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The Problem with the Ontological Argument for the Existence of God

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  • AdrienAdrien Registered User
    edited May 2009
    _J_ wrote: »
    Adrien wrote: »
    _J_ wrote: »
    Adrien wrote: »
    An atheist would say, "It's weird that you need two words for 'Nature'."

    It helps with equivocation.

    And that one of the words you're using already means something else to everybody else in the world.

    Right, but their understanding is incorrect. So it helps in that sense.

    "You can still talk about 'god', but know that you mean 'nature'."

    What do you do when someone says, "I know what 'nature' means, and by 'God' I mean something different"?

    As almost every person on Earth would?

    Adrien on
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  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    This feels like the debate about civil unions and marriage all over again.

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  • _J__J_ Pedant Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    edited May 2009
    MikeMan wrote: »
    Words mean things.

    Insofar as we all participate in a similar language game, perhaps. But there is no rigid or strict binding between "GOD" and any specific meaning attributed to that particular organization of letters or, if spoken, noise.

    Language is akin to currency insofar as it has no inherent value but, rather, its value or meaning comes from those who participate in the particular game in which that word or unit of currency has value.

    Anyone who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you something...or get you to cling to some sort of unsubstantiated Dogma.

    _J_ on
  • mysticjuicermysticjuicer [he/him] I'm a muscle wizard and I cast P U N C HRegistered User regular
    edited May 2009
    _J_ wrote: »
    MikeMan wrote: »
    Words mean things.

    Insofar as we all participate in a similar language game, perhaps. But there is no rigid or strict binding between "GOD" and any specific meaning attributed to that particular organization of letters or, if spoken, noise.

    Language is akin to currency insofar as it has no inherent value but, rather, its value or meaning comes from those who participate in the particular game in which that word or unit of currency has value.

    Anyone who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you something...or get you to cling to some sort of unsubstantiated Dogma.

    Hear hear! I too rail against the oppression of strict meaning! Cats are what I keep my beer in to keep them cold! One cow revolves around the earth, reflecting milk from the duck! :|

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  • _J__J_ Pedant Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    edited May 2009
    Hear hear! I too rail against the oppression of strict meaning! Cats are what I keep my beer in to keep them cold! One cow revolves around the earth, reflecting milk from the duck! :|

    Within a particular language game that is entirely sensible. Within another language game it is nonsense.

    Welcome to context and relativism. Welcome to life.

    Buy a fucking hat where "hat" means whatever you want it to mean.

    And God is Nature, damn it.

    _J_ on
  • BaalorBaalor Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    When an athiest claims that he doesn't believe in god then the word god means whatever the ATHIEST define it to be.

    Anyone can then come along and say "But to me god means you, are you saying you don't believe in yourself? That dosn't make any sense to me."

    And the Athiest wouldn't care.

    Baalor on
  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    _J_ wrote: »
    Hear hear! I too rail against the oppression of strict meaning! Cats are what I keep my beer in to keep them cold! One cow revolves around the earth, reflecting milk from the duck! :|

    Within a particular language game that is entirely sensible. Within another language game it is nonsense.

    Welcome to context and relativism. Welcome to life.

    Buy a fucking hat where "hat" means whatever you want it to mean.

    And God is Nature, damn it.


    The language game in which we all engage on a daily basis is the social contract of our native language. It is understood without being stated that you will use words in a manner which agrees with the consensus accepted definition of those words, typically being the one which appears in a dictionary though it varies for slang terms and jargon, or, if you are using a word in a manner not in agreement with the consensus definition, you will so indicate either by direct statement or through context.

    Within the strictures of this game, the word God in the English language is defined as I stated a few pages ago in my quote from Mirriam-Webster. Nature is not a good fit for any of those four definitions for the word God (paraphrasing from memory):

    1)(capitalized) A supreme or ultimate reality as a) a being perfect in wisdom, power, and goodness who is worshiped as creator and ruler of the universe or b) the incorporeal divine principle which rules over all as eternal spirit and infinite mind.

    This one almost fits, except that you have to stretch the definitions of 'wisdom' (the ability to discern what is right, true, or lasting; common sense; the sum of knowledge over time; a wise outlook, plan, or course of action) such that the fact that nature incorporates all things it 'knows' them without having any actual consciousness, 'power' (for which there are 20 definitions, none of which is 'nature' and all of which are either irrelevant or imply intent in that they are the capacity for some action), and 'goodness'. 1b is right out since nature has no mind and does not imply the existence of spirit.

    2) A being or object with supernatural capacities and which requires human worship

    Nature by definition is not supernatural. It also does not require worship.

    3) A person or thing of supreme value

    I don't really see how you could assign any 'value' to nature given that the definitions for 'value' (other than mathematical or musical ones) all imply possession or worth. Nature is all-encompassing so cannot be 'valued'.

    4) A great ruler

    Nature doesn't rule anything.


    So no, nature is not God as it is commonly understood. I could accept an argument for nature as god using definition 3, but definitions 1 and 2 are, I think most people would agree, the truly common definitions for God. The Hope Diamond would be God under definition 3. Obama would be God under definition 4 (for at least one definition of 'great'). But none other than 1a and 1b are definitions for God anyway, they're for 'god', uncapitalized.

