound traffic use all three of them simultaneously. "Traffic" includes sedans, auto-rickshaws, motorcycles (I saw one with a family of five), bicycles, pedestrians, ox-carts, flatbed tractor-trailers from the Port of Chennai, and the occasional wandering cow.

Of course these things require a metaphysical background.

TheOFloinn said...

At least tangentially appropriate, we find what contradictory beliefs give rise to; viz., the Age of Reason:
http://thonyc.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/the-three-alchemical-pillars-of-modern-science-just-a-thought/

And some thoughts on the origin of rational thought:
http://thomism.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/the-causes-that-give-rise-to-reason/

Josh said...

Steersman,

Well, for starters, how about a civil society rather than a theocracy? [I do think there are more of the former than the latter in the world – most fortunately.] Or maybe you think that various traffic laws including driving on the right side of the road, and paying your taxes entails a whole pile of “metaphysical baggage”?

I'm not advocating a Theocracy. I'm defending a rationally binding Ethics, not a legal code. Have your civil society without the metaphysical underpinning; I think Aldous Huxley wrote about one long ago. It seemed to do well without all that old nonsense in the way...

Steersman said...

grodrigues said: TOF presents a piece of empirical evidence and what is your answer? Well .... so you pull out of your arse the usual wishful thinking canard.

If it walks like a duck ...

Which of course, is purely question-begging since it smuggles in the premise "if in fact there is no god undergirding any of those beliefs", which is the whole point of contention in the first place.

I didn’t “smuggle in” that premise – I explicitly stated it as a hypothetical: If not P then Q. You might want to check the dictionary on that since you seem unclear on the concept of “if” and “hypothesis”. But I then showed examples where unjustified beliefs can lead to problematic consequences, all without asserting that one particular belief in particular was in fact wrong.

An aside: even granting that these people do live in a fool's paradise, so what? "Humankind cannot bear very much reality" so if holding onto these illusions produces such good results, in the name of what standard are they "wrong"?

Well that’s progress since you seem there to be granting that possibility, recognizing the connotations and consequences of using the word “if”. Though that does tend to nullify or contradict your previous argument – you might want to try re-reading your post before hitting the “Publish” button.

But I will agree with you that there is some justification for suggesting that “Humankind cannot bear very much reality”. Reminds me of one of the Matrix movies in which one of the crew on the Nebuchadnezzar is talking with an Agent about his price for betraying Neo: it was his choice to believe in an illusion even though he knew it would be such. But I very much object to the idea that people are to be denied the right to make that choice on their own – which is what I would call the rather odious indoctrination of children that passes for religious education. Écrasez l’infâme, indeed. [TLS; pg xi]

... so if holding onto these illusions produces such good results ...

If in fact it did that uniformly and consistently and absolutely then I would probably have no objections. But it doesn’t take much effort or thought or perusal of even recent history to show that that is anything but the case. That you are, apparently, blind to those facts does seem to suggest some “wishful thinking” ....

But the real point is that I can play this psychological bullshit game too.

Apart from the fact that you are apparently ignoring my observations and contention that Dr. Feser is himself playing that same game, I will agree with your premise – unstated or implied – that psychology might justifiably be called pseudoscience – the philosopher Massimo Pigliucci calls it, more or less, “nonsense on stilts” (quoting Bentham). But, while one might reasonably question – be skeptical about – various particular psychological constructions I think it should be obvious that we have emotions that motivate us even if they are less easily characterized and defined than their outward manifestations. The English biologist P.B. Medawar, in his comments on behaviourism, noted that:

For all its crudities Behaviourism, conceived as a methodology rather than as a psychological system, taught psychology with brutal emphasis that ‘the dog is whining’ and ‘the dog is sad’ are statements of altogether different empirical standing, and heaven help psychology if it ever again overlooks the distinction. [The Art of the Soluble; pg 89]

But, in which regard, I also note that Feser makes a great to-do about the uses and role of affection – holding the same “empirical standing” as “the dog is sad” – with regard to sexual morality, and specifically to the ‘final cause’ of procreation. Seems to me that we should all be taking psychological arguments with a grain or two of salt – hence my use of “if” in “if in fact there is no god undergirding any of those beliefs” which, in my opinion, puts the argument into the sphere of reason and logic as opposed to that of wishful thinking.

Steersman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheOFloinn said...

If in fact it did that uniformly and consistently and absolutely then I would probably have no objections. But it doesn’t take much effort or thought or perusal of even recent history to show that that is anything but the case.

Given that recent history has been the history of scientific secularism, you may have some problems.

Steersman said...

grodrigues said (also): Now that I got my psychological explanation up and running ...

No, you haven’t at all got it “up and running”. What you have is, analogously, “If my car had an engine I could drive it to the store”; what you have is an argument contingent on the truth of a hypothetical, a supposed, premise – i.e., “it is *obvious* that God exists ...” (I think you forgot to include the “if” there) – which is, in case you hadn’t noticed, the bone of contention. At least Dr. Feser has the intellectual integrity to acknowledge that not everyone – including some philosophers he apparently has great respect for – accepts the various arguments for the existence of god, and the definitions thereof, that he subscribes to. Although one would have thought that that might have led to a less dogmatic assertion as to the highly contingent consequences.

But you may have some attributes of reality that you might wish to wrap up in the abstraction of “god” and therefore conclude on that basis that “god” exists, but that hardly gives any reality to the abstraction apart from being an abstraction. Steven Weinberg said, somewhat famously, that you can say that god is energy and find god in a lump of coal. But that doesn’t do anything more than add a largely useless, if not hindering, label to a natural phenomenon – it hardly makes the furnace in which the coal is consumed any more efficient.

And similarly, the god of the Catholic Church seems to be, at most and I question this, the abstract creature of “classical theism” which has all the autonomous reality of other abstractions such as honour, duty, love, hate, anger, etc., etc., etc. That the Church apparently wishes to go from that to asserting that such an abstraction guarantees that the resurrection of Jesus actually took place and that, consequently, everyone else who subscribes to the Apostle’s Creed gets to do likewise is, to me at least, looking like so much smoke and mirrors.

In addition, as a somewhat minor point, I have not presented myself as an atheist and have, in fact, taken substantial pains to distance myself from that position, except in the sense of god as, in Dawkins’ words, the “interventionist, miracle-wreaking, thought-reading, sin-punishing, prayer-answering God of the Bible, of priests, mullahs and rabbis, and of ordinary language.”

Steersman said...

TheOFloinn said: “If in fact it did that uniformly and consistently and absolutely then I would probably have no objections. But it doesn’t take much effort or thought or perusal of even recent history to show that that is anything but the case.”

Given that recent history has been the history of scientific secularism, you may have some problems.


grodrigues' argument was:

An aside: even granting that these people do live in a fool's paradise, so what? "Humankind cannot bear very much reality" so if holding onto these illusions produces such good results, in the name of what standard are they "wrong"? On an atheistic naturalist view, is there anything better than "life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale"?

He presented a hypothetical: “if holding onto these illusions produces such good results”. To which I responded by pointing out, or suggesting, many cases [the Son of Sam, 9/11, David Koresh, Jim Jones, the murder of Tim McLean, etc., etc., etc.] in which the results of such beliefs were less than exemplary. From your profile I would say that you should also know the asymmetry of proof and disproof and that the history of science is the record of the destruction of beautiful hypotheses by ugly facts. Seems my point was adequately proven.

TheOFloinn said...

Son of Sam, 9/11, David Koresh, Jim Jones, the murder of Tim McLean

Not sure what the government attack on Koresh's people proves about religion. It may prove something about government, however.

Jim Jones was a socialist, who hung pictures of Marx, not Jesus. So far as I know his group did not constitute any recognized church. How does his group differ from the Heaven's Gate group who killed themselves in order to be transported to the Mother Ship trailing after the Hale-Bopp comet? One may have used socialist-religionalistic rhetoric and the other scientificalistic rhetoric. So what?

Son of Sam was not a religion, but a seriously disturbed individual suffering delusions. Would it have mattered if he believed the voices were those of scientifical space aliens or instructions from the KGB?

9/11 was a political act denounced by most imams. Because the House of Submission makes no distinction between the City of God and the City of Man as traditional Christians do, it can be difficult to disentangle the two. We find that people often express their hopes and fears in the dominant dialect, whether that is Boyle justifying witch-burning on the basis of science or followers of al Qaeda justifying attacks on Western post-colonial powers in Islamic lingo.

Besides, even if 9/11 proves something essential about Islam (incl. sufis?) that says nothing about Buddhists, Christians, or Jews. You cannot prove anything essential about Science by pointing to Hitler's scientists.

One does notice that not a single one of these examples represents traditional religion. All of them were individualistic make-it-up-yourself hobbies, not the teachings of Judaism, Orthodoxy, Catholicism, or the Sunnah. If anything, these would have "inoculated" against such things.

Steersman said...

TheOFloinn said: One does notice that not a single one of these examples represents traditional religion.

I think you’re badly missing my point. grodrigues said that, as mentioned, “if holding onto these illusions produces such good results” which has the implied quantifier phrase “in all cases”. Which was the point of departure for my statement that “If in fact it did that uniformly and consistently and absolutely then I would probably have no objections”. Which motivated my suggestion that there were cases in which holding onto those beliefs – irrespective of whether they were illusions or not – did not lead to good results. Which, in my view, at least negates the applicability of his (implied) “all” in his hypothesis and so negates the hypothesis itself.

And I really don’t think you can at all fall-back on the “traditional religion” argument since it implies that you actually have a “gold standard” – something that is known by all and sundry to be true and accepted as such – by which you separate the wheat from the chaff, determine who is “suffering from delusions” and who is not. The very fact that there are so many of those religions – not to mention some 38,000 different Christian sects, all at swords’ points with each other on various matters, makes even the idea of that standard a bit of joke. Even if one of them happens to actually be right that still puts all of the others in the position of “holding onto their own illusions”.

By which token those examples I provided would still seem, even in your view based on your use of “delusions”, to fall under the classification of people “holding onto their own illusions” on the nature and existence of god – which obviously did not lead to “good results”. Which would again disprove grodrigues’ hypothesis.

Although all of that still leaves open, I think, the broader question of whether “holding onto illusions [generally, and in the sense of false belief] always produces bad results”. Though it might be difficult to assess all of the possible consequences of such false beliefs I would argue that the costs of doing so are generally going to outweigh the benefits. And doing so should be deprecated, if not anathematized. Here’s a relevant quote from Philip Wylie’s Generation of Vipers [highly recommended; a jeremiad that outdoes that Dr. Feser’s TLS by a wide margin]:

All I shall suggest is that man – individual man – enlarge his attitude toward himself. In order to do so most effectively and rapidly he should use the tool at hand: science. He should employ the scientific method for the purpose of studying himself and teaching himself what he learns about himself. He should apply logic and integrity to his subjective personality – just as he has done to the objective world. … He would learn that when he kids himself, or believes a lie, or deceives another man, he commits a crime as real and as destructive as the crime of deliberately running down a person with an automobile. [pg 20]

TheOFloinn said...

"in all cases"

If that were the criterion, then what can survive your nihilistic scrutiny? Has science proven beneficial "in all cases"? Ask the people of Nagasaki. Has democracy proven beneficial "in all cases"? Alas, they soon discover they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. Has... But you get the picture, no? It is special pleading to apply a criterion to the Hated Other but ignore it in all other cases.

I really don’t think you can at all fall-back on the “traditional religion” argument since it implies that you actually have a “gold standard” – something that is known by all and sundry to be true and accepted as such

Surely a gold standard need not be known or accepted by everyone! Do you know of any such? The gold standard of natural science -- theories tested against empirical facts -- is not accepted by everyone. Heck, the gold standard as a basis for store-of-value in money is not accepted by everyone.

The very fact that there are so many of those religions – not to mention some 38,000 different Christian sects, all at swords’ points with each other on various matters, makes even the idea of that standard a bit of joke.

A multitude of splinters does not disprove the beam. The vast majority of Christians belong to the Roman Catholic Church and the second biggest chunk belongs to the Eastern Orthodox Church. In terms of dogma, there is very little difference between them, and much of it may boil down to Greek or Latin grammar.

That there are five major theories of quantum mechanics, over which physicists are wont to quarrel, does not mean that none of them are right. One of them may well be truer to the facts than the others. (Currently, all five are true to the facts, despite the different metaphysics.)

By which token those examples I provided would still seem... to fall under the classification of people “holding onto their own illusions”

The ones that are incoherent based on internal consistency; the ones that fail to accommodate the facts of history; the ones that fail the test of logic.

(N.B. "Logic" does not mean "Steersman finds the conclusion personally agreeable.")

Steersman said...

TheOFloinn said: “Well, for starters, how about a civil society rather than a theocracy?”

When and where have there ever been theocracies? .... I understand Calvin ran Geneva as a theocracy, and that appears to have been rather grim; yet that grimness seems more a product of Calvinism than of theocracy per se.


The Wikipedia article on the topic has this on current theocracies:

An Islamic state is a state that has adopted Islam, specifically Sharia, as its foundations for political institutions, or laws, exclusively, and has implemented the Islamic ruling system khilafah and is therefore a theocracy. Although there is much debate as to which states or groups operate strictly according to Islamic Law, Sharia is the official basis for state laws in the following countries: Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Oman and Iran.

If you wouldn’t think that living in Iran is “grim” then I would have to question your knowledge of current events.

In addition the article has extensive discussion of “current states with theocratic aspects” which may be almost as problematic.

Closer to home there are the proponents of Dominionism who seem to be having far too much influence on the Republican Party. The tenets or characteristics of the former include:

1. Dominionists celebrate Christian nationalism, in that they believe that the United States once was, and should once again be, a Christian nation. In this way, they deny the Enlightenment roots of American democracy.

2. Dominionists promote religious supremacy, insofar as they generally do not respect the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.

3. Dominionists endorse theocratic visions, insofar as they believe that the Ten Commandments, or "biblical law," should be the foundation of American law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles


I would call that rather scary - and a rather “grim” prospect. Or maybe you think that Dominionism undergirds a “traditional religion” that is not basing itself on illusions. Or that if they are then those illusions must, perforce, produce good results.

Steersman said...

TheOFloinn said: “Or maybe you think that various traffic laws including driving on the right side of the road, and paying your taxes entails a whole pile of ‘metaphysical baggage’”?

Have you ever driven in India?
Of course these things require a metaphysical background.

Ok, I’ll stand corrected on the point, at least insofar as “metaphysical baggage” makes reference to or uses “... the fundamental notions by which people understand the world, including existence, the definition of object, property, space, time, causality, and possibility” – all of which, I might add, looks pretty heavily dependent on empirical, sense, impressions – and excludes one of the three parts of Aristotle’s metaphysics, that being “natural theology (the study of a God or gods)”.

But, if I’m not mistaken, both Josh and Anonymous (1? 2? 753?) seemed to have in mind a fairly explicit dependence on that “natural theology”.

TheOFloinn said...

The Wikipedia article ... has this on current theocracies

IOW, they couldn't think of many either, despite the openness of Wikipedia to tendentious editing. Most of those they mentioned I already pointed out. But I also pointed out the complexity of reality-based history vis-a-vis model-based history.

Somalia, for example, is less an Islamic state than it is a lawless region whose boundaries are defined by where other states leave off. Some of the contending gangs and tribes are secular, some claim Islamic justification, some simply call upon tribal or ethnic affiliation.

To say Iran is grim is true; but then it was grim under the secular government of the Shah. That was when, my Persian friend recalls, they invented the reflexive verb "he was committed suicide" to describe the unusual number of suicides by prisoners in the custody of the secret police. IOW, is the grimness a function of Islam or of Middle Eastern culture?

Further, they are incorrect regarding Nigeria being a shari'a state. The northern states in the union are Islamic and ethnically Fulani and Hausa. They regard themselves (pre- and post-Islam) as the rightful overlords of the black people to the south (Igbos, Yorubas, et al.) who tend to be animist or Christian. But the matter may have more to do with Hausa-Fulani imperialism than with Islam per se.

That being said, in what way does the culture of the House of Submission enable you to draw conclusions about countries where Buddhists, Christians, and others live? There is no one thing called "religion." That's like going on about the effects of "chemicals."

the article has extensive discussion of “current states with theocratic aspects” which may be almost as problematic.

Oh, my. Theocratic "aspects"! The Cherokees is escaped from Ft. Mudge!

Closer to home there are the proponents of Dominionism who seem to be having far too much influence on the Republican Party.

I have heard that these folks are the latest boogey man to excite the Usual Suspects; but I have never seen nor heard of them. Those I know with connections in the Republican party just sort of laugh. The Country Club and the libertarians will not stand for it, nor the party stalwarts.

grodrigues said...

@Steersman:

"Now that I got my psychological explanation up and running...

