'Supernatural' (and 'immaterial') are broken concepts

todangst's picture

Terms like "supernatural" or "immaterial" are broken concepts: They are attempts at reference that cannot actually refer to anything. They are broken terms because they are defined solely in the negative (according to what they are not) without any universe of discourse (anything left over for them to be). As Deludedgod states (see link to his page at bottom) these terms are eliminative negative terms, which can only denote an empty set, meaning that any further talk using these terms is incoherent.

So we have words that tell us what something ISN'T, without anything left over for them to be.

Immateriality - defined as neither matter nor energy. So, what's left over for it to be?

Supernatural - defined as 'not nature' or 'above nature' or 'beyond nature'. So again, what's left over for it to be?

Now some might respond at this point: but we use negative definitions all the time in coherent attempts to make reference. And we can, provided that there remains something left over for them to refer to, indirectly. Negative definitions can provide information through their universe of discourse - what is not ruled out, is identified.

For example, if I were to hold out a box with a penny and a pencil in it, and say "the object in the box I am thinking of is not the penny", you'd know from the universe of discourse, the 'things in the box', that the object I was thinking of was the pencil. The negative definition and the universe of discourse provide the information together.

So the problem isn't just that terms like 'immateriality' and 'supernatural' are solely negative definitions, it is that they rule out any universe of discourse. There's literally nothing left over for these terms to refer to, so there's nothing left over for them to be. The terms are therefore meaningless, incoherent.

You might find yourself balking at this. You might feel that you use terms like 'immateriality' or 'supernaturalism' all the time, and the terms seems to make sense. Well yes, we may use the terms, and we may even feel that they 'make sense', but in reality the only way we can actually have them make sense is if we unconsciously steal from the concept of naturalism. And if you stop and think about it, this is what we do: we end up thinking of 'immateriality' in terms of materiality (i.e. energy), or 'supernaturalism' in terms of nature (something we can feel, see, hear, etc.).

You might also feel that you know of a way to solve the problem: by turning to euphemisms like 'beyond nature' or 'above nature' instead of 'not nature'. However, unless you can show how these distinctions lead to a difference, these euphemisms are all ontologically identical with 'not matter/not nature' - they still all rule out any universe of discourse.

Counter arguments

Counter argument: "Supernatural" is a meaningful concept, just like "superman" or 'superconductor

My Response: You're equivocating on the word 'super' in a way that does not apply to a theological discussion - unless you are holding that your 'god' is entirely natural, i.e. the anthropomorphic deities found in ancient Greece or Rome. "Super" does not mean 'superior" when used in theological discussion, it means 'beyond' or 'above' - synoyms for 'not'.

Counter argument: "Supernatural" simply means "beyond what is natural." There is nothing in that definition per se which means that there is no grounds for believing it."

My Response: Unless you can show me how saying 'beyond natural' differs from saying 'not natural', you've given me a distinction without a difference.

Counter Argument: "To support your claim, one must introduce an additional supposition -- namely, that the physical universe (nature) is all that exists. This supposition is unproven and unsubstantiated."

Response: No such supposition is required. Materialism does not rule out your view a priori - your own definition rules out providing any ontology a priori!. You are claiming that there is something beyond materialism, something transcendent, etc.  Seeing as your definition rules out any possible positive terms, the burden is therefore on you to present 'another way', contra materialism, to render your definitions coherent. If you want to hold that the term 'immateriality' or 'supernatural' make any sense, you must provide either an ontology or a universe of discourse. If you cannot do this, if all you have is a negative definition, without any universe of discourse, then you must concede that your terms are stripped of any actual meaning... you must concede that your terms can only point to 'nothing'. This is a problem of your own making: ergo your attempt to blame your opponent is just a sign of the weakness of your position.

Related Counter Argument: "Materialism begs the question that all there is, is matter."

My Response: You've got it backwards: you're begging the question that there IS something beyond materialism in order to make this very charge.  Yet you haven't even provided an ontology or universe of discourse for your terms.  Those who build their case for immateriality by arguing that materialism rules out their claim a priori implicitly concede that there is no way to build a positive case for your claim.

Yet Another Related Counter argument: You're 'begging the question' that to have ontological status is to be material.

Response: No. If you want to talk of things such as 'immateriality' or 'supernatural' you must show how these terms are meaningful. As things stand, your own response begs the very question being debated: you can't simply rule in the supernatural through a naked assertion. Whether or not the terms 'immaterial' or 'supernatural' are meaningful terms is the very question under consideration.

You're being asked to demonstrate how your term can be coherent. Provide either a 1) (positive) ontology or 2) a universe of discourse or 3) a concession that your term is in fact meaningless. (ala Negative Theology).

Counter Argument: Your argument commits a fallacy of conflation on the word 'nature'... you use the term in two different senses, yet you then imply that they are the same.

Response: Some hold that my argument relies on conflating two different senses of the word 'nature'

1) The material world and its phenomena.
2) The essential characteristics and qualities of a person or thing

We can use the word 'nature' to denote different senses, but, the 'two senses' of the term are necessarily inter-related. To have a nature is to be a part of nature. The very point under discussion is whether we can talk of having a nature, sans materialism!

A friend, Kmisho, writes:

The only way I could even begin to take seriously that these 2 notions of nature are fully separable would be if we could point to a whole class of non-natural objects that we can agree exist to the extent that it makes sense to discuss their nature or characteristics.

But this is the very issue at hand, the existence of supernatural objects or at least whether it is reasonable to conclude that such objects exist. So for one to engage in this discussion in defense of the supernatural and its characteristics is to assume one's own conclusions: that such entities exist in the first place.

Therefore, I reject the contention that these 2 definitions of nature are separate, within the context of the supernatural argument.

Related Counter argument: Holding that 'to have a nature is to be a part of nature' is circular.

My Response: No. It's axiomatic. You are confusing necessary truth for circularity.

Let's use the example of: "I think therefore I am" to demonstrate this point:

Premise: I think
therefore
Conclusion: I am

The premise "I think" guarantees the truth of the conclusion: "I am". In order to reject this argument, one would have to allow for thinking being separate from "am"ing (i.e. being). This requires allowing for thinking to be nonexistent, yet still real, at the same time, which leaves us with an internal contradiction. Therefore, the premise "I think" does not simply 'assume' its conclusion'; instead it relies on it as a necessary part of itself: to exist is to exist as something.

Counter argument: Your argument appears to rely on 'referentialism', which is a school of linguistics currently out of favor.

Response: This is just lazy arguing. By that logic, every claim coming from every outmoded school of thought would be false. So this charge is immaterial unless you can show me how the specific referentialist arguments used here are flawed, and to do that you must actually go to the trouble of presenting an argument. What matters here is whether my usage of referentialism, concerning nouns and adjectives is out of favor, and it is not.

Certain types of words in a language set do and must to refer to things to be coherent, such as nouns and adjectives, and the word supernatural is, in literal context, attempted to be utilized as both. Again, the point before you is this: terms like 'supernatural' are defined solely negatively, without any universe of discourse and yet they are intended to denote something. How can such terms have any meaning? Please actually address the argument.

Related Counter argument Words do not necessarily need to refer to things to be meaningful.

Unless how you can show how this is relevant here, this charge has no weight. The matter before you deals with terms that attempt to make a reference that rule out ANY universe of discourse at all! How could 'other modes of making terms meaningful' could possibly help? Don't just assert that there are other ways, demonstrate how these other ways can provide the terms with meaning! Pay heed to the fact that you've not even attempted to do this here - recognize this failure to even make the attempt and ask yourself why you're not presenting it here now, in lieu of this complaint.

Same as the above: : Certain denizens of the universe are defined in only negative terms and we have a perfectly intelligible conceptual grasp on them.

My Response: Because we have a universe of discourse for the contradistinctive. To say that something is 'not wet' is to leave a universe of discourse: the set of all non-wet/dry things.

A relevant exchange:

I do understand how the term 'nothing' , as part of the term's definition, is related to the term 'something' (i.e., "nothing" is the denial that there is something, among other things). However, I am not sure how you think this is related to the notion of "coherence". Do you mean something like "understandable" or "makes sense" and "incoherent" would mean "nonsense" or "not understandable"?

I mean it in the most basic, metaphysical sense of the axiom of identity. To exist is to exist as something, to have attributes, characteristics. To define an 'entity' in such a way as to violate the axiom of identity is to render the term meaningless..

That's why a statement like "'supernatural' is incoherent because it has no ontological status" doesn't halt semiological discourse. It's true within the specialized language of metaphysics. But ontological status, if it means the possibility of a real world referent.

Perhaps the word 'ontology' is the problem here. I continually see people bring up the confusion between concepts and entities with a real extra-mental existence.

This discussion has nothing to do with such a distinction.

We are talking about what it takes for a concept to be a concept. And a necessary condition for a concept is that it have some identity. To exist is to exist as something, to have attributes, characteristics, i.e. identity. There is one concept that rules out any universe of discourse: the concept of 'nothing'. It gains its meaning as a contradistinctive. Terms like 'supernatural' are synoyms for 'nothing' seeing as they, too, are contradistinctives. The sole way of granting 'meaning' for these terms is to violate their own definitions and steal from naturalism.

Counter argument: There is no materialistic account of abstractions/numbers/colors/universals, ergo abstractions/colors/numbers/universals are immaterial and this proves that immateriality is coherent, since 'abstractions/colors/numbers/universals are coherent existents.

My Response: This is the fallacy of confusing an abstraction for immateriality. Let me first point out the logical fallacies contained in this error.

"There is no materialistic account of "X"

This is an argument from ignorance. Your inability to perform a task does not prove the task impossible. In addition, we have a parsimonious materialistic account for these entities: Neuroscience provides a rational, albeit incomplete basis for holding that abstractions exist within material brains. Any failure of neuroscience in giving a satisfactory materialist account for abstractions is not a basis for holding that abstractions are immaterial.