    As far as atheism go, I think the people bashing MikeMan must not be very familiar with practicing atheists. Atheism can mean whatever the person wants it to mean because it's a statement of belief, but in general the one common factor of all atheists I've heard describe their beliefs is that they do not believe in a God who requires human worship. Nature, whether you call it God or not, does not require worship. Being does not require worship. The aspects of modern science which require some degree of faith to accept do not require worship. The God of Abraham requires worship. The Gods of India require worship. The Gods of the Norse, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Greeks, the Romans, the various Gods of the Fertile Crescent and of native African, Australian, and American peoples both South and North... all of them require worship. Buddhism requires no worship because there is no God of Buddhism. Taoism has no God and requires no worship of its practitioners. I know atheist taoists.

    Not all Gods are omnipotent, omniscient, or omnibenevolent. Odin was none of those, nor was Coyote, nor Papa Legba, nor Hera, nor Amateratsu. The God of the Jews is not omnibenevolent and a convincing argument could be made against omniscience and omnipotence. The only common thread that I see is that all of them are, in some way, worshiped. If your God does not require your worship and your theism in no way encourages worship beyond 'reverence for the wonder of nature' or similar then I say that your god is no God.

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  • PodlyPodly you unzipped me! it's all coming back! i don't like it!Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    The language game in which we all engage on a daily basis is the social contract of our native language.

    Kripke's Rule-Following Paradox.

    How do you know that what was meant when you did 68+57=125 did not actually mean 68⊕57, where if x,y < 57, =5? Following a Wittgensteinian rule analysis, it is impossible to actually know.

    Both Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations and Kripke's Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Languages are fascinating accounts of the public nature of language.

    As an aside, however, it seemed that your account of language rests on an Externalist account of language, which seems different from your previous internalist stance. I just glanced this over, however, because I'm working on my Greek, and I thought that you might be interested in Kripkenstein.

    I'll post some more substantiative posts later.

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  • MikeManMikeMan Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    _J_ wrote: »
    MikeMan wrote: »
    Words mean things.

    Insofar as we all participate in a similar language game, perhaps. But there is no rigid or strict binding between "GOD" and any specific meaning attributed to that particular organization of letters or, if spoken, noise.

    Language is akin to currency insofar as it has no inherent value but, rather, its value or meaning comes from those who participate in the particular game in which that word or unit of currency has value.

    Anyone who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you something...or get you to cling to some sort of unsubstantiated Dogma.
    Missing the point entirely.

    MikeMan on
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  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    The language game in which we all engage on a daily basis is the social contract of our native language.

    Kripke's Rule-Following Paradox.

    How do you know that what was meant when you did 68+57=125 did not actually mean 68⊕57, where if x,y < 57, =5? Following a Wittgensteinian rule analysis, it is impossible to actually know.

    Both Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations and Kripke's Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Languages are fascinating accounts of the public nature of language.

    As an aside, however, it seemed that your account of language rests on an Externalist account of language, which seems different from your previous internalist stance. I just glanced this over, however, because I'm working on my Greek, and I thought that you might be interested in Kripkenstein.

    I'll post some more substantiative posts later.

    I am sure that there is a realm of philosophical thought where the ideas presented in that link make any sense whatsoever, but that is not a realm which I inhabit. The mathematics argument makes no sense to me, but I think I can see where it would make sense to a person unfamiliar with the foundations of arithmetic. The idea that no decision can be made based on a rule because any decision can be made to adhere to a rule after the fact is equally ridiculous. If the rule is that you cannot drive faster than 55mph, driving 56mph is a violation of the rule. You could say that you were driving 55mph in relation to someone who was, themselves, driving 1mph, but the understood predicate of the rule is that you cannot drive more than 55mph in reference to the commonly accepted reference frame of the sign displaying the rule, as it is currently affixed the the Earth, which is the planet you are located on at the time, etc. etc. etc. Certainly a case can always be made by some tortured path of reasoning that any decision is in accordance with any rule, but that fact has no bearing on anything besides itself. It's no more worthwhile than hard-line solipsism. Sure, there's no straight argument for it, but so what? It precludes any further discussion without providing any insight or prediction to supplant the discussion it precludes. This argument is even worse than hard-line solipsism because, according to it, you cannot even make the internal statement that you exist because you are able to conceive of your existence. After all, the statement may have meant that you actually don't exist, or it might have meant something else, or nothing at all.

    It's mental masturbation and I won't be a party to it. Words mean things. If you want words to mean different things, you have to say so. A mathematical paper attempting a solution of the Goldbach Conjecture does not begin with: {0} is the empty set. Let { {0} } be the set containing the empty set and let this be called 1. Let the operation A U B for A,B sets be the union of the sets A, B such that any i which is a member of A or B is a member of the set A U B and such that there is no j which is a member of A U B which is neither a member of A nor B. Let A + B with A,B sets be an operation which creates a set which is A U B U { A U B }, the union of the sets A and B and a set which contains the union of the sets A and B. Let N be called the set of natural numbers and let it be a set containing 1 and all sets generated by the operation 1 + A with A a member of N. etc. etc. The natural numbers are defined, as are the reals and the integers, and the complex numbers, and many mathematical operations. The proof does not begin from first principles because these are understood. A conversation need not begin with the formation of an ontology of words to be used unless those words are to be used in a manner which disagrees with the understood meanings, which are the meanings provided in dictionaries, understood as slang or jargon, or which are provided in context.