No, you haven’t at all got it “up and running”. What you have is, analogously, “If my car had an engine I could drive it to the store”; what you have is an argument contingent on the truth of a hypothetical, a supposed, premise – i.e., “it is *obvious* that God exists ...” (I think you forgot to include the “if” there) – which is, in case you hadn’t noticed, the bone of contention."

You misunderstood my point; but then again, if there is someone to blame it is probably me and my poor writing skills. Embarrassing as it is, I have to make explicit what was only left implicit. The whole point of the exercise was to present, not an argument but a parody of one, discrediting the objections of a semi-imaginary atheist Steersman by psychologizing him away and then finally, pointing out how this kills any rational discussion. That is what I want to stress; the killing of the very possibility of rational discussion by appeals to "delusion", "wishful thinking" and similar tropes (an appeal you continue to make, by the way). I thought that the three rhetorical questions at the end of the paragraph sufficed to make my intentions clear; guess I was wrong. The Internet really is no place for subtleties and one should write with a bludgeon.

Given this explanation, replying to your misfirings is unnecessary. Replying to your screed is really not my cup of tea. I will however add a couple of things:

"But I will agree with you that there is some justification for suggesting that “Humankind cannot bear very much reality”. Reminds me of one of the Matrix movies in which one of the crew on the Nebuchadnezzar is talking with an Agent about his price for betraying Neo: it was his choice to believe in an illusion even though he knew it would be such."

The phrase “Humankind cannot bear very much reality” is between quotes, because well, it is a quote. Much could be said about it in direct relation to the matter at hand, but like T. S. Eliot himself, I am a snob and a pedant and I adamantly refuse to speak of "The Burnt Norton" and "The Matrix" in the same breath.

"so if holding onto these illusions produces such good results

If in fact it did that uniformly and consistently and absolutely then I would probably have no objections. But it doesn’t take much effort or thought or perusal of even recent history to show that that is anything but the case. That you are, apparently, blind to those facts does seem to suggest some “wishful thinking”."

It was an aside, tangencial to my main point. But you did not dispute TOF's empirical data, so the fact that one can conjure counter examples does not invalidate it. The explanation you already provided, "wishful thinking", but the questions I posed remain nonetheless. And just to preempt your misreadings, no I do not advocate the embracing of delusions for the sake of "life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale".

Steersman said...

TheOFloinn said: If that were the criterion, then what can survive your nihilistic scrutiny?

Good question. “I think therefore I am”? I don’t know, but it seems to be a worthwhile avenue of pursuit. Or, more likely, the razor’s edge ...

Has science proven beneficial "in all cases"?

I still think you are badly missing my point. It was explicitly related to the question of whether holding onto illusions [generally, and in the sense of false belief] always produces bad results and to my hypothesis that unjustified beliefs can lead to problematic consequences. Maybe you can argue that justified beliefs – science basically – can also lead to some problematic consequences as well. But it seems to me that there are likely to be far more unjustified than justified beliefs – how many string “theories” are there? 10^500? And maybe one of them is right? – and so therefore subscribing to unjustified beliefs is going to entail far more opportunities to go off the rails than justified ones.

Little surprising to me how an individual with, apparently, more than a small amount of scientific background and knowledge can think that believing things about the world that are not true can – in any way, shape or form – be called a “good thing” or conducive to humanity’s prospects for long term survival – a “good” that Dr. Feser seems to be putting at the head of the list given his emphasis on the procreative aspects of sex to the virtual exclusion of any of the others.

”The very fact that there are so many of those religions ... makes even the idea of that standard a bit of joke.”

A multitude of splinters does not disprove the beam. ... Roman Catholic Church and ... the Eastern Orthodox Church. In terms of dogma, there is very little difference between them, and much of it may boil down to Greek or Latin grammar.


My understanding of filioque is that it is central and still, some thousand years on, a bone of contention:

Since its denunciation by Photios I of Constantinople, the Filioque has been an ongoing source of conflict between the East and West, contributing to the East-West Schism of 1054 and proving an obstacle to attempts to reunify the two sides.

Presumably one or both of those sides is labouring under the effects of illusion – unjustified true belief – unless you can explain to me how two contradictory and mutually exclusive states can exist simultaneously.

That there are five major theories of quantum mechanics, over which physicists are wont to quarrel, does not mean that none of them are right.

Yes, but there’s some – actually a lot – of evidence to suggest justified true belief in the case of QM. Not so much on the side of religion.

Steersman said...

TheOFloinn said: I have heard that these folks are the latest boogeyman to excite the Usual Suspects; but I have never seen nor heard of them. Those I know with connections in the Republican party just sort of laugh. The Country Club and the libertarians will not stand for it, nor the party stalwarts.

Maybe. But from my recollections of reading Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (some years ago, mind you), I think the parties in the Reichstag other than Hitler’s had pretty much the same opinion of him. Populist movements tend to sweep away the more rational elements with frequently bloody consequences. People who don’t learn from the mistakes of the past ...

Josh said...

Little surprising to me how an individual with, apparently, more than a small amount of scientific background and knowledge can think that believing things about the world that are not true can – in any way, shape or form – be called a “good thing” or conducive to humanity’s prospects for long term survival – a “good” that Dr. Feser seems to be putting at the head of the list given his emphasis on the procreative aspects of sex to the virtual exclusion of any of the others.

This is totally bogus. I doubt you are going to find many here (and especially Dr. Feser) who would say that believing something that isn't true is a "good thing." You just disagree with his conclusions; no biggie. I see this was just a rhetorical jab.

“metaphysical baggage” makes reference to or uses “... the fundamental notions by which people understand the world, including existence, the definition of object, property, space, time, causality, and possibility” – all of which, I might add, looks pretty heavily dependent on empirical, sense, impressions – and excludes one of the three parts of Aristotle’s metaphysics, that being “natural theology (the study of a God or gods)”

Which involves metaphysical propositions. Which are necessary for an understanding of Natural Law. Which is necessary for a rationally binding Ethics. I'm not even sure what you were getting at here. Aquinas' Natural Theology relies on empirical premises combined with metaphysical ones, so....

Steersman said...

grodrigues said: That is what I want to stress; the killing of the very possibility of rational discussion by appeals to "delusion", "wishful thinking" and similar tropes (an appeal you continue to make, by the way).

And what I want to stress is that “delusion” and “wishful thinking” are fairly well defined and common phenomena. It may not always be correct to characterize any particular form of behaviour as such. But throwing out those concepts and rejecting them as tools or weapons against ignorance seems not particularly rational or reasonable.

Particularly given that at least some manifestations of religion exhibit some of the characteristics entailed by those ideas. As Feser puts it in TLS:

Indeed, as the philosopher C.F.J. Martin has pointed out, the element of divine punishment ... shows that atheism is hardly less plausibly motivated by wishful thinking than theism is. [TLS; pg 10]

So, we’re all potentially guilty or prone to that. Seems that is something to be wary of, not something to respond to by sticking our heads in the sand.

It was an aside, tangential to my main point. But you did not dispute TOF's empirical data ...

If I’m not mistaken, that empirical data was from me, quoting Wikipedia on the benefits of religion, and not TOF’s. I conceded that possibility and argued that such benefits might be purchased at a rather high price particularly if, in fact, they were based on illusion, wishful thinking, delusions or unjustified true belief. Which you would seem to be agreeing with: no I do not advocate the embracing of delusions for the sake of "life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale".

So, either you’re arguing for the sake of arguing or one or both of us is misapprehending the arguments of the other.

Steersman said...

Josh said: This is totally bogus. I doubt you are going to find many here (and especially Dr. Feser) who would say that believing something that isn't true is a "good thing."

Really? The good Dr. Feser has apparently conceded that [I provided quotes justifying that earlier but don’t have them at hand at the moment] many – including those philosophers whom he seems to greatly respect – disbelieve the proofs for and attributes of god that he subscribes to. Yet he apparently continues to believe them – to think that they are true – and to build a fairly extensive superstructure of morality on top of them, along with some fairly pointed condemnations of those who happen not to subscribe to them or to the underlying premise.

Seems to me to be a fairly clear case of thinking that “believing something that isn’t true” – unless you can show me how god can be both as defined by “classical theism” and by “theistic personalism” – is a “good thing”. I’m reminded of a quote of Oliver Cromwell’s: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.

Which involves metaphysical propositions. Which are necessary for an understanding of Natural Law. Which is necessary for a rationally binding Ethics. I'm not even sure what you were getting at here. Aquinas' Natural Theology relies on empirical premises combined with metaphysical ones, so....

Yes, well, I did explicitly say ... at least insofar as ... ‘metaphysical baggage’ ... excludes one of the three parts of Aristotle’s metaphysics, that being “natural theology (the study of a God or gods)”.

If the existence of god is “unproven” by a sound and valid argument that entails or leads to justified true belief [or some other equivalent or accurate construction] then it seems rather specious at best to be insisting that “a rationally binding Ethics”, much less a bunch of traffic laws, are crucially dependent on it.

Josh said...

many – including those philosophers whom he seems to greatly respect – disbelieve the proofs for and attributes of god that he subscribes to.

Well, yeah. But so what? I don't get where you're going with this. You can disagree with someone's reasoning on these matters and still hold that it's not a good thing to believe in what is untrue. So what's the problem?

"The study of Philosophy is not that we may know what men have thought, but what the truth of things is." --St. Thomas, De Coelo et Mundo, 22

That principle is held by Dr. Feser as well, I presume, and it precludes the position you seem to be ascribing to him. One can lament the state of Man that leads us into divergence on the truth without saying that it's good to believe an illusion. It may have good consequences, but purely utilitarian concerns don't rank too highly on this blog, I believe.

If the existence of god is “unproven” by a sound and valid argument that entails or leads to justified true belief [or some other equivalent or accurate construction] then it seems rather specious at best to be insisting that “a rationally binding Ethics”, much less a bunch of traffic laws, are crucially dependent on it.

I don't understand. Are you insisting that arguments for God's existence must have the force of a mathematical proof?

Steersman said...

Josh said: “... many – including those philosophers whom he seems to greatly respect – disbelieve the proofs for and attributes of god that he subscribes to.”

Well, yeah. But so what? I don't get where you're going with this. You can disagree with someone's reasoning on these matters and still hold that it's not a good thing to believe in what is untrue. So what's the problem?


Well then I don’t follow your reasoning. Seems to me that Dr. Feser’s argument is that such and such is true [TLS; pg ix]; not that it might be true; not that its truth is contingent on this, that or another fact or idea. Seems to me that the latter two are far more reasonable than the first, rather dogmatic, one.

And that one is, by reason alone and given the great many other possible hypotheses of the same basic form and content, most likely to be believing in something that is untrue: not a good thing. Given that possibility I would think that one would want to be a little more circumspect than to be dogmatically asserting all sorts of moral and social and, for want of a better word, spiritual consequences that are unlikely to ever transpire.

One can lament the state of Man that leads us into divergence on the truth without saying that it's good to believe an illusion. It may have good consequences, but purely utilitarian concerns don't rank too highly on this blog, I believe.

I’m certainly not saying that “it’s good to believe an illusion” – quite the contrary, although maybe you meant to say in that first sentence, “... it’s not good”. In any case I have been trying to argue that not believing in an illusion is likely to have better consequences all the way down the line: apparently a case in support of utilitarianism.

But if you don’t think much of utilitarianism then maybe you, in fact, think that it is [at least sometimes] good to believe in an illusion. Although that seems incongruous at best as that would seem to imply that you think a higher good of some sort is better served by believing in an illusion – again a case in support of utilitarianism. Seems any talk of “goods” and “final causes” must of necessity be utilitarian.

”If the existence of god is “unproven” by a sound and valid argument ...”

I don't understand. Are you insisting that arguments for God's existence must have the force of a mathematical proof?


If the fate of my soul for the next several billion years (maybe let out for good behaviour?) is dependent on the truth of some argument then I think I’ll insist on something a little more forceful and tangible than a mathematical proof, particularly one dependent on fallible humans:

It is remarkable to what extent the nineteenth-century is a century of error for mathematics: not trivial oversights or amateurish confusion, but fundamental mistakes in the understanding of mathematical concepts and the formulation of mathematical proofs, mistakes not restricted to unknown mathematicians, but occurring in the work of mathematicians of the highest rank, such as Fourier, Cauchy, and Poisson.[History and Theory; A Mathematical Bildungsroman]

No doubt things have improved since then but then again maybe not that much.

grodrigues said...

@Steersman:

"So, either you’re arguing for the sake of arguing or one or both of us is misapprehending the arguments of the other."

Misapprehension it must be.

"If the fate of my soul for the next several billion years (maybe let out for good behaviour?) is dependent on the truth of some argument then I think I’ll insist on something a little more forceful and tangible than a mathematical proof, particularly one dependent on fallible humans"

A rather telling confession. Can you tell me the field of human knowledge where the standards of proof are more exigent and forceful than mathematics? I know of no one, thus my curiosity.

TheOFloinn said...

Are you insisting that arguments for God's existence must have the force of a mathematical proof?

Heck, not even physical theories have that degree of certainty....

TheOFloinn said...

given the great many other possible hypotheses of the same basic form and content, most likely to be believing in something that is untrue

But metaphysical proofs are not framed as hypotheses. Rather, they are deductions from empirical experience and from logical necessity. When dealing with contingent natures, one deals with hypotheses and post facto induction; but to each science its appropriate method.

Besides, the existence of a great many "hypotheses" does not exclude one from being correct and which by right reason can be seen to be correct. The existence of multiple theories intended to explain quantum mechanics does not preclude one of them from being a correct interpretation. Although one can take the approach that the mathematical formalism is sufficient to get "right answers" and the scientific theories are all unneeded. That is the approach taken by the "English flatheads" that Nietzsche derided. Once Christianity had shown the "right answers" and the West had marinated in them for more than a thousand years and we have all learned them at our mother's knee, the metaphysics that generated these answers can then be neglected, and the answers can be considered as existing as brute facts.

Josh said...

And that one is, by reason alone and given the great many other possible hypotheses of the same basic form and content, most likely to be believing in something that is untrue: not a good thing.

Ah, I see now: you don't think Dr. Feser's beliefs are true, but since he says that belief in them is a good thing, you conclude that he thinks believing in something untrue is a good thing.

That's a nice magic trick.

Read some more TLS; you'll see that arguments for the existence of God are not necessarily scientific hypotheses easily vanquished by Ockham's Razor.

Steersman said...

grodrigues said: A rather telling confession. Can you tell me the field of human knowledge where the standards of proof are more exigent and forceful than mathematics? I know of no one, thus my curiosity.

Forceful and exigent those standards and related methods may be; whether they are exhaustive and capable of accessing all mathematical truths – much less all other truths – would seem to be an entirely different kettle of fish. Personally, I’m somewhat sympathetic to the idea – maybe a “conceit” (5b) of mine – that “god” is, at best, one of those “formally undecidable propositions” of Gödel.

I will readily concede that mathematics has great power – and no small amount of elegance and beauty. But I also think it, if not reason itself, has some basic, fundamental, intrinsic limitations – one might even argue, make the inductive leap to the conclusion, that every tool has its limitations. One must be, I think, at least somewhat apprehensive about falling into the trap of thinking in the way summarized by the aphorism “when the only tool you have is a hammer all problems start to look like nails”.

TheOFloinn said...

I will readily concede that mathematics has great power

How nice.

But I also think it, if not reason itself, has some basic, fundamental, intrinsic limitations

So said Gödel. In any computational system strong enough to support first order arithmetic (or first order logic) there will be true statements that cannot be proven.

But what Mr.Rodriguez was trying to get across is not that mathematics is complete. It isn't, and has a proof that it cannot be. It is that conclusions reached by mathematics are certain in a manner that the conclusions of natural science can never be. That doesn't mean that it can reach any conclusion whatsoever. Your nihilism is showing.

grodrigues said...

@Steersman:

Are you always this evasive and long-winded? You asked for "something a little more forceful and tangible than a mathematical proof" when it comes to arguments hinging on the fate of the soul. Fine, then no argument which has the sort of mathematical certainty can convince you, at least when it comes to the particular subject of God, souls, etc. So the question is, if not even an argument satisfying the standards of rigor in mathematics suffices, what sort of argument would in principle convince you? And given your quotation and subsequent comment, the other natural question is if there is any type of argument that is more forceful than a mathematical one. I do not know of any, but maybe you do, thus my question "Can you tell me the field of human knowledge where the standards of proof are more exigent and forceful than mathematics?" And if there is no such type of argument, then the conclusion is that *every* sort of argument has "limitations". Maybe you think this is a deep observation; But without further qualifications (e.g. what exactly are those limitations), it is either a vacuous platitude or simply an admission that no rational discussion or knowledge is possible, in which case, why exactly are you here, engaging in the ultimately futile business of debating?

Steersman said...

TheOFloinn said: But metaphysical proofs are not framed as hypotheses. Rather, they are deductions from empirical experience and from logical necessity. When dealing with contingent natures, one deals with hypotheses and post facto induction; but to each science its appropriate method.