"...X is immaterial"

This is the fallacy of begging the question. One is simply assuming that "X" is immaterial, based on the previous argument from ignorance, and not for any positive reason.

"...and this proves that immateriality is coherent"

This is the fallacy of non sequitur. You are merely begging the question that "X" is immaterial and then asserting it as evidence of immateriality. Nothing in this claim actually addresses the ontological problems outlined in this brief essay. Nothing in this claim demonstrates how immateriality is coherent, it merely assumes that immaterial things exist, ergo the claim doesn't even address the challenge.

So this argument commits three fundamental logical errors, and fails to even address the issue at all. Other than that, it's the best argument I've ever seen.

Related Counter Argument: Analogies/"Immateriality is like X"

My Response: Analogies are demonstrations that begin by assuming that there is a relationship. They therefore are not proofs, but demonstrations.

For those who struggle to grasp the challenge:, here's some help in providing an ontology for your term:

1) Can you show that anything exists other than matter or energy? What are its "properties" - i.e. is it something natural? If not, how can we 'know" or "infer" anything about it. If we can't, what use is your 'hypothesis"? If it has no use, then why are we having this conversation?

Helpful guide: The most common error at this point is for the theist to respond by just asserting that something is immaterial. Please read the above refutation of this clumsy 'argument'.

2) How does something that is neither matter nor energy interact with our natural world?

Don't just assert that it 'does', provide a detailed positive account of how this occurs, without stealing from naturalism.

3) How do you avoid violating the principle of conservation of energy? If no physical energy or mass is associated with "immaterial things", then there is a serious problem: a fundamental principle of physics is that any change in any physical entity is an acceleration requiring the expenditure of energy - but if these things have no matter or energy, where does the energy come from? what you have here is something akin to the impossibility of perpetual motion - energy from nowhere. Dan Dennet states that these questions represent the fatal flaw in any dualistic argument (i.e. to immateriality) (- 1990 Consciousness Explained.)

Don't just assert that it works just like 'naturalism', in other words, don't steal from naturalism. Don't just glibly accept that it violates physics either.

Counter Argument: Some analytic philosophers think that the concept of a soul (an immaterial entity) may involve locative, hyperspatial entities. On these definitions, a soul would be located in a n>3D region of space.

Response: This assertion is meaningless unless one explains how an entity can exist at right angles to itself!

Saying something 'belongs to another dimension' is the sort of spooky nonsense that identifies an argument as pseudo science, unless you can say what it means to say that something exists in another dimension, you are simply providing yet another rule out! "Not dimensional'

Counter Argument: Other philosophers believe that the concept of a soul involves spatial entities that exist in zero-dimensional regions of spacetime. Thus, the concept of a soul is defined as follows:

'x is a soul' means by definition '(i) x is spatially nonlocative, and (ii) x is capable of consciousness'.

My Response: Two errors here.

1) 'Zero dimensions' is another way to speak of nothing. Ergo to state that 'something' takes up zero dimensions is to speak in contradictions, ergo, incoherence.

2) To assert that the 'soul' is 'capable of consciousness' steals from naturalism, unless one can speak of consciousness sans matter/energy.

Review:

I only get two types of responses.

1) Reassertions of the very points already refuted here.
2) Personal attacks.

For those who hold out hope for a hero, like Plantinga or Moreland or Craig to respond to this challenge, please note: most of the bad responses to the challenge that I refute here come from these writers. Finally, let me say that I don't find my words here to be a grand pronouncement , it's simply a rather basic point that theologians themselves realized nearly two eons before I was born - to define something as beyond nature is to contradict the axiom of identity and define 'it' into incoherence.

Please also see: http://www.rationalresponders.com/a_clarification_regarding_my_position_relative_to_theological_noncognitivism?page=0#comment-9295...
http://www.rationalresponders.com/vitalism_immaterialism_and_christian_dualism_have_long_since_been_debunked_response
http://www.rationalresponders.com/fallacies_commonly_employed_against_materialism_refuted

Addendum:

Jeffery Jay Lowder argued in the March 1999 newsletter of the Internet Infidels that a case for metaphysical naturalism can be made from the Argument from Evil and the Argument from Physical Minds. Here is the latter argument:

As Paul Draper, an agnostic philosopher at Florida International University, puts it, "Consciousness and personality are highly dependent on the brain. Nothing mental happens without something physical happening." Now Michael Tooley, a philosopher at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has stated five lines of evidence in support of this claim. Let me summarize just briefly that evidence. First, when an individuals brain is directly stimulated and put into a certain physical state, this causes the person to have a corresponding experience. Second, certain injuries to the brain make it impossible for a person to have any mental states at all. Third, other injuries to the brain destroy various mental capacities. Which capacity is destroyed is tied directly to the particular region of the brain that was damaged. Fourth, when we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex. And fifth, within any given species, the development of mental capacities is correlated with the development of neurons in the brain. Thus, the conclusion that, "Nothing mental happens without something physical happening," seems inescapable.

But if nothing mental happens without something physical happening, that strongly implies that the mind cannot exist independently of physical arrangements of matter. In other words, we do not have a soul. And this is exactly what we would expect if naturalism is true. But if theism is true, then our minds should not depend on our brains for their existence; we should have souls. Also, if theism is true, then God is a disembodied mind; Gods mind is not in any sense dependent on physical arrangements of matter. But if nothing mental happens without something physical happening, that is evidence against both the existence of souls and the existence of any being who is supposed to have a disembodied mind, including God. Therefore, the physical nature of minds is unlikely if theism is true, but what we would expect if naturalism is true.

From Deludedgod's essay, concerning a common error employed against materialism:

http://www.rationalresponders.com/fallacies_commonly_employed_against_materialism_refuted

The crux of all this is that the dualist who asserts that materialism cannot account for X abstraction is that they are making a fallacy of conflation between reductionism and materialism. Reductionism is merely one arm of the materialist school of thought. We also have to take into account, for this exercise, emergentism, which materialism does indeed encompass. Emergentism is the doctrine that properties emerge from systems that are not necessarily reducible to their constituents. They exist only when the system is in place, and are hence not reducible to the sum of their parts. This is the schism in materialism between reductionism (whole=sum of parts) and emergentism (whole>sum of parts). The point is, these are both materialist positions. Neither invocates dualism or magic. So when the dualist is asserting that the materialist is denying the existence of X because it can be reduced to smaller constituents, they are making the greedy reductionist fallacy. Regardless of whether the system in question is emergentist or reductionist, the fallacy holds. It is analogous to saying:

1. The clicking on hyperlinks can be reduced to electrons being fired across LCD electron guns and photons through ethernet and fiberoptic cables. Therefore hyperlinks do not actually exist, only electrons and photons.

2. An atomic nuclei can be reduced to individual protons and electrons, which in turn can be reduced to quarks, which in turn can be reduced to bosons and fermions. Therefore, atoms do not actuallly exist, only bosons and fermions.

You will find that many materialist systems are indeed emergentist. That means that they cannot be reduced to their constituents, they only emerge when the complexity of the system reaches a certain point, but, the crux: They are still materialist. Emergentism is an arm of materialist philosophy. Many naturalists regard consciousness and the mind as an emergent property of the brain. Some others hold that the mind can be divided and is hence, with respect to the whole brain, reductionist, not emergent. I am sympathetic to a middle ground position . Obviously when we reduce the system to a certain degree, we find the property which we were examining in the first place disappears. Hence to some degree the two positions of emergentism and reductionism are valid and mutually reconcilable in much the same way that empiricism and rationalism are reconcilable. In fact, I do not think there has been a “pure” empiricist or rationalist since the days of Immanuel Kant. Likewise, the materialist philosophy does not usually find one taking a pure stance on emergentism or reductionism.

So, when the dualist makes the greedy reductionist fallacy by whinging that the materialist is denying the existence of X by invoking reducibility, they are invalidated by both schools of materialism. Reductionism does not say that X does not exist, merely that it is a lower ontological category than its constituents Y and Z. Emergentism says that X exists of its own accord due to a synergistic effect between Y and Z. The latter can be invoked to explain many phenomenon from a materialistic perspective, especially consciousness and the mind. Regardless, any dualist asking for a materialist to explain abstract X is revealing their own unsurprising ignorance of materialist philosophy. Abstractions in this context are merely what a reductionist would call lower ontological categories that result from increasingly complex systems, or what an emergentist would call the result of synergistic effect in the system. Emergentist materialism is extremely important in my work, since one of the things I study is enzyme kinetics, drugs and medicine, where synergistic interplay is extremely important. The same logic which causes a Calcium Channel blocker and a Beta Blocker to work better together to lower blood pressure than the mathematics of their individual workings would have us believe is the same logic that may give rise to abstractions from material systems. In other words, this may cover thoughts, emotions, rationality etc. To a reductionist however, we can explain these in terms of direct reducibility to their electrophysiological activity in corresponding neurons. Regardless of which position you take, the abstract, the thought, is still generated. And hence for the dualist to accuse the materialist of denying said abstractions is just, well, stupid. And can only be described as immensely foolish. We shall soon see how easy it is to flip this on its head.

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

You are very right, but

You are very right, but that still does not remove the possibility of what appears to us as "supernatural" or "immaterial" from existing or even interacting with us.

Ideas concerning quantum physics point to the possibilty of  different dimentions each with their own unique properties which in concert work to produce what we observe as "material reality". Everything from our concepts of atomic structure to the composition of the universe is a narrow feild of intepretation based on how our particular sensory organs evolved.

Now if the "material" is defined as what exists then the word immaterial is incoherent. But when people use that term it can refer to what appears to be beyond our ability to observe and test.