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  • PodlyPodly you unzipped me! it's all coming back! i don't like it!Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Two propositions are floating around, which I fear are going unchecked.

    1) That there is such a thing as "nature."

    What do you mean by "nature?" It seems to me that it is either a kind of catch-all word for "beings" in the universe, or else is the universe abstracted, that nature is the mathematically reducible mechanics in which beings are. I do not think that nature is a very coherent term, and I feel that its definition and usage needs to be exfoliated/expanded.

    2) That words have meanings.

    Words do have meaning. That seems incontestable. However, just shouting the fact does not reveal some demonstrative reason why. Before I argue any further, I would like to know why words have meanings. (I'm guessing that it will have to do with the public nature of words and language.)

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  • DaedalusDaedalus Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Because if words didn't have meaning, there would be no reason for them to exist. "Meaning" belongs to the concept of "words".
    :P

    Daedalus on
  • darthmixdarthmix Registered User
    edited May 2009
    I've always assumed that "nature" refers to all those elements of the universe that are not brought about by human intelligence (or some other comparable intelligence); everything that is not a product or by-product of our conscious effort to reshape our world. The term is defined more by what it excludes than what it includes.

    This seems to me to fit most contextual uses of the term; when we talk about "the nature of" a thing, we're usually referring to whatever properties the thing has independantly of what we bring to it. It gets somewhat difficult when we talk about the nature of a thing we've created - what is the nature of a handgun? - but I think that's because we consider the purpose of its creator to be a property of the object.

    darthmix on
  • PodlyPodly you unzipped me! it's all coming back! i don't like it!Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    The concept of Being is not inherently abhorrent to an atheist, although they may disagree with the metaphysics that lead to it, or metaphysics in general. Many atheists support an epistemology (knowingly or not) that conceives of very harsh limits on human understanding, specifically our capacity to meaningfully understand or interpret the universe on a "metaphysical" level, since we are part of it.

    To them, a question like "what is existence?" is impossible to answer, because our means of investigating or conceiving of that question (or its answer) are limited as physical beings with specifically evolved brains which interact with "reality" in a severely mediated fashion.

    Similarly, any conclusions reached from that question are empty because they operate on the assumption that we can have any kind of understanding of existence. They propose that we should try our best, but it's most likely (or will for a long time be) a brute fact, and we should get on with our lives.

    Earlier, you posited “Religion is the anthropomorphization of the universe, to prevent it from being absurd.” While I am charmed by the poetics of your rhetoric, I think that it glosses over human nature to snipe one specific aspect of that nature. Religion, you hold, is a [vain] attempt to project meaning upon an absurd – read: meaningless – existence. Perhaps. And yet I ask: what could possibly be absurd – what could possibly not having meaning? Everything is absurd; there is no inherent meaning in anything. Nevertheless, our phenomenological experience is such that it is impossible for anything to be meaningless. Were something to be meaningless, it would have no identity; it would be undifferentiated and thus impossible to speak of its existence. For something to be something, it necessarily has meaning. Even if it is basic as “water=H20,” everything is meaningful, or else it couldn’t have identity. So, to me, the rejection of a question based upon its impossibility is willfully ignoring the problem, pretending it does not exist.

    This is not to say that everything has existentially hefty meaning or import. Clearly, it does not. Nevertheless, to say that the universe is absurd and that certain questions are meaningless is a direct rejection of the human experience.
    The manner in which the definition of God becomes applied to Being is different. You might argue this, but clearly it is the case for most people. That form of definition, if an atheist accepts Being as a valid concept, is not objectionable because it does not match the concept of God to which an atheist objects. It does not have the attributes of God in the way that God is conceived of having them. As such, you change the goalposts, and the atheist no longer objects based on his atheism. He may object based on his other ontological beliefs, of course.

    Your argument structure is deceptive. You structure your protasis as the consequent and the apodosis as the antecedent: you say X is true, but only on the basis of corollary Y. You “prove” the above point by differing the argument on different grounds. You reject my fundamental description of God and accuse me of moving the goal post, and then push the reasons down to a coda, which is actually your real argument. You change the goal posts as much as I do, because you say that the ontotheological God does not impact life, but direct the arguments of the nature of God, the very arguments which would attack your claims, to a different argument. As such, I will debate the following.
    b) Is God really only omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence?

    A form of the same key issue: the way in which Being is defined as God is different from the way a god is defined as God.

    This comes back to the question of mindfulness, which I raised earlier. Clearly, God does not have a mind in the traditional sense, in any religious conception; he is conceived of as existing outside of the physical universe in some fashion.

    Perhaps a better word, then, is simply "life."

    Whence comes this jump to “life?” You say mindfulness, as if a truly theologically sound God could be mindful, and nevertheless ignore the questions of Being being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Even your conjecture of “God being alive” has no substance unless it is Being itself that provides for such a life. Were God to be “alive,” he would have to fall back upon something which makes himself substantial. If God is Being, then this point, however, is moot.