I remember reading many years ago an introduction to Gödel’s proof [Nagel & Newman] wherein they were discussing Russell’s antinomy and the “fatal contradiction” that arose therein. Their conclusion was that:

This fatal contradiction results from an uncritical use of the apparently pellucid notion of class. Other paradoxes were found later, each of them constructed by means of familiar and seemingly cogent modes of reasoning. Mathematicians came to realize that in developing consistent systems familiarity and intuitive clarity are weak reeds to lean on. [pg 24-25]

I have a very great suspicion that your “metaphysical proofs” are very much dependent on such fallacies – or otherwise there wouldn’t be so much disagreement as to their supposed “truth”; unless those “proofs” of yours have some empirical and verifiable consequences the suspicion seems that much more credible.

Besides, the existence of a great many "hypotheses" does not exclude one from being correct and which by right reason can be seen to be correct. The existence of multiple theories intended to explain quantum mechanics does not preclude one of them from being a correct interpretation.

Yes, I agree that one of them might be correct. But, as mentioned previously, there are some real, tangible, empirical consequences, uses and applications to (one or more of) those theories. Very much unlike, as mentioned earlier, your “metaphysical proofs” for god.

Steersman said...

Josh said: “And that one is, by reason alone and given the great many other possible hypotheses of the same basic form and content, most likely to be believing in something that is untrue: not a good thing.”

Ah, I see now: you don't think Dr. Feser's beliefs are true, but since he says that belief in them is a good thing, you conclude that he thinks believing in something untrue is a good thing.


More or less, although it seems to me to be more the case of being unable to see the contradiction in his position, at least assuming, as I think you asserted, that he would be thinking that believing in something that is untrue would not be a good thing. Seems to me that – intellectually speaking – Dr. Feser concedes that other credible philosophers do not accept all of the proofs for god that he subscribes to:

In particular, I think that the vast majority of philosophers who have studied the [cosmological] argument in any depth ... would agree with the points I am about to make, or with most of them anyway. Of course, I do not mean that they would all agree with me that the argument is at the end of the day a convincing argument. [So you think you understand the cosmological argument?]

Yet he blithely – emotionally one might suggest – continues on with a rather dogmatic statement that is, to my mind, the virtual antithesis of the spirit if not the letter of the previous one:

But the most important thing to know about the belief that God exists is not that most citizens happen (for now anyway) to share it, that it tends to uphold public morality, and so forth. The most important thing to know about it is that it is true, and demonstrably so. [TLS; pg ix]

And from which he would appear to be acting as if believing in something that might be untrue – and I emphasise the ‘might be’ – is a good thing, in apparent contradiction to his supposed assertion to the contrary. Seems just a little inconsistent, a little incongruous; suggests something of a disconnect between an intellectual perspective and an emotional one.

That's a nice magic trick.

Thanks. For my next act I’ll square the circle and follow that up with the short proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem – which the margins here are just wide enough to include.

Read some more TLS; you'll see that arguments for the existence of God are not necessarily scientific hypotheses easily vanquished by Ockham's Razor.

Hadn’t realized that method of refutation was what I had done, but you might be right. In any case, I do intend to continue on with reading that book.

Steersman said...

TheOFloinn said: How nice.

I was feeling magnanimous this morning.

But what Mr. Rodriguez was trying to get across is not that mathematics is complete. It isn't, and has a proof that it cannot be. It is that conclusions reached by mathematics are certain in a manner that the conclusions of natural science can never be. That doesn't mean that it can reach any conclusion whatsoever. Your nihilism is showing.

Ok, I’ll accept it as a plausible premise your statement about “the conclusions reached by mathematics”. But that it can’t reach all true statements would still seem to suggest to me that mathematics isn’t going to get you to a proof for the existence of god. That mathematics is – supposedly – metaphysical does not lead to much credibility for the apparent argument that since “proofs” of god are also metaphysical then they – ipso facto – have the same intellectual validity and soundness as do those of mathematics.

Unless you have a mathematical proof for the existence of god in your back pocket – and one on which all mathematicians are going to agree as to its validity and soundness, its premises and rules of inference – then all of the arguments for the existence of god from Aristotle to Aquinas to Feser still look like so much moonshine – intricate and fantastic castles in the sky, but hardly justifying any Catholic dogmata, hardly anything in the way of real abodes for real people.

Though I will continue to read further on the topic, including The Last Superstition.

Steersman said...

grodrigues said: Are you always this evasive and long-winded?

I think some perceptive individual noted that “The Internet really is no place for subtleties and one should write with a bludgeon.” With which I sympathize or largely concur – at least verbally speaking. The Internet has its strengths, but it also has some problematic weaknesses.

So the question is, if not even an argument satisfying the standards of rigor in mathematics suffices, what sort of argument would in principle convince you?

Largely, none, at least in the sense of an argument of logic. More prosaically: “I’m from Missouri – show me”. As I’ve been arguing, any such arguments need, as far as I’m concerned, some empirical confirmation and corroboration. As in the case of quantum mechanics in which there are some very “counter-intuitive” arguments and premises and concepts, but the tangible consequences and uses justify the idea that maybe those “counter-intuitive” perspectives are actually a true reflection of the way “reality” works.

As for specifics, I might consider some burning bush in the sky speaking in all of the languages of the world and recorded on tape and disk [unlike in Contact]. Or a picture of Jehovah along with the Lord’s Prayer imprinted on every quark – or maybe on Leon Lederman’s “God Particle”. Or some tablets with some updated commandments in a material impervious to all our science. Maybe ...

...thus my question "Can you tell me the field of human knowledge where the standards of proof are more exigent and forceful than mathematics?" And if there is no such type of argument, then the conclusion is that *every* sort of argument has "limitations".

Again, empirical corroboration by many people. There still can be group delusions, but the likelihood of that seems to decrease with an increase in the number of perspectives and observers.

... it is either a vacuous platitude or simply an admission that no rational discussion or knowledge is possible, in which case, why exactly are you here, engaging in the ultimately futile business of debating?

I’ll very much disagree with that, as Gödel’s proof would seem to justify: that there are limitations to any particular method or avenue for acquiring knowledge does not mean that there aren’t others of some use yet to explore or develop.

But it’s a fair question, the short answer to which is that I don’t think it is futile as I at least have acquired a much better understanding of theistic arguments, not to mention some, hopefully, better skills in arguing: “Reading maketh a full man … writing an exact man.” [Francis Bacon]

The longer one is that, as mentioned several times now, I’m very sympathetic to Feser’s arguments or perspectives on dualism and teleology, though I haven’t yet had the time to more than glance at his several recent posts on the topic, and likewise with what he sees as the consequences of the alternatives to modern science and morality. But I have to draw the line at – distance myself from – the dogmata of the Catholic Church, a lot of which really does seem unsupportable from many perspectives.

You know, separate the wheat from the chaff ...

Josh said...

And from which he would appear to be acting as if believing in something that might be untrue – and I emphasise the ‘might be’ – is a good thing, in apparent contradiction to his supposed assertion to the contrary.

But that's a complete non sequitur, if you are going by what you just quoted there from [ix]. The passage you put down reinforces everything I've been saying; the previous quote from Aquinas, etc. A sociologist or psychologist might be interested in the consequences of belief, or how it upholds morality, but the philosopher is attempting to see if the propositions involved in the arguments are true. What is so hard to understand about this? The conclusion that Feser thinks it's good for someone to hold a belief that's untrue is completely unwarranted.

Then you say "might be" untrue. Well, every contingent proposition might be untrue. But the point is that the philosopher is engaged in deciding what is and is not true. You seem to be stuck on the notion that since people disagree about the truth, that anyone who holds positive beliefs is "dogmatic." It's the splinters/beam example again.

Just save me the time and tell me if you are a positivist or a Pyrrhonian skeptic so I can quit this thread...

grodrigues said...

@Steersman:

"So the question is, if not even an argument satisfying the standards of rigor in mathematics suffices, what sort of argument would in principle convince you?

Largely, none, at least in the sense of an argument of logic."

So outside of a direct, miraculous intervention of God in your own life, no argument can ever convince you. No logic, no history, no philosophy.

St. Paul has the right words for you; ironically (or maybe not), his is the only miraculous conversion that the Bible speaks of. More importantly, whether you view the Bible as the inspired Word of God or simply a product of human invention, if there is one consistent lesson in it, is that starting with Exodus and right down to the Gospels and the epistle of James, not *even* miracles will convince men.

"Can you tell me the field of human knowledge where the standards of proof are more exigent and forceful than mathematics?.

Again, empirical corroboration by many people."

I will take it that this is your direct answer to my question above. To which my answer is: either you are pulling my leg or you simply do not know what you are talking about.

And you should add qualifiers to "empirical corroboration by many people", because Jesus' resurrection was corroborated by many people. Once we go down the path of actually believing in what people say, God knows where we will end up.

"it is either a vacuous platitude or simply an admission that no rational discussion or knowledge is possible, in which case, why exactly are you here, engaging in the ultimately futile business of debating?

I’ll very much disagree with that, as Gödel’s proof would seem to justify: that there are limitations to any particular method or avenue for acquiring knowledge does not mean that there aren’t others of some use yet to explore or develop."

Gödel’s theorems do not justify any conclusion of that sort.

TheOFloinn said...

I have a very great suspicion that your “metaphysical proofs” are very much dependent on such fallacies – or otherwise there wouldn’t be so much disagreement as to their supposed “truth”; unless those “proofs” of yours have some empirical and verifiable consequences the suspicion seems that much more credible.

A very great suspicion? That settles that, then. Do you have any "empirical" and "verifiable" consequences for that suspicion?

Your denialism regarding mathematics is noted.

Very much unlike, as mentioned earlier, your “metaphysical proofs” for god.

Actually, if the God evidenced by motion, order, causation, etc. is true, then the empirical consequences would be:
a) an empirical universe exists; that is, "empirical evidence" is a meaningful phrase and not the imaginings of a "brain in a vat"
b) the empirical universe is ordered, and therefore verifiable
c) there are scientific laws of nature, and those laws hold true for all times and places "in the common course of nature."
d) because God ordered the world "by number, weight, and measure," the world can be known by numbering, weighing, and measuring material bodies.
e) the scientific laws are accessible to human reason, and discovering them is a fit occupation for adults.

There are other consequences, but those should do for now.

TheOFloinn said...

But that [mathematics] can’t reach all true statements would still seem to suggest to me that mathematics isn’t going to get you to a proof for the existence of god.

Probably not, but your conclusion does not logically follow. That mathematics proves that some statements cannot be proven-within-the-system in which they are formulated does not lead to the conclusion that statements about God are among them.

That mathematics is – supposedly – metaphysical...

Mathematics is not metaphysical; it is mathematical.

the apparent argument that since “proofs” of god are also metaphysical then they – ipso facto – have the same intellectual validity and soundness as do those of mathematics.

That is not the argument. Please refute the arguments that are made by others, not the ones you hear from the voices inside your head.

Unless you have a mathematical proof for the existence of god in your back pocket

See Kurt Gödel's ontological proof.

Don't suppose "all" will agree. People who reject the conclusion a priori will not accept the argument, no matter how cogent. See Thucydides IV, 108

Steersman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenYachov said...

The problem with Positivism is it refutes itself. It cannot be true by it's own standards.

If you can believe Positivism is true then IMHO you have no business looking down your nose at a Young Earth Creationist and calling him irrational.

Indeed I see little difference between the two practically.

Steersman said...

Josh said: “And from which he would appear to be acting as if believing in something that might be untrue – and I emphasise the ‘might be’ – is a good thing, in apparent contradiction to his supposed assertion to the contrary.”

But that's a complete non sequitur, if you are going by what you just quoted there from [ix].


But I’m not going just by what I quoted there in }ix{. I’m also contrasting it with his observations about other philosophers – some of whom he seems to regard highly – who are not convinced by the cosmological argument. From which I inferred (correction: and-or meant to say) that since he appeared to be acting [speaking louder than words] as if “thinking [potentially] untrue things are true and asserting them to be such is a good thing” he must therefore either think that or be unaware that that is, in my view at least, inconsistent, incongruous or suggestive of a mental disconnect.

You seem to be stuck on the notion that since people disagree about the truth, that anyone who holds positive beliefs is "dogmatic." It's the splinters/beam example again.

There’s a difference between saying “I believe [correction: in the sense of contingently or hypothetically asserting] X is true” and saying, as Dr. Feser did (TLS; pg ix), that “X is true”. The former might reasonably be construed as a position taken by philosophers and skeptics – and positivists, if I’m not mistaken; the latter seems by definition to be construable only as dogmatic: “Characterized by an authoritative, arrogant assertion of unproved or unprovable principles”.

Just save me the time and tell me if you are a positivist or a Pyrrhonian skeptic so I can quit this thread...

Learn something new every day ....

Not having had a terribly precise definition of the former and no inkling of the existence of the latter, I was obliged to check Wikipedia on the topics. As for the latter – who “...disputed the possibility of attaining truth by sensory apprehension, reason, or the two combined, and thence inferred the need for total suspension of judgment (epoché) on things” – I would have to say explicitly that I would reject that position. Sensory apprehension and reason obviously have their individual limitations but, as far as I can see, they’re the only game in town.

As for the latter – the “... set of epistemological perspectives and philosophies of science which hold that the scientific method is the best approach to uncovering the processes by which both physical and human events occur”, that seems very much more palatable – and useful. Although I also note that some would consider scientism – science as ideology – a pathological manifestation or outgrowth of positivism and which I would reject. Science also has its assumptions and its limitations so one must be somewhat circumspect about its uses.

Steersman said...

BenYachov said: The problem with Positivism is it refutes itself. It cannot be true by its own standards.

Interesting observation, although I would like to know how you think that transpires.

If you can believe Positivism is true then IMHO you have no business looking down your nose at a Young Earth Creationist and calling him irrational.

Indeed I see little difference between the two practically.


Fail to see how positivism – asserting “... that the only authentic knowledge is that which is based on sense, experience and positive verification” – and its support for and reliance on the scientific method can be construed as being on par – in any way, shape or form – with “creation science” and its supposed “verification” through the Bible. Or maybe you think that “creation science” has provided mankind as much in the way of material benefits as has the scientific method?

But I previously noted [in my last post, deleted and reposted], as does the Wikipedia article on it, that positivism has its limitations, particularly when pushed to the extreme of ideology – scientism.

Seems to me that you’re showing some similarities yourself to the creationists’ argument or question “what good is 5% of an eye?”with your assertion that there is “little difference between the two [positivism & creationism] practically.” That one alternative is imperfect shouldn’t preclude concluding that it is better than another.

Josh said...

Steersman,

So from all that, I get that you simply think that Feser is arrogant, or you don't like polemics or something. That's your opinion, I don't really care about that.

Generally, philosophers hold positive beliefs because they think they are true. They are trying to answer Why questions to the best of their ability. Show me where Feser even hints at the idea that he holds otherwise.

And "acting [speaking louder than words] as if “thinking [potentially] untrue things are true and asserting them to be such is a good thing”?????

Are you serious?

If you think something is true, like, oh I don't know, "Feser believes X" which is potentially untrue, yet you assert to me that it's true, as you have been doing, can I accuse you of the same dogmatism? Because you've had the gall to make a positive statement that is potentially untrue?

Hold beliefs about the truth, and communicate your beliefs honestly, and that is the good thing to do. It's not good to speak what is known to you to be false. Simple, right?

Just show me the evidence for your continued support for this conclusion about Feser. Page [ix] doesn't cut it.

Steersman said...

Josh said: If you think something is true, like, oh I don't know, "Feser believes X" which is potentially untrue, yet you assert to me that it's true, as you have been doing, can I accuse you of the same dogmatism? Because you've had the gall to make a positive statement that is potentially untrue?

But I am most emphatically not asserting that what he is saying is true [the statement “God exists” is true; pg ix] is in fact false. In fact I think it might even be true, depending on your definition of god. What I’m asserting is that that statement seems to be inconsistent with or incongruous to his acceptance that not all philosophers – some of whom he apparently holds in high regard – find the cosmological argument “convincing”. From which the conclusion, the hypothesis, seemed to follow.

And, more particularly, what I said, most recently was:

From which I inferred (and-or meant to say) that since he appeared to be acting ...

And previously to that I said:

More or less, although it seems to me to be more the case of being unable to see the contradiction in his position, at least assuming, as I think you asserted, that he would be thinking that believing in something that is untrue would not be a good thing. Seems to me that – intellectually speaking – Dr. Feser concedes that other credible philosophers do not accept all of the proofs for god that he subscribes to:

And several subsequent comments along the same line: explicit assertions as to what my observations were and what I inferred, reasoned, to be his motivations and intellectual positions. A hypothesis for discussion, not ex cathedra statements of dogma.

Just show me the evidence for your continued support for this conclusion about Feser. Page [ix] doesn't cut it.