If for example our brains produce what is essentially a quantum computer that fucntions by microtubules capable of switching in and out of our observable reality, then it seems rather implausible that we will ever be able to truly map it given uncertanty.

This leaves us with something which does in fact exist, yet is not testable and thus can be said to be non-material, at least in the way human beings expreience things like "matter" and "energy".  

deludedgod's picture

You are very right, but

You are very right, but that still does not remove the possibility of what appears to us as "supernatural" or "immaterial" from existing or even interacting with us.

Well if you are admitting he is very right then your argument collapses. If he is right, the notion of supernatural is incoherent, and there is no conceivable way it could interact with us, let alone exist. How would you define exist. As has been pointed out, supernatural certainly is not coherently defined as "existing".

In fact, If I believed in supernaturalism, the last thing I would bring up is interaction. No supernaturalist has ever given a coherent ontology or explanation as to how this ghost in the machine would interact with a material brain.

Ideas concerning quantum physics point to the possibilty of  different dimentions each with their own unique properties which in concert work to produce what we observe as "material reality".

 String theory? String theory says that there are three spacial dimensions, one time dimension and seven "compact dimensions" but at the heart of it all is the one-D string. If you are referring to compact dimenstions in quantum physics, be my guest and try to rationally prove, or even prove the possibility of an entity solely existing in the compact dimensions, and ethereal to boot, as theologians would have you believe about supernatural.

Actually, that may be too hard. Why not try giving a coherent definition of supernatural first? Just thank us at your nobel prize acceptance speech.

 Everything from our concepts of atomic structure to the composition of the universe is a narrow feild of intepretation based on how our particular sensory organs evolved.

And jacking up the frequency or EM range that we can hear or see in does not, unfortunately, change the fact that we are material beings in a 3 spacial dimension world, interacting with other material objects.

 Now if the "material" is defined as what exists then the word immaterial is incoherent. But when people use that term it can refer to what appears to be beyond our ability to observe and test.

 Need I point out that to define supernatural in this way would require you to break every barrier set on epistemology. If you think you can give a coherent positive ontology for supernatural, go ahead, but again, I'd like a share of the Prize Money. It's 500K I believe. How much will you donate to charity?

 If for example our brains produce what is essentially a quantum computer that fucntions by microtubules capable of switching in and out of our observable reality, then it seems rather implausible that we will ever be able to truly map it given uncertanty.

Microtubules?? The cellular spindle structures in the cytoskeleton that initiate stepwise mitosis? 

Quantum computers are still based on physical reality, except that there are six choices in a logic gate not two, and on qubits as information processing, which makes them go alot faster, and much more complex. It is still a material entity.

 This leaves us with something which does in fact exist, yet is not testable and thus can be said to be non-material, at least in the way human beings expreience things like "matter" and "energy". 

I think we'll both be waiting on that positive ontology. 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism

todangst's picture

d_focil wrote:You are

d_focil wrote:

You are very right, but that still does not remove the possibility of what appears to us as "supernatural" or "immaterial" from existing or even interacting with us.

 What it does show is that refering to the 'supernatural' as an existent in the first place is problematic, and that any attempt to describe 'how' is interacts will lead into incoherence.

 Perhaps what you'd like to say is this: "If we define 'x" as undefinable, then it's no surprise that we are not able to talk about it."

This is precisely how a negative theologian, relying on the apophatic tradition, would respond. In other words, the fact that 'god' talk leads into incoherence is not surprising, seeing as 'god' is defined as beyond nature.

"Nogods" another poster here, wrote the following:


For a negative theologian to say that God does not exist is incorrect. To think it leads to atheism also appears to me to be incorrect unless we accept the RC Church as an covert atheist organisation. The Roman Catholic Church has built one of the oldest, most powerful and dynamic religions in existence upon the bed-rock of negative theology.

As I understand it, negative theolgians are stating that there is nothing we can state about the nature of God's ontology. All existence that we know has a cause, dwells in time, by nature is limited and contained by boundaries, No matter how we try to break out of our concept of existence, we will always fail. We cannot grasp God's ontology, to think we can is to create a false God.

That is very different from saying God does not exist, or even that there are not things we cannot know about God, since God has revealed them, but even those things are beyond our comprehension and have to be accepted on faith.

It is hardly likely that the Augustine, Aquinas, Thereasa of Avila or Catherine of Sienna, would be called Doctors of the Church, if they had nothing but incomprehensible things to say about God. They have lots of positive things to say - just look at Augustine's debates with Pelagians, Donatists and Arians - but it is all based on faith, accepted by faith, and limited by our finite nature.

The only time we will fully comprehend according to via-negative theology is when we see the beatific vision (Similar, but not the same as a protestant idea of heaven), we will at that time understand: "For now we see things in a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now my knowledge is in part; then it will be complete, even as God's knowledge of me. 1 Cor 13:12

To paraphrase John Paul II "Reason is faith's handmaiden, but the handmaiden is unable access faith's chamber." See JPII's encyclical letter Fides et Ratio.' (Faith and Reason)

 

Quote:

Ideas concerning quantum physics point to the possibilty of different dimentions each with their own unique properties which in concert work to produce what we observe as "material reality".

Any attempt to form an analogy from aspects of nature, to the supernatural must fail, as the problem isn't that the supernatural is "different from other aspects of nature', it is that it is defined contra-nature.

Quote:

Now if the "material" is defined as what exists then the word immaterial is incoherent.

Yes. And seeing that it is advocates of immateriality who are defining the term solely in negative 'traits', this ontological dilemma falls on their shoulders.

Quote:
But when people use that term it can refer to what appears to be beyond our ability to observe and test.

"Immateriality' is not merely a physical thing hiding behind a rock. It's defenied contra -materialism. The problem is ontological, not inductive.

Quote:

If for example our brains produce what is essentially a quantum computer that fucntions by microtubules capable of switching in and out of our observable reality, then it seems rather implausible that we will ever be able to truly map it given uncertanty.

This leaves us with something which does in fact exist, yet is not testable and thus can be said to be non-material,

I don't see how it can be said to be 'non material' merely because attempts to map the system are incomplete. "Immateriality" is not merely defined as 'an otherwise physical entity that is beyond our current ability to measure'

Thanks for adding something to the discussion, a pleasure talking to a well reasoned person. 

 

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.

todangst's picture

deludedgod wrote: In fact,

deludedgod wrote:

In fact, If I believed in supernaturalism, the last thing I would bring up is interaction. No supernaturalist has ever given a coherent ontology or explanation as to how this ghost in the machine would interact with a material brain.

They'd be better off conceding that no one can explain how 'magic' works... (leaving aside The Amazing Randi)

Quote:
 

String theory? String theory says that there are three spacial dimensions, one time dimension and seven "compact dimensions" but at the heart of it all is the one-D string. If you are referring to compact dimenstions in quantum physics, be my guest and try to rationally prove, or even prove the possibility of an entity solely existing in the compact dimensions, and ethereal to boot, as theologians would have you believe about supernatural.

I'd not even open up the possibility of relying on the 'compact dimensions' as a putative supernatural realm - if they are existents they have identity and the existence of this entity would still require, from a theological viewpoint, a 'creator' to explain their existence.

From the negative theological viewpoint, 'god' is beyond anything with an identity, as this 'god' grants 'Beingness' itself, so I don't see how any reference to any 'thing' can ever 'point' to 'god' even potentially.

 

Quote:

Actually, that may be too hard. Why not try giving a coherent definition of supernatural first? Just thank us at your nobel prize acceptance speech.

I like to remind our theist friends that yes, were they to answer the question, they'd be wasting their time talking about it to us.... they'd be better off publishing their work and getting their best suits dry cleaned for all the press conferences....

And yes, I don't know why he brought up microtubules either.... 

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.

well the microtubules comes

well the microtubules comes from this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orch-OR

Now I was agreeing with your premise that the terms 'immaterial' and 'supernatural' are incoherent.

What I was refering too is how people see things which as of yet we are unable to observe and test. things like what we find in quantum physics. People could call it "supernatural" when in reaity they are things we can't directly observe. The word "supernatural" needs to be scrapped because as you said it has not meaning. But people still use it to descibe the things they can't explain.

Perhaps it would be better to say "unidentified force or will" when describing what normally people would call supernatural.

Even God cannot be supernatural because if he exists then he is natural and simply is. The negative theology idea leaves no room to conceptualize god or try to find evidence of his existence because as you said it presupposes that he is beyond all comprehension.

I don't agree with that theology, I think that we can understand to an extent the mechanism by which the will of god interacts with the physical world. This will can simply be seen as the axioms ingrained in the laws of nature which from the big bang have lead to the process whereby we come to exist.

You don't have to call that natural proces god, but it doesn't detract from science or conflict with it to say that this is some sort of godly will.

 

First off, I'd like to say

First off, I'd like to say that I do reject the natural/supernatural dichotomy. I believe that when you get down to it, the distinction is nothing but phenomenona we can model and predict versus phenomen we can't. (Hence the inclusion of ghosts, ESP, and the like under the rubric of "supernatural." )

That said, I believe that this attempt to show that the idea of the supernatural is conceptually incoherent falls flat on its face. Since you're using the term "universe of discourse," I'll continue with the metaphors of set theory.

The universe of discourse is the domain of the objects we're talking about, according to its definition in logic. In this case, the universe of discourse happens to be... the universe. That is, all things that exist. We'll refer to the set of all things that exist as U.

To claim that the supernatural exists is to claim that it is within the universe of discourse. It creates a division within the domain of all existing things between those that follow natural laws (the laws of physics, etc.), and those that don't, and furthermore claims that the second set is not an empty set. Let's call the set of natural things A, and the set of non-natural things A'. We'll assume that A is a subset of U.

To claim that the supernatural is not within the universe of discourse is to deny that A' is a subset U. Which, if A is a subset of U, is logically equivalent to the claim that A and U are identical. But that's exactly what you're trying to prove!