    I argue that the traditional definition of omniscience is faulty, and is based upon the unsound mindfulness. God is not mindful of all truth; rather, God IS true. Being constitutes all truth. It is impossible for truth to exist without beings BEING true. Being is what sustains and fosters the ability for truth – Being, which Heidegger postulates as presencing is a clearing for beings, clears the way for and sustains truth.

    And, of course, as I have argued, Being is the paradigm of absolute presence, i.e., omnipresence. To reject this argument gets you into quite a pitfall by arguing the plurivocality of Being, that things exist in different ways.
    By your definition of Being, Being is not alive. It is no more alive than gravity. There is nothing to make anyone believe that it is alive.

    I argue that this point refuses to confront the ultimate ontology of a possibly divine being.
    Words obviously cannot properly convey whatever a God would possess in its "mind," but personality, intent, consciousness, thought - on some grand, incomprehensible scale, these are fundamentally necessary to God. To be a personal God, God must be a person. Perhaps that is the best word. God must be a person. Being is in no way a person.

    A preferable religion would have this, yes. But those are higher attributes that one places on God. You refuse to argue the fundamental points.

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  • AdrienAdrien Registered User
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    Words obviously cannot properly convey whatever a God would possess in its "mind," but personality, intent, consciousness, thought - on some grand, incomprehensible scale, these are fundamentally necessary to God. To be a personal God, God must be a person. Perhaps that is the best word. God must be a person. Being is in no way a person.

    A preferable religion would have this, yes. But those are higher attributes that one places on God. You refuse to argue the fundamental points.

    Wait, are you saying that God-as-person is something more than God-as-existence?

    ...dare one say something greater?

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  • PodlyPodly you unzipped me! it's all coming back! i don't like it!Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Adrien wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    Words obviously cannot properly convey whatever a God would possess in its "mind," but personality, intent, consciousness, thought - on some grand, incomprehensible scale, these are fundamentally necessary to God. To be a personal God, God must be a person. Perhaps that is the best word. God must be a person. Being is in no way a person.

    A preferable religion would have this, yes. But those are higher attributes that one places on God. You refuse to argue the fundamental points.

    Wait, are you saying that God-as-person is something more than God-as-existence?

    ...dare one say something greater?

    Good point. I disagree though, and argue that you are using greater as a human-based feeling of value. It would make it "easier" for humans to deal with, and very well may be, but it is complex and not fundamental to the constitution of a diving being.

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  • Alistair HuttonAlistair Hutton Dr EdinburghRegistered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    2) That words have meanings.

    Words do have meaning. That seems incontestable. However, just shouting the fact does not reveal some demonstrative reason why. Before I argue any further, I would like to know why words have meanings. (I'm guessing that it will have to do with the public nature of words and language.)

    I had a really interesting reply to this but after deconstructing the paragraph then deconstructing then my deconstruction I realised that the above paragraph didn't make any sense and was in-fact entirely contradictory.

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  • darthmixdarthmix Registered User
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    The concept of Being is not inherently abhorrent to an atheist, although they may disagree with the metaphysics that lead to it, or metaphysics in general. Many atheists support an epistemology (knowingly or not) that conceives of very harsh limits on human understanding, specifically our capacity to meaningfully understand or interpret the universe on a "metaphysical" level, since we are part of it.

    To them, a question like "what is existence?" is impossible to answer, because our means of investigating or conceiving of that question (or its answer) are limited as physical beings with specifically evolved brains which interact with "reality" in a severely mediated fashion.

    Similarly, any conclusions reached from that question are empty because they operate on the assumption that we can have any kind of understanding of existence. They propose that we should try our best, but it's most likely (or will for a long time be) a brute fact, and we should get on with our lives.

    Earlier, you posited “Religion is the anthropomorphization of the universe, to prevent it from being absurd.” While I am charmed by the poetics of your rhetoric, I think that it glosses over human nature to snipe one specific aspect of that nature. Religion, you hold, is a [vain] attempt to project meaning upon an absurd – read: meaningless – existence. Perhaps. And yet I ask: what could possibly be absurd – what could possibly not having meaning? Everything is absurd; there is no inherent meaning in anything. Nevertheless, our phenomenological experience is such that it is impossible for anything to be meaningless. Were something to be meaningless, it would have no identity; it would be undifferentiated and thus impossible to speak of its existence. For something to be something, it necessarily has meaning. Even if it is basic as “water=H20,” everything is meaningful, or else it couldn’t have identity. So, to me, the rejection of a question based upon its impossibility is willfully ignoring the problem, pretending it does not exist.