Seems to me that, by reason, one example – if the premises are proven to be true – should prove the hypothesis to be valid and sound. But since I haven’t read more that 20 or 30 pages yet of TLS, further examples might not be easy to find or entirely cogent and relevant. Though one that leaped out at me this morning was this:

Now if there really are Aristotelian natures, essences, final causes, etc., then the lesson of all this for sexual morality should be obvious. Since the final cause of human sexual capacities is procreation ... [my emphasis; pg 145]

He had me at the end of the first sentence since I’m entirely willing to at least consider the possibility that there are, in fact, “final causes”, being entirely sympathetic to the concepts surrounding “teleology”. But then his subsequent sentence is an assertion, essentially, that there are in fact final causes – qualifying, in my view, as a dogmatic, inconsistent and logically fallacious statement – after acknowledging their contingent or hypothetical status. Seems to me to be not that far removed from the apparently essential position of dyed-in-the-wool if not bred-in-the-bone fundamentalists:

“If god exists then god exists therefore god exists.” Unuh, no, that’s a negatory: unclear on the concept of “if”.

Josh said...

Steersman,

I simply cannot wade through your rhetoric. I simply don't see how Feser's acknowledgment of differing viewpoints means anything to your argument; he disagrees with them based on his evaluation of the arguments and following the evidence, not simply some dogmatic assertion. I must be missing the point somewhere, so I'll bow out gracefully...

Josh said...

And thanks to TOF for the Thucydides illustration. I enjoyed that.

Steersman said...

Josh said: I simply cannot wade through your rhetoric.

I know the feeling; I felt similarly in trying to follow the logic or arguments of several other posters here, notably on the definition of biological function (I think they were spinning their wheels). Part of the problem, I think, is different connotations and denotations associated with various words and concepts: starting from two different points with different “metrics” tends to make meeting at a conclusion decidedly problematic.

And another part of the problem is simply the complexity of the issues – following the convolutions of logic and premises and inferences can be a real challenge, at least for me. Part of the reason I’m skeptical about “proofs for God’s existence” that aren’t tied to some observable and tangible consequences – hence my observations on various fallacies even within mathematics.

Though I note with some amusement your reference to “evidence” – a rather empirical concept if I’m not mistaken – the credibility of which seems to be the bone of contention, and not a "brute fact" ... :-)

BenYachov said...

@Steersman

>Interesting observation, although I would like to know how you think that transpires.

It's as simple as refuting Sola Scriptura. You ask the Protestant to prove that doctrine from the Bible Alone. It cannot be done so the doctrine is false by it's own standards since it cannot be found in the Bible alone.

In an analogous manner Positivism cannot be proven true(or even the best explanation) by positivist standards. You cannot use science to prove this proposition true or prove it is the best using science. You have to try to make a philosophical argument at which point you practically concede it's falseness. Again it's like the Protestant who quotes the Church Father's views on the Material sufficiency of Scripture and tries to pass them off as Pre-Reformation statements on Sola Scriptura. By citing tradition they are not using scripture alone.

>that positivism has its limitations, particularly when pushed to the extreme of ideology – scientism.

I pretty much reject making a distinction between Positivism and Scientism. Some Protestant try to claim they believe in Sola Scriptura not Solo Scriptura. I think it's a distinction without a difference. Same with Positivism vs Scientism. It's can't be salvaged. One must accept philosophy with science. Not science alone. Even if you reject the existence of God.

>Seems to me that you’re showing some similarities yourself to the creationists’ argument or question “what good is 5% of an eye?

I don't see how since I reject YEC and due to my Classic View of the Nature of God I reject on philosophical grounds the idea God is somthing that can coherently be discribed as creating well or creating badlly. God simply creates imparts being and essence where there was nothing. Thus a Paley type argument of God as an artifacer means nothing to me. Paley's "god" doesn't exist.

YEC is a foolish way to read the Bible & as a Theist I reject it. If I was an Atheist I won't believe in Positivism either like Stove or Flew.

Cheers.

Steersman said...

TheOFloinn said: “I have a very great suspicion that your “metaphysical proofs” are very much dependent on such fallacies ...”

A very great suspicion? That settles that, then. Do you have any "empirical" and "verifiable" consequences for that suspicion?


I would say that my earlier comments on “Russell’s antinomy” and on “A Mathematical Bildungsroman” [Kadvany] provides some support for my hypothesis, as provided in the first case, that “... in developing consistent systems [of logic] familiarity and intuitive clarity are weak reeds to lean on.” If that is the case in formal, very well developed, systems such as mathematics, how more is that likely to be the case in metaphysics, specifically Aristotle’s “natural theology”, where the logic and premises are very much less developed?

Ruddy Rucker in his “Infinity and the Mind” suggested that “logic and set theory are the tools of an exact metaphysics”. He was probably indulging his taste for hyperbole, but I expect there is a germ, a seed, of truth there. Which, I might add, has yet to flower.

Your denialism regarding mathematics is noted.

I hardly think it denialism to be pointing out the limitations of mathematics, particularly when credible individuals such as Nagel, Newman, Kadvany and Gödel have said pretty much the same thing.

”Very much unlike, as mentioned earlier, your “metaphysical proofs” for god.”

Actually, if the God evidenced by motion, order, causation, etc. is true, then the empirical consequences would be ... an empirical universe exists; that is,


Now if you had said “If and only if God exists then an empirical universe exists. And the universe exists, therefore God” then you might have had a case. Although you would then be obliged to show both necessity and sufficiency – which, of course, neither you nor Feser nor any other theologian have done as otherwise there would be great rejoicing in the Vatican and much gnashing of teeth in the halls and homes of the new atheists.

But you since you didn’t do that all you have is a hypothetical – the universe might also exist without god: if God doesn’t exist then an empirical universe exists – and we’re back at square one. You also might want to review the definition and consequences and implications of the word “if”.

But your argument seems rather like a scientific hypothesis. Which I think you claimed was the furthest thing from the nature of a “metaphysical proof”. Though maybe that is true if the latter entails, or is based on, a misunderstanding of the word “if”.

TheOFloinn said...

And thanks to TOF for the Thucydides illustration. I enjoyed that.

The problem with many who today call themselves "humanists" is that they have no familiarity at all with the classic education of humanism.
+ + +

Steersman said...

BenYachov said: In an analogous manner Positivism cannot be proven true (or even the best explanation) by positivist standards. You cannot use science to prove this proposition true or prove it is the best using science. You have to try to make a philosophical argument at which point you practically concede its falseness.

Positivism does include a set of philosophies of science – albeit of some significant limitations absent some reference to or recourse to teleology (IMHO) – which seeks to understand various consequences of different assumptions. It is not science that is proving positivism true or false, but the philosophy itself; science seems to start with those assumptions and then endeavours to see what might follow. People therein frequently tend to forget that they made that initial step and fail to realize the consequences of their choices: putting on blue-tinted glasses tends naturally to colour ones observations with a bluish tint.

I pretty much reject making a distinction between Positivism and Scientism. Some Protestant try to claim they believe in Sola Scriptura not Solo Scriptura. I think it's a distinction without a difference. Same with Positivism vs Scientism. It's can't be salvaged. One must accept philosophy with science. Not science alone. Even if you reject the existence of God.

Seems not far removed from some prototypical new atheist saying that they reject making a distinction between classical and personal theism. Again, positivism refers to a set of philosophies, some precepts and tenets that are open to discussion and review and evolution; scientism is ideology and closing off any of that discussion – a very significant difference.

God simply creates imparts being and essence where there was nothing.

That’s not a bad concept, although unless you can show how that leads to the Resurrection and the Apostle’s Creed I don’t see how that is of any more use than saying that God is energy – as Steven Weinberg jokingly suggested.

Cheers.

TheOFloinn said...

TOF: A very great suspicion? That settles that, then. Do you have any "empirical" and "verifiable" consequences for that suspicion?

Steer: I would say that my earlier comments on “Russell’s antinomy” and on “A Mathematical Bildungsroman” [Kadvany] provides some support for my hypothesis

No, no, no. If you are a positivist, you must provide empirical and verifiable evidence, not the opinions of others.

TOF: Actually, if the God evidenced by motion, order, causation, etc. is true, then the empirical consequences would be ... an empirical universe exists; that is,

Steer: Now if you had said “If and only if God exists then an empirical universe exists. And the universe exists, therefore God” then you might have had a case.

No, I was imitating a positivist approach, in which God is proposed as an hypothesis, the empirical consequences are deduced whose verification supports the hypothesis. In Carnap's formulation:

a) IF p, then q1, q2,...,qn
b) AND q1, q2,...,qm
c) THEN p is probably true with probability m/n

They hypothesis p is that the classical God exists as traditional theology has concluded, and the q's are the consequences like "an empirical world exists," etc. If these conclusions can be verified - for example: are there natural laws? - then the hypothesis is supported.

Metaphysical arguments do not proceed in this manner, but I thought I would frame it in your preferred mode. Oddly, you did not recognize a positivist argument when you saw one!

Steer: the universe might also exist without god

Certainly without god, but not without God. (There is a reason for the capitalization. The God deduced by traditional theology is not the same kind of thing as Zeus or Odin or even perhaps Tengri. It's like saying a car doesn't need gas because there are many liquids on which the car fails to run. The liquidity is an accidental commonality, but there is an essential difference between gas and, say, lemonade.

In traditional theology, deduction leads to the equation of God with Existence Itself, which is why God is said to have called himself "I AM." It is hard to imagine anything existing if Existence itself did not exist.

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

TheOFloinn said No, no, no. If you are a positivist, you must provide empirical and verifiable evidence, not the opinions of others.

Assuming I’m a positivist, which I haven’t admitted to, my suspicion is self-evident: it is based on my observations of my thought processes and if you want verification I’ll tell you again that I observe myself being suspicious of that argument of yours.

My hypothesis, on the other hand, is that since that problem exists in mathematics based on evidence – in this case, the opinions of others and some of my own reading in the field – then it probably exists in metaphysics too, at least that of Aristotle’s “natural theology”.

The hypothesis p is that the classical God exists as traditional theology has concluded, and the q's are the consequences like "an empirical world exists," etc. If these conclusions can be verified - for example: are there natural laws? - then the hypothesis is supported.

That might make it a valid hypothesis but you still haven’t proven p. All you’re doing is defining some natural phenomena as god. Which, with some prestidigitation, transmogrifies into something that justifies all sorts of prejudices.

In traditional theology, deduction leads to the equation of God with Existence Itself, which is why God is said to have called himself "I AM." It is hard to imagine anything existing if Existence itself did not exist.

Still the same thing as Weinberg’s formulation: calling god energy does diddly-squat except add more obfuscation.

So existence exists. Call it anything you want, call it the square-root of a cheese sandwich if you wish. Attaching a label to a phenomenon does absolutely nothing. How does that prove whether the Resurrection and the Christian heaven and hell are the consequences and not that of the Muslims or that of the eternal wash-rinse-spin-dry cycle of the Hindus and the Buddhists?

StoneTop said...

Actually, if the God evidenced by motion, order, causation, etc. is true, then the empirical consequences would be

Yet "God" is not evidence by motion, so that is hardly relevant.

BenYachov said...

@Steersman

>It is not science that is proving positivism true or false, but the philosophy itself;

There is a contradiction & a double standard here. A blatant one.

If what you say above is true then you have a problem since Positivism Ad Hoc insists on denying things like let us say God because He cannot be proven empirically and Scientifically(i.e. via Positivism). But if Positivism can be proven true Philosophically, sufficiently for belief then why can't God be proven Philosophically(or disproven?)? If philosophy is sufficient for proof or disproof of God then to paraphrase Hawking "What place is there for Positivism?". Positivism deals with science. But if I can know things true or false apart from science (like using philosophy) then it still refutes itself or is at best rendered trivial.

Sorry but this is too much like the Presupposition Reformed Protestant who one the one hand admits to me Sola Scriptura isn't taught in the Bible but OTOH tries to get me to disbelieve in the Sinlessness of Mary because it's not explicitly taught in the Bible. It's argument by special pleading nothing more.

>Seems not far removed from some prototypical new atheist saying that they reject making a distinction between classical and personal theism.

I can without believing in any type of gods spell out the objective differences between them. Just as I can also spell out the differences between Theism vs Pantheism, Panentheism, Deism, etc.... But once you admit we can know via philosophy then Positivism is still self-refuting or at best trivial. Positivism vs Scientism not so much, other than claiming Positivism isn't "dogmatic" whatever that means?

I see no logical reason why Positivism is exempt from science but proven by philosophy but under Positivism, God is subject to science alone & philosophical proofs of Him are dismissed because they are not scientific.

Sorry I appreciate you are coming around too philosophy Steersman but as far as I am concern I see no logical reason to believe in Positivism given it's weakness.

>That’s not a bad concept, although unless you can show how that leads to the Resurrection and the Apostle’s Creed...

We are still in the land of Natural Theology and Natural Philosophy. You are getting ahead of the game. One must learn Newton first before one can learn Heisenberg.


> don’t see how that is of any more use than saying that God is energy – as Steven Weinberg jokingly suggested.

Energy is a being within reality that has an Essence thus by definition it can't be something that imparts being and essence. Energy is just matter in a different state. Both a bad analogy and a category mistake. Weinberg is just another philosophically illiterate physicist. He's Dawkins if he where a physicist.

Would it kill ya Steersman to quote Quintin Smith or an Atheist philosopher? Enough of the fundie Gnu's & their Positivism/Scientism.

Cheers. BTW I don't agree with you but I appreciate your tone here. Thus I will return the favor.

Cheers again.

Steersman said...

BenYachov said: I see no logical reason to believe in Positivism given its weakness.

Ok, I see that Positivism by itself doesn’t have that much credibility currently and has apparently been supplanted by logical positivism. And I see that it regards teleology as “untestable” and so outside its scope so I would reject it on those grounds alone as I'm sympathetic to a dualist perspective of some sort.

We are still in the land of Natural Theology and Natural Philosophy. You are getting ahead of the game. One must learn Newton first before one can learn Heisenberg.

Well, unless it’s can be shown that calling “existence itself” god or saying that god “simply creates [and/or] imparts being and essence where there was nothing” actually provides any benefits then I can’t see any justification for thinking it has any relevance to those other questions. With those statements all you’ve done is add another level, another label, which doesn’t contribute anything at all – you might just as well have said “existence itself creates being and essence” which seems, at best, a tautology. You may think those statements may be equivalent or analogous to Newton, but at least his physics had some substantial benefits long before it ever developed or evolved into that of Heisenberg. Given that there are probably more wrong branches to follow than right ones it seems to make a lot of sense to me to do serious pruning based on whether any particular one bears any noticeable or useful fruit.

In addition, “god” tends to have a whole boat-load, an ark even, of very questionable assumptions and connotations and consequences as baggage. Presumably you have some of those in mind or you wouldn’t be using the term and would be just talking instead of “existence itself” as being primary and irreducible – and might then, for example, be championing existentialism.

Would it kill ya Steersman to quote Quentin Smith or an Atheist philosopher?

Maybe. If I find the time – maybe after TLS. I think I saw Feser take a shot at Prometheus Books where Smith is apparently an editor, so maybe that is a “good” enough recommendation ...

BenYachov said...

@Steersman

>Positivism by itself doesn’t have that much credibility currently and has apparently been supplanted by logical positivism.

Logical Positivism suffered from the same basic problems of being self-referental. AJ Flew at the height of his Atheism during the 50's abandoned it.

Neither has credibiltiy. Neither is logical.

>Well, unless it’s can be shown that calling “existence itself” god or saying that god “simply creates [and/or] imparts being and essence where there was nothing” actually provides any benefits then I can’t see any justification for thinking it has any relevance to those other questions.

I am not making an Argument for God go read the TLS for that. I am making the case for philosophy and a polemic against Positivism and all it's bastard offspring. Nothing more.

Read TLS for the rest and I recomend the books and essays refered to in the footnotes and bibliography. Awesome stuff and I still haven't read even a quarter of that but I'll get there.

>You may think those statements may be equivalent or analogous to Newton, but at least his physics had some substantial benefits long before it ever developed or evolved into that of Heisenberg.

The analogy merely shows you have to go to grade school first then Jr and Senior High School then College. You can't go from Kindergarden to College straight away. You need to learn what's inbetween.

(BTW in case you get clever. Even one of those rare Savant kid's who go to college when they are 14 have to first learn all lower school material they just learn it at a faster rate)

Now I'm going to do some Gaming.

Cheers again.

Josh said...

Ben,

Small quibble: I've noticed that you refer to 'AJ Flew' on occasion, but I think you might be conflating Antony Flew, who abandoned Atheism at the end of his life, with A.J. Ayer, the father of Logical Positivism.

StoneTop said...

In addition, “god” tends to have a whole boat-load, an ark even, of very questionable assumptions and connotations and consequences as baggage.

Indeed... it is one thing to say "well there had to be a prime mover/first cause, so let's call that God" and quite another to say "the first cause somehow cares that some conglomerations of matter perform activities on one out of seven rotations of their planet"

Steersman said...