While your argument is entirely logically consistent, it is going to be utterly unconvincing to those who do not already assume that A and U are identical.

todangst's picture

HadouKen24 wrote:First

HadouKen24 wrote:

First off, I'd like to say that I do reject the natural/supernatural dichotomy. I believe that when you get down to it, the distinction is nothing but phenomenona we can model and predict versus phenomen we can't. (Hence the inclusion of ghosts, ESP, and the like under the rubric of "supernatural." )

That said, I believe that this attempt to show that the idea of the supernatural is conceptually incoherent falls flat on its face. Since you're using the term "universe of discourse," I'll continue with the metaphors of set theory.

The universe of discourse is the domain of the objects we're talking about, according to its definition in logic. In this case, the universe of discourse happens to be... the universe. That is, all things that exist. We'll refer to the set of all things that exist as U.

To claim that the supernatural exists is to claim that it is within the universe of discourse. It creates a division within the domain of all existing things between those that follow natural laws (the laws of physics, etc.), and those that don't, and furthermore claims that the second set is not an empty set. Let's call the set of natural things A, and the set of non-natural things A'. We'll assume that A is a subset of U.

To claim that the supernatural is not within the universe of discourse is to deny that A' is a subset U. Which, if A is a subset of U, is logically equivalent to the claim that A and U are identical. But that's exactly what you're trying to prove!

No, no, you have it backwards.

You need to demonstrate that a reference to something beyond nature can have ontological status.

So YOU are simply assuming what you seek to prove, whereas it is axiomatic that to exist is to exist as something, to have a nature is to be part of nature.

 

Please note that this refutation is already printed in my essay.

I'll reprint it:

 

Counter argument: You're 'begging the question' that to have ontological status is to be material.

Response: If you want to talk of things such as 'immateriality' or 'supernatural' you must show how these terms are meaningful. As things stand, your own response begs the very question being debated: you can't simply rule in the supernatural, a priori. Whether or not the terms 'immaterial' or 'supernatural' are meaningful terms is the very question under consideration: you can't simply assume the terms are coherent through naked assertion. You're being asked to demonstrate how your term can be coherent. Provide either a 1) (positive) ontology or 2) a universe of discourse or 3) a concession that your term is in fact meaningless. (ala Negative Theology).

 

Quote:

While your argument is entirely logically consistent, it is going to be utterly unconvincing to those who do not already assume that A and U are identical.

The entire point of the argument before you is that you have no choice but to assume that A and U are identical, seeing as to exist is to exist as something. If you disagree, please meet the challenge above. I couldn't care less if people are 'unconvinced' if they are unable to meet the challenge - their failure to meet the challenge proves that their status as 'unconvinced' is nothing more than dogmatic naysaying otherwise....

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.

I can't help but get the

I can't help but get the feeling that we must be using different definitions for something here, because I honestly don't see how it follows if we're on the same page as to the meaning of certain words.

Are you using some other meaning for "universe of discourse" than "domain of objects we're talking about?" If not, then I don't see how your argument follows. After all, the set of supernatural things (whether they be "God and the angels" or "Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, et al&quotEye-wink is definitely being talked about. It would seem, ipso facto, that they would be in the universe of discourse in some sense, even if their actual existence is under debate.  They are, at the very least, in the universe of discourse of the confirmed supernaturalist (something, I remind you, I am not--I do not myself seek to prove that the supernatural exists).

If you are not, in fact, using some other definition for "universe of discourse," then the only way I can find to make your argument coherent is to assume something like logical positivism. If logical positivism is true, then the supernaturalist's inability to provide empirical evidence for the supernatural ipso facto makes the supernatural incoherent. Otherwise, I'm at a loss as to how you can make your argument work.

todangst's picture

HadouKen24 wrote:

HadouKen24 wrote:


Are you using some other meaning for "universe of discourse" than "domain of objects we're talking about?"

Universe of discourse is explained in full in my essay. It is a reference anything to anything with an identity, which is to say anything with ontological status status, i.e. anything at all.

I explain this in detail above, so I can only guess that you've read something, somewhere, that logical positivism was 'discredited' and that you're trying to throw that out and hope it sticks... 

Quote:

If not, then I don't see how your argument follows. After all, the set of supernatural things (whether they be "God and the angels" or "Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, et al&quotEye-wink is definitely being talked about.

The entire point of the essay is to show that any attempt to reference 'supernatural' fails, ergo you cannot refer to a 'supernatural' set in the first place! Your response commits the fallacy of begging the question: you must rely on the term 'supernatural' being coherent in order to reference a supernatural set. Your first task it to demonstrate that the term is coherent before you simply assume there can be supernatural sets!

Quote:
If you are not, in fact, using some other definition for "universe of discourse," then the only way I can find to make your argument coherent is to assume something like logical positivism.

I can't fathom why you are having a problem unless you are a theist trying to avoid the obvious: the point before you is that the term 'supernatural' is a broken concept because it rules out, by definition, a reference to anything at all. I make this point in my essay above, and I even go to the trouble of providing a list of common responses.   

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.

Physboy's picture

First, let me thank you for

First, let me thank you for your time in contributing these essays so that people can be more informed of the arguments in which they engage.  As a man with a tight schedule I understand the value of time and can sincerely appreciate your contributions here.  My critiques are for contructive purposes only and my questions are sincere quests for understanding.

todangst wrote:
2. An atomic nuclei can be reduced to individual protons and electrons, which in turn can be reduced to quarks, which in turn can be reduced to bosons and fermions. Therefore, atoms do not actuallly exist, only bosons and fermions.

I am not sure what your knowledge of Physics is, but this appears to be a false statement.  From my understanding quarks are not made up of bosons and fermions.  Bosons and fermions are two different categories of particles, the former being particles with integer spin and the later being particles with half-integer spin.  Quarks are by definition considered to be fundemental particles which means they are not observably made up of ANYTHING else, and more specifically are of the subgroup of fermions since they have spin numbers equal to 1/2.

I do understand the meaning behind your use of the statement, but it is false by definition.

Regarding your essay, are we to assume that an empty set does not exist?  In addition, can you clarify what it means for something to exists, that is specifically the criteria by which one can determine existence of a thing or object.

If you have already clarified this in your essay, simply referring to that section would do, as I must have missed it.

Thanks.

Challenge your perspectives with the truth.

deludedgod's picture

That referenced quote was

That referenced quote was mine, not his. And it was just incredible laziness on my part, since I know it should have read like this.

An atom can be broken down into electrons, protons and neutrons, which can be broken down into a flavour of lepton and quark respetively (the other flavor of lepton being muon and tau particles) where any flavour of lepton and quark is a fermion with 1/2 way spin (which means, by extension, that as are protons and neutrons and electrons). Although, the excitation of electrons causing energy level jumps can cause the releasing of a photon which is technically of a class of different particle to a fermion (the boson, with integer spin), the distinction between the two being sometimes unclear, although fermions usually relate to matter and bosons to emissions. The fallacious part being: Therefore, atoms do not exist, only the quarks to which they may be reduced and the fermions which they are classed as, as per photons do not actually exist.

The point of it was to show the fallacy of composition employed in the greedy reductionist fallacy. 

But I considered that unnecessarily complicated, so I just wrote what was written above). Although, I am in the middle of de-gunking my essays, so I suppose I could consider it.

Quote:

 Regarding your essay, are we to assume that an empty set does not exist?

Of course. That is the definition of exist. An "empty set" refers a set in which there are no things. If I have a pencil and a pen in a box, and I say, not the pen or pencil, there is an "empty set" in the sense that we are not referring to anything existing by definition. The empty set refers to nonexistence by the definition of empty set. 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism

bitbutter's picture

 Thanks for this article.

 Thanks for this article. Very interesting reading.

"So the problem isn't just that terms like 'immateriality' and 'supernatural' are solely negative definitions, it is that they rule out any universe of discourse. There's literally nothing left over for these terms to refer to, so there's nothing left over for them to be. The terms are therefore meaningless, incoherent."

 This feels like a strong argument but my guess is that theists would object here that we can't conclude that the word immaterial rules out _any_ universe of discourse until we can conclusively show that thoughts, logic, consciousness etc etc are entirely physical. Until we've done that, then there's still room to hypothesise that thoughts might remain 'left over' to be refered to by the word immaterial.

 Does this objection render this particular argument impotent? What would be your reply to this? (question open to anyone).

triften's picture

A friend of mine started

A friend of mine started listening to your youtube video which presents this argument and took issue almost immediately that you presumed to have knowledge that there is nothing but matter or energy. He doesn't make claims that there is anything else, but he believes that your argument requires an assumption of perfect knowledge.

I scrolled through your counter arguments and counters for those to show him this one:

todangst wrote:

Counter Argument: "To support your claim, one must introduce an additional supposition -- namely, that the physical universe is all that exists. This supposition is unproven and unsubstantiated."

Response: No such supposition is required. Materialism does not rule out your view a priori - your own definition rules out materialism a priori!. You are claiming that there is something beyond materialism, something transcendent, etc. Seeing as your definition rules out materialism, the burden is therefore on you to present 'another way', contra materialism, to render your definitions coherent. If you want to hold that the term 'immateriality' or 'supernatural' make any sense, you must provide either an ontology or a universe of discourse. If you cannot do this, if all you have is a negative definition, without any universe of discourse, then you must concede that your terms are stripped of any actual meaning... you must concede that your terms can only point to 'nothing'. This is a problem of your own making: ergo your attempt to blame your opponent is just a sign of the weakness of your position.

He pointed out that, in your second sentence, you state that the counter argument is claiming something (that something transcendent exists). The counter argument only seems to be pointing out the issue of assuming perfect knowledge that only matter and energy account for everything in our universe and makes no claims about anything transcendent. You bring that up. Why? In it's current state, you don't appear to be responding to the actual counter argument.