    This is not to say that everything has existentially hefty meaning or import. Clearly, it does not. Nevertheless, to say that the universe is absurd and that certain questions are meaningless is a direct rejection of the human experience.
    No, it's just one way of articulating our experience of the universe, and our relation to it. Nothing has inherant meaning, or even identity, except the meaning we apply to it and the indentity we assign it, according to our various needs or desires. That doesn't mean they're illusions, that the meaning is somehow false; it's just only meaningful in terms of, and in relation to, our consciousness. In that way, all our experience projects meaning onto the absurd in the same way religion does. This is just another way of expressing physicalism, saying that the universe is inherantly physical rather than inherantly meaningful. We can observe that all meaning exists only in terms of our consciousness, and that it is not a fundamental aspect of the universe; observing that does not violate or reject human experience.

    darthmix on
  • PodlyPodly you unzipped me! it's all coming back! i don't like it!Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    darthmix wrote: »
    Nothing has inherant meaning, or even identity, except the meaning we apply to it and the indentity we assign it, according to our various needs or desires

    This is directly contrary to the account of language as publicly defined. You are saying that "meaning" is an internal private language, that we differentiate identities based on our "needs or desires." The physical world, itself, is undifferentiated. This seems to be problem on many levels.

    1) It introduces the private language. A major thrust of this argument is "that's semantics!" However, if private languages are the de fact languages, then all meaning is private and semantical. Clearly, this is a problem.

    2) There seem to be individual entities in the world. Aren't genes individual, and transmit data which is expressed. Things like trees seem to be unique in their identity.

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  • AdrienAdrien Registered User
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    2) There seem to be individual entities in the world. Aren't genes individual, and transmit data which is expressed. Things like trees seem to be unique in their identity.

    Only subjectively. What makes two trees like each other? What separates a tree from the planet at large?

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  • darthmixdarthmix Registered User
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    darthmix wrote: »
    Nothing has inherant meaning, or even identity, except the meaning we apply to it and the indentity we assign it, according to our various needs or desires

    This is directly contrary to the account of language as publicly defined. You are saying that "meaning" is an internal private language, that we differentiate identities based on our "needs or desires."
    It's only private in the sense that the physical universe does not share it; the prospect of meaning exists only for us, and to a lesser degree animals, and any other conscious being who's capable of mentally arranging the world according to her needs.
    The physical world, itself, is undifferentiated. This seems to be problem on many levels.
    It's not an argument that the physical world is undifferentiated, in the sense that it contains no differences. It does. But everything also contains physical differences within it; your body is physically different from the air around you, but your skin is also physically different from your hair, and your blood is different from your skin, so that to highlight once set of differences over the others and consider you distinct from the air is essentially arbitrary. The universe makes no such distinction; only we do.
    1) It introduces the private language. A major thrust of this argument is "that's semantics!" However, if private languages are the de fact languages, then all meaning is private and semantical. Clearly, this is a problem.
    All meaning is private to the human race, and language is a vehicle of that meaning, if not an essential ingredient of it. To the extent that some of us have accused you of misapplying the label God to a state of affairs that doesn't deserve the label, we've done so because we feel human beings have had reasons for defining God as a powerful person rather than some unconscious, inhuman truth of the universe. It is a semantic issue; there's nothing stopping you from using the term however you want. The question is whether you're effectively communicating anything to the rest of us when you use the term in a way that's counter to the general understanding.
    2) There seem to be individual entities in the world. Aren't genes individual, and transmit data which is expressed. Things like trees seem to be unique in their identity.
    As has already been said, entities are only individual in our subjective experience. The genes you're referring to are themselves made up of individual compounds, and atoms, and subatomic particles, and so on. Considering them as genes makes biological sense, since as genes they're instrumental to our survival, but that circles back to our need again.

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  • PodlyPodly you unzipped me! it's all coming back! i don't like it!Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Contention 1
    darthmix wrote: »
    It's only private in the sense that the physical universe does not share it; the prospect of meaning exists only for us, and to a lesser degree animals, and any other conscious being who's capable of mentally arranging the world according to her needs.

    The physical world has to share something with the meaning of the world, however, or else you are back in the realm of private languages. When we are shown a red fruit as a child, we are told "this is an apple." It does not matter whether it is actually a mango -- if everyone we talk to calls mangoes apples, then they are apples. However, there is something there that we refer to when we say "apple." The word itself has an external referent that give the initial impetus for meaning, it gives the spark of identity to the word. To say otherwise is to argue that the meaning of the word comes solely from our psychological understanding of the world, which spirals down into a private language. If you posit a private language, then your arguments concerning the popular definition of God are useless and irrelevant.

    Contention 2
    It's not an argument that the physical world is undifferentiated, in the sense that it contains no differences. It does. But everything also contains physical differences within it; your body is physically different from the air around you, but your skin is also physically different from your hair, and your blood is different from your skin, so that to highlight once set of differences over the others and consider you distinct from the air is essentially arbitrary. The universe makes no such distinction; only we do.

    Difference gives rise to identity. Identity is grounds for meaning. The meaning of a word refers outwards to the actual Being of a being.
    All meaning is private to the human race, and language is a vehicle of that meaning, if not an essential ingredient of it. To the extent that some of us have accused you of misapplying the label God to a state of affairs that doesn't deserve the label, we've done so because we feel human beings have had reasons for defining God as a powerful person rather than some unconscious, inhuman truth of the universe. It is a semantic issue; there's nothing stopping you from using the term however you want. The question is whether you're effectively communicating anything to the rest of us when you use the term in a way that's counter to the general understanding.

    To coherently believe this point, you need to reject your two contentions.

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  • darthmixdarthmix Registered User
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    Contention 1
    darthmix wrote: »
    It's only private in the sense that the physical universe does not share it; the prospect of meaning exists only for us, and to a lesser degree animals, and any other conscious being who's capable of mentally arranging the world according to her needs.