StoneTop said: Indeed... it is one thing to say "well there had to be a prime mover/first cause, so let's call that God" and quite another to say "the first cause somehow cares that some conglomerations of matter perform activities on one out of seven rotations of their planet"

Yes, definitely a cause for concern. Sort of like buying something without reading the fine print and realizing you’ve also bought a very large pile of problems.

Although to be fair, sort of, the “classical theists” here tend to distance themselves from the “Big Daddy in the Sky” concept which apparently characterizes fundamentalists [“My daddy is bigger than your daddy”]. And so, if I’m reading them right, that God isn’t really in the business of doing any caring [a little incongruous or inconsistent with Church dogmata but that seems to be what they’re claiming].

Their idea, greatly oversimplifying, is sort of like a little mainspring in every particle of matter – the god particle maybe? – motivating and directing the whole shebang to some final end. Really doesn’t seem to hang together all that well, although there does seem to be some wheat in with the chaff, but I’m willing to read a little more to see if I can make heads and tails of it – if it has only one of each.

BenYachov said...

@Josh

>Small quibble: I've noticed that you refer to 'AJ Flew' on occasion, but I think you might be conflating Antony Flew, who abandoned Atheism at the end of his life, with A.J. Ayer, the father of Logical Positivism.

I reply: I am in fact referring Antony J. Flew. According to his semi-Bio book THERE IS A GOD he originally embraced Logical Positivism but abandoned it because it was incoherent and self-referential.

Josh said...

Ben,

Hmm, yes, I figured that's who you were referring to, but I'm not sure where you are getting the 'J' initial from. Wikipedia says Antony Garrard Newton Flew?

BenYachov said...

Josh,

For some reason I seem to remember a J in there.

I could be wrong.

BenYachov said...

Maybe it's AG Flew?

I sometimes conflate my G's and my J's.


That's it! AG Flew.

Got it.

BenYachov said...

God doesn't care about you Steersman at lest he doesn't care about you in the unequivocal way a morally good human agent (let's say the Virgin Mary) cares about you. God cares in an analogous way.

God by Grace moves you toward your natural perfection and toward Himself which is Perfection Itself.

God is not a human person except more uber and without our limitations. That view is heresy to us Catholics.

>And so, if I’m reading them right, that God isn’t really in the business of doing any caring [a little incongruous or inconsistent with Church dogmata but that seems to be what they’re claiming].

No we are claiming God doesn't care about us in the unequivocal way a human moral agent is required to care according to the Moral Law & Divine Law.

God "cares" analogously as God. God is Goodness Itself. But God is not morally good the way a human is & it is incoherent to claim he is or must be.

Plato's FORM OF THE GOOD is good but if you say the FORM OF THE GOOD isn't good because it didn't stop the holocaust the you are misunderstand what it means to say it is good.

My computer is good as a computer even thought it didn't stop the holocaust.

Read Davies THE REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL for details.

StoneTop said...

Plato's FORM OF THE GOOD is good but if you say the FORM OF THE GOOD isn't good because it didn't stop the holocaust the you are misunderstand what it means to say it is good.

So you are saying that stopping the Holocaust was not good?

BenYachov said...

>>Plato's FORM OF THE GOOD is good but if you say the FORM OF THE GOOD isn't good because it didn't stop the holocaust the you are misunderstand what it means to say it is good.

>So you are saying that stopping the Holocaust was not good?

Case in point.

If I am enjoying a good beer does the beer cease to be good because it didn't stop the holocaust?

No the nature of the beer's goodness is not such that is supposed to stop genocide.

BenYachov said...

It is not coherent to speak of the nature of being a good beer in reference to success or failure of the beers goodness in stopping genocide.

BenYachov said...

I will re-post for Stone's benefit what I have said in the past. No need to reinvent the wheel.

The problem of Evil presupposes God's Goodness consists of perfect moral goodness. Or more accurately that God is a perfect moral agent.
Some attempts to defend God based on this presupposition mostly consist of showing how it is logically impossible for God to give us some goods without allowing some evil. Father Brian Davies thinks these arguments thought powerful ultimately fail(but might have some small validity). But don't waste your time.

(side note the Thomistic view of omnipotence tells us God cannot do the logically impossible. Example: Can't God do anything? So why can't He make 2+2=5? Answer: God can do anything 2=2=5 doesn't describe anything. It describes nothing and gives new meaning to the phrase "There is nothing God cannot do". Same applies to to Rock so heavy blah blah blah)

Brian Davies argues OTOH given a Classical understanding of the nature of God instead of an anthropomorphic Theistic Personalist one.

God's Goodness cannot be conceived of coherently as moral goodness. God is not and cannot by nature coherently be conceived of as a moral agent unequivocally the same way a human might be conceived thus. That is not to say God is not in some sense the same as what a morally good human person is but He is not unequivocally the same.

We might ask since God contains all Perfections does it not follow God has perfect muscle tone? Clearly not? That would be incoherent. Since God cannot have perfect muscle tone without having muscles. But if God had muscles he would be composite not simple in substance and thus not perfect. Also Muscles have potency that become actual while God is purely actual. If God had muscles He could not be purely actual. We can say God is Perfection Itself. Being Itself and Existence Itself. Since His existence and Essence are identical He can be the metaphysical source of perfection in perfect muscle tone without himself having muscles or perfect muscle tone.

In a like manner given the Thomistic Definition of Goodness. God can be the source of the Goodness in moral agency without being a moral agent Himself. We can't say coherently God is sober, temperate and Chaste they have no meaning given His Nature. Moral Agents share a moral community and God is not a member of a community with us given His wholly Other nature. Thus God cannot coherently be called a moral agent. Thus the problem of Evil becomes a non-problem.

As Davies says people who argue the Problem of Evil on both sides, Atheist and Theist have largely been wasting their lives. It's like arguing about wither or not Tennis players should be able to run the mile in under 10 minutes. A Tennis player is not the sort of athlete concerned with running the mile but playing tennis. God is not a moral agent. God's Goodness is not moral Goodness. Though he is the metaphysical source of the Goodness in morality. God's goodness is something else. Being the First Cause and the Final Cause and goal of all things.

But someone else will have to go into that later.

We don't let God off the hook. Rather it seems God isn't the sort of Thing that can coherently be hooked in the first place.

Thus I yawn at the Problem of Evil.

BenYachov said...

additional:

Morality requires obligations. God coherently doesn't and cannot have obligations to us. Morality requires sharing a moral community under a moral law. God doesn't and cannot coherently be said to share a community with us. God can be said to be the moral law by nature but God is not under the moral law since it is logically incoherent to claim God can be under Himself.

It doesn't mean God can do anything He wants to us given the Classic understanding of His nature this is impossible but God has no obligations to us.

Thank God.

Another good paper on the subject is

Against theodicy : a response to Peter Forrest
By N.N. Trakakis,

I found a copy online and download it but for some reason when I google it I can no longer find a free copy.

BenYachov said...

additional:

Morality requires obligations. God coherently doesn't and cannot have obligations to us. Morality requires sharing a moral community under a moral law. God doesn't and cannot coherently be said to share a community with us. God can be said to be The Moral Law Itself by nature but God is not under the moral law since it is logically incoherent to claim God can be under Himself.

It doesn't mean God can do anything He wants to us given the Classic understanding of His nature this is impossible but God has no obligations to us.

Thank God.

Another good paper on the subject is

Against theodicy : a response to Peter Forrest
By N.N. Trakakis,

I found a copy online and download it but for some reason when I google it I can no longer find a free copy.

BenYachov said...

As the Agnostic Theist and Thomistic Expert & critic Anthony Kenny said "Morality presupposes a moral community, and a moral community must be of beings with a common language, roughly equal power, and roughly similar needs, desires and interests. God can no more be part of a moral community with them than he can be part of a political community with them."


Aristotle said, we cannot attribute moral virtues to divinity: the praise would be vulgar. Equally, moral blame would be laughable.


This I copied from a blog post that no longer exists.

QUOTE"God As Morally Deficient
The point for now is just to indicate how different the classical theist’s conception of divine goodness is from that of the theistic personalist – and, for that matter, from the conception taken for granted by atheists who suggest that the existence of evil shows that God, if He exists, must in some way be morally deficient.

While God is not a Platonic Form, for the classical theist, to suggest that God is in some way morally deficient nevertheless makes about as much sense as suggesting that Plato’s Form of the Good might be morally deficient. The suggestion is unintelligible both because characterizing the God of classical theism as either virtuous or vicious is unintelligible, and because characterizing Him as deficient in any way is unintelligible. An atheist could intelligibly deny that such a God exists at all (just as he could intelligibly deny the existence of Platonic Forms), but to suggest that the God of classical theism might be morally deficient merely shows that such an atheist does not understand the view he is criticizing (just as an opponent of Platonism who suggested that the Form of the Good might be unloving or vicious would only show thereby that he doesn’t understand what sort of thing a Form is supposed to be)."END QUOTE

BenYachov said...

The theistic personalist or neo-theist conceives of God essentially as a person comparable to human persons, only without the limitations we have. The idea is to begin with what we know about human beings and then to abstract away first the body, then our temporal limitations, then our epistemological and volitional confinement to knowing about and having control over only a particular point of space and time, then our moral defects, and to keep going until we arrive at the notion of a being who has power, knowledge, and goodness like ours but to an unlimited degree.
Theistic personalism or neo-theism also rejects divine simplicity and its implications; indeed, this is the motivation for developing a conception of God by abstracting from our conception of human persons, for the theistic personalist objects to the notion of God as immutable, impassible, and eternal – finding it too cold and otherworldly, and incompatible with a literal reading of various biblical passages – and typically has philosophical objections to the notion of divine simplicity. Davies identifies Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne as theistic personalists.

As a Catholic & based on the Tradition of the Church I reject Theistic personalism. Indeed I am a total Strong Atheist as to the existence of any Theistic Personalist view of God...

But Classic Theism OTOH

Classic Theism as defined by Philosopher Edward Feser

QUOTE"God is not an object or substance alongside other objects or substances in the world; rather, He is pure being or existence itself, utterly distinct from the world of time, space, and things, underlying and maintaining them in being at every moment, and apart from whose ongoing conserving action they would be instantly annihilated. The world is not an independent object in the sense of something that might carry on if God were to “go away”; it is more like the music produced by a musician, which exists only when he plays and vanishes the moment he stops. None of the concepts we apply to things in the world, including to ourselves, apply to God in anything but an analogous sense. Hence, for example, we may say that God is “personal” insofar as He is not less than a person, the way an animal is less than a person. But God is not literally “a person” in the sense of being one individual thing among others who reasons, chooses, has moral obligations, etc. Such concepts make no sense when literally applied to God."

The above view is what I would call God.

BenYachov said...

Some of these quotes come from The Last Superstition.

Great stuff.

StoneTop said...

And so, if I’m reading them right, that God isn’t really in the business of doing any caring [a little incongruous or inconsistent with Church dogmata but that seems to be what they’re claiming].

Well that would work iff they are deists... but if even a hint of an interventionist deity (which is required for Christianity) and the problem rises up again.

StoneTop said...

If I am enjoying a good beer does the beer cease to be good because it didn't stop the holocaust?

True... but then a) the beer is not an active agent, it is just beer and b) when one refers to a good beer one is not talking about morality, one is talking about ones personal taste.

No the nature of the beer's goodness is not such that is supposed to stop genocide.

True, but beer is just a drink... stopping the holocaust is not something that is within its ability...

Now if you are arguing that your deity could not have stopped the holocaust if your deity had wanted to then that is a different matter...

BenYachov said...

@Stone Top

>Well that would work iff they are deists... but if even a hint of an interventionist deity (which is required for Christianity) and the problem rises up again.

A Theistic Personalist deity can be "interventionalist" since it creates the world and once in a while intervenes to re-work it a bit. Like a Machinist who stops the machine and rewires it. Your concept of a deism is a Theistic Personalist deity who creates and leaves the Universe alone.
But we do Classic Theism here. The rules are different and the pablium objects one finds in THE GOD DELUSION will not fly here.

Anyway neither type of God exists since no Theistic Personalist "deity" exists. You won't find any die in the wool Thomists or Catholics defending that metaphysical abortion. That vulgar false Idol who is a pale immitation of the God of Abraham and Aquinas.

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion by Brian Davies might get you up to speed.

The Classic Theistic God can't be "interventionalist" the way a TPG is suppose to be since how can you intervine in what you are already doing? An intervention is where you act as an alternative cause to another cause but since the CTG is the cause of all things & actively keeps them in existence how He be an alternative to Himself? Simply he can't. He is the Musician playing the music not the Machinist.

A miracle is a different thing for the CTG than the TPG. The TPG violates/suspends the laws of Nature to proform a miracle. A miracle for CTG is when God who is Pure Actuality actualizes a potency directly rather then secondarally threw Nature. Thus the Laws of Nature are not an issue since they are merely the regularities of nature sustained by God.

Again consult Davies for details.

>True... but then a) the beer is not an active agent,

God is not an "active agent" as I explained above nor a moral agent. He is a Creator and First Mover who makes all potencies actual. Anything that is Actual and thus has Being is good.

>it is just beer and b) when one refers to a good beer one is not talking about morality, one is talking about ones personal taste.

That's the point it's goodness has nothing to do with being a morally good agent just like God's Goodness has nothing to do with being a morally good agent but being the Metaphysical scource of the goodness in morality.

>Now if you are arguing that your deity could not have stopped the holocaust if your deity had wanted to then that is a different matter...

Rather he is not obligated to do so because he is not a moral agent. If He does then the praise due Him is not that of a hero who does his duty. Rather it is the gratuitious praise given someone who did something good for you but wasn't required to do it in the first place. If my Father gives me money to help me out. That is laudible but my Father has a duty to help me as his son. OTOH if Donald Trump(who doesn't owe me shit) gives me money well that is a little different in that he didn't have too. So the nature of the praise I give my Father is different then one I would give to Trump.

We owe God everything and He owes us nothing. Thank God for that!

BenYachov said...

For if God were thought of as an individual thing or object, there would be no way to account for the life-transforming impact that the reality of God is often said to have:
Coming to see that there is a God is not like coming to see that an additional being exists. If it were, there would be an extension of one’s knowledge of facts, but no extension of one’s understanding. Coming to see that there is a God involves seeing a new meaning in one’s life, and being given a new understanding. The Hebrew-Christian conception of God is not a conception of a being among beings.

####

The ‘orthodox Christian thought’ referred to by Williams is a line of thinking that was prevalent in the patristic and medieval traditions. It also found expression in the Thomist view that God is not an individual entity, a particular being among others, but ipsum esse subsistens, subsistent being itself, or actus purus, pure act or activity, for in God being and doing completely coincide. Like the Wittgensteinians, Thomist philosophers and theologians have been vocal in their insistence that it is deeply erroneous, if not idolatrous, to conceive of God as one thing existing alongside others, for in thinking of God along these lines one is in effect confusing the creature with the creator.
Brian Davies, in particular, has highlighted in many of his writings the importance of preserving the creator/creature distinction. He notes, for example, that it would be wrong to assert that God is an individual—in the familiar sense of ‘individual’where to call something an individual is to think of it as a member of a class of which there could be more than one member, as something with a nature shared by others but different from that of things sharing natures of another kind, things with different ways of working, things with different characteristic activities and effects.

###

It’s interesting also that, like the divine command theory, the idea that God is not a moral agent would dissolve the problem of evil into a pseudo-problem. Davies therefore concludes: To be blunt, I suggest that many contemporary philosophers writing on the problem of evil (both theists and non-theists) have largely been wasting their time... They are like people attacking or defending tennis players because they fail to run a mile in under four minutes. Tennis players are not in the business of running four-minute miles. Similarly, God is not something with respect to which moral evaluation (whether positive or negative) is appropriate.END QUOTE

BenYachov said...

The previous post are some quotes from a Paper AGAINST THEODICY. Authored by N. N. Trakakis

a philosopher of religion who calls himself a tentative Theist and has defended the Atheist philosopher Rowe's evidential argument from Evil against the existence of God.

BenYachov said...

additional:

Perhaps the most problematic feature of most theodicies is the way in which they conceptualize God. The problem, more specifically, is that theodicies such as those one finds in Hick and Swinburne, and in most discussions in contemporary analytic philosophy, presuppose a thoroughly anthropomorphic conception of God.

God in the analytic tradition is understood as an individual entity or substance of some sort, usually a person or person-like being who exists alongside other personal beings (such as humans and angels) and non-personal things (whether they be things in the physical world, or the physical world itself).

The anthropomorphism of this conception of divinity is especially clear in the case of ‘perfect-being theology’,where the attributes of God are modeled on human virtues or excellences. In determining which properties are to count as ‘great-making’, the perfect-being theologian typically looks to see which properties are considered excellences or virtues in the case of humans.

Given that properties such as power, knowledge, and goodness would generally count as great-making in humans, the magnitude of each such property is then infinitely extended (e.g., the limited and fallible knowledge of humans is replaced by unlimited and infallible knowledge, or omniscience) and finally that property, suitably maximized, is ascribed to God.

Herein lies the anthropomorphic character of this methodology. God,on the perfect-being model, looks very much like a human being, albeit a quite extraordinary one, one inflated into infinite proportions: a ‘super-duper superman’.........The gulf between Creator and creatures may be great, but it is not an absolute one, for it is only one of degree.

StoneTop said...

That vulgar false Idol who is a pale immitation of the God of Abraham and Aquinas.

I find that particularly humorous, as the "God of Abraham" is very much a personal interventionist deity of the sort you are trying to disassociate from.

A miracle for CTG is when God who is Pure Actuality actualizes a potency directly rather then secondarally threw Nature. Thus the Laws of Nature are not an issue since they are merely the regularities of nature sustained by God.

hardly relevant... as there is no evidence for miracles.

He is a Creator and First Mover who makes all potencies actual. Anything that is Actual and thus has Being is good.

So Deism? As I've said before... if you want to claim that there is some some "First Mover" and that we might as well call that "God" then go ahead... but in doing so you end up chucking Christianity out the window.

That's the point it's goodness has nothing to do with being a morally good agent just like God's Goodness has nothing to do with being a morally good agent but being the Metaphysical scource of the goodness in morality.

I do enjoy these mental hoops you theists create to explain how your claimed ultimate source of good doesn't have to actually do anything good.

So how exactly does that whole "metaphysical source of goodness in morality" work anyway? And wouldn't "God" also be the metaphysical source of badness in morality

That is laudible but my Father has a duty to help me as his son.

Why does your father have a duty but DT doesn't?

We owe God everything and He owes us nothing.

Really? Because it sounds like we owe the being you describe squat.

BenYachov said...

@Stone Top
>I find that particularly humorous, as the "God of Abraham" is very much a personal interventionist deity of the sort you are trying to disassociate from.

No the God of Abraham and the so called God of the Philosophers are the same God. Why do you believe this is not so? I suspect it's because you take biblical anthropomorphism hyper-literally. When the Bible speaks of God enfolding us in His Wings do you imagine God is literally a giant mega-chicken?

The Fathers and the Rabbis all taught the anthropomorphic language of God is not to be taken literally. They taught the existence of the Classic Theistic view of God. That is just the brute historical fact.
That is tradition and the Bible must be interpreted with Tradition (2 Thes 3:6).

>hardly relevant... as there is no evidence for miracles.

I merely explained the difference between TPG view of intervention vs the Classic view. If you wish to polemic our beliefs you have to not only hit the target but aim at the correct target. As for evidence of miracles that is off topic and a tangent. But there are a host of Philosophical take downs (by philosophers that are botht Atheists and Theists) of the faulty views of both Hume and Kant.

>So Deism? As I've said before... if you want to claim that there is some some "First Mover" and that we might as well call that "God" then go ahead... but in doing so you end up chucking Christianity out the window.

I take it you didn't actually read any of my posts or if you did rather then admit you don't understand what you are reading you are ignoring it and pretending your original limited analysis is still valid? That is not convincing. It's rather disingenuous.

>I do enjoy these mental hoops you theists create to explain how your claimed ultimate source of good doesn't have to actually do anything good.

Ah yes childish ridicule the Gnu'Atheist fundies fall back point when the one size fits all popular anti-ID/anti-YEC polemics from THE GOD DELUSION prove ineffective against other more sophisticated and ancient views of God.

Anyway you are now implicitly defining "Good" as exclusively meaning moral goodness only. That is just Ad Hoc argument by special pleading. The Aristotilian and the Thomist have defintions of what constitutes the good and long philosophical arguments to get there. You have no arguments as to why goodness must exclusively be defined in terms of moral goodness only when applied to God. You have not shown there are not other types of Goodness apart from moral goodness.

Thus I have no reason to believe God is not Good in some way because He can't coherently be described as an moral agent. I could see myself denying any type of God including the classical but I would still believe the PROBLEM OF EVIL is a non-starter against any Classic View of God.

I presented arguments as to why it's incoherent to ascribe moral goodness to God. You have not interacted with them.

You only response is ridicule which tells me you have no serious response.

You can no more move me with ridicule then Kirk Cameron can move me to doubt evolution by showing a plastic bird with an alligator's head as an example of a "missing link". Tis silly!

BenYachov said...

>So how exactly does that whole "metaphysical source of goodness in morality" work anyway? And wouldn't "God" also be the metaphysical source of badness in morality.

Evil has no metaphysical or substantive existence. It only has accidental existence. Evil is privation. Evil is the lacking of something in a substance that prevents it from having it's final perfection. You can't say God is the source of evil in anything since how can God be the source of Nothing? He can't.

God can be the Formal Cause of evil but so what? Even a TPG can be that & it could not be used as an example of moral deficiency.

If you are serious go read the books I recommend. If not have a nice life.

>Why does your father have a duty but DT doesn't?

I have not given an argument from moral philosophy as to why parents have moral obligations to their children. I merely assumed it for illustrative purposes, brevity and I make appeals to the intuitive.

You don't intuitively believe Parents have obligations to their children that strangers do not?

Really?

>Really? Because it sounds like we owe the being you describe squat.

How can that be if the Being who is Being Itself sustains our existence? We owe Him for existing and that by definition means we own him everything & He doesn't owe you or I squat.

Them's the breaks.

BenYachov said...

@Stone Top
>I find that particularly humorous, as the "God of Abraham" is very much a personal interventionist deity of the sort you are trying to disassociate from.

No the God of Abraham and the so called God of the Philosophers are the same God. Why do you believe this is not so? I suspect it's because you take biblical anthropomorphism hyper-literally. When the Bible speaks of God enfolding us in His Wings do you imagine God is literally a giant mega-chicken?

The Fathers and the Rabbis all taught the anthropomorphic language of God is not to be taken literally. They taught the existence of the Classic Theistic view of God. That is just the brute historical fact.
That is tradition and the Bible must be interpreted with Tradition (2 Thes 3:6).

>hardly relevant... as there is no evidence for miracles.

I merely explained the difference between TPG view of intervention vs the Classic view. If you wish to polemic our beliefs you have to not only hit the target but aim at the correct target. As for evidence of miracles that is off topic and a tangent. But there are a host of Philosophical take downs (by philosophers that are botht Atheists and Theists) of the faulty views of both Hume and Kant.

>So Deism? As I've said before... if you want to claim that there is some some "First Mover" and that we might as well call that "God" then go ahead... but in doing so you end up chucking Christianity out the window.

I take it you didn't actually read any of my posts or if you did rather then admit you don't understand what you read you are ignoring it and pretending your original limited analysis is still valid? That is not convincing. It's rather disengenous.

>I do enjoy these mental hoops you theists create to explain how your claimed ultimate source of good doesn't have to actually do anything good.

Ah yes childish ridicule the Gnu'Atheist fundies fall back point when the one size fits all popular anti-ID/anti-YEC polemics from THE GOD DELUSION prove ineffective against other more sophisticated and ancient views of God.

Anyway you are now implicitly defining "Good" as exclusively meaning moral goodness only. That is just Ad Hoc argument by special pleading. The Aristotilian and the Thomist have defintions of what constitutes the good and long philosophical arguments to get there. You have no arguments as to why goodness must exlucively be defined in terms of moral goodness only when applied to God. Thus I have no reason to believe God is not Good in some way because He can't coherently be discribled as an agent of Moral Goodness. I could see myself denying any type of God but I would still believe the PROBLEM OF EVIL is a non-starter against any Classic View of God.

I presented arguments as to why it's incoherent to accribe moral goodness to God. You have not inteacted with them.

You only response is ridicule which tells me you have no serious response.

BenYachov said...

@Stone Top

Kirk Cameron doesn't move me with his ridicule of evolution so why do you believe ridicule as opposed to actual argument will move me?

Action figures made by Kirk of a bird with an alligator's head that is suppose to be the missing link doesn't move me to doubt evolution.

So why do you think your equally childish ridicule will be more effective?

God is not a moral Agent. His Goodness is not that of a moral agent. You can either accept it and still disbelieve in the existence of said God or you can argue why if God exists he must be a moral agent.

But the fact Theodicy doesn't apply to a Classic God is not my problem.

Even if I denied all gods I would still believe the Problem of Evil is a non-starter given a classic view of God.

BenYachov said...

Perhaps if I brought the conversation down to your level Tops.

>your claimed ultimate source of good doesn't have to actually do anything good.

He creates and sustains our existence. How is that not good? He has from all eternity foreseen all prayers that will ever be uttered to Him and from all eternity has willed which ones he will answer. He has subsequently willed from all eternity the Universe should unfold in a manner consistent with answering those prayers. How is that not good?

I suspect at this point you conflate God with a Genie.

BenYachov said...

It seems the posts I thought where eaten have been coughed up.

StoneTop said...

No the God of Abraham and the so called God of the Philosophers are the same God. Why do you believe this is not so? I suspect it's because you take biblical anthropomorphism hyper-literally. When the Bible speaks of God enfolding us in His Wings do you imagine God is literally a giant mega-chicken?

Mayhaps you should re-read the OT... the God of Abraham is the same fellow who tells Abraham to murder his child, who torments Job to prove a point to one of his angels, who talks from a burning bush, who arbitrarily smashes cities, and who butchers children wholesale.

I take it you didn't actually read any of my posts or if you did rather then admit you don't understand what you are reading you are ignoring it and pretending your original limited analysis is still valid

I have, and it comes across as you trying to (as the deists are wont to do) hammer a moral framework onto the impersonal and indifferent forces that govern our cosmos.

Ah yes childish ridicule the Gnu'Atheist fundies fall back point when the one size fits all popular anti-ID/anti-YEC polemics from THE GOD DELUSION prove ineffective against other more sophisticated and ancient views of God.

You seem to be trying to raise your views up to a much higher historical standing then they warrant. The anthropomorphic deity you deride is clearly the older, and more common, view.

Anyway you are now implicitly defining "Good" as exclusively meaning moral goodness only.

Nope, I'm clearly pointing out that was makes X good depends on what X is. A good "beer" is not the same as a "good" person. Or are you saying that a "good" deity isn't a moral one?

I presented arguments as to why it's incoherent to accribe moral goodness to God. You have not inteacted with them.

Exactly, the deity you describe is amoral.

StoneTop said...

God is not a moral Agent. His Goodness is not that of a moral agent. You can either accept it and still disbelieve in the existence of said God or you can argue why if God exists he must be a moral agent

Right, moral actions are not consistent with a "good" deity... which, even if your deity did exist, certainly removes any obligation for me to consider what it does relevant to my existence.

He creates and sustains our existence. How is that not good? He has from all eternity foreseen all prayers that will ever be uttered to Him and from all eternity has willed which ones he will answer. He has subsequently willed from all eternity the Universe should unfold in a manner consistent with answering those prayers. How is that not good?

Wait... now he is back to being considered a moral agent. After all he is making (or made) moral choices when he chose which prayers to answer. Instead of answering them in a manner consistent with the morals you claim that he is the source of he answers then in a manner indistinguishable from random chance. Such a description is more consistent with a blind idiot god then the one you seem to be expounding.

I suspect at this point you conflate God with a Genie.

Well both are mythological constructs, so there are similarities.

BenYachov said...

>Mayhaps you should re-read the OT...etc..and who butchers children wholesale.

What does this appeal to emotion have to do with my claim the God of Abraham is the same as the God of the Philosophers? How does it disprove it? It's a non-response.

>I have, and it comes across as you trying to (as the deists are wont to do) hammer a moral framework onto the impersonal and indifferent forces that govern our cosmos.

Clearly you didn't read it very carefully since I never argued for an impersonal God rather a God who is not compared to human persons unequivocally. You clearly don’t understand the difference. Thus your responses have no meaning.

>You seem to be trying to raise your views up to a much higher historical standing then they warrant. The anthropomorphic deity you deride is clearly the older, and more common, view.

According to whom? The Church Fathers? The Rabbis? Ancient Christian writers? Can you cite any historic religion persons and luminaries of note who read these texts and insisted the anthropomorphism be taken literally? According to Brian Davies the classic view goes all the way back to Philo. The Classic view is the old view. The Theistic Personalist view OTOH is post-Reformation. It started with the Unitarians. Stone Top I hardly believe you even knew the difference between Classic Theism vs Theistic Personalism till you visited this Blog. Thus it strikes me as more than a bit incredulous you have any knowledge of this subject to back up your wild claims. I unlike you have read some of the relevant literature.

>Nope, I'm clearly pointing out that was makes X good depends on what X is. A good "beer" is not the same as a "good" person. Or are you saying that a "good" deity isn't a moral one?

That has only been my point here (thought crudely stated and without qualification or philosophical back round)? Can’t you read plain English son?

>Exactly, the deity you describe is amoral.

Davies said in a certain sense yes but God is not a being along side other beings. God is not part of a moral community nor can He given His nature become one. Plus amoral beings are not the ultimate metaphysical Source of Being or the metaphysical Source of the Good in morality. Thus you can’t compare amoral beings unequivocally to God.

>Right, moral actions are not consistent with a "good" deity... which, even if your deity did exist, certainly removes any obligation for me to consider what it does relevant to my existence.

You are now repeating yourself. I already answered this.

BenYachov said...

>Wait... now he is back to being considered a moral agent.

Nonsense how do any of the examples I gave show God’s good actions are moral actions? By analogy a dog is amoral. Yet a dog can perform a good act if it drags me from a burning building. Does that make the dog a moral agent? You are a nutcase or confused if you say yes. Just because God is not a moral agent doesn’t mean God is not Good or that he can’t do Good acts. Do I have to explain this to you? Seriously?

>After all he is making (or made) moral choices when he chose which prayers to answer.

Or he is just making good choices like the dog. It is as I suspected. You equate “good” with moral actions only. Fess up! You are not fooling anyone. But as I already explained and proved you can do good apart from being morally good in the unequivocal sense a human can be morally good.

>Instead of answering them in a manner consistent with the morals you claim that he is the source of he answers then in a manner indistinguishable from random chance. Such a description is more consistent with a blind idiot god then the one you seem to be expounding.

Nonsense this is a charature of what I said. Besides I am only giving a bare outline.

You believe dogmatically the only type of God that might have existed is a Theistic Personalist view of “god” who is a perfect moral agent. No such “god” exists. Bitching because the God I actually believe in & the one believed historically is not the “god” you are used to polemicing is certainly not my problem.

You have no rational or thoughtful response just emotion. I’m sorry but appeals to emotion repel me. I only believe in brute logic. God is Good. God is Intelligent. God doesn’t Act without purpose. God is Goodness Itself. God is Being Itself. God is Ipsum esse subsistens (Subsistent Act of Existing Itself).

http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/godtalk.html

>>I suspect at this point you conflate God with a Genie.

>Well both are mythological constructs, so there are similarities.

So I was right. Well I don’t believe in a Cosmic Genie and any arguments you offer here polemicing a Cosmic Genie will be pointless. You have to polemic the God I believe in not the one you wish I believed in because Dawkins isn’t smart enough to cover those topics.

God is not Sky Daddy with a White Beard. Get over it Tops!

BenYachov said...

BTW I can't help but note a contradiction here.

>it comes across as you trying to (as the deists are wont to do) hammer a moral framework onto the impersonal and indifferent forces that govern our cosmos.

This is not what I am doing at all but I will point out to you, if what you say is true then by these very same standards you can't come up with a moral framework for your Atheistic Universe either. Thus you have no basis to condemn or acquit God of the charge of immorality.

You can't have it both ways. Thought I'm sure you will try.

StoneTop said...

What does this appeal to emotion have to do with my claim the God of Abraham is the same as the God of the Philosophers? How does it disprove it? It's a non-response.

No appeal to emotion is needed... the God of Abraham clearly, according to the OT, both orders and directly carries out several acts of genocide.

Clearly you didn't read it very carefully since I never argued for an impersonal God rather a God who is not compared to human persons unequivocally.

Yet at the same time you try to derive morals, a purely human endeavor, form the impersonal and uncaring forces that govern our cosmos... which is why the deity you create comes across as an awkward chimera.

According to whom? The Church Fathers? The Rabbis? Ancient Christian writers? Can you cite any historic religion persons and luminaries of note who read these texts and insisted the anthropomorphism be taken literally?

The authors who wrote the material.

That has only been my point here (thought crudely stated and without qualification or philosophical back round)?

Which makes the deity you describe amoral... which is what I have been saying.

Plus amoral beings are not the ultimate metaphysical Source of Being or the metaphysical Source of the Good in morality. Thus you can’t compare amoral beings unequivocally to God.

Actually I just did... it is you who keeps trying to play word games to give your deity a pass on moral actions, while still holding on to your deity as a source of morals.

Nonsense how do any of the examples I gave show God’s good actions are moral actions?

Sure, because once your deity starts interfering in our lives then we can call those actions moral or immoral... so once your deity starts ordering genocide or firebombing cities we can judge those actions as moral or immoral.

Or he is just making good choices like the dog. It is as I suspected. You equate “good” with moral actions only. Fess up! You are not fooling anyone

The difference is that I'm not looking to a dog for a moral code. Though I do find it interesting that you consider the slaughter of children to be "good".

God is not Sky Daddy with a White Beard. Get over it Tops!

So then why is your deity choosing which prayers to answer and which to ignore?

StoneTop said...

if what you say is true then by these very same standards you can't come up with a moral framework for your Atheistic Universe either

Nor do I need to. The universe has no moral framework... morals only exist because we construct them to govern our interactions as a social species.

BenYachov said...

>No appeal to emotion is needed... the God of Abraham clearly, according to the OT, both orders and directly carries out several acts of genocide.

Again what does this have to do with your claim the God of Philosophers is not the same as the God of Abraham? Are you bait & switching topics now because you know you can't back up your original claim? Do you think I wouldn't notice? Seriously?

>Yet at the same time you try to derive morals, a purely human endeavor, form the impersonal and uncaring forces that govern our cosmos... which is why the deity you create comes across as an awkward chimera.

No I argued the good found in morals has its metaphysically ultimate source in Goodness Itself/God. At this point Tops you are making stuff up because you are clearly at a loss as to how to argue with any version of Theism that is not Fundamentalistic or ID.

>The authors who wrote the material.

This is the fallacy of begging the question. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Orthodox Jews don't believe the Bible is clear. We all reject the Reformation doctrine of perspicuity. The Bible requires an interpreter. You have not proven the authors who wrote the Bible meant the anthropomorphism literally. Indeed even if we to take a purely naturalistic view of Scripture, those who allegedly "made up" these texts could still have not meant the images to be taken literally. The burden of proof is on you because it is a brute historical fact the Rabbis, Church Fathers and learned religious teachers did not take them literally. Get over it.

>Which makes the deity you describe amoral... which is what I have been saying.

Stone Tops it is clear you have no concept as to the difference between Unequivocal, Equivocal and Analogous descriptive language. God as He is understood classically can only be compared to creatures analogously not unequivocally nor wholly equivocally. It is clear you are making unequivocal comparisons between God and humans and other creatures. That is valid in reference to a Theistic Personalist “god” but it is a category mistake in reference to a Classical view of God. My comparisons to God are all analogous. Yours are not.

>Actually I just did...

Which renders your arguments meaningless ridicule. It is no better than Kirk Cameron putting a plastic Alligator’s head on the plastic figurine of a bird, calling it a missing link and using that to ridicule evolution.

>it is you who keeps trying to play word games to give your deity a pass on moral actions, while still holding on to your deity as a source of morals.

No it is a specific rational argument put forth by philosophers of religion that is respected by Atheist and Theistic Philosophers alike. One which you clearly have no rational response too. It is you who are playing word games because it is self evident your simplistic fundamentalist Dawkins type one size fits all anti-omnireligious polemic is an epic fail. There is no one size fits all polemic against religion in general Tops. Get over it! The Problem of Evil is a non-problem to a Classic view of God. Get over it! If you want to make a philosophical case against the existence of a Classic view of God be my guest. But you can’t coherently apply the problem of Evil to the classic view of God. Anymore than you can disprove the Mormon religion by documenting mistakes in the freakin Koran! It’s that simple. Get over it!

> Sure, because once your deity starts interfering in our lives then we can call those actions moral or immoral...

I already explained why God can’t “interfere” and it has nothing to do with Deism. Now you are contradicting yourself again since you already said God was “amoral”(though you still can’t comprehend the difference between analogous and unequivocal comparisons). Thus how can you apply the categories of moral vs immoral since they imply moral agents and God is not a moral agent? You already said God was amoral? Make up your mind.

BenYachov said...

>so once your deity starts ordering genocide or firebombing cities we can judge those actions as moral or immoral.

Rather we would say they are good or bad since moral categories can’t be applied where there are no moral agents. Besides a Divine Command of Harem can only be issued via an Act of Public Divine Revelation. Since the death of the last Apostle there can be no more public revelation thus no order of Harem can be issued till the second coming. But even then Christ riding on a White Horse kills the wicked himself by merely speaking. His army at the last judgement is clearly for show.

>So then why is your deity choosing which prayers to answer and which to ignore?

Sky Daddy with a White beard is an anthropomorphism. God is not a man according to the OT you claim to have read. Even Jesus is a man in His human nature only not His Divine Nature and not His Person.

How is it anthopomorphic for God to choose which prayers to answer from all eternity and which to not? You never explain.

>Nor do I need to. The universe has no moral framework... morals only exist because we construct them to govern our interactions as a social species.

Then by definition any moral judgements you render have no objective meaning. I’m saying God is Goodness Itself but He cannot coherently be described as a moral agent. You OTOH are saying nobody is by nature a moral agent yet it is OK to make up morals and judge others by them. It’s no different then a human version of volunteerism.

BTW what does the Universe have to do with anything? Hello? Classic Theism here! Not Pantheism or Panentheism.

There is no point in you responding further Stone Tops. I reject all unequivocal comparisons of God to creatures. Even if I deny God tomorrow I would still know it’s not an intelligent, relevant or valid argument. You seem dogmatically committed to making only those type of arguments. You are wasting my time and yours. Go do some reading then come back and talk to me.

StoneTop said...

Again what does this have to do with your claim the God of Philosophers is not the same as the God of Abraham?

A great deal... as why would your "God of Philosophers" be interested in the butchering of thousands of children?

No I argued the good found in morals has its metaphysically ultimate source in Goodness Itself/God.

Right... which is just your attempt to shoehorn your moral code into a reality by constructing a baseless argument for the existence of a "metaphysical ultimate source" that exists only within the minds of those who believe in it.

We all reject the Reformation doctrine of perspicuity. The Bible requires an interpreter.

Why? If it represents a metaphysical truth then there should be no need for "interpretation". Further that you reject the Reformation doctrine of perspicuity doesn't mean that the DoP is not a valid interpretation...

Indeed even if we to take a purely naturalistic view of Scripture, those who allegedly "made up" these texts could still have not meant the images to be taken literally. The burden of proof is on you because it is a brute historical fact the Rabbis, Church Fathers and learned religious teachers did not take them literally.

Nope, the texts stand are quite clear about what your deity both does and states... so it would fall to you to show that the authors were going for a less literal interpretation of the text then the one they wrote down.

No it is a specific rational argument put forth by philosophers of religion that is respected by Atheist and Theistic Philosophers alike.

See the problem there is that you assume that it is rational... yet I see nothing rational about manufacturing a metaphysical entity so that I can go around believing that my morality represents some sort of objective morality.

The Problem of Evil is a non-problem to a Classic view of God.

True, because your "Classic view of God" is not a benevolent deity... but then by your "Classic view of God" puts the rest of Christianity on very uneven grounds.

I already explained why God can’t “interfere” and it has nothing to do with Deism.

How isn't the non-interventionist deity not akin to the god of the Deists?

Thus how can you apply the categories of moral vs immoral since they imply moral agents and God is not a moral agent?

That is why I am describing your deity as amoral... but in doing so that removes it as any sort of "source" of morality.

Rather we would say they are good or bad since moral categories can’t be applied where there are no moral agents.

Yet the actions of the deity described in the Bible are clearly based on moral judgement. The people of Sodom did not die because a meteor fell on them, they were deliberately murdered over an arbitrary moral choice.

Sky Daddy with a White beard is an anthropomorphism. God is not a man according to the OT you claim to have read.

You do realize that the only one here talking about a "Sky Daddy" is you.

How is it anthopomorphic for God to choose which prayers to answer from all eternity and which to not? You never explain.

Nor do I need to... it is your claim that your deity does so, not mine.

StoneTop said...

I’m saying God is Goodness Itself but He cannot coherently be described as a moral agent. You OTOH are saying nobody is by nature a moral agent yet it is OK to make up morals and judge others by them.

Actually what I am saying is not that "nobody is by nature a moral agent" but rather that your "God is Goodness" is an inherently nonsensical statement, as what is "Good" is highly relative (to use your example of beer, what is a good beer to one person may have to much hops for another person).

As to "making up morals and judging others"... since you don't seem to have a problem doing so then what is your issue with me doing so?

BTW what does the Universe have to do with anything? Hello? Classic Theism here! Not Pantheism or Panentheism.

Right, where your deity is the metaphysical source of morality... the view I'm presenting is the alternative, where no deity is required for morality to exist.

BenYachov said...

>A great deal... as why would your "God of Philosophers" be interested in the butchering of thousands of children?

So I take it you can’t back up your claim the God of Philosophers is not also the God of Abraham you just want to change the subject to Theodicy. Which of course is incoherent since the Classic view of God is not a moral agent and thus Theodicy doesn’t apply. Only “gods” who are moral agents require Theodicy to explain their allowing evil.

>Right... which is just your attempt to shoehorn your moral code into a reality by constructing a baseless argument for the existence of a "metaphysical ultimate source" that exists only within the minds of those who believe in it.

This is not an argument. This is just Boo Hoo why can’t your view of the deity fit my Procrustean bed of anti-fundamentalist Anthopomorphic Theism? God’s Goodness is not the goodness of moral agency. Thus saying God fails as a moral agent is incoherent since God cannot be conceived in the Classic Sense as any type of moral agent in the first place.

>Why? If it represents a metaphysical truth then there should be no need for "interpretation".

I suspect what you really mean here is because God Inspired the Bible should it then not be clear? It’s clear to the Church guided by the Holy Spirit but there is no reason to believe it is clear to the individual. But the Bible itself says it can be misinterpreted to the harm of the person (2 Peter 3:16) and it condemns private interpretation " No prophecy [or explanation] of Scripture is made by private interpretation." (2 St. Peter i. 20.).

>Further that you reject the Reformation doctrine of perspicuity doesn't mean that the DoP is not a valid interpretation...

But there is no way to know that it is a valid one. Especially since you have failed to cite anyone of note who actually holds that interpretation. Besides I am Catholic thus as a matter of religious dogma I reject private interpretation (i.e. interpreting Scripture in a manner inconsistant with established Dogma) so why do you think appealing to your private interpretation will move me? Indeed you take on the double burden of first converting me to Protestantism before converting me to Atheism. Now you are doing twice the work. WTF?

>Nope, the texts stand are quite clear about what your deity both does and states...

We are discussing God’s Nature not his actions. If God by nature is not a moral agent then His actions are not the actions of a moral agent. That is true wither he brings Lazerus to life or pronounces Harem on the Cannanites. Morally judging the actions of something that is not a moral agent is incoherent. Especially since your morality is ad hoc your subjective invention and not inherent in Existence Itself.

>so it would fall to you to show that the authors were going for a less literal interpretation of the text then the one they wrote down.

If they meant it literally then they would have transmitted that interpretation via tradition with the text. But all of Jewish and Christian Tradition teaches unanimously that God is not in His nature anthropomorphic and the anthropomorphism are not to be taken literally. The burned is in fact on you to explain why your novel post reformation pro-anthropomorphic interpretation is correct against what has been handed down with the text.

Fail!

BenYachov said...

>See the problem there is that you assume that it is rational... yet I see nothing rational about manufacturing a metaphysical entity so that I can go around believing that my morality represents some sort of objective morality.

I am not arguing for the existence of God. I am arguing the problem of evil is a non-problem once you recognized God’s Goodness is not the goodness of moral agency. Now you can try to make the case a Classic God can’t exist or you can argue against any particular philosophical proof for God. But you can’t coherently say the problem of Evil applies to a God whose Goodness is not the goodness of a perfect moral agent. You are just being stubborn and pretending the Classic View of God is the same as the Theistic Personalist view. Sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “La! La! La! God is immoral! You are playing word games! La! La! La!” is not convincing. Like I said if I deny God & become an Atheist tomorrow I would still think this. You OTOH seem to be having a crisis of faithlessness. You seem to need to believe dogmatically the Problem of evil always applies or your atheism is somehow wrong. That is quite insecure.

>True, because your "Classic view of God" is not a benevolent deity...

Of course He is since He freely created us and freely gives Grace to us so we may one day have the Beatific Vision if we don’t reject it. He just has no obligations to protect us from material harm. None at all. But who cares? Sure material harm sucks! You try raising three autistic children & keep you sanity. But ultimately it doesn’t matter.

>but then by your "Classic view of God" puts the rest of Christianity on very uneven grounds.

The Classic view is the view of Christianity. History is against you. The Theistic Personalist view was invented post reformation by the Unitarians and some later fundamentalist Protestants(& not even all of them) adopted it. I love how you Gnu’s define Christianity as the Bible thumping modern American version but ignore it’s historical version. Both hysterical and pathetic.

>How isn't the non-interventionist deity not akin to the god of the Deists?

This tells me you have at best been skimming my posts and haven’t really read them. Especially Feser’s definition of Classic Theism and Davies views.

BenYachov said...

>That is why I am describing your deity as amoral... but in doing so that removes it as any sort of "source" of morality.

God is only “amoral” in an analogous sense. You are presupposing He so in an unequivocal sense. You keep making that mistake. God is the metaphysical source of goodness in morality. Not the source of morality. A Theistic Personalist God governed by Lockean Volunteerism is a “source of morality”. You really have to get your categories straight.

>Yet the actions of the deity described in the Bible are clearly based on moral judgement.

Only if you keep kneejerk treating God as a moral agent. Then his actions are merely good for some and bad for others. By analogy like the dog who saves one and bites the other nothing more. No moral judgement is logically possible. Good for the faithful Israelites, bad for mortal sinners in Sodom. Good for the children of Sodom since they don’t have to grow up in a city where the population practices bestiality, public nudity, incest, infant sacrifice by burning and God knows what pervs like that would do with little kids! Worst then some of our fallen Priests. Instead they go either to Limbo & have infinite perfect natural happyness & after Christ comes they get the Beatific Vision.

Not bad at all!

>Nor do I need to... it is your claim that your deity does so, not mine.

Another non-answer.

>Actually what I am saying is not that "nobody is by nature a moral agent" but rather that your "God is Goodness" is an inherently nonsensical statement,

Only if you are a New Atheist who ad hox defines goodness as moral goodness only and defines goodness strictly in accidental terms instead of Essentialist terms.

It makes perfect sense when goodness is defined in essentialist terms as “That which everything desires” and “everything seeks it’s own perfection”. Then of course there is the Transcendentalws and how Goodness and Being are interchangeable. But if you had done the backround reading you would know all this. Instead you just repeat the same Dawkinite pablium over and over hoping I will get bored with it.

>as what is "Good" is highly relative (to use your example of beer, what is a good beer to one person may have to much hops for another person).

Thomism gives an ultimate metaphysical explanation of the nature of what is good. You are equivocating that with accidental good. The analogy of the beer holds even if you substitute a soft drink for beer or chicken mcnuggets. You really haven’t made any effort here have you?



>As to "making up morals and judging others"... since you don't seem to have a problem doing so then what is your issue with me doing so?

Begging the question again eh? Yes I get it you believe all forms of Theism are “made up” but I don’t believe that. Even if I did clearly the Problem of Evil doesn’t apply to the made up classical view. Also I have little reason based on the evidence of tradition and the lack of any evidence to the contrary the writers of the made up Bible made up an anthropomorphic deity and not a classic one.

Fail! Live with it.

Steersman said...

Ben Yachov (August 31, 9:15 PM):

”You may think those statements may be equivalent or analogous to Newton, but at least his physics had some substantial benefits long before it ever developed or evolved into that of Heisenberg.”

The analogy merely shows you have to go to grade school first then Jr and Senior High School then College. You can't go from Kindergarten to College straight away.


A rather bad analogy I think – though I’m not sure about the “category error” – and a little evasive or disingenuous. As mentioned, it seems that Newton’s laws – initial stages of classical mechanics, largely – made substantial contributions to the Industrial Revolution, for one thing, long before it evolved into quantum mechanics. Not at all the same as school where no major social contributions are possible until reaching the end of the progression. If the foundations aren’t solid then one can’t, or shouldn’t, expect to build very high on them.

I am not making an Argument for God go read the TLS for that.

Working on it – about half-way through though only very few of the notes. Interesting reading, a lot of material and Dr. Feser certainly makes some good points, some of which I whole-heartedly agree with – or at least am in sympathy with, notably Aristotle’s final causes. Apropos of which, I quite like this:

We can no more eliminate purpose and meaning from nature than we can square a circle. [pg 12]

Maybe consciousness – intrinsically related to purpose and meaning – will turn out to be an “emergent phenomenon”, but that still leaves open [eternally?] the question of what facet of reality leads to that emergence. Seems like “irreducible fact or aspect of reality”, if not soul, has some plausibility. In which case heading in the opposite direction would bear some resemblance to the proverbial “selling one’s birthright for a mess of pottage”.

And I can at least sympathize with Feser’s apparent objective implicit in this:

[Aquinas’] argument is not an attempt to weigh probabilities, but an attempt at a metaphysical demonstration [of God’s existence] in which the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises. [pg 119]

And I quite agree with his perspective on that process:

Geometrical reasoning, and mathematical reasoning in general [and, by extension metaphysical reasoning], is all-or-nothing. The premises are indubitable, and in any argument that appeals to them, the conclusion either follows necessarily from those premises ... or it does not follow .... In general, the starting points of metaphysical arguments aren’t matters of scientific controversy, but rather premises concerning that which science, like common sense, necessarily takes for granted. [pgs 82,83]

However, while he shows commendable intellectual honesty in conceding that “it is always possible that someone attempting a metaphysical demonstration has made a mistake somewhere”, he seems insufficiently cognizant of the basics of axiomatic reasoning and to not take to heart the possibility that some or all of his premises, his “self-evident” axioms, are seriously flawed (I have a list of what I think are questionable ones) – for one thing, common sense is recognized as being notoriously unreliable.

For example, using his geometrical analogy, Euclidean geometry is based on a number of axioms – statements that are not provable within the system itself and which therefore have to be accepted on “faith”, or based on empirical, probabilistic, evidence – notably the parallel postulate. And, lo and behold, it turned out that in “reality” itself that postulate was, as a point of fact, simply not true. Essentially it seems that such axiomatic systems are, frequently if not always, still based on hypotheticals – the premises are anything but “indubitable” – and consequently any and all conclusions really can’t be said at all to follow.

grodrigues said...

@Steersman:

"For example, using his geometrical analogy, Euclidean geometry is based on a number of axioms – statements that are not provable within the system itself and which therefore have to be accepted on “faith”, or based on empirical, probabilistic, evidence – notably the parallel postulate."

I do not know with what private definition of proof you are working with, but under the usual mathematical definition, the parallel postulate is trivially provable in Euclidean geometry.

"And, lo and behold, it turned out that in “reality” itself that postulate was, as a point of fact, simply not true."

Curious how you put reality between quotes, but have no such scruples about categorical statements about the truthfulness of this or that mathematical fact.

By the way, according to quantum mechanics the geometry of the state space of a quantum system is complex Euclidean. Consequently, the parallel postulate is valid there.

"Essentially it seems that such axiomatic systems are, frequently if not always, still based on hypotheticals – the premises are anything but “indubitable” – and consequently any and all conclusions really can’t be said at all to follow."

All axiomatic systems are based on hypotheticals, therefore according to your misreading, any of their conclusions do not follow. Then it means that whatever axiomatic systems you use also have the same problems. Ergo, any deductive arguments you yourself make are subject to the same conclusion.

And if you think appeals to "reality" solve the "problem" of the hypothetical status of axiom systems, then think again, for you simply do not know what you are talking about.

Note also that Philosophy is not mathematics, but in both cases motivation and justification for the premises can and is given. Prof. Feser surely does it. So instead of raising sophomoric objections why don't you get to the business of disputing the premises?

BenYachov said...

What grodrigues said.

Steersman said...

@ grodrigues:

I do not know with what private definition of proof you are working with, but under the usual mathematical definition, the parallel postulate is trivially provable in Euclidean geometry.

Hardly private. Wikipedia has this:

For two thousand years, many attempts were made to prove the parallel postulate using Euclid's first four postulates. [apparently not all that trivial] ... The independence [“in mathematical logic, refers to the unprovability of a sentence from other sentences”] of the parallel postulate from Euclid's other axioms was finally demonstrated by Eugenio Beltrami in 1868.

By the way, according to quantum mechanics the geometry of the state space of a quantum system is complex Euclidean. Consequently, the parallel postulate is valid there.

Apparently only as an approximation. By my very limited understanding it seems that quantum mechanics is a “(fixed) background dependent” theory whereas “the chief lesson of general relativity was that there is no fixed background of space and time” [The Trouble With Physics; Lee Smolin; pg 54]. Which is, apparently, one of the factors motivating the development of the theory of “quantum-gravity”, as a contender in the “Grand Unified Theory of Everything” sweepstakes:

The key question for a quantum theory of gravity is then the following: Can we extend to quantum theory the principle that space has no fixed geometry? [i.e., non-Euclidean] That is, can we make quantum theory background-independent, at least with regard to the geometry of space? [ibid; pg 83]

All axiomatic systems are based on hypotheticals, therefore according to your misreading, any of their conclusions do not follow.

I’ll readily agree that it’s a complex subject, but my point, maybe badly phrased, was that if the premises, the axioms, are anything but self-evident or indubitable then the “conclusions really can’t be said at all to follow”. And as Dr. Feser himself concedes that – repeatedly – it seems just a tad incongruous, illogical at best, for him to be asserting – somewhat dogmatically – the truth of the conclusion:

But if universals, propositions, and mathematical [objects] are eternal and necessarily existing entities … [TLS; pg 90]

Now if the essence of a thing and the existence of a thing are distinct in this way …[pg 104]

Now if there really are Aristotelian natures, essences, final causes, etc., then the lesson of all this …[pg 145]

About all of which he concedes there is a great amount of controversy:

The view that universals, numbers, and / or propositions exist objectively, apart from the human mind and distinct from any material or physical features of the world, is called realism …. The standard alternative views are nominalism … and conceptualism …; and like realism, each of these positions comes in several varieties. The debate between the three views is ancient, and extremely complicated. [TLS; pgs 41,42]

In spite of which he proceeds to (ta da!):

The most important thing to know about [God’s existence] is that it is true, and demonstrably so. [pg ix]

While I will readily acknowledge that Aristotle’s ideas and categories have and have had some significant value in the development of Western philosophy and science that hardly seems to justify making absolutes out of them, particularly without some serious evaluation as to whether they actually correspond to “reality”.

grodrigues said...

@Steersman:

1. You can quote from Wikipedia, but you did not understand my remark about the fact that the parallel postulate is *trivially* provable in the first-order, complete and consistent axiomatization of Euclidean geometry -- there are several, all equivalent by the fact that the axiomatization is categorical.

What you quote is about the independence of the parallel postulate of the other postulates, a different question altogether.

2. You can quote from Wikipedia, but you did not understand my remark about geometry. I was talking about the geometry of the *state* space of quantum systems.

What you quote is about the geometry of *space-time* in quantum gravity, a whole different kettle of fish.

Short-circuiting your remarks on TLS to:

"In spite of which he proceeds to (ta da!):

The most important thing to know about [God’s existence] is that it is true, and demonstrably so. [pg ix]"

What do you think a proof in philosophy amounts to? Prof. Feser nowhere says that only irrational people will fail to accept the demonstration, which is what you seem to think. While I cannot speak for him, I would wager that he maintains two things: it is rational to believe that God exists (that is what the proofs are for); a person can still refuse to accept the proofs and be rational (because he rejects the metaphysical baggage, because he has doubts about some of the steps of the proof, etc.).

Steersman said...

@ grodrigues:

… you did not understand my remark about the fact that the parallel postulate is *trivially* provable in the first-order, complete and consistent axiomatization of Euclidean geometry ….

Maybe. I’ll certainly agree that I don’t know what you mean by that “complete axiomatization”. But I’m not sure that you understand what I was getting at with my original statement:

Euclidean geometry is based on a number of axioms – statements that are not provable within the system itself and which therefore have to be accepted on “faith”, or based on empirical, probabilistic, evidence – notably the parallel postulate.

For one thing, “provable within the system” was consistent with the Wikipedia article:

For two thousand years, many attempts were made to prove the parallel postulate using Euclid's first four postulates.

For another, your “complete axiomatization” would seem to be equivalent to redefining the word “parallel”:

… if the word "parallel" in Playfair's axiom [“equivalent” to Euclid’s parallel postulate] is taken to mean 'constant separation', then it is no longer equivalent to Euclid's fifth postulate, and is provable from the first four ….

And, finally, the “independence of the parallel postulate of the other postulates” was exactly what I was getting at:

The independence of the parallel postulate from Euclid's other axioms was finally demonstrated by Eugenio Beltrami in 1868.

In mathematical logic, independence refers to the unprovability of a sentence from other sentences. …. A theory T is independent if each axiom in T is not provable from the remaining axioms in T.

As for:

… but you did not understand my remark about geometry. I was talking about the geometry of the *state* space of quantum systems.

What you quote is about the geometry of *space-time* in quantum gravity, a whole different kettle of fish.


Quite possible there too. But I hope that you’ll concede at the outset as a starting point – though this seems difficult for you – that our theories about how “reality” works are frequently, if not always, quite different from the way it really is. My point is that even though “quantum systems” assume a Euclidean space and the validity of the parallel postulate – though I don’t understand your use of “complex Euclidean” – that does not mean that it really is that way – as the theory of general relativity seems to contradict. Hence the reason for the efforts to find a synthesis of those two theories. Which, according to Hegelian dialectics at least, engenders its own anti-thesis which in turn ….

Steersman said...

@ grodrigues:

What do you think a proof in philosophy amounts to?

Apparently, not very much. Apropos of which, I ran across this in a paper related to the abortion issue:

What follows is an exercise in ontology, and clearly no conclusions of an ethical sort can be drawn directly from the answer to any ontological question.

If Feser’s arguments – and Catholic dogmata – were phrased or presented only as a philosophical system (as it is, at best) – like, say, logical positivism – then I – and probably most other people – would see far fewer problems with it or be so incensed over its implications and consequences. For one thing, how many people have been burned at the stake because they espoused pragmatism or have been murdered because they printed cartoons about Nietzsche? [Though tempers seem to have run rather high over sociobiology.]

But both those arguments and dogmata are wrapped up in dogmatic assertions as to the existence of our “immortal souls” and threats of hell-fire and damnation [at least until recently and targeted at the most vulnerable, the children] on transgression of various idiosyncratic or arbitrary “sins”. And that transmogrifies the philosophy into a religion: philosophy is religion rationalized; religion is philosophy emotionalized.

Prof. Feser nowhere says that only irrational people will fail to accept the demonstration …

Maybe not in quite those words. But, speaking of emotionalized philosophy, this seems like a reasonable facsimile thereof:

For however well-meaning this or that individual secularist may be, his creed is, I maintain (and to paraphrase Dawkins’ infamous description of critics of evolution) “ignorant, stupid, insane, and wicked.” …. As this book will show, reason (???) itself testifies that against the pest of secularist progressivism, there can be only one remedy: Écrasez l’infâme. [TLS; pg ix]

Looks to me like his characterizing those who reject his reasoning as “ignorant, stupid, insane, and wicked” would be tantamount to describing them as “irrational” people not accepting his demonstration.

While I cannot speak for him, I would wager that he maintains two things: it is rational to believe that God exists (that is what the proofs are for) ….

Apart from the question of how rational, how reasonable (“Consistent with or based on reason; logical”), it is to believe in something for which there is not a single shred of objective evidence apart from some admitted very hypothetical, tenuous and contingent premises, I would question your assertion as to the purpose of proofs.

Unless those proofs lead to some conclusions that can be verified by some empirical evidence then I can’t see that they have much value or lead to any confidence in the (hypothetical) premises. As a paradigmatic example consider that, as you probably know, the Standard Model of Particle Physics is noted for “its success in explaining a wide variety of experimental results” and that it has had some notable successes in predicting, via theoretic proofs using its “theoretically self-consistent” “axioms”, results which were later confirmed by experimental tests.

Although I will agree that performing the tests is not always easy or even possible, at which point one must either use the tools of probability or accept the hypotheses as entirely provisional – and keep that fact firmly in mind. And likewise that science itself is not immune to losing sight of that principle – in which regard you might be interested in this book review by the well-regarded biologist Richard Lewontin whom Feser quotes [TLS; pg 12] and, I think, badly misinterprets.

StoneTop said...

God is the metaphysical source of goodness in morality.

That comes across as quite nonsensical. Wouldn't your deity also be the source of all baddness as well?

Good for the children of Sodom since they don’t have to grow up in a city where the population practices bestiality, public nudity, incest, infant sacrifice by burning and God knows what pervs like that would do with little kids!

I don't know... I'm fairly sure that most people oppose being blasted out of existence.

Not bad at all!

So killing children to keep them from experiencing a life of sin and suffering is a good thing?

StoneTop said...

It makes perfect sense when goodness is defined in essentialist terms as “That which everything desires” and “everything seeks it’s own perfection”.

Except that those two statements themselves don't make any sense.

Even if I did clearly the Problem of Evil doesn’t apply to the made up classical view.

Right, because the classical view is of a deity that is both the source of "goodness" and "evil"

Steersman said...

StoneTop said:

“God is the metaphysical source of goodness in morality.”

That comes across as quite nonsensical. Wouldn't your deity also be the source of all badness as well?


How Dr. Feser pulls a rabbit out of a hat on that one is rather amusing, if not an outright joke:

Similarly, God is not personal, or good, or powerful, or intelligent in the same sense in which a human being is, but He [note the personal pronoun – rather incongruous for a “classical theist”] can nevertheless correctly be described in these terms if they are understood analogously; [I guess Sodom and Gomorrah were only analogies] while there is nothing in God that is even analogous to evil, or weakness, or stupidity, so that these terms cannot be applied to Him at all.

How do we know which terms do and do not apply? Short of divine revelation, we can know this only by examining the arguments for God’s existence and their implications.
[TLS; pg 89]

And, of course, by his own admission those proofs crucially depend on the truth of several premises which are not at all proven and which he also acknowledges. Yet he still insists on dogmatically asserting that God exists - like saying a house is perfect even though its foundations are rotten. And absent getting to the end of that chain of premises and proofs with an intact and credible conclusion it is decidedly specious and disingenuous – at the very best and that is being charitable – to insist that God is – analogously, of course – any more good, powerful and intelligent than “He” is evil, weak and stupid.

Incredible, simply incredible ….

BenYachov said...

>That comes across as quite nonsensical. Wouldn't your deity also be the source of all baddness as well?

Badness/evil is a privation of perfection. How can God be the source of a privation?
A privation is ontologically nothing so how can God be the source of nothing?

>I don't know... I'm fairly sure that most people oppose being blasted out of existence.

In a godless universe yes but in a Theistic one they don't go out of existence.

Catagory mistake. You can't criticise Theism while assuming Atheism in the same relation.

>So killing children to keep them from experiencing a life of sin and suffering is a good thing?

If God does it since He knows their end. We have no such knowledge and we have to right to take life. Only God has the absolute right to take any life for any reason.
OTOH God can will they live in that enviroment & give them sufficient Grace to compensate for the evil they must live with.


>Except that those two statements themselves don't make any sense.

How does your lack of study or research into Essentalist Philosophy invalidate them? So if I don't understand Quantum Mechanics that renders them incorrect? I think not.

>Right, because the classical view is of a deity that is both the source of "goodness" and "evil"

I already explained why this is not the case. Creating strawmen because you are too lazy to learn the concepts is not convincing.

BenYachov said...

Steersman,

In other words you are saying "No Fair! You don't worship an Anthropomorphic Deity but a Classic One!"

Steersman said...

@ Ben Yachov:

In other words you are saying "No Fair! You don't worship an Anthropomorphic Deity but a Classic One!"

No, don’t think so. If I’m not mistaken, what I’m saying is that absent some proof or evidence that your god – regardless of its attributes – actually exists, to be talking about those attributes, particularly in a dogmatic fashion, would seem to qualify as highly illogical at least and closer to ridiculous if I were less charitable.

I mean, how is the reality of your god on any better footing than the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Totally unsupported conjectures at best ....

BenYachov said...

Steersman we use philosophical proofs to know the existence of the Classical Theistic God.

A FSM, Zeus or a similar Theistic Personalist ID “god” can't be proven philosophically they can only be proven Empirically.

It is the reverse for a Classic Theistic God or are you not learning that? Are you sure you are even reading the book and not just skimming it? Beckwith(or was it the other fellow? I am too lazy right now to go look) on the dust jacket says trying to prove God via Empiricism gives away the store to the Atheists. Why would Feser make that argument? It antithetical to his view.

>[note the personal pronoun – rather incongruous for a “classical theist”]

Not if we accept the doctrine of Analogy & learn that God is compared analogously to creatures not unequivocally or wholly equivocally.

Which also can be fleshed out.

So far it is clear you still don't get the analogy vs unequivocally distinction.

>[I guess Sodom and Gomorrah were only analogies]

No they where evil cities that got their comeupance.

>And, of course, by his own admission those proofs crucially depend on the truth of several premises which are not at all proven and which he also acknowledges.

Feser does refer to Brian Davies work which does flesh out the arguments that God is not a moral agent and God is not a human person accept more Uber & caanot coherently be concived of as the sort of thing that can belong to a moral community. Plus he explains why God can be called good. He gives 3 of the five ways after properly explaining them. I see a lot of poo poo and ridicule but no real counter argument. I see a lot of “But he can’t prove the classic God empirically!” and we here all know the dead end LP happens to be.

You will have to do better I’m afraid.