(Disclaimer: I make no claims of the existence of anything outside the realm of matter and energy, only that our knowledge of the universe is imperfect and said ignorance does not require the invocation of gods or magic.)

I have a feeling that your response will be about physics: if something is going to interact with our universe, it must do so by imparting energy upon something and must therefore have carried energy at some point, thus confirming that it consists of matter/energy.

-Triften

 

todangst's picture

Physboy wrote:

Physboy wrote:

First, let me thank you for your time in contributing these essays so that people can be more informed of the arguments in which they engage. As a man with a tight schedule I understand the value of time and can sincerely appreciate your contributions here. My critiques are for contructive purposes only and my questions are sincere quests for understanding.

todangst wrote:
2. An atomic nuclei can be reduced to individual protons and electrons, which in turn can be reduced to quarks, which in turn can be reduced to bosons and fermions. Therefore, atoms do not actuallly exist, only bosons and fermions.

I am not sure what your knowledge of Physics is, but this appears to be a false statement. From my understanding quarks are not made up of bosons and fermions. Bosons and fermions are two different categories of particles, the former being particles with integer spin and the later being particles with half-integer spin. Quarks are by definition considered to be fundemental particles which means they are not observably made up of ANYTHING else, and more specifically are of the subgroup of fermions since they have spin numbers equal to 1/2.

I do understand the meaning behind your use of the statement, but it is false by definition.

The statement is DG's, and his refutation is listed above. Had you actually bothered to read my essay carefully, you'd have known this already.

Quote:

Regarding your essay, are we to assume that an empty set does not exist?

I do trust that you will actually read my essay some time in the future. When you do, you will learn that I have already stated, several times, that negative definitions work provided that there remains a universe of discouse, or a term may have meaning as a contradistinctive. This point is made plainly for anyone who actually bothers to read for comprehension.

Thanks also to DG for answering this as well.  

Quote:

In addition, can you clarify what it means for something to exists, that is specifically the criteria by which one can determine existence of a thing or object.

Again, if you ever decide to actually read the essay that you are imagining that you are responding to, you will see that this is also answered for you, several times. To exist is to exist as something, to have attributes, a nature, identity. How many times must the obvious be pointed out to you?

Quote:

 

If you have already clarified this in your essay,

I have. Several times.

Quote:

simply referring to that section would do, as I must have missed it.

Done. Perhaps next time, you'll actually read my essay, for the first time.

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.

inspectormustard's picture

I'm just nitpicking here

I'm just nitpicking here (all your essays are excellent) but I take issue with this part:

Quote:
. . .these terms are eliminative negative terms, which can only denote an empty set, meaning that any further talk using these terms is incoherent.

What about this? "God is immaterial to our reality, and therefore not worth consideration." 

 

BobSpence's picture

Good stuff, Tod. My attempt

Good stuff, Tod.

My attempt to summarise my thoughts on this topic: 

Science makes no assumptions about what does or doesn't exist, just that for a concept, a hypothesis, a proposed entity to be worth investigating requires that it be more than just a thought in one or more people's mental world.

There has to some positive evidence, that can be studied independently of the person claiming the truth of the idea, to point to the specific proposed 'thing', not just a gap in our current knowledge.

In the absence of such evidence, we must consign the idea to the vast repository of unsupported ideas proposed by individuals since thought began. To give every unsupported idea credence by default would be utterly unsustainable in any sense.

If we are take seriously the God concept, we would be inconsistent if we did not also give, for example, UFO 'abductees', or virtually all ghost stories, etc, even more credence, since we typically have even more direct testimony and 'evidence' than we do for 'God'. 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology

Please allow me to post a

Please allow me to post a response not my own:

 

 

I found the essay “‘Supernatural’ and ‘Immaterial’ are Broken Concepts” most interesting.  If I may, I’d like to offer the following reflections:

First of all, I’d like to be so bold as to offer a working definition of some of the terms.  “Matter” or “material” will, for my purposes, refer to “that which is directly detectable by the senses.”  “Nature” will, for my purposes, refer to “the entire complex of all material things.”  I am not presently interested in the term “energy.”

I’d also like to point out that I can’t see how, given the author’s position, he can account for the emergence of the terms “matter” “material” or “materialist.”  It seems to me that certain terms are correlative; they can only be meaningful if their contrary is meaningful as well, and that both must be perceived in reality, or neither term will develop.  So for instance, “day” and “night” are correlative terms.  But if it was always day on planet earth, if the word “night” had no referent, in what context would the term “day” emerge?  Who would recognize the day and name it unless there were some night with which it contrasted?  Or, take the male-female dichotomy; if all humans, all mammals were male – if no one had ever encountered a female of any species – how could the word “male” have any meaning?  It could have no use, no purpose, no context in which to arise.  So too, it seems to me that the word “material” depends for its coherence and even its very existence on some insight, some encounter of the “immaterial.”  The author’s reductionism seems to undermine its own possibility.

 

Now, the crux of the essay, as I understand it, is that the terms “immaterial” and “supernatural” have no content, and hence are meaningless.  They are mere negations, and so by definition describe nothing.  So, to say that God/souls/angels, etc…, are immaterial is in effect to admit that they do not exist.

This thesis might carry some weight if it were true that God/souls/angels were only described as being immaterial.  But in fact, God is described in positive terms as well.  This is how we always describe anything, namely, by combining and eliminating certain meaningful characteristics.  So a bat might be meaningfully (albeit imprecisely) described as a) a mammal, b) with wings, c) with sonar, d) with no vision.  The first three characteristics are positive, the fourth a negation.  In the same way, God might be meaningfully (albeit imprecisely) described as a) not directly detectable by the senses (immaterial), b) intelligent, c) the maker of everything but itself, d) perfect.  Of these four characteristics, only the first of these is negative, and so this thing called God has been meaningfully described.

But the objection may be made that the last three characteristics mentioned are admittedly “different” from our immediate experience of intelligence, making, and perfection.  So, the objection goes, theism is simply “stealing from naturalism” to fill its notion of God with content.  Hence the notion of God must be meaningless.

Perhaps the following scenario would help.  Take the case of two parents telling their six-year-old son about the birds and the bees.  They describe the sexual act, the fact that children sometimes issue therefrom, and conclude with the statement that most receive a unique pleasure from engaging in it.  The child says, “What do you mean by pleasure?” and the parents, seeking to make comparisons from the child’s experience, say, “You know, like candy, or toys, or going to the bathroom when you have to go really badly.  But it’s still a different kind of pleasure.”  Now, if the child is unduly skeptical and rather articulate, he might respond, “Ha!  To give your notions of sexual pleasure meaning, you have to steal from the prepubescent ontology/field of discourse!  I therefore reject your notion of sexual pleasure as incoherent.”  A more reasonable child, however, would accept his parents’ statements as true, even though it goes beyond his field of immediate experience, because a) he has no good reason to suspect his parents of error or deceit; b) it gives a good account of the facts of experience (e.g., it explains the relationships between adults of the opposite sex, origin of children, modern advertising techniques, etc…).

 

            All this, of course, does not prove that there is a God, only that such a notion is not intrinsically absurd, meaningless, or in violation of the principle of identity.  As for the proofs themselves, they are easily found and followed.  Really, they are just an extension of the common practice of seeking immaterial explanations for material facts.  Gravity or Inertia (neither of which, certainly, are immediately detectable by the senses; I have never met anyone who actually saw Gravity or heard Inertia) is one example of an inference required to make sense of matter/nature.  The existence of God is another.

-Anonymous 

 

deludedgod's picture

Quote:

Quote:

a) not directly detectable by the senses (immaterial), b) intelligent, c) the maker of everything but itself, d) perfect. Of these four characteristics, only the first of these is negative, and so this thing called God has been meaningfully described

It's amazing how many people think they cfan get away with that one. Those are not ontological descriptions. They are not identity descriptors. They follow from identity descriptors, but only if the descriptor is first in place. What I mean is, it is as of yet not established what is the ontological status of the intelligent, creating, perfect thing. It is merely described by the operator "it". The principle criticism is that the entity cannot be described as an entity at all with such characteristics because it has no substance. It is not clear in what sense it is coherent to denote it as an entity, which you are doing, that is to say God is an agent, but what is the agent.

Your descriptors can tell me what the thing can do, but I am not interested. It is unclear that we are even ascribing such abilities to a thing at all, unless you can provide coherent descriptors of in what sense the thing exists. What the theist is effectively saying is that God has no composition. That being the case, what sense is there speaking of it an an agent? It is an immaterial mind, yes but what does that mean? What is the agent? What would distinguish the agent from other things? What coherent descriptor is offered not to tell me what the thing can do, but what it is? As of yet, none.

The problem is that you are making a fallacy of false dichotomy in this regard. What sort of being is it? Well it is not a material being, but it is an intelligent, powerful one. It is not an ontology. Since that is not under discussion, you are commiting a category error. These terms are not exclusive. The fact is, saying it is an "immaterial" being is not telling, in any way, in what sense it is a being at all. To put it another way, if wha t you said was actaully a response to his argument, it would be perfectrly coherent to speak of a whole body amputation. Or rather, to reword the question in such a way that you did not answer: What is it made of? 

It is amazing how many people think they can underhand with linguistic tricks as opposed to directly answering the question. It isn't as if we've been defending this for years, and haven't seen that numerous times before.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism

Hambydammit's picture

I think what often happens

I think what often happens is theists see this argument for the first time and go with the most obvious objections.  Since it's their first time seeing the argument, they assume it must be a relatively new argument.  After all, they've been thinking about god for their whole life, and it never occurred to them, and nobody ever mentioned it in church.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

Ham,  I, for one, am not

Ham,

 I, for one, am not interested in your psychoanalysis of theists. Your hypotheses are trite and not based on anything concrete. At any rate, I don't see their relevance.