    The physical world has to share something with the meaning of the world, however, or else you are back in the realm of private languages. When we are shown a red fruit as a child, we are told "this is an apple." It does not matter whether it is actually a mango -- if everyone we talk to calls mangoes apples, then they are apples. However, there is something there that we refer to when we say "apple." The word itself has an external referent that give the initial impetus for meaning, it gives the spark of identity to the word. To say otherwise is to argue that the meaning of the word comes solely from our psychological understanding of the world, which spirals down into a private language.
    But from whom is this language private? It's certainly private from the apple, which is incapable of identifying itself as an apple, or understanding that identity. But among human beings it's very public, practically universal, because we share a biological construction that leads us to consider the apple food. That's what it means to us - it is a source of nourishment, with a particular flavor that we've come to know from experience. But all of that meaning exists only for us, in relation to our needs and experiences and memories as they regard the apple. The apple itself is a collection of atoms surrounded by other atoms; it has no objective meaning, or any objective differentiation from its environment.
    If you posit a private language, then your arguments concerning the popular definition of God are useless and irrelevant.
    How does that follow? What I've argued is that people have defined God as a conscious, controlling, benevolent person for a reason: they desire such a God to exist, to lend some human purpose to the physical universe. We've defined the apple according to our own purposes, and we've defined God the same way. We never considered rocks apples, because we couldn't eat them. And people don't consider the Being you've spoken of to be God because it doesn't tell me my life is moral, or that the world was created toward a purpose I can understand. We conceived God specifically to do that. As long as you belong to the human race, as long as you share the basic physical and psychological construction that drove our ancestors toward that need, you're not excluded from this "language." It's not private in that sense.
    It's not an argument that the physical world is undifferentiated, in the sense that it contains no differences. It does. But everything also contains physical differences within it; your body is physically different from the air around you, but your skin is also physically different from your hair, and your blood is different from your skin, so that to highlight once set of differences over the others and consider you distinct from the air is essentially arbitrary. The universe makes no such distinction; only we do.
    Difference gives rise to identity. Identity is grounds for meaning. The meaning of a word refers outwards to the actual Being of a being.
    Difference alone is not at all sufficient grounds for identity. In order to have identity, a thing must be distinct in a way that is perceptible and useful to us. As far as the universe is concerned, the apple is not just no different from the rock; it is part of the rock, because it is part of the apple tree, which is part of the earth, of which the rock is also a part. The earth is a concentration of matter that sits in a cloud of more matter. The identifying border that we draw between the apple and the rock is only significant if we have a reason to regard them differently; it's only significant if we have different uses for them and different experiences of them. The apple's structure is heterogeneous, as is the structure of the earth of which it is one arbitrary part, as are the structures of all physical things, variously; but it's only us who assign it individuality or identity, base on our experience of it and needs as they regard it.

    darthmix on
  • AdrienAdrien Registered User
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    Contention 1
    darthmix wrote: »
    It's only private in the sense that the physical universe does not share it; the prospect of meaning exists only for us, and to a lesser degree animals, and any other conscious being who's capable of mentally arranging the world according to her needs.

    The physical world has to share something with the meaning of the world, however, or else you are back in the realm of private languages. When we are shown a red fruit as a child, we are told "this is an apple." It does not matter whether it is actually a mango -- if everyone we talk to calls mangoes apples, then they are apples. However, there is something there that we refer to when we say "apple." The word itself has an external referent that give the initial impetus for meaning, it gives the spark of identity to the word. To say otherwise is to argue that the meaning of the word comes solely from our psychological understanding of the world, which spirals down into a private language. If you posit a private language, then your arguments concerning the popular definition of God are useless and irrelevant.

    There's nothing really separating language from other learned behavior. "Communication" is an abstraction; babies develop language for the same reason they develop visual processing and motor control, to manipulate their environment. It's helpful to abstract upon that, but that's the essential nature of words.
    Contention 2
    It's not an argument that the physical world is undifferentiated, in the sense that it contains no differences. It does. But everything also contains physical differences within it; your body is physically different from the air around you, but your skin is also physically different from your hair, and your blood is different from your skin, so that to highlight once set of differences over the others and consider you distinct from the air is essentially arbitrary. The universe makes no such distinction; only we do.

    Difference gives rise to identity. Identity is grounds for meaning. The meaning of a word refers outwards to the actual Being of a being.

    Difference is subjective. I consider water different from the air, but I consider a pencil similar to a pen. There's nothing metaphysical relating my conception of a pen to the physical object which I call that, it's just a convenient mode of thought.

    Why are we even talking about this?

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  • PodlyPodly you unzipped me! it's all coming back! i don't like it!Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Adrien wrote: »
    There's nothing really separating language from other learned behavior. "Communication" is an abstraction; babies develop language for the same reason they develop visual processing and motor control, to manipulate their environment. It's helpful to abstract upon that, but that's the essential nature of words.

    Probably. And behavior follows rules, and is functions more or less like a game. Hence I linked to Wittgenstein and Kripke -- that skepticism about following rules leads us into a paradox that we can only dismiss by ignoring it with pragmatism.
    Why are we even talking about this?

    Because people were arguing from a combined externalist/internalist + public/private stance with regards to language use, which was rather incoherent and was getting in the line of discussion. This, in turn, obscured the "meaning of meaning."

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  • _J__J_ Pedant Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    Because people were arguing from a combined externalist/internalist + public/private stance with regards to language use, which was rather incoherent and was getting in the line of discussion. This, in turn, obscured the "meaning of meaning."

    Also, as this thread regards ontological arguments it is helpful to have an understanding of language and meaning.

    _J_ on
  • PodlyPodly you unzipped me! it's all coming back! i don't like it!Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Adrien wrote: »
    Difference is subjective. I consider water different from the air, but I consider a pencil similar to a pen. There's nothing metaphysical relating my conception of a pen to the physical object which I call that, it's just a convenient mode of thought.

    I am also not sure about this. Difference is not necessarily subjective, unless you want to introduce a perdurantist, four-dimensional ontology, where a star can exist for my temporal time-slice but not for yours. If you want to introduce this, then I feel that my argument -- that all beings which are possible exist -- is strengthened, and, indeed perhaps even the ontological argument itself is affirmed

    Why? Because if difference is subjective, then existence itself is subjective. That which exists is different from that which does not exist. Mechanical states differ -- presumably the ultimately reducible elements of quantum physics differ from each other. Information differs from itself. That X exists differs from the possibility of X not existing. I do not see how this argument can be refuted.

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  • ThisThis Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    Being is the ultimate law -- there are things, presenced by Being. There can be no more fundamental law, and thus it has the most abstract and present force.

    I have yet to see you present any justification whatsoever for the bolded assumption.

    This on
  • ThisThis Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    _J_ wrote: »
    Starcross wrote: »
    Do we really have any idea what THAT THAN WHICH A GREATER CANNOT BE THOUGHT would be like? What kind of an entity is it?
    I'm going with "the universe".

    Possibly "the multiverse".

    That would be Spinoza's answer, yes.

    That Than Which A Greater Cannot Be Thought would be That Than Which A Greater Cannot Be Thought. One has to understand the terms. If one hears "That Than Which A Greater Cannot Be Thought" and their question is, "Ok...so...is it purple?" I think one has fundamentally missed the point of the conversation.

    We are not talking about the particular predicates applicable to the thing. We are discussing the ontological status of the thing. That Than Which A Greater Cannot Be Thought is the thing than which a greater cannot be thought; the greatest thing.

    We're not talking about purpleness. We're not talking about its personality or lack thereof. We're not talking about its intentions. We're simply talking about THAT THAN WHICH A GREATER CANNOT BE THOUGHT.

    Ignore predicates. Just talk about the ontological status of the thing.

    I already responded to this line of "reasoning" here.

    This on
  • jothkijothki Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    That which exists is different from that which does not exist.

    This I disagree with. Nothing can be claimed about things that don't exist, since they don't exist. Or perhaps everything can be claimed about them. To say that things that exist are different than things that don't exist, you'd need some basis for comparison between the two groups.

    jothki on
  • ThisThis Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    jothki wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    That which exists is different from that which does not exist.

    This I disagree with. Nothing can be claimed about things that don't exist, since they don't exist. Or perhaps everything can be claimed about them. To say that things that exist are different than things that don't exist, you'd need some basis for comparison between the two groups.

    I don't know, I think it's fair to say that my guitar is different than a 200-foot-tall walking hamburger in that my guitar exists. Or to say that Joe Pesci is different than Jesus Christ in that Joe Pesci exists.

    This on
  • AdrienAdrien Registered User
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    Adrien wrote: »
    Difference is subjective. I consider water different from the air, but I consider a pencil similar to a pen. There's nothing metaphysical relating my conception of a pen to the physical object which I call that, it's just a convenient mode of thought.

    I am also not sure about this. Difference is not necessarily subjective, unless you want to introduce a perdurantist, four-dimensional ontology, where a star can exist for my temporal time-slice but not for yours. If you want to introduce this, then I feel that my argument -- that all beings which are possible exist -- is strengthened, and, indeed perhaps even the ontological argument itself is affirmed

    Why? Because if difference is subjective, then existence itself is subjective. That which exists is different from that which does not exist. Mechanical states differ -- presumably the ultimately reducible elements of quantum physics differ from each other. Information differs from itself. That X exists differs from the possibility of X not existing. I do not see how this argument can be refuted.

    Well I guess my basic premise is that similarity is subjective. Why do you call a star a star? Because it fits some abstract notion of star-ness, along with a bunch of other stellar objects you call stars. But unless you're going to get all Platonic on me, there's no such thing as an abstract star— it's a generalization where you ignore the differences between the things in order to categorize them. The category of "stars" is not a real thing, it's a useful abstraction.

    That's how I get to saying that difference is subjective: Without that subjective category, if you can't say that two things are both stars, you can't say what's different about them in any useful way. Without similarities, two different things are only difference, right down to the fermions and bosons (and whatever those are made of) which may as well be an infinity of absolutely unique particles.

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  • PodlyPodly you unzipped me! it's all coming back! i don't like it!Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    jothki wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    That which exists is different from that which does not exist.

    This I disagree with. Nothing can be claimed about things that don't exist, since they don't exist. Or perhaps everything can be claimed about them. To say that things that exist are different than things that don't exist, you'd need some basis for comparison between the two groups.

    Why does X=X?

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  • ronyaronya Arrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Definition of the law of identity, i.e., the meaning of "=".

    edit: a wonderful quote from SEP
    Many other objections to (some) ontological arguments have been proposed. All of the following have been alleged to be the key to the explanation of the failure of (at least some) ontological arguments:
    (1) existence is not a predicate (see, e.g., Kant, Smart (1955), Alston (1960));
    (2) the concept of god is meaningless/incoherent/ inconsistent (see, e.g., Findlay (1949));
    (3) ontological arguments are ruled out by "the missing explanation argument" (see Johnston (1992));
    (4) ontological arguments all trade on mistaken uses of singular terms (see, e.g., Barnes (1972));
    (5) existence is not a perfection (see almost any textbook in philosophy of religion);
    (6) ontological arguments presuppose a Meinongian approach to ontology (see, e.g., Dummett (1993)); and
    (7) ontological arguments are question-begging, i.e., presuppose what they set out to prove (see, e.g., Rowe (1989)).

    There are many things to say about these objections: the most important point is that almost all of them require far more controversial assumptions than non-theists require in order to be able to reject ontological arguments with good conscience. Trying to support most of these claims merely in order to beat up on ontological arguments is like using a steamroller to crack a nut (in circumstances in which one is unsure that one can get the steamroller to move!).

    Of course, all of the above discussion is directed merely to the claim that ontological arguments are not dialectically efficacious — i.e., they give reasonable non-theists no reason to change their views. It might be wondered whether there is some other use which ontological arguments have — e.g., as Plantinga claims, in establishing the reasonableness of theism. This seems unlikely. After all, at best these arguments show that certain sets of sentences (beliefs, etc.) are incompatible — one cannot reject the conclusions of these arguments while accepting their premises. But the arguments themselves say nothing about the reasonableness of accepting the premisses. So the arguments themselves say nothing about the (unconditional) reasonableness of accepting the conclusions of these arguments. Those who are disposed to think that theism is irrational need find nothing in ontological arguments to make them change their minds (and those who are disposed to think that theism is true should take no comfort from them either).

    Which is probably related to why this thread is thirty five pages long. You're not going to find amazing smackdown arguments here, not when generations of philosophers have tried and failed. But the ontological argument itself isn't convincing either simply because its premises are not obvious, which is what rendered it a dead field of enquiry in the first place!

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  • SamiSami Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    I disagree.

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  • armageddonboundarmageddonbound Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    For the record I think this is a great thread. Also for the record, I think this thread is 30 some pages of a couple intelligent guys (Podlyand _J_ for example) jumping through philosophical hoops in order to cling to their safety blanket "god" (and avoid an existential crisis in the process). This hoop jumping and redefining serves to strip their safety blanket of any useful meaning.

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  • PodlyPodly you unzipped me! it's all coming back! i don't like it!Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    and avoid an existential crisis in the process

    It's hard for me to have "an existential crisis" when I'm arguing against the traditional argument of existence. Hell, the stance that I'm arguing for stems from the philosophy that invented the existential crisis :P

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  • armageddonboundarmageddonbound Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    and avoid an existential crisis in the process

    It's hard for me to have "an existential crisis" when I'm arguing against the traditional argument of existence. Hell, the stance that I'm arguing for stems from the philosophy that invented the existential crisis :P

    If you give up the god/security blanket it can trigger an existential crisis from the new sense of mortality etc. It doesn't matter what angle you are taking or line of thought you might be on.

    armageddonbound on
  • PodlyPodly you unzipped me! it's all coming back! i don't like it!Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Podly wrote: »
    and avoid an existential crisis in the process

    It's hard for me to have "an existential crisis" when I'm arguing against the traditional argument of existence. Hell, the stance that I'm arguing for stems from the philosophy that invented the existential crisis :P

    If you give up the god/security blanket it can trigger an existential crisis from the new sense of mortality etc. It doesn't matter what angle you are taking or line of thought you might be on.

    Mortality? My whole personal philosophy is based upon authentically accepting your personal finitude as a being. I'd appreciate it if you would not make assumptions which pull their impetus from absolutely nothing in my posts. Nowhere have I posted the relationship of the divine constitution of Being and something like transmigration of the soul.

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  • GrudgeGrudge Far Beyond DrivenRegistered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Not surprisingly this thread has now boiled down to semantics and definitions of common terms. Which I guess is where all discussions on the ontological argument sooner or later would end up due to the dodgy linguistic tricks used in the argument itself.

    No matter what the result is, the notion that "god" is synonymous with "nature" or "the universe" is just plain silly, no matter what definition of meaning you subscribe to. From my experience of linguistics, the semantics of a word relates directly to it's usage, and in this case, the common usage of the word "god" comes nowhere near the meaning that Podly suggests.

    Podly, it would benefit your argumentation if you used another word to describe your "Being". Perhaps you should just leave it at just "Being", and never suggest any connections to the word "god". I would think people would have much easier accepting your argument if you didn't.

    Grudge on
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