To the other guy,

Although this was not my personal response (I was posting for someone who does not find it worthwhile to be a member of this site), allow me to point out some observations.

 For one, the author was not giving a "theistic argument." He was merely defending the metaphysical presupposition in the existence of the immaterial world.

Second, whether or not you have heard the argument before is irrelevant. He did not claim to be expounding new, or even original, arguments. Since you claim to be the "rational responders" one would expect you to be dispassionate and logical in your responses and not indignant and outraged. I have seen argument after argument on this website deteriorate into self-satisfied insults over supposed cliches and a perceived lack of originality.

That aside, let's go back to my first point. The author was not trying to give a proof of God (something he said explicitly), but was rather trying to show that the word "immaterial" was not meaningless. In the particular case you attacked, he was trying to show that especially when it is coupled with other attributes, immateriality cannot be dismissed as a purely negative definition. Your response, with its sometimes incoherent rambling, diverted the attention away from his actual argument, or perhaps you failed to see it, or further still, perhaps I misunderstood what you were saying altogether. I would be very open to the possibility of the last option, as I found you to be extremely unclear.

 Please let me know. And spare me the pseudo-psychology and ad hominem attacks. Stick to "rational" arguments and defenses of your actual point. 

deludedgod's picture

Quote: For one, the

Quote:

 For one, the author was not giving a "theistic argument." He was merely defending the metaphysical presupposition in the existence of the immaterial world.

I can see that.

Quote:

 Since you claim to be the "rational responders" one would expect you to be dispassionate and logical in your responses and not indignant and outraged

Please point out where in the prior post I demonstrated "outrage". This is simply a Red Herring fallacy. You simply haven't addressed my response to your argument. Period. You have written four paragraphs. Three of them are snide insult. One of them is whining that you lack the capacity to understand the response. The claim in the third paragraph that I am not adressing his argument is simply false. I understood his argument. And I was and still am aware of what is under discussion.

Quote:

 but was rather trying to show that the word "immaterial" was not meaningless. In the particular case you attacked, he was trying to show that especially when it is coupled with other attributes, immateriality cannot be dismissed as a purely negative definition

And he failed in this regard. Saying something is "immaterial" and as an ontological descriptor and then also giving it a group of non-ontological descriptors are trying to claim you are making immaterial conceptually coherent is not an argument. It would be rather like inventing a descriptor by saying X is Y where Y is a made up word, and defending the coherency of Y by insisting that X is also Z. It is Red Herring. Simply attaching real attributes which have nothing to X does not make Y coherent. Especially if the attributes are of different categories. It would be like insisting that the object had no extended body (ie did not occupy points in space time) but was of the color blue. Such a statement would mean nothing. 

Quote:

Your response, with its sometimes incoherent rambling, diverted the attention away from his actual argument, or perhaps you failed to see it, or further still, perhaps I misunderstood what you were saying altogether.

The latter is correct. You simply did not understand what I was saying, and now you have the gall to tell me I did not understand my interlocutor. This is vapid nonsense of the highest order. You wasted four paragraphs telling me nothing. Address my arguments, or don't. But do not waste my time with talk about nothing.

Quote:

 Stick to "rational" arguments and defenses of your actual point.

THat is exactly what I did. It is you, with your last post, who have not addressed my argument, which means you are in no position whatsoever to make accusations of your interlocutors not addressing your post, since this is precisely what you just did. My, said the Pot, you're a handsome shade of black, Mr. Kettle. 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism

There was no Red Herring. I

There was no Red Herring. I was not being evasive or trying to divert attention from a response to the argument as I was not making the argument. Perhaps I should keep my comments to myself, but that is another matter.

 As to the outrage, I was making a general comment about the website, if you read the following sentence. It is true that you did not show outrage. You showed condescension. And I addressed that.

 The comment that I spent a paragraph whining does not merit defense.

 As for my calling the kettle black, I was annoyed at the comments of "we've heard this all before," "we've been doing this a long time." Since I didn't engage in anything like that while arguing a metaphysical point, I don't know what you're talking about. If I don't have the right to complain about irrelevant nonsense, then say that.

 

 

Questions

"What is the proposed basis of the distinction between ontological descriptors and non-ontological descriptors?"

and

"How do you define the words 'matter' and 'material'?"

deludedgod's picture

Quote:  As to the

Quote:

 As to the outrage, I was making a general comment about the website, if you read the following sentence. It is true that you did not show outrage. You showed condescension. And I addressed that.

I showed condescension because the argument we were discussing was already listed under todangst's "common counter arguments" section. If you put together something that has already been addressed as if it hasn't, you will probably be met with scorn. 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism

todangst's picture

TPin wrote:Please allow

TPin wrote:


Please allow me to post a response not my own:



I found the essay “‘Supernatural’ and ‘Immaterial’ are Broken Concepts” most interesting. If I may, I’d like to offer the following reflections:

First of all, I’d like to be so bold as to offer a working definition of some of the terms. “Matter” or “material” will, for my purposes, refer to “that which is directly detectable by the senses.” “Nature” will, for my purposes, refer to “the entire complex of all material things.” I am not presently interested in the term “energy.”

I’d also like to point out that I can’t see how, given the author’s position, he can account for the emergence of the terms “matter” “material” or “materialist.



Contradistinctives only provide meaning when applied within a context of a universe of discourse, so terms like 'immaterial' can provide no information. I make this point in my essay, in fact, I take pains to make it, so you're really not going to prove that you haven't even read the essay that you think you are rebutting, are you?

In addition, your suggestion amounts to saying that we can define matter by saying that it is 'not non matter'...

Quote:
It seems to me that certain terms are correlative; they can only be meaningful if their contrary is meaningful as well,



It seems to me that the term 'correlative' is misued here. However, let me help:

You're trying to say that contradistinctives provide meaning.... now, where have I read that before. Oh, yes.. in the very essay you're resonding to....

Now, what's missing? Oh yes, we also need a universe of discourse... elements left over that are NOT ruled out.... otherwise, a contradistinctive that leaves NO universe of discourse left over is worthless...

Contrary terms are meaningful only as contradistinctives and only in a context of a universe of discourse! That's the key point of the essay and the key point you've missed in your reply.

Quote:
and that both must be perceived in reality, or neither term will develop.


The entire point of my essay is that terms that rule out all of nature are only meaningful as synonyms for 'nothing'! Your example only works for terms that are not universal rule outs.

Quote:
So for instance, “day” and “night” are correlative terms. But if it was always day on planet earth, if the word “night” had no referent, in what context would the term “day” emerge?


The term "night' takes it's meaning as a contradistinctive to 'day', but this does not provide 'night' with ontological status alone... the contradistinctive AND a universe of discourse provide this!

Again, this is the point of the essay, that terms that rule out everything leave no left over 'universe of discourse' to provide them with any meaning..... which renders them incoherent when used as anything other than as a synonym for 'nothing'.

Quote:
Or, take the male-female dichotomy; if all humans, all mammals were male – if no one had ever encountered a female of any species – how could the word “male” have any meaning? It could have no use, no purpose, no context in which to arise. So too, it seems to me that the word “material” depends for its coherence and even its very existence on some insight, some encounter of the “immaterial.” The author’s reductionism seems to undermine its own possibility.



1) There's no 'reductionism' in my argument. You're misusing a term again.

2) What I am actually showing you is that terms that rule out everything cannot rely on the universe of discourse that otherwise provide meaning for contradistinctives. You fail to grasp that terms like male and female are contradistincitves that do NOT rule out an entire universe of discourse, whereas terms like immateriality DO.

Quote:
Now, the crux of the essay,


Which I have just proven that you have missed, entirely!

Quote:
as I understand it, is that the terms “immaterial” and “supernatural” have no content, and hence are meaningless. They are mere negations, and so by definition describe nothing. So, to say that God/souls/angels, etc…, are immaterial is in effect to admit that they do not exist.

This thesis might carry some weight if it were true that God/souls/angels were only described as being immaterial. But in fact, God is described in positive terms as well.



And my essay refutes this as well, (again, your post proves you've not even read my essay). To label SUPERnatural entities with positive traits is to steal from naturalism.

Quote:
This is how we always describe anything, namely, by combining and eliminating certain meaningful characteristics.



Sigh. Again, this is a key point in my essay.

Quote:
So a bat might be meaningfully (albeit imprecisely) described as a) a mammal, b) with wings, c) with sonar, d) with no vision. The first three characteristics are positive, the fourth a negation. In the same way, God might be meaningfully (albeit imprecisely) described as a) not directly detectable by the senses (immaterial), b) intelligent, c) the maker of everything but itself, d) perfect. Of these four characteristics, only the first of these is negative, and so this thing called God has been meaningfully described.



The first is purely negative, therefore meaningless.

The other three steal from naturalism and thus lead to incoherency when applied to a realm 'beyond nature' and 'beyond limits'.

Natural terms imply limits.

The supernatural, defined contra-nature, is beyond limits, ergo no term with ontological status can be applied to it by definition.

Hint: Look up 'negative theology"

Quote:
But the objection may be made that the last three characteristics mentioned are admittedly “different” from our immediate experience of intelligence, making, and perfection. So, the objection goes, theism is simply “stealing from naturalism” to fill its notion of God with content. Hence the notion of God must be meaningless.



The positive traits are only made coherent in a naturalistic framework,for reasons already explained. So to apply them to a realm 'beyond nature' requires that you steal the very concept of naturalism ruled out by the very definition of supernaturalism.

So, let's watch where your argument breaks down:

Quote:
Perhaps the following scenario would help. Take the case of two parents telling their six-year-old son about the birds and the bees.

They describe the sexual act, the fact that children sometimes issue therefrom, and conclude with the statement that most receive a unique pleasure from engaging in it. The child says, “What do you mean by pleasure?” and the parents, seeking to make comparisons from the child’s experience, say, “You know, like candy, or toys, or going to the bathroom when you have to go really badly. But it’s still a different kind of pleasure.”

Now, if the child is unduly skeptical and rather articulate, he might respond, “Ha! To give your notions of sexual pleasure meaning, you have to steal from the prepubescent ontology/field of discourse!



Only if he doesn't know what stealing the concept is.... coz there ain't any going on here in your example! Just different kinds of pleasure, neither of which RULES out the other kind by definition, you FUCKWIT.

Quote:
I therefore reject your notion of sexual pleasure as incoherent.”



This is a childishly inept confusion of what steailng the concept ACTUALLY means.

There is NO stealing of the concept taking place in your example.

NONE.

I defy you to label where even your fevered brain thinks it takes place.

Stealing the concept occurs ONLY when one MUST rely on a concept that one has previously RULED OUT.

Here's what stealing the concept actually is:

To say that invisibility is defined as colorless, and then to describe its color.

To define supernatuarlism as beyond nature is to rule out any aspect of nature in one's definition. THerefore, to go on and apply any aspect of nature in defining supernatuarlism is to STEAL the concept, to take from what one has just previously argued is NOT part and parcel of one's terms.

Your example is just fucking inane. It shows NO conception of what stealing the concept actually means.

Quote:
All this, of course, does not prove that there is a God,


"All of this" proves is that you can't read my essay to save your life, and that you dont have a fucking clue as to what the stealing the concept fallacy IS.

Wow.

As usual people, I offer the same advice: read the essay before replying to it.

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.

Hambydammit's picture

Quote: I, for one, am not

Quote:
I, for one, am not interested in your psychoanalysis of theists.

It's a free country.  Don't read my posts anymore.

Quote:
Your hypotheses are trite and not based on anything concrete.

Interesting.  You made this judgment based on what, exactly?  Odd that you didn't even bother to ask if I had anything concrete on which to base my hypothesis.  You apparently have the gift of ESP.  You'll have to explain how you managed that.

 

Quote:
At any rate, I don't see their relevance.

Why don't you read my mind again and see if you can figure it out?

 

Quote:
Second, whether or not you have heard the argument before is irrelevant. He did not claim to be expounding new, or even original, arguments. Since you claim to be the "rational responders" one would expect you to be dispassionate and logical in your responses and not indignant and outraged. I have seen argument after argument on this website deteriorate into self-satisfied insults over supposed cliches and a perceived lack of originality.

Odd... I'm still waiting to see what your argument is going to be.  So far, you've just spewed self-satisfied insults.

 

Quote:
In the particular case you attacked, he was trying to show that especially when it is coupled with other attributes, immateriality cannot be dismissed as a purely negative definition.

And that position was thoroughly refuted earlier in this thread.  The poster's inability to grasp the concept is no threat to the concept's validity.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

Eloise's picture

todangst wrote:For those

 

todangst wrote:
For those who struggle to grasp the challenge:, here's some help in providing an ontology for your term:

1) Can you show that anything exists other than matter or energy?

Noone seems to have mentioned in rebuttal of your argument that this is a complex question that steals from the genetic root of theological supernaturalism.

The inclusion of "or energy" into this question presupposes your own conclusion that the concept of energy, being that it is considered as of the last century to be a material phenomenon, does not address the theological concept of supernaturalism from the late 16th century (some 400+ years ago). This question is loaded and useless to the  subject.

In the end the simple answer is most likely the correct one.

1 John 1:5

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com

todangst's picture

Eloise wrote: todangst

Eloise wrote:

 
todangst wrote:
For those who struggle to grasp the challenge:, here's some help in providing an ontology for your term:

1) Can you show that anything exists other than matter or energy?

Noone seems to have mentioned in rebuttal of your argument that this is a complex question that steals from the genetic root of theological supernaturalism.

 

Probably because your claim is false. There's nothing to steal from supernaturalism, you've got it all backwards. Supernatural terms steal from naturalism.

 

 

Quote:

The inclusion of "or energy" into this question presupposes your own conclusion that the concept of energy, being that it is considered as of the last century to be a material phenomenon, does not address the theological concept of supernaturalism from the late 16th century (some 400+ years ago). This question is loaded and useless to the  subject.

Complete nonsense. There is no presupposition. Matter IS energy.  Apparently you're a century behind in your physics.

 

And again, there is no coherent concept of supernaturalism that doesn't steal from naturalism. Again, that's the point of the essay. Is there one theist who can at least read the essay and respond to it?

 

 

Quote:
 

 

 

In the end the simple answer is most likely the correct one.

1 John 1:5

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

So, your god is a bunch of photons? Your supernatural entity is entirely natural? Please, my threads are for serious replies only.  Please don't just recreate the very error the essay points out.

 

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.

todangst's picture

Eloise wrote: todangst

Eloise wrote:

 
todangst wrote:
For those who struggle to grasp the challenge:, here's some help in providing an ontology for your term:

1) Can you show that anything exists other than matter or energy?

Noone seems to have mentioned in rebuttal of your argument that this is a complex question that steals from the genetic root of theological supernaturalism.

 

Probably because your claim is false. There's nothing to steal from supernaturalism, you've got it all backwards. Supernatural terms steal from naturalism.

 

 

Quote:

The inclusion of "or energy" into this question presupposes your own conclusion that the concept of energy, being that it is considered as of the last century to be a material phenomenon, does not address the theological concept of supernaturalism from the late 16th century (some 400+ years ago). This question is loaded and useless to the  subject.

Complete nonsense. There is no presupposition. Matter IS energy.  Apparently you're a century behind in your physics.

 

And again, there is no coherent concept of supernaturalism that doesn't steal from naturalism. Again, that's the point of the essay. Is there one theist who can at least read the essay and respond to it?

 

 

Quote:
 

 

 

In the end the simple answer is most likely the correct one.

1 John 1:5

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

So, your god is a bunch of photons? Your supernatural entity is entirely natural? Please, my threads are for serious replies only.  Please don't just recreate the very error the essay points out.

 

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.

Eloise's picture

todangst wrote:Eloise

todangst wrote:

Eloise wrote:

 
todangst wrote:
For those who struggle to grasp the challenge:, here's some help in providing an ontology for your term:

1) Can you show that anything exists other than matter or energy?

Noone seems to have mentioned in rebuttal of your argument that this is a complex question that steals from the genetic root of theological supernaturalism.

 

Probably because your claim is false. There's nothing to steal from supernaturalism, you've got it all backwards. Supernatural terms steal from naturalism.

As I have mentioned before in other threads, the definition of supernatural on which you have your argument premised is erroneous.  You have excluded energy from the concept of supernatural arbitrarily, the word supernatural did traditionally and originally refer to the "immaterial" properties of forms of energy (brightness, hotness, sounds, vitality etc). Traditional reference to the 'super'natural does not exclude energy as you have supposed. And I have supported this claim with a quote from a 2000 year old book devoted to the explication of theological supernaturalism.

 

todangst wrote:

eloise wrote:

The inclusion of "or energy" into this question presupposes your own conclusion that the concept of energy, being that it is considered as of the last century to be a material phenomenon, does not address the theological concept of supernaturalism from the late 16th century (some 400+ years ago). This question is loaded and useless to the  subject.

Complete nonsense. There is no presupposition. Matter IS energy.  Apparently you're a century behind in your physics.

As I have clearly stated, it is theology which is centuries, millenia even, behind in it's physics. Theological passages refer to light and energy as immaterial or supernatural, modern century physics refers to the same as material and natural. It's really that simple.

 

todangst wrote:

And again, there is no coherent concept of supernaturalism that doesn't steal from naturalism. Again, that's the point of the essay. Is there one theist who can at least read the essay and respond to it?

Explain how I am stealing from naturalism? As I see it I am merely clarifying the meaning of supernatural in a theological context with the end result being that theological supernaturalism was never 'not natural' it was a way of referring to things that we only now call natural and material (aside: to paraphrase Karl Popper this is little more than convention really) but once, pay close attention please because this is my point, once such things were not referred to as being of nature or material, they were considered transcendent.

Now the reference, of late, to energy and it's properties as material or natural does not infer absolutely that they have no qualities which are "transcendent" of some set defining materialism.

For example one can define 'material' as we are referring to it here in this discourse as 'derived from or composed of matter' and then define matter as 'that which has mass and occupies space' - light has no mass, it is thus external of the material set "that which is composed of matter" 

Moreover, light is responsible for the most powerful fundamental force in our universe, electromagnetism.  These massless particles wield massive physical force as such putting "light" outside the set defined 'material' by Newtons laws. to wit such material laws had to be rewritten to account for this strange fact, but theology did not and accounts for it to this day, in theology this massless power giant has always been.

 

todangst wrote:
 

 

eloise wrote:

 

In the end the simple answer is most likely the correct one.

1 John 1:5

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

So, your god is a bunch of photons?

A bunch of photons is closer in definition to an omnipotent omnipresent omniscient god than anything we can define in the universe, that is a fact, so yes. Photons and God are like peas in a pod to me. Next question?

Quote:

Your supernatural entity is entirely natural? Please, my threads are for serious replies only.  Please don't just recreate the very error the essay points out.

I am pointing out your error, Todangst. You have removed energy from the set defined by theological supernaturalism to lever in the definition of supernatural you need to support your argument. Theists such as the ones you have quoted in your essays (MLK etc), may make claims which support your definition of supernatural, however the root of their claims disagrees with them, according to their bible the entity which they refer to as supernatural and immaterial is regarded as of this century to be the very same thing as the natural and material universe.

Your error is that their failing is obvious (and even forgivable considering that they were referencing pre-scientific definitions of material and natural) but you have, even so, adopted it and propogated it in in your own argument against them.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com

Eloise's picture

deludedgod wrote: If for

deludedgod wrote:

If for example our brains produce what is essentially a quantum computer that fucntions by microtubules capable of switching in and out of our observable reality, then it seems rather implausible that we will ever be able to truly map it given uncertanty.

Microtubules?? The cellular spindle structures in the cytoskeleton that initiate stepwise mitosis?

No, he is referring to Penrose's theory of consciousness, DG.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com

HisWillness's picture

 Thanks for the article,

 Thanks for the article, it's a great compilation.

deludedgod's picture

Penrose? As in the

Penrose? As in the astrophysicist? Not that I am being snide in any way whatsoever, as Astrophysics is an extraordinarily difficult discipline which requires a great deal of dedication and intelligence...but it seems to me that he is slightly out of his game here.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism

Eloise's picture

deludedgod wrote:Penrose? As

deludedgod wrote:

Penrose? As in the astrophysicist? Not that I am being snide in any way whatsoever, as Astrophysics is an extraordinarily difficult discipline which requires a great deal of dedication and intelligence...but it seems to me that he is slightly out of his game here.

Yes indeed, the one and same Roger Penrose; he long ago rejected the computational model of mind and wrote "Emperors New Mind" presenting his argument against it.  He collaborates with an anaesthesiologist, Stuart Hameroff on an alternative Quantum mind theory in which neurons operate similarly to and/or via microtubules. 

I'm looking for a decent link to info on it, I may be back with one shortly/

meanwhile this is a fairly long article on the story behind the idea:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1511/is_n6_v15/ai_15447461/pg_1

this looks right:

http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/penrose-hameroff/orchOR.html

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com

BobSpence's picture

deludedgod wrote:Penrose? As

deludedgod wrote:

Penrose? As in the astrophysicist? Not that I am being snide in any way whatsoever, as Astrophysics is an extraordinarily difficult discipline which requires a great deal of dedication and intelligence...but it seems to me that he is slightly out of his game here.

I definitely agree with you about Penrose, DG. I gave up reading his 'Shadows of the Mind', one the few times I have stopped reading a book, because it became more and more apparent to me that his ideas on computing and consciousness were inadequate. Seeing and hearing him in a few interviews re-inforced my impression, he is out of his depth here. Compared to people like Dennett, in particular, he is not in the game.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology

inspectormustard's picture

Roger Penrose, while having

Roger Penrose, while having done much for Mathematics, is absolutely warped when it comes to things like neurology. He's responsible for a fair amount of the quantum mysticism floating around now, with his radical hypothesis regarding consciousness.

Considering that we know roughly how fast individual brain cells operate (roughly 200 hertz), their memory capacity (roughly 1.25 kilobytes), and their behavior (IBM's Blue Gene/Q will be put to the task of emulating the human brain very soon, we've already emulated the dog brain but haven't processed all the data yet) there is no reason to call in quantum computation to explain consciousness. As far as we know, it's only a matter of setting everything up with the right starting conditions.

" Immateriality - defined as

" Immateriality - defined as neither matter nor energy. So, what's left over for it to be?
 Supernatural - defined as 'not nature' or 'above nature' or 'beyond nature'. So again, what's left over for it to be?"

 

Um.. yeah.

 

Jelly - defined as neither smooth peanut butter, nor chunky peanut butter. So what's left over for it to be?

WillieBop wrote:"

WillieBop wrote:

" Immateriality - defined as neither matter nor energy. So, what's left over for it to be?
 Supernatural - defined as 'not nature' or 'above nature' or 'beyond nature'. So again, what's left over for it to be?"

 

Um.. yeah.

 

Jelly - defined as neither smooth peanut butter, nor chunky peanut butter. So what's left over for it to be?

Way to miss the point.

 

If you want to be foolish enough to define one thing as a completely different thing, there's no point on protesting.

If you want to show your God exists you need to avoid defining him/her/it using negative terms.

Don't tell me what he/she/it's not - tell me what he/she/it is.

Why do you think your god NOT being something is a positive?

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin

"Way to miss the

"Way to miss the point."

 

Yes you did clearly miss the point. Think about it.

WillieBop wrote:"Way to miss

WillieBop wrote:

"Way to miss the point."

 

Yes you did clearly miss the point. Think about it.

No, I got your point. I understood that you have no clue what you're talking about.

Did you get mine? You can't tell me God exists and describe him/her/it using terms that describe nonexistence.

I could say that jelly is not peanut butter. Then I can tell people what jelly is when they ask "Well, what is it then?"

Can you do the same with your God? You seem to be able to tell me that God is "not material" and "not a part of nature"

Well, what is God then?

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin

JillSwift's picture

WillieBop wrote:Yes you did

WillieBop wrote:
Yes you did clearly miss the point. Think about it.
OK then, let's ask the actual questions, seeing as you have the answers:

If something is immatareial or supernatural, then what is it?

  • If it has no material, is it vacuum?
  • If it is outside nature, then it has no location, no energy or mass. Isn't that the same as saying it does not exist? If not, why not?

I await your reply.

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray

JillSwift wrote:WillieBop

JillSwift wrote:

WillieBop wrote:
Yes you did clearly miss the point. Think about it.
OK then, let's ask the actual questions, seeing as you have the answers:

If something is immatareial or supernatural, then what is it?

  • If it has no material, is it vacuum?
  • If it is outside nature, then it has no location, no energy or mass. Isn't that the same as saying it does not exist? If not, why not?

I await your reply.

Don't conserve oxygen waiting for the answer.

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin

JillSwift's picture

No holding of the breath,

No holding of the breath, check.

(Noting here that any response has yet to be made.)

Religious loons erect and

Religious loons erect and re-erect fancy idols of voodoo magic qualities of nothing but meaningless make believe, missing the obvious fact that nothing can exist that isn't natural, and in some way a part of energy and matter. Science is working on this. Heck even QM science has ideas of many other "mysterious" dimensions.

I think the intuitive saying and knowing, "all is one" is why buddha laughed when asked about gawed .... I laugh too, lucky me   .... but cry too, when I look out my front door, at the suffering world and what people think and do .... umm, and story agnostic atheist jesus wepted ....  

   Call it "belief, faith, my religion", whatever, as "All is ONE" is indeed my creed.

                                   *   NO MASTER  *   

JillSwift's picture

WillieBop has made other

WillieBop has made other posts since my last one to this thread. I think I can assume the questions will go unanswered.

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray

todangst's picture

Eloise wrote:As I have

Eloise wrote:

 

As I have mentioned before in other threads, the definition of supernatural on which you have your argument premised is erroneous.  You have excluded energy from the concept of supernatural arbitrarily, 

Energy = matter. Energy is part of nature, its  matter.  There is NOTHING arbitrary about this decision. In fact, its definitional.

 

 

 

Quote:

Explain how I am stealing from naturalism? 

 

This was already done in the essay. You are taking a natural term, and insisting that it is supernatural, despite the clear problem that energy IS matter.

 

I know that some theists like to invoke 'spooky' thinking when they use terms like "energy" or 'four dimensions' but nothing supernatural is involved here... these terms refer to nature.

 

Quote:

I am pointing out your error, Todangst. You have removed energy from the set defined by theological supernaturalism

No, I haven't. Energy IS Matter. If energy is 'supernatural" then supernatural is natural.  I trust   you can see the problem here.

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.

BobSpence's picture

 "Theological

 "Theological supernaturalism" - wow, combining two concepts, already of little or no value to real understanding, into an even more vacuous one....

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology

Eloise's picture

BobSpence1

BobSpence1 wrote:

 "Theological supernaturalism" - wow, combining two concepts, already of little or no value to real understanding, into an even more vacuous one....

I appreciate your reasons for calling it a vacuous concept, Bob, but it remains that superstition originating in theistic tracts is what Tod was addressing in his essay and so it is theology based supernaturalism which has something to answer to here. In the times that theology originates from 'material' was differently defined and the concept of immaterial relates to that definition which is narrower than that of contemporary ideas.

Tod contends that the rendering of the historical definition of immaterial defunct by the contemporary definition of material extends to any concept historically attached to the old definition and it should not extend that far. It does not follow that because one idea about the nature of a thing is superceded every other idea about its nature is by extension automatically superceded.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com

Eloise's picture

todangst wrote:Eloise

todangst wrote:

Eloise wrote:

 

As I have mentioned before in other threads, the definition of supernatural on which you have your argument premised is erroneous.  You have excluded energy from the concept of supernatural arbitrarily, 

Energy = matter. Energy is part of nature, its  matter.  There is NOTHING arbitrary about this decision. In fact, its definitional.

And I repeat, we are discussing historical concepts, where you are drawing the line scientifically is perfectly valid but where you are drawing it historically is completely arbitrary. Supernatural has a history of referring cogently to real "things", updated knowledge of the nature of those things doesn't make those things nothings along with the word, nor anything attributed to those things other than that their nature is supernal.

Todangst wrote:

 

Quote:

Explain how I am stealing from naturalism? 

 

This was already done in the essay. You are taking a natural term, and insisting that it is supernatural, despite the clear problem that energy IS matter.

I am not. I am taking the set of things supernatural used to refer to and pointing out that they are still real. Supernatural does refer to something, albeit in an archaic manner.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com

BobSpence's picture

 I don't see why the

 I don't see why the historical roots of the terms are particularly relevant to todangst's arguments. I don't think it is a discussion about the origins of the terms, but a discussion based on best contemporary understandings and insights.

Reminds me of a criticism Richard Carrier made of much philosophical discussion, in that it was too concerned about the history of the ideas. It would be like contemporary physicists being required to take Newton's original theories into account all the time, rather than concentrating on the best current understandings.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology