Does incoherence/meaningless lead to strong atheism, or non-cognitivism?

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Does incoherence/meaningless lead to strong atheism, or non-cognitivism?

I hold that incoherent/meaningless only leads to non-cognitivism, which in turn leads to weak-atheism.

Once you defined something as being incoherent, unknowable, incomprehensible, etc, you can no longer speak of it, at all, and this includes saying it does or does not exist.

Our inability to evaluate whether god exists does NOT lead to the conclusion "god does not exist". It simply means we cannot evaluate whether god exists.

It is therefore a non-sequitur to say "god is meaningless/incoherent, therefore god cannot exist". 

I do think this is a pragmatic argument for saying god does not exist, but it is not a metaphysical one. This is an important distinction.

I would agree that only meaningful propositions can be shown to be true. But I also hold that only meaningful propositions can be shown to be false. To say something is false/untrue is to hold that statement IS meaningful, but factually wrong. Thus, meaningless propositions are simply meaningless, they are neither true or untrue.

Discuss.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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 This fits with your

 This fits with your earlier ideas about rational/irrational/non-rational, where an entire domain of what's colloquially called "nonsense" exists metaphysically and logically.

"Jimmy can has elves" would be meaningless. It's neither true nor untrue, it's simply nonsense. I'm guessing that's obvious.

But I don't know if introducing incompatible verbs with objects makes a statement nonsense, because my philosophy doesn't go past second year. Is something like "The square is eating a triangle" nonsense because the nouns don't match the verbs? How about "Elves are jealous"? Is that meaningless simply because elves don't exist?

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HisWillness wrote: This

HisWillness wrote:

 This fits with your earlier ideas about rational/irrational/non-rational, where an entire domain of what's colloquially called "nonsense" exists metaphysically and logically.

"Jimmy can has elves" would be meaningless. It's neither true nor untrue, it's simply nonsense. I'm guessing that's obvious.

Right.

 

Quote:
But I don't know if introducing incompatible verbs with objects makes a statement nonsense, because my philosophy doesn't go past second year. Is something like "The square is eating a triangle" nonsense because the nouns don't match the verbs?

I wold say that would be nonsense and therefore neither true or false.

Quote:
How about "Elves are jealous"? Is that meaningless simply because elves don't exist?

I would say "Elves are jealous" would be meaningful, just factually wrong - Elves do not exist, but the statement has meaning.

While I don't think we can say "god does not exist", I think we could say "Elves do not exist" because unlike god they are not inherently incoherent. Think of Elves in the same way as Unicorns.

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Quote:I wold say that would

Quote:
I wold say that would be nonsense and therefore neither true or false.

This would depend more on context.  In a strictly removed linguistic sense, I suppose we could say it's nonsense, but Pacman is a geometric shape that eats other geometric shapes, and the sentence, "Pacman is eating the dots" is coherent.

To answer the original question, I think that in a metaphysical sense, incoherence means we simply can't discuss the concept.  The important caveat that I make is that metaphysics isn't particularly useful for proving or disproving the empirical existence of something.  Consider:  I can say that "God-bolts" exist.  A scientist can say that Lightning exists.  We're both describing something that does exist, but my description of it is incoherent, metaphysically, since it includes an incoherent term. 

So, being metaphysically incoherent is a problem for philosophers, but not a problem for scientists.  Where the problem comes in for science (which is the only thing that can prove or disprove objective existence) is when it is apparently impossible to provide a coherent description of that which is being sought.  If I tell a scientist, "God-bolts are those white streaks of light in the sky that make loud booms," he has something to start looking for because I've described lightning with coherent terms.  When someone says something like, "God is the immaterial manifestation of perfected holiness," all the scientist can do is stand there scratching his beard and looking quizzical.

As a side note, this is where a lot of people get their knickers in a twist when I start talking about morality and the illusion of choice.  When we use a metaphysical context to describe the scientific reality of existence, we start getting into trouble.  It's one of the nasty limits of language.  Because we are the results of physical processes, which follow immutable physical laws, we technically don't have the ability to make "choices."  However, because our perception and subsequent interpretation of reality includes the appearance of self-determination, we do have the ability to make choices. 

There's an apparent contradiction, but in reality, there is no contradiction.  Both statements are true.  The problem is that we don't have a word in English that means, "The physical results of physical forces acting upon a mind to create the perception of self-determination and the ability to arbitrarily opt for one of several potential future actions."  Even if such a word existed, it would likely be maligned in the same way that "evolution" is today, primarily because the concept of illusory choice is really complicated, and most people recognize choice as being patently obvious.

Again, we see the difference between a metaphysical inconsistency and a scientific reality.  This time, as with lightning, the problem is resolvable because we can use language (however unwieldy it might be in this case) to describe coherent ideas well enough to create an understanding of what is actually happening.  With God, however, there is no way to do this without stealing from the material, which leaves God under the purveyance of science.  If God is under the purveyance of science, we can say God does not exist with at least as much certainty as unicorns or elves.

 So, I guess that was a long way around my ass to get to my elbow.  Yes, metaphysics does not allow for any discussion of that which has no coherence.  This has no particular bearing on strong or weak atheism for anyone who adheres to rational materialism.

 

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

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 Hamby wrote:This would

 

Hamby wrote:
This would depend more on context.  In a strictly removed linguistic sense, I suppose we could say it's nonsense, but Pacman is a geometric shape that eats other geometric shapes, and the sentence, "Pacman is eating the dots" is coherent.

Good point.

 

Hamby wrote:
To answer the original question, I think that in a metaphysical sense, incoherence means we simply can't discuss the concept. 

Agreed.

 

Hamby wrote:
Consider:  I can say that "God-bolts" exist.  A scientist can say that Lightning exists.  We're both describing something that does exist, but my description of it is incoherent, metaphysically, since it includes an incoherent term. 

Yes.

 

Hamby wrote:
So, being metaphysically incoherent is a problem for philosophers, but not a problem for scientists.  Where the problem comes in for science (which is the only thing that can prove or disprove objective existence) is when it is apparently impossible to provide a coherent description of that which is being sought.  If I tell a scientist, "God-bolts are those white streaks of light in the sky that make loud booms," he has something to start looking for because I've described lightning with coherent terms.  When someone says something like, "God is the immaterial manifestation of perfected holiness," all the scientist can do is stand there scratching his beard and looking quizzical.

Right. Although I would say I'm primarily talking from a philosophical sense... that no one can say god is incoherent, and then conclude from that alone that god does not exist. There is no logical step from 'incoherence' to 'non-existence'. Our inability to comprehend god does not mean there is no god, metaphysically speaking.

 

Hamby wrote:
If God is under the purveyance of science, we can say God does not exist with at least as much certainty as unicorns or elves.

Yes. I would classify this as pragmatic non-existence - while we cannot rule it out completely/metaphysically, we can live as if it does not exist.

 

Hamby wrote:
Yes, metaphysics does not allow for any discussion of that which has no coherence.  This has no particular bearing on strong or weak atheism for anyone who adheres to rational materialism.

Can you elaborate on this. Are you saying both weak and strong atheism are compatible with god being incoherent?

 

 

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Topher wrote:I wold say that

Topher wrote:

I wold say that [the sentence "The square is eating the triangle"] would be nonsense and therefore neither true or false.

[...]

I would say "Elves are jealous" would be meaningful, just factually wrong - Elves do not exist, but the statement has meaning.

I'm having difficulty at this point, because I'm not sure how you're distinguishing between imaginary shapes and imaginary creatures. If elves can be jealous, so can triangles. "The square is made of two triangles" is meaningful, but "square has eaten the triangles" is not? A square doesn't have a digestive system, but neither do elves, for all we know. The only difference I can see is that triangles and squares are precisely defined.

Topher wrote:
While I don't think we can say "god does not exist", I think we could say "Elves do not exist" because unlike god they are not inherently incoherent. Think of Elves in the same way as Unicorns.

I'm thinking of elves and unicorns in the same way. They're not entirely coherent because they have no place in nature. A biological creature would at least have a place in nature, and neither elves nor unicorns do. By that same token, they resemble triangles in the sense that they're abstractions that represent something to us, but they lack a precise definition. Just like God.

If I say "God does not exist" it's the same as claiming that "Garblefruz does not exist". At least with triangles we have a precise frame of reference. With God, unicorns, and elves, no such frame of reference exists.

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HisWillness wrote:I'm having

HisWillness wrote:
I'm having difficulty at this point, because I'm not sure how you're distinguishing between imaginary shapes and imaginary creatures.

Because a shape eating another shape is nonsensical. It's it a category error (it is applying 'eating' to an inanimate object)

 

Saying "Elves are jealous" however isn't meaningless, because even if Elves do not exist, they a) are not incoherent like god since they are just human-like beings, and b) applying an emotion to a coherent being, even a imaginary one, is again not meaningless.

 

HisWillness wrote:
If elves can be jealous, so can triangles.

No, that would be a category error.

 

Calling Elves jealous is fine. It's like calling Superman or any other fictional being jealous... even though it is not factually true (i.e. the being does not actually exist), it is still coherent. But calling a triangle jealous would be a category error... it would be applying a property (emotion) to something that could not possibly have that property (an inanimate object).

 

HisWillness wrote:
I'm thinking of elves and unicorns in the same way. They're not entirely coherent because they have no place in nature.

What do you mean "no place in nature"?

 

A unicorn would have an ontology - it would an animal, essentially a horse with a horn on its head!

 

I would also say that Elves have an ontology - they are human-like beings.

 

I would NOT say god has an ontology - it is devoid of everything.

 

HisWillness wrote:
they resemble triangles in the sense that they're abstractions that represent something to us, but they lack a precise definition. Just like God.

Elves and unicorns can/do have definitions, at least definitions that make them coherent (see above). God however not only does not have a definition, it necessarily cannot have a definition. Any definition given for god would not be describing god! 

 

HisWillness wrote:
With God, unicorns, and elves, no such frame of reference exists.

What do you mean by this?

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Topher wrote: HisWillness

Topher wrote:

 

HisWillness wrote:
If elves can be jealous, so can triangles.

No, that would be a category error.

Okay, I understand where you're coming from now.

Topher wrote:
HisWillness wrote:
With God, unicorns, and elves, no such frame of reference exists.

What do you mean by this?

I mean that both horns and horses are found in nature, but horses with a single horn protruding from their heads are not. Also, is it a spiraling horn? Maybe it's a strange colour? The rules are now confused, because nature didn't create this animal. It has no reference within the process of evolution, and as such could consist of anything at all. Saying "The unicorn is jealous" could conceivably be a category error if we imagine that unicorns cannot possess emotions, but we don't know. We don't know if elves have emotions either, unless we specifically decide that they do.

It seems to me that we can't actually determine whether or not a category error is being made for beings that are entirely the product of our imaginations.

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Hambydammit wrote:Yes,

Hambydammit wrote:
Yes, metaphysics does not allow for any discussion of that which has no coherence.

I like how you and Topher just cut the legs out from underneath the metaphysical so casually. 

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I think (and this will sound

I think (and this will sound overly narcissistic, but bear with me) that a solution will draw very heavily on those ideas todangst and I outlined months ago. Let's say that we assert that God is a particular entity, a conscious being with causal powers, responsible for creating the universe, etc.

The first question is what precisely we mean when we say that this is incoherent. In a logical sentence, this is normally referred to as the problem of non-referring entities. Consider the following sentence:

The present king of France is bald

As a logical sentence, this must be bivalent, that is, either true or false. The problem is that there is no King of France, therefore "the present King of France" does not pick out any entity within the universe of discourse to which we could attach the predicate of baldness. Apparently, then, it can be neither true or false. This cannot be the case in a logical language. The sentence appears meaningless. That's why we must recognize that such a sentence actually makes three claims:

An existence claim: There is a present king of france

A uniqueness claim: "The present king of France" picks out precisely one member of the universe of discourse

Predication claim: He is bald

Now we can reword the sentence:

There exists some x such that x is the present King of France, that predicate of baldness holds for x

Understood in this way, the sentence is meaningful, but false.

We can therefore conclude that a meaningless sentence is one which does not pick out any members of the universe of discourse. In this case, the universe of discourse is things, objects. Anything that exists.

With this in mind, we can define why we consider God to be incoherent. A predicate must pick out at least one object within the universe of discourse, otherwise it is called an empty predicate. For example, if we consider the set of predicates "x is on my table", "x is an apple" then the union of the set of predicates would be precisely that apple (or apples) on my table. If there is no apple on my table, we say the intersection of the two sets is empty. Another thing to consider is if something is bare of predicates. Consider the following: {x}

This is a set containing the member x. But since x is a variable, it could be anything, at least until a predicate is attached to it (at which point it must pick out some members of the universe of discourse). As such, if no predicates are attached to x, then x is meaningless. It is just a placeholder, waiting for a predicate to be attached so it can pick something out.

It is tempting to say at first "God is precisely that object within the universe of discourse that is picked out by the predicates given above (conscious entity, causal powers, created the universe, etc.). The problem comes when we ask what sort of object? So we come to the crux of the problem:

A notion might be incoherent because certain predicates can only pick out objects which are bound under other predicates. For example, the predicate "x is red" can only be pick out objects bound under the predicate "x emits and reflects electromagnetic waves". Similarily, the predicate "x has causal powers" can only pick out objects within space and time, since "causal powers" is precisely defined in terms of these notions. We assert things like "God is conscious, has causal powers etc". But these are properties of objects in the world we experience (the material world). If they weren't, we wouldn't experience them (because the "material world" is simply defined as precisely that world which is responsible for our experience. Red is caused by the red wavelength, the objects around us are composed of material which we can experience. The material world is defined in terms of experience). In other words, a set of predicates might be inconsistent. The intersection of"x is red all over" and "x is green all over" won't pick anything out. It is the null set. Similarily the intersection "x is beyond and is responsible for space-time" and "x has causal powers" won't pick anything out, neither will "x is not composed of material substance" and "x is a mind like entity with the capacity for thought", simply because the latter can be understood in terms of objects which are material. How, for example, could we speak of a mind-entity which could think without, for example, experience (for example, try to consider your mind if you had been deprived of all senses since birth), or without organic or computational machinery to process those experiences. The notion of a mind entity with a capacity for thought, in other words, is a predicate which is closed under the set of all objects which are material, and are a subset of those objects which are made of complicated material structures like neurons, etc.

This comes back to todangst's argument. If we confront the set of all real objects, then they must all be described by a certain property. That property might be "the objects are comprised of material which occupies space-time". That's just a hypothetical example. But they must be picked out by a predicate nonetheless. But the whole concept of supernatural is merely the negation of predicates we associate with the natural world. So it is bare of predicates. Consider, for example, in the set of all objects, the negation of the predicate "x is a book". So then we have the set "x such that x is not a book". But all the objects in here must be picked out by some predicate which makes statements about what they are and not merely about what they aren't. It might be a telephone, or a calculator, anything except a book. But imagine if we negated all predicates (it isn't a book...stapler...material object...etc. etc.) what would we be left with? Nothing, by definition. If we were left with something, we, by definition, could attach a predicate to it. But the concept of supernatural just negates any predicates we could attach. This is how it is defined. Is it material? No. Then what is it? You can't avoid this by saying it's "non material" since that's just a repitition of hte problem above. You can't describe something just by negating a group of predicates. If you can't attach a predicate to it, then it can't be an object. Some have objected and said just because we can't attach the predicate of "is material" to a supernatural object doesn't mean we can't attach any predicates to it. My response is the following:

This hits on a real reason why "God" is incoherent. We attempt to say things like "God is inconceivable, supernatural, etc." In other words, that anything we conceive of is not God, and it is not a material being. This is problematic since all our knowledge, by definition, comes to us in terms of precisely those things we can conceive of. If we cannot concieve of it, we can't assign predicates to it. If our universe of discourse is all things and objects, then if we by definition can't actually say anything about this entity because anything we say will be defined in terms of precisely those things that we can say things about. So the notion of "God" is simply bare of predicates. Any predicate we attach to it like "consciousness" etc. will be defined precisely in terms of things we understand because we can have knowledge of them. In addition, we should consider the fact that our sciences are revealing that these are properties which belong to material objects. It is not clear how we would assert that God is some sort of conscious entity with causal powers and at the same time deny that he is a material object, if our understanding of conscious entities with causal powers (like ourselves) is defined precisely in terms of material objects. If it is bare of predicates, then "God" is little more than a syllable which is just floating around waiting to be attached to a set of predicates so it can pick out a member of the universe of discourse. Until then, it's just a syllable with no meaning, like "fnonk" or "zebnit". 

So then what should we say about our stance on whether "God" exists? You tell the theist: You attach a consistent set of predicates to this object you call God, and we'll tell you if it is reasonable to believe that this object being picked out exists (or more formally "is in the set of all real objects" ). Until then, the notion just...isn't. 

"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.

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 HisWillness wrote:I mean

 

HisWillness wrote:
I mean that both horns and horses are found in nature, but horses with a single horn protruding from their heads are not. Also, is it a spiraling horn? Maybe it's a strange colour? The rules are now confused, because nature didn't create this animal. It has no reference within the process of evolution, and as such could consist of anything at all.

Of course, however there is nothing incoherent about a horse with a horn on its head. It's not a meaningless concept, it simply isn't real. Your point would be good if someone claimed unicorns do exist, however we are only talking about whether the concept is coherent or not, and coherence does not require existence.

 

HisWillness wrote:
Saying "The unicorn is jealous" could conceivably be a category error if we imagine that unicorns cannot possess emotions, but we don't know. We don't know if elves have emotions either, unless we specifically decide that they do.

It wouldn't be a category error as living beings can (and do) possess emotions. If unicorns did not possess emotions, then the statement "the unicorn is jealous" would simply be factually wrong, rather than a category error. Same with elves.

 

HisWillness wrote:
It seems to me that we can't actually determine whether or not a category error is being made for beings that are entirely the product of our imaginations.

I'm not sure about this. I probably wouldn't say a category error is being made if we say a fictional character is said to possess an emotion, no matter what the character is since characters can possess emotions (even if it was a robot and obviously not 'alive' as it would still be a character). Other times I would say it would be quite clear that a category error is being made (i.e. when it is clear that one category is being applied to something in another category, such as "green ideas" )

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deludedgod wrote:I think

deludedgod wrote:
I think (and this will sound overly narcissistic, but bear with me) that a solution will draw very heavily on those ideas todangst and I outlined months ago.

Was this in a thread? Do you remember which one?

 

deludedgod wrote:
Understood in this way, the sentence is meaningful, but false.

Yes. For something to be true or false, it must first be meaningful. This obviously means that meaningless statements are just... meaningless, and nothing more.

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Quote:Was this in a thread?

Quote:

Was this in a thread? Do you remember which one?

Of course. You've read them, I think. You'll find them under todangst's writing section on God being an incoherent term and the supernatural.

"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.

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Thanks fellas, xlint.

Thanks fellas, xlint. "Gawedsome" .....


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Topher wrote:I'm not sure

Topher wrote:

I'm not sure about this. I probably wouldn't say a category error is being made if we say a fictional character is said to possess an emotion, no matter what the character is since characters can possess emotions (even if it was a robot and obviously not 'alive' as it would still be a character). Other times I would say it would be quite clear that a category error is being made (i.e. when it is clear that one category is being applied to something in another category, such as "green ideas" )

Okay, I can see your distinction now. Meaninglessness in the cases I've given you seems to depend entirely upon the inferred possible construction of the imaginary creature and the verbs we apply to them. A triangle cannot possibly possess emotions, that's nonsensical.

A unicorn, however, can sharpen its fingernails (biological creatures do possibly have fingernails) and not be committing a category error, but it could not sharpen its corners (nonsensical: a biological creature does not have geometric attributes). But this leads us to the imaginary creature for which every verb applied to it produces a category error: gods. Or do I have that backwards, and that every statement made about a god is immediately factually false?

Can it be said that if every attribute one applies to a thing just happens to be factually false that the thing still exists?

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HisWillness wrote:Topher

HisWillness wrote:
Topher wrote:

I'm not sure about this. I probably wouldn't say a category error is being made if we say a fictional character is said to possess an emotion, no matter what the character is since characters can possess emotions (even if it was a robot and obviously not 'alive' as it would still be a character). Other times I would say it would be quite clear that a category error is being made (i.e. when it is clear that one category is being applied to something in another category, such as "green ideas" )

Okay, I can see your distinction now. Meaninglessness in the cases I've given you seems to depend entirely upon the inferred possible construction of the imaginary creature and the verbs we apply to them. A triangle cannot possibly possess emotions, that's nonsensical.

A unicorn, however, can sharpen its fingernails (biological creatures do possibly have fingernails) and not be committing a category error, but it could not sharpen its corners (nonsensical: a biological creature does not have geometric attributes). But this leads us to the imaginary creature for which every verb applied to it produces a category error: gods.

Bingo.

 

HisWillness wrote:
Or do I have that backwards, and that every statement made about a god is immediately factually false?

No your right. Anything said about god would be inherently meaningless. In order to say a claim is factually false would require us to assess the claim being made against the 'object' the claim is about (which here would be a god). Since we necessarily cannot do this (we don't know, or comprehend anything about a supernatural being) the claim is therefore rendered meaningless.

 

HisWillness wrote:
Can it be said that if every attribute one applies to a thing just happens to be factually false that the thing still exists?

I guess we could technically keep making factually wrong statements about something, however as I said above, in order to classify the statement as factually false requires that we can assess it against the object of the claim, which in turn necessitates that we know something about that object, and if we know something about it, why are we making the false statement?

For example, in order to say "a square has 3 corners" is factually false necessitates that we know something about squares: that they in fact have 4 corners. If we know squares have 4 corners, how and why are we making the error in saying it has 3 corners?

One way is perhaps someone, who is not knowledgeable about the object of their claim, could continually make factually false statements about that object, however we could know it was false if other people are aware of the object who can make the classification 'false'. For example, someone may have heard of a shape called 'a square' (but know nothing about it) and continually claim that squares have 3 corners, unaware that it actually has 4 corners, but, others people would know that squares have 4 corners and can therefore call the statement false. But obviously, if no one was aware that squares have 4 corners, then a) we cannot call the statement 'false' to begin with, and b) we cannot say we know anything about squares, which renders the statement meaningless. So to conclude I would say we can say something is factually false, if and only if, at least more than one person is knowledgeable about the object of the claim. Since no one can know (necessarily) anything about a supernatural being, any statement about that being is simply meaningless.

 

As a side thought: internal contradictions. Are they false or just meaningless? Because we could say a statement is internally contradictory without knowing anything about the object of the claim (e.g. X is both P and ~P, or, X is P & N where P & N are mutually exclusive; we would not need to know anything about X, we would only need to know something about P and N)

In order to say something contradicts the object (Y contradicts X, where Y is a statement about X), then that would necessitate that we know something about X, and this would fit with my argument above. However, internal contradictions could be an example of something that can be classified as false, without knowledge of the object of the claim itself.

 

 

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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 Okay, excellent. Thanks

 Okay, excellent. Thanks for helping me hammer that one out.

I really enjoy the elegance of gods being unapproachable by metaphysics through incoherence. It almost makes me like metaphysics again.

Almost.

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Topher wrote:As a side

Topher wrote:

As a side thought: internal contradictions. Are they false or just meaningless? Because we could say a statement is internally contradictory without knowing anything about the object of the claim (e.g. X is both P and ~P, or, X is P & N where P & N are mutually exclusive; we would not need to know anything about X, we would only need to know something about P and N)

Here, would we not have to presume that P and N were capable of having a meaningful relationship with X? So:

"Baldriffs are floozery" by itself is meaningless, but with the addition of "Baldriffs are a type of horse" and "floozery is an ancient Shoeverian word for 'short'" then we can at least determine whether or not we can proceed to evaluating the statement as false. "Are Baldriffs, in fact, floozery?"

The problem the above passage gives me is that once again, I can create an infinite number of attributes for an infinite number of fictional creatures. As possibility approaches infinity, probability slides down to zero.

Maybe I'm addressing different approaches to the same problem there, though.

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 HisWillness wrote:Here,

HisWillness wrote:
Here, would we not have to presume that P and N were capable of having a meaningful relationship with X?

Well I would say we could, unless we have reason to believe otherwise.

For example, if X was a natural being, and P and N were naturalistic attributes, then I see no reason why there could not be a relationship. (This is obviously assuming no category error is being made by associating P or N with X, but this will become apparent once X, P and N are defined).

However, if X was a supernatural 'being' (a god), and P and N were naturalistic attributes, then there could be no relationship, not even an assumed one, since supernaturalism is a negation of naturalism and therefore there could be no relationship by definition.

Alternatively, if X was a supernatural being and P and N were supernatural 'characters' (note the scare quoes... lets ignore the fact that we cannot even talk of 'supernatural characteristics'), then while there could be a 'relationship' it would be incoherent/incomprehensible by virtue of it being supernatural.

HisWillness wrote:
"Baldriffs are floozery" by itself is meaningless, but with the addition of "Baldriffs are a type of horse" and "floozery is an ancient Shoeverian word for 'short'" then we can at least determine whether or not we can proceed to evaluating the statement as false. "Are Baldriffs, in fact, floozery?"

This is interesting.

I would say the statement "Baldriffs are floozery", in of it self, is meaningless, and the words 'Baldriff' are 'floozery' are in of themselves meaningless, however once you defined the words to mean 'type of horse' and 'short' respectively, the statement becomes meaningful (and after it becomes meaningful we can then, as you state, say that it is factually false as there is no type of horse called 'Baldriff' and 'floozery' doe not stand for 'short'). But notice that it only becomes meaningful once we understand the statement to mean: "this type of horse is short". So I would still say the statement is meaningless since it does not give any meaning in of itself, rather, all the meaning comes from replacement terms ('Baldriff' is replaced with 'type of horse' and 'floozery' is replaced with 'short').

Perhaps it can be said that language works this way (i.e. many words denote something else), however, I would say there is a difference in that if a word denotes something else, such as 'Ford' denoting 'type of car', then it is usually the case that the word has established/inherited its meaning. For instance, while the word 'Ford' does not inherently mean anything, it is so well associated with 'car' that it has become meaningful. So, if over time 'Baldriffs' and 'floozery' became known to mean how you have defined them here, then they too would become meaningful.

HisWillness wrote:
The problem the above passage gives me is that once again, I can create an infinite number of attributes for an infinite number of fictional creatures. As possibility approaches infinity, probability slides down to zero.

Probability of what?

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Wow.  I missed a party. 

Wow.  I missed a party.  Anyway, I'd like to answer Topher's question to me.  At the same time, I'd like to address an aside from Will.

You guys know that I am a big fan of knowing the correct question to ask in order to derive a useful answer.  If it appears that I just brush metaphysics aside from time to time, it's because the question under consideration doesn't (IMHO) involve metaphysics in a meaningful way, not because I think metaphysics is useless.  When Topher asks why strong and weak atheism are not particularly dependent on the incoherence of "god words," he is potentially asking a couple of questions.  The question I heard was this:  For a human being living in a relatively normal human society, what is the impact of the incoherence of "god words" on his ability to make strong atheist claims, and how does it effect the correctness of those claims?"

I brought up the issue of choice and free will specifically as an analog for this question.  I am not a strict behaviorist ala Skinner, but I do believe that "free will" and "choice" are at best misunderstood concepts and at worst incoherent.  However, after I finish this post, I will either go to my restaurant and eat brunch, or I will not.  I don't know which I will do yet.  The fact is, I have the option to do either, as well as many other options, including, but not limited to skipping brunch entirely, going to another restaurant, cooking myself, or calling a friend and inviting myself over.

In a metaphysical sense, I will not be making a "choice" in the commonly understood way.  I will be doing what has been dictated by the physical processes behind my "mind."  I have no control over the events that have happened to me in the past, or the algorithms my brain uses to problem solve, or the food preferences I have developed, etc, etc.  My "decision" will be fixed and unchangeable by me.  My brain will bring me to a state of resolution to act, and I will act.  The only thing I can do to change my "decision" is "decide" to go against what I think is the best option, but if I do that, it will also be just as unavoidable.

Even so, when I call my friend later, and she asks what I did for lunch, I'll say, "Oh, I decided x," whatever x happens to be after the fact.

So, the metaphysical reality doesn't have any particular bearing on the way I live.  I perceive choices.  I struggle mentally over options.  I kick myself metaphorically over bad options I took.  I am fully aware that at a certain level, I didn't have any actual "choices," but that certain level is irrelevant because the functionality of what we call a choice necessitates that I act as if they are self-determinant actions.

Back to God.  I am a strong atheist, and I am a weak atheist.  If you ask me over beers whether god exists or not, I'll say, "No.  Absolutely not.  It's stupid and ridiculous and there's no chance of such a thing."  If you ask me on the internet, I'll say, "Not that I can perceive.  For all practical purposes, I must live my life as if no god exists until and unless some evidence is presented."

These positions are not incompatible.  My knowledge of the incoherence of god words adds to my certainty that there is no god, and it also adds validity to my metaphysical musings.  When I sit down to eat my brunch later (or not!) and someone says, "God bless you" at a table near me, I won't have to process the incoherence of that statement to disregard it as having any real effect from God.  In fact, I dare say that the statement is very coherent.  To the person saying, "God bless you," there is a mental image that comes to mind whenever "god" is in conscious thought.  When they say "God," they mean that concept in their head.  They believe the concept corresponds to a real entity, but it does not.  That doesn't make their concept any less real to them.  I dare say that a short lecture on metaphysics wouldn't alter that concept, either.

For 99.8% of the population, the existence of God is not a matter of metaphysics.  It's true that for believers, they have a skewed and incorrect perception about what metaphysics tells us is possible.  It's also true that for most atheists in the world, their adherence to a "correct" metaphysical epistemology doesn't necessarily reflect an understanding of the same.  As I have been trying very hard to point out in several threads recently, human beings cannot help but be scientists.  The only thing we can do is be good scientists or bad scientists.  We are bound by our nature, which includes the inescapable nature of our perceptions and the brain which processes them.

In short, for some people, the argument that god words are incoherent can be a piece of data in an algorithm that will result in disbelief in god, which may or may not manifest as "strong" or "weak" atheism.  However, metaphysics only renders god words meaningless in metaphysics, not in day to day life.  This is because all words used by humans have a coherent referent, even if it is only the mental representation of the word itself.  We have no "metaphysics filter."  Instead, we automatically  assign a word a box in the brain, and that storage box gives it coherence within the framework of our empirical existence.

 

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Topher wrote:HisWillness

Topher wrote:

HisWillness wrote:
The problem the above passage gives me is that once again, I can create an infinite number of attributes for an infinite number of fictional creatures. As possibility approaches infinity, probability slides down to zero.

Probability of what?

Sorry, that really was shorthand.

The way I'm thinking of it is that any time I imagine a creature that I know beforehand is not found in nature (like God, unicorns or elves), I'm setting myself up for filling the gaps of my ignorance about these creatures with attributes that I'm assuming they have. There are an infinite number of attributes that could possibly be associated with these creatures, so the probability that they exist in the exact form I choose approaches zero.

edit: Here, I'm picking on the idea of ontology itself. Deciding, for instance, that we have an ontology for a unicorn is, in my opinion, comedic. We don't know everything about the horses we know exist, much less those we can endow with forehead horns. To say, "okay, it's just a horse with a forehead horn" is to begin discussing a supernatural creature.

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 Hamby wrote:In short, for

 

Hamby wrote:
In short, for some people, the argument that god words are incoherent can be a piece of data in an algorithm that will result in disbelief in god, which may or may not manifest as "strong" or "weak" atheism.

So do you think incoherence logically supports weak atheism, or strong atheism, or both?

By this I mean is there a logical step from "god exists is incoherent" to...

a) therefore we cannot know anything about god, including whether one exists (weak atheism).

b) therefore god does not or cannot exist (strong atheism)

c) or both a and b.

Personally I don't see a logical step between "god is incoherent" to "therefore god does not exist".


Hamby wrote:
However, metaphysics only renders god words meaningless in metaphysics, not in day to day life. This is because all words used by humans have a coherent referent, even if it is only the mental representation of the word itself.

This is true, although I don't think every day life really matters when asking whether god actually, metaphysically exists. I think there is a significant distinction between using the term god in every day life in a way which has becomes meaningful and does not attempt to reference a supernatural being, and using the term god specifically to represent a supernatural being. It is this latter usage which relates to the discussion.

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Quote:So do you think

Quote:

So do you think incoherence logically supports weak atheism, or strong atheism, or both?

By this I mean is there a logical step from "god exists is incoherent" to...

a) therefore we cannot know anything about god, including whether one exists (weak atheism).

b) therefore god does not or cannot exist (strong atheism)

c) or both a and b.

Personally I don't see a logical step between "god is incoherent" to "therefore god does not exist".

I don't see a direct step.  The argument against god takes one of three forms.

1) God is defined.  For instance, the omnimax god.  This god does not exist, and it can be easily demonstrated starting with the law of noncontradiction.  Strong atheism with respect to THIS GOD follows logically from axioms.

2) God is undefined.  In this case, the only reasonable course left for anyone is to stand around looking slightly confused until someone thinks of a definition.  The default position, having no definitions for god, is to not actively believe in a god.  This is an inference based on the burden of proof, not deductive reasoning.

3) God is defined, but incoherent.  Here, the only reasonable course is to insist on a coherent definition, which leaves us in the same practical place as #2.  Being unable to speak about an incoherent concept is the same as not being able to coherently think about it.  We can form concepts of incoherent gods in our minds, but they do not correspond to reality and cannot be communicated to others without stealing from coherent concepts.

So, essentially, I think weak atheism is less supported by deductive logic than strong atheism.  Strong atheism can only be reasonable when there is a definition.  Weak atheism in the face of a contradictory definition is irrational.  Weak atheism in the absence of a definition can be inferentially justified.

Quote:
This is true, although I don't think every day life really matters when asking whether god actually, metaphysically exists. I think there is a significant distinction between using the term god in every day life in a way which has becomes meaningful and does not attempt to reference a supernatural being, and using the term god specifically to represent a supernatural being. It is this latter usage which relates to the discussion.

Well, we might be talking past each other again.  I think you've sort of demonstrated what I was trying to say, though.  You and I can talk about the metaphysics of god all day long, but a theist is still going to say, "Them's purty words y'all 'er makin'  Ah knows that Gawd exists cause he's real."

I'm not being flippant at all when I say that I believe the only rational way to respond to an incoherent definition is with incredulous and slightly annoyed blinks of the eyes.  A slightly tilted head adds to the effect.  If there is no coherency to a discussion, there is no meaning to the discussion, and no truth can be derived.  If no truth can be derived, the discussion is useless.

 

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To be perfectly clear, when

To be perfectly clear, when I mentioned the omnimax god, I was assuming coherency in the rest of the definition -- i.e. no claims of outside nature, etc, -- just all powerful/all knowing/all loving

 

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Hambydammit wrote:Quote:So

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:

So do you think incoherence logically supports weak atheism, or strong atheism, or both?

By this I mean is there a logical step from "god exists is incoherent" to...

a) therefore we cannot know anything about god, including whether one exists (weak atheism).

b) therefore god does not or cannot exist (strong atheism)

c) or both a and b.

Personally I don't see a logical step between "god is incoherent" to "therefore god does not exist".

I don't see a direct step.  The argument against god takes one of three forms.

1) God is defined.  For instance, the omnimax god.  This god does not exist, and it can be easily demonstrated starting with the law of noncontradiction.  Strong atheism with respect to THIS GOD follows logically from axioms.

2) God is undefined.  In this case, the only reasonable course left for anyone is to stand around looking slightly confused until someone thinks of a definition.  The default position, having no definitions for god, is to not actively believe in a god.  This is an inference based on the burden of proof, not deductive reasoning.

3) God is defined, but incoherent.  Here, the only reasonable course is to insist on a coherent definition, which leaves us in the same practical place as #2.  Being unable to speak about an incoherent concept is the same as not being able to coherently think about it.  We can form concepts of incoherent gods in our minds, but they do not correspond to reality and cannot be communicated to others without stealing from coherent concepts.

So, essentially, I think weak atheism is less supported by deductive logic than strong atheism.  Strong atheism can only be reasonable when there is a definition.  Weak atheism in the face of a contradictory definition is irrational.  Weak atheism in the absence of a definition can be inferentially justified.

I agree with this. If god is defined (as an aside it obviously cannot be supernatural if it has been define... how do they know the definition is accurate, how did they 'get' the definition?) and is internally contradictory then we can positively deny that god as per its definition.

 

This is similar to what I said previously... we can say something is not true if it is internally contradictory, we don't need to know about the object of the claim (god). Anything else would require us to know something about the object of the claim.

 

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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I think if we are discussing

I think if we are discussing concepts like "definition" and "incoherent" it is far easier and more clear to use the language of quantifier logic, the way I did in my previous post. This means nothing really needs to be "spelled out". We know precisely what we are dealing with. Within formal logic we discuss two things, variables and constants. Variables are merely placeholders for those constants picked out by various predicates. They allow us to construct logical sentences pertaining to the universe of discourse without having to consider or write out all the individual constants to which the predicates might apply. The definitional problems with God that I summarized above are quite simple:

-Many of the predicates that theists attach to God are bound under the set of material objects.

-Consider the vast number of predicates we can assign to pick out constants. "x is a dog", "x is red" etc. These predicates will, as shown above, generate subsets of sets of more generalized predicates. The most generalized predicate which binds all of these predicates is "x is a material object". This is obviously true since "material objects" are defined precisely in terms of the world that we experience. I am having a particular subjective experience pertaining to a "calculator" on my desk with all of its subjective qualities (blackness, etc.) precisely because there is a material object which represents the subjective experience I am having. What we know about the material world depends on deductions made in science and the associated inferences. We know, for example, about things like charge and electron density and so forth because of a complex chain of scientific deductions that link a particular perceptual experience we have (like a reading on a meter) to a real object. I contend therefore that the "material world" is defined precisely in terms of those objects which, by means of certain properties bound under the predicate "x is a material object", are responsible for our experiences. Even non-baryonic dark matter is, through a complex inferential chain, responsible for certain experiences which we can link to Dark matter on the basis of complex sets of deductions based on previous deductions etc. We don't consider non-baryonic dark matter supernatural. If it wasn't responsible for our experiences in some way, we couldn't possibly know about it via our inferences. The problem is that the "supernatural" is merely defined as this mysterious "other" non-material realm which does not possess the properties which we infer via our experiences (because as we have seen with the Dark Matter example, those things become incorporated into our understanding of the material world, this is the definition of the material world). Every predicate we could possibly think of will depend on our experience and therefore be bound under the predicate "x is material". Because of this, the set of all objects picked out by any predicate will be bound under the predicate of being material. As such, the negation of this predicate, leaving the "immaterial" doesn't leave us with any constants to be picked out. If it had a predicate we could attach to it, it wouldn't, by definition, be supernatural.

I contend here that "definition" has different meanings for when we are discussing objects versus concepts. For objects, the "definition" is precisely that set of predicates that picks out those objects and only those objects being defined. For a single object, the definition (also called the identity) is precisely that set of predicates such that the intersection of that set picks out only and exactly that constant being defined. This set of predicates must pick out exactly one object and that constitutes its unique identity.  Strictly speaking, I shouldn't say "I contend", instead I should say "Leibniz contends". This is, after all, Leibniz's well known identity of indescernibles.

So consider some constant b. The letter b is merely a placeholder. It serves to denote an object which is the only object that satisfies the unique intersection of a predicate set. Thus we say some object is undefined if it is not in the unique intersection of a set of predicates whose sole member is exactly and only that object.

Let us consider precisely what we mean when we say "God is supernatural". It seems obvious at first that what we mean is that God is not composed of material substance. It is not a material object. Perhaps this means that God is composed of a non-material substance, and this substance is responsible for the various other properties the object has. We have seen that this is problematic since "supernatural" is merely a negation of a group of predicates, those predicates describing material objects. As such, it isn't a property. It can't pick anything out. If there are any predicates bound under supernatural, they cannot, by definition, be bound under the predicate of being a material object (for example, like saying a "red spirit" ). I contend that all of the properties that we associate with God will be necessarily stolen from those predicates bound under the predicate of being a material object, since the material world is defined as the causal world of space and time responsible for all of our experiences (like redness and so forth) and experience is the basis of all our knowledge. As such, all properties we assign to God will be based upon our understanding of the material world. But this would leave us in an internally contradictory position. There is no difference in saying "God has causal powers" and "God is red". Both of these notions are definitionally negated by the assertion that "God" is a non-material object/entity". This means  you can't really say anything about this entity. Anything you say will be bound under predicates of notions that are familiar with because they are responsible, however indirectly, for your experience, which, obviously, is the definition of the material world. You might claim that this supposed God is ineffable and mysterious but a) this negates your ability to make assertions such as that "God is a conscious mind-entity responsible for creating the universe" and b) this leaves you with nothing but a mystery of your own devising. Since you are negating any predicates that you could possibly assign to this supposed God, what, by definition, could you possibly say about it?

This means the concept is more than merely undefined. It is impossible to define, because we've made a negative assertion about it that necessarily negates any description we could possibly define this entity in terms of.

This necessarily leads to strong atheism because the concept has an interal contradiction. Since all the predicates we could possibly assign to this entity are bound under the predicate of being a material object or property, then it follows any attempt to attach a predicate to it will lead to contradiction. Since theists do make assertions about their God like that it is a conscious mind-entity with causal powers, these properties necessarily contradict with the assertion that this entity is not composed of material substance, that it occupies some sort of non-material realm. And so strong atheism follows.

"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.

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     What isn't god ?

     What isn't god ?


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I AM GOD AS YOU wrote: 

I AM GOD AS YOU wrote:

     What isn't god ?

My toaster. That is, of course, unless failing consistently at your only function is part of god nature.

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deludedgod wrote:This

deludedgod wrote:
This necessarily leads to strong atheism because the concept has an interal contradiction. Since all the predicates we could possibly assign to this entity are bound under the predicate of being a material object or property, then it follows any attempt to attach a predicate to it will lead to contradiction. Since theists do make assertions about their God like that it is a conscious mind-entity with causal powers, these properties necessarily contradict with the assertion that this entity is not composed of material substance, that it occupies some sort of non-material realm. And so strong atheism follows.

I agree with this. I agree that internal contradictions lead to strong atheism (and not incoherence leading to strong atheism). To sum up this point:

 

1) If you speak of god, in any positive way, you automatically steal the concept and thus create an internal contradiction. For example, saying "god is energy" is an internal contradiction since if this god is a supernatural being, and supernaturalism is defined in contradistinction to naturalism, and 'energy' is a material substance, then you're saying a supernatural (a non-natural) entity possesses a natural/matrial property. This is an internal contradiction and therefore false. So strong atheism is logically valid.

 

2) If you merely speak of god in the negative, by saying "god is supernatural" (supernatural being a negative term) then you've arrived at incoherence, which leads to non-cognitivism and therefore withholding belief, which is weak atheism.

 

So I think the idea of a god is simply incoherent, and this only leads to weak atheism. Whereas a positive definition of god necessarily leads to an internal contradiction, and this supports strong atheism. So the theist has a problem either way!

 

 

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Quote:So I think the idea of

Quote:

So I think the idea of a god is simply incoherent, and this only leads to weak atheism. Whereas a positive definition of god necessarily leads to an internal contradiction, and this supports strong atheism. So the theist has a problem either way!

Precisely. I'll agree with Will in saying I like how this whole thought process casually cuts the legs out from under this bizarre notion of non-material entities existing in their own non-material realms but somehow emulating precisely those properties we associate with material objects like ourselves.

"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.

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This is fascinating.  Only,

This is fascinating.  Only, I have a slight problem with understanding.  It's the part where we arrive at non-cognitivism.  I understand what it is, and I understand all of the arguments that lead us there.  What I don't understand is how, if we cannot cannot talk about whether something that leads us to non-cognitivism exists or does not exist, there's a point to considering such a thing in the first place.  If something cannot be said either to exist or not exist is it just... ? I mean, isn't there a place for it?  Or is that the very result of non-cognitivism?  That endless brain fart?  I've never experienced it before, so I'm very dumbfounded having followed the arguments to their conclusions.

I suppose I also have a problem with why it must be weak atheism.  I understand that that's the honest position to hold there, but I stuggle with the concept of something that... well, there's that brain fart.

BigUniverse wrote,

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It seems we are in basic

It seems we are in basic agreement, as I was also saying that strong atheism is the deductive result of a defined god.  One thing that I think was particularly interesting, DG, was your mention of the difference between definitions of objects and concepts.  This is partly related to the divide between philosophy and "practical" existence that I mentioned.  Because of the subjective nature of an individual's concept, we need only know that a concept exists to know that it is "defined" properly.

I used scare quotes because I want to be sure not to extend that too far.  I actually have said this to theists in debates/discussions before.  I freely admit to theists that the concept of god that they have in their head is -- within boundaries -- completely coherent.  That is to say, whatever they think of as "god" is modeled in their consciousness in such a way that they are able to consider it, weigh it against other concepts, and otherwise incorporate it into a functional model of reality.

The disconnect, of course, is that an individual's subjective concept, while internally useful, has no material reality outside of their existence.   This puts objects and concepts on different utilitarian planes.  If you and I are talking about a piece of scientific equipment, and each of us asserts something completely different about its nature, we're stuck (barring scientific investigation to determine the truth).  However, if we are talking about a "god" that "nurtures our spirit," all that is necessary is that each of us experience some degree of consistency with our existing concept, and we can speak as if we are talking about the same thing.  The vaguer we are, the better we will get along.  Because of our shared human nature, it's quite likely that we will independently gravitate towards similar conclusions about "god," thus seemingly verifying our shared contact with it.

In short, this shared experience over "undefined" concepts is actually functional and meaningful on a practical level, which is probably why religion is so hard to eradicate from the human experience.  This is also why I was careful to make a distinction earlier, Topher, between the "uses" of philosophy when reaching atheism.  I think many atheists reach that state not through philosophical angst, but practical uselessness.  They find that theism doesn't provide them with that shared experience, and out of practical utilitarianism, they toss it aside.

 

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

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 Thomathy wrote:If

 

Thomathy wrote:
If something cannot be said either to exist or not exist is it just... ? I mean, isn't there a place for it?  Or is that the very result of non-cognitivism?

Right. If you speak of something purely in negatives (i.e. you do not give it an identity, an ontology), then you cannot say anything about it, including whether it exists or not, since that task necessitates that we have a clear understanding of the 'being' or 'thing' whose existence we're being asked to assess! Without that understanding/knowledge we cannot assess its existence, so we cannot conclude that "it exists" or "does not exist" - we simply cannot say anything about it (although I think we can live of lives as if it does not exist). Negatives without a universe of discourse are inherently meaningless... gibberish.

Thomathy wrote:
I suppose I also have a problem with why it must be weak atheism.

Well if we cannot say anything about something then we simply must refrain from any beliefs about it, which is weak atheism.

However, as has been said, if one were to speak of god in positives they will necessarily lead to internal contradictions since they will be applying naturalistic properties to a supernatural 'agent' (stolen concept), and since contradictions are necessarily false, we can say that that specific god does not exist, which is strong atheism.

 

Hamby wrote:
In short, this shared experience over "undefined" concepts is actually functional and meaningful on a practical level, which is probably why religion is so hard to eradicate from the human experience.  This is also why I was careful to make a distinction earlier, Topher, between the "uses" of philosophy when reaching atheism.  I think many atheists reach that state not through philosophical angst, but practical uselessness.  They find that theism doesn't provide them with that shared experience, and out of practical utilitarianism, they toss it aside.

Completely agree. Even though though we cannot speak of the undefined god philosophically, metaphysically, ontologically, etc, it can still be practically meaningful and useful because even though undefined, our shared human nature/experience means there will be a implicit shared understanding. So we must recognize the distinction between metaphysically meaningful and useful and pragmatically meaningful and useful. I suspect many theists confuse the latter for the former.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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That's the thing, Topher, if

That's the thing, Topher, if we're living as if it doesn't exist because it's 'gibberish' then... ah!  It's incredibly difficult to articulate the block that exists at that point.  Let me try again: If something cannot be said to either exist or not exist what the hell is it doing other than being incoherent?  Things do either exist or not exist, even things we can't say exist or not, right?  As it is being incoherent and we're living as though it doesn't exist does it then defacto not exist? (At that point it would seem as though it might as well not exist.)  Or, isn't its nonexistence more likely?

Something can exist without being defined, but if we're conceiving of something incoherent how is it possible for that thing to exist at all?

Edit: Finally, the above is exactly what I mean to ask... the rest can be ignored if it even makes any sense.  I think I wrote it to help myself get to the last question.

BigUniverse wrote,

"Well the things that happen less often are more likely to be the result of the supper natural. A thing like loosing my keys in the morning is not likely supper natural, but finding a thousand dollars or meeting a celebrity might be."


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Thomathy wrote:Things do

Thomathy wrote:
Things do either exist or not exist, even things we can't say exist or not, right?

Absolutely. This is my point. A god may in fact 'exist', however we cannot confirm this existence, and because we cannot confirm this existence, the statements "god exist" and "god does not exist" are simply incoherent.

 

Thomathy wrote:
As it is being incoherent and we're living as though it doesn't exist does it then defacto not exist?

Yes. I think pragmatically we can say "god does not exist" in that it has no effect on our lives, however incoherence does not provide a metaphysical justification for saying "god does not exist".

 

Thomathy wrote:
Something can exist without being defined, but if we're conceiving of something incoherent how is it possible for that thing to exist at all?

It is only incoherent to us, because we're natural beings and what we are conceiving of would be supernatural. Anything supernatural would be incoherent, to a natural being.

 

 

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Quote:So we must recognize

Quote:
So we must recognize the distinction between metaphysically meaningful and useful and pragmatically meaningful and useful. I suspect many theists confuse the latter for the former.

Exactly.  In confusing the two, many theists (incorrectly) assert that the existence of pragmatically meaningful understanding is a support for the coherency of theism.  The meaning of theism, in a metaphysical sense, is incoherent.  The function of theism is easily explained through empiricism.

 

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Quote:Absolutely. This is my

Quote:

Absolutely. This is my point. A god may in fact 'exist', however we cannot confirm this existence, and because we cannot confirm this existence, the statements "god exist" and "god does not exist" are simply incoherent.

Well, actually, we've seen this is not quite true. Consider the sentence "There exists a conscious mind-entity with causal powers". No problems here. There are such beings. Us. Consider the next sentence "There exists a conscious mind-entity with causal powers which created the universe". This is rather unlikely, but not logically contradictory. After all, it is entirely possible that on another planet in a different universe in a hypothetical multiverse, an alien Grad student used a massive particle accelerator to create our universe for a science project. This isn't very likely, but the notion is logically coherent. Unfortunately, the next sentence is where we run into some trouble "There exists a conscious disembodied mind-entity with causal powers that exists beyond space and time, is not composed of matter, and is responsilbe for creating the universe". This is problematic because at a very fundamental level, we cannot help refer to material concepts. Presumably, even though belonging to a different universe, the alien in question would be composed of some sort of matter, simply because the identity of the object is denoted by its existence. Try, for example, to conceive of yourself without your body (that includes your brain). Just a free-floating ethereal mind-entity in a supernatural realm. Is the notion preposterous. Of course! Because you've removed all pertinent coherent frames of reference in which you could coherently speak of your identity. The concept of "God" is a special kind of incoherent in a way "zebnit" is not incoherent. The incoherence of "zebnit" is contingent upon the fact that I haven't told you what it means. If "zebnit" was a made up word which to me referred to my calculator, then it would be perfectly coherent. The concept of God is incoherent because we have made an assertion about it that is literally tantamount to asserting "it is incoherent". This contradicts the concept of a mind-entity with causal powers etc etc. necessarily leading to strong atheism. So, it doesn't exist.

Actually, the concept is so problematic on so many levels I'm starting to think you could draw a table of some sort and index the problems between any given attributes. For example:

(Metaphysical Problem) (Is timeless and has causal powers): Interaction problem. How can one substance (a non-material substance or entity supposedly being this God-mind causally effect a substance of a fundamentally different kind? Especially given that the notion of causality steals from the concept of spacetime? This problem is analogous to the problem of Descartes assertion that the supernatural spirit is located in the pineal gland, given that "location" is a concept stolen from material bodies.

(Ontological Problem) (Is indivisible and responsible for all non-God objects in existence): From the latter we can draw the necessary conclusion that God as a real entity/object precedes all other objects in the universe. From the assertion that God created the universe comes the necessary conclusion that God came first. Hence, no non-God entity or object can precede God. This is problematic when we consider the notion that God is an indivisible entity. What does this mean? Does this mean that God is composed of some sort of non-material object which cannot be split? This would shoot itself in the foot since the whole concept of a mind-entity steals concepts from complex causal processes and steals concepts from the material world. It seems that we expect this God entity to be some sort of uniform, homogenous non-material "entity" with mental abilities and cognition which is responsible for reality. If you believe this is coherent, I have this wonderful offer for you involving some pyramids and the Eiffel tower.

(Ontological Problem) (Precedes everything and is a thinking mind): This seems to shoot itself in the foot because the whole concept of a thinking mind seems to rely on the fact that thinking minds necessarily think because they are percieving something. Imagine your consciousness if you had been deprived of senses since birth. The concept of thought steals concepts from the idea of a mental space necessarily acted upon by external stimulus. Yet, if God is simply an entity unto itself which is a mind-entity in some sort of non-material void, then what is the basis for this entity possessing introspective abilities? (We could deny the latter, but then we are shooting ourselves in the foot by saying it is a conscious entity with certain will and so forth).

The list goes on and on. We'd probably need three axes, in fact. Two axis for two attributes, and a third axis for a problem the two of them create in any one discipline (it can either be an epistemilogical, ontological or metaphysical problem). I suspect such a list would be a fairly large project as a result. The sort of thing to work on in free time.

"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.

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Would you guys agree that a

Would you guys agree that a supernatural 'being' may indeed 'exist' (in someway beyond our comprehension) but still be incoherent and meaningless to an natural being?

 

Strafio seems to be under the impression that this would be a contradiction... that if a supernatural 'being' 'exists' it would be a contradiction to say it is meaningless/incoherent, or, to say it is meaningless/incoherent means we cannot say it exists.

 

This is based on two assumption: 1) that incoherence necessitates non-existence. 2) that something supernatural can even be meaningful and coherent to a natural being.

 

I've yet to hear ANY logical argument for either of these assumptions.

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I guess I'm with Thomathy

I guess I'm with Thomathy and Kevin Brown that incoherent entails Strong Atheism.
With the rest of you guys I found it hard to tell where you stand.
None of you explicitly disagreed with Topher but I didn't see an explicit agreement either. edit: DG's latest post came after time of typing this up.
I personally got the impression that most of you implicitly disagreed but that might just be me seeing what I wanted to see.
(It's late and I've had a bit to drink so I've possibly missed something extremely obvious here... Puzzled)

Topher's Agnostic Position
As I understand it, Topher says that God is necessarily incoherent.
So it's not that the theist potentially has a coherent usage but cannot give an explicit definition.
It's not the case that the theist is develloping and refining an idea that is converging to coherence.
Topher says God is necessarily coherent - that no proposition about God can even potentially be meaningful.
I disagree with that as I think that there are a wide range of God concepts out there and some have the potential to be coherent.
E.g. those that liken God to a Matrix programmer

However, that is not the point of this topic.
The point of this topic is whether such a position logically entails strong atheism, which I think it does.

 

The Strong Atheist's Position
The Strong Atheist says God doesn't exist, period.
Not that it's unlikely or unjustified, that it's not possible.
The first question that might come up is as follows:

If the term 'God' is incoherent, how can "God does not exist" possibly be a coherent statement, let alone true?
When the Strong Atheist uses the word 'God', he is referring to the word/concept that his agnostic opponent is using.
Perhaps he is saying that this 'God' that the agnostic talks about could only refer to an existing thing if it was meaningful.
Perhaps he is pointing out that there are facts about what exists, and they only contain coherent words - this 'God' cannot be one of them.
What it ultimately translates to is that he says that "God exists" cannot possibly be true.
 

Some positive arguments for Strong Atheism
In each of these arguments I've labelled the premises and steps extremely clearly.
If your disagreement is valid then you should clearly be able to state which premise or step you disagree with and why.

Argument from definition of theism
1) Theism holds if, and only if, "God exists" is true. - definition of theism, surely?

2) Strong atheism is the position that theism definately doesn't hold. - Definition of Strong Atheism.
2a) Strong atheism holds if "God exists" cannot be true. - Follows directly from premise 2

3) Only meaningful propositions can be true. - This is a basic rule of language and of systems of logic.
3a) If "God exists" is not meaningful then it cannot be true. - Follows directly from premise 3

Conclusion) If "God exists" isn't meaningful then Strong Atheism holds. - Follows from premises 2a and 3a



Argument from the propositional truth of existence
1) X exists if, and only if, "X exists" is true. - This is a tautology. Disagreement requires self contradiction.

2) Only meaningful propositions can be true. - This is a basic rule of language and of systems of logic.
2a) If "God exists" is not meaningful then it cannot be true. - Follows directly from premise 2

Conclusion) If "God exists" isn't meaningful then it cannot be true and therefore God cannot exist. - Follows from premises 1 and 2a

 

Argument from the definition of existence
This particular argument perhaps isn't as logically watertight as the other two and rather tries to appeal to the common sense.
I thought I'd add it in anyway as it offers an alternative approach to the other two.

1) Existence is a word defined within our language of description.
We have been taught the word existence in the context of descriptive language.
Objects described that are present in the world were said existing ones, and ones that weren't were non-existent.

1a) Only describable objects that are present in the world exist. - Follows from the definition of existence proposed in 1

2) Describable objects have coherent definitions. - Definition of describable object

Conclusion) God can only exist if 'God' has a coherent definition. - Follows from premises 1a and 2


Negative arguments against Topher's Agnosticism
The positive arguments might appear to be a bit abstract and a bit unnecessary.
Maybe you're not sure whether you absolutely agree with the premises.
Personally, I think that the best arguments against the agnostic are the negative ones.
If I understood Thomathy right, his objections were similar to the ones I am about to post.
They basically state that Topher's agnosticism is incoherent so cannot be true.


Topher's position is that the incoherence of the concept 'God' does not rule out God's existence.
The problem is, it's impossible for him to state this position without making use of the term he considers incoherent.
Since this position requires him to make use of incoherent terms, it itself is incoherent.
After all, a sentence can only be meaningful if the words that construct it are meaningful!
Let's give some examples of attempts to state this position:

"The incoherence of the concept 'God' doesn't rule out God's actual existence." - The bolded term is incoherent. The proposition as a whole is incoherent.
"There might still be a 'being' beyond possible understanding." - The bolded phrase tries to meaningfully describe a "being beyond possible understanding" - quite a contradiction!
"Just because something is incoherent, that doesn't mean it cannot exist." - The bolded 'it' is a variable that refers to the very 'thing' that is supposed to be incoherent.

In each case, the attempt to state Tophers position requires making use of a meaningless concept.
This means Topher's agnostic position cannot even be meaningfully stated, let alone true!!

Possible Objection: You allowed the Strong Atheist to use the word 'God' even though the concept was incoherent. Why not the agnostic?"
That's because the Strong Atheist was purely referring to the concept/word God.
Let's allow Topher's Agnostic to do that too:
"The incoherence of the concept 'God' does not rule out the [word] God's existence."
Now this claim is a coherent one, but it's hardly a claim for agnosticism against Strong Atheism.
It simply claims that the word God might exist.
The only way the sentence is a statement of agnosticism would be if the word 'God' was used to refer to an actual object 'God'.
Unfortunately, incoherent concepts are not capable of this.
So as long as the concept of God is incoherent, the position of agnosticism isn't coherent either and Strong Atheism is the only possibility.

The only reason I'm not a Strong Atheist is because I accept that some God concepts out there are coherent.
(e.g. The one that likens God to a Matrix programmer)


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Strafio wrote:2) Only

Strafio wrote:
2) Only meaningful propositions can be true.

And only meaningful propositions can be false.

You can only declare something true OR false if it is meaningful, since true means the statement meaningful AND true, and false means the statement is meaningful AND false.

If something isn't meaningful then it makes no sense to declare it true or false. We can only conclude incoherent, which is non-cognitivism.

Strafio wrote:
2a) If "God exists" is not meaningful then it cannot be true. - Follows directly from premise 2

If "God exists" is not meaningful then it cannot be false. It's simply meaningless.

And to say something is "not true" is the same as saying it is false.

Strafio wrote:
Topher's position is that the incoherence of the concept 'God' does not rule out God's existence.
The problem is, it's impossible for him to state this position without making use of the term he considers incoherent.

Your complaint is a fallacy of composition!

Yes, the term 'god' is incoherent, however there is NOTHING incoherent about stating that the term god is incoherent. You're extrapolating the incoherence of a single word to an entire sentence. The sentence, in context, is perfectly coherent.

Strafio wrote:
Since this position requires him to make use of incoherent terms, it itself is incoherent.

No, you're making a fallacy of composition! If you believe any use of the term 'god' renders an argument incoherent, and you yourself use the term god, you must conclude that you own argument is also incoherent!

Strafio wrote:
After all, a sentence can only be meaningful if the words that construct it are meaningful!

When in context, a sentence stating that 'god is incoherent' is not itself incoherent.

Strafio wrote:
"The incoherence of the concept 'God' doesn't rule out God's actual existence." - The bolded term is incoherent. The proposition as a whole is incoherent."

How does our inability to comprehend a god necessitate its non-existence? That fact we cannot comprehend a god does NOT mean it does not exist! It simply means we cannot comprehend it. That it what I am saying. While the concept of a god may be incoherent, a god may still 'exist'.

Strafio wrote:
In each case, the attempt to state Tophers position requires making use of a meaningless concept.

But it does not make the argument/statement, in context, incoherent.

There is NOTHING incoherent about saying "something supernatural may 'exist' but we could not comprehend or know anything about it"

Strafio wrote:
The only way the sentence is a statement of agnosticism would be if the word 'God' was used to refer to an actual object 'God'.
Unfortunately, incoherent concepts are not capable of this.

I'm simply saying a god may 'exist' but this would be incomprehensible to any natural being. When I say 'god' I am simply pointing to this hypothetical supernatural 'being'. The fact it is incoherent to us is irrelevant. It would only be incoherent it I said we could know or comprehend this incoherent 'being', or if I said this incoherent 'being was meaningful, but I'm not saying this.

Strafio wrote:
The only reason I'm not a Strong Atheist is because I accept that some God concepts out there are coherent.
(e.g. The one that likens God to a Matrix programmer)

This god-programmer would be a natural being, and therefore not a god!

 

To briefly sum up my position... I think an internal contradiction does lead to strong atheism, but incoherence only leads to non-cognitivism, which means we can only abstain from belief (weak atheism). This means:

a) any positive talk of a god leads to strong atheism.
b) any negative talk of god leads to weak atheism (via non-cognitivism).

So whether I am a weak or strong atheist depends on the god under discussion.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Topher wrote: "There is

Topher wrote: "There is NOTHING incoherent about saying "something supernatural may 'exist' but we could not comprehend or know anything about it" /////

Me -  These are very simular words, or folklore, of a most famous ancient buddha, who laughed at religious god concepts and focused instead on the now and how to live better. /////

Topher wrote:  "I'm simply saying a god may 'exist' but this would be incomprehensible to any natural being. When I say 'god' I am simply pointing to this hypothetical supernatural 'being'. The fact it is incoherent to us is irrelevant. It would only be incoherent if I said we could know or comprehend this incoherent 'being', or if I said this incoherent 'being was meaningful, but I'm not saying this." ////

Strafio wrote: "The only reason I'm not a Strong Atheist is because I accept that some God concepts out there are coherent.

    (e.g. The one that likens God to a Matrix programmer) " ////

Topher reply:" This god-programmer would be a natural being, and therefore not a god!

To briefly sum up my position... I think an internal contradiction does lead to strong atheism, but incoherence only leads to non-cognitivism, which means we can only abstain from belief (weak atheism). This means:

a) any positive talk of a god leads to strong atheism.

b) any negative talk of god leads to weak atheism (via non-cognitivism).

So whether I am a weak or strong atheist depends on the god under discussion." /////

Me - Yeah folks ....  I think my biggest problem in not being able to add much to these kinds of interesting discussions, is that I never gave religious omni supernatural god concepts any credence. From early youth I was simply taught not to. I am now very grateful to my caring atheist parents. I learned to fear stupid religion separatism and idol worship , not "god", as simply meaning everything as all is One, as all is connected.

Hey HisWillness,  your malfunctioning toaster is 100% god too ....

Love you free thinkers .... sorry I can't help more .... Maybe you and I, should devote more time to the religious chat lines .... trying to heal .... how would I begin ? Hey it's "me god as you"  ????   

We each need to think more on this .... geezz, saving the religious ? ....   

 

 


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Topher wrote:This

Topher wrote:
This god-programmer would be a natural being, and therefore not a god!
HA!  Don't fall into that trap.  What are the necessary conditions for something to be a god?  There are limitless definitions as far as I can tell.

I'd like to clarify that I happen to agree with deludedgod now that he's perfectly articulated himself.  Of course, I've always maintained that strong or weak Atheism is dependant on the god-concept in question.  It seems, though, that more often there are more god-concepts that demand strong Atheism.

BigUniverse wrote,

"Well the things that happen less often are more likely to be the result of the supper natural. A thing like loosing my keys in the morning is not likely supper natural, but finding a thousand dollars or meeting a celebrity might be."


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I think the general point to

I think the general point to take away here is not that "God" is incoherent, but rather that as a supposed object/entity, God is described by a fundamentally incoherent property which leads to a gamut of contradictions which leads to strong atheism, as has already been detailed.
 

Quote:

This god-programmer would be a natural being, and therefore not a god!

This is a good point. There appears to be a contradiction between the assertion that God is supernatural with the assertion that God is an object or entity, a being. Don't credit me with that one, though, since I think it was Tillich who pointed it out.

EDIT: Scratch the "I think". It was Tillich who pointed it out. Here:

The concept of a "Personal God" interfering with natural events or being an independant cause of natural events makes God a natural object besides others, an object among others, a being among beings, maybe the highest, but nevertheless a being. This indeed is not only the destruction of the physical system but even more the destruction of any meaningful idea of God. -Tillich

"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

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Hamby, does that mean that

Hamby, does that mean that there might be a god concept that is described, or can be described, by coherent properties and necessitates weak Atheism?  I'm asking because I suppose even the deist god, which I have been weak toward, is actually described by incoherent properties which should lead me to strong Atheism.  I'm all for changing my stance on that, I just want to know when I must default to weak Atheism.

BigUniverse wrote,

"Well the things that happen less often are more likely to be the result of the supper natural. A thing like loosing my keys in the morning is not likely supper natural, but finding a thousand dollars or meeting a celebrity might be."


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Quote:Hamby, does that mean

Quote:

Hamby, does that mean that there might be a god concept that is described, or can be described, by coherent properties and necessitates weak Atheism?

This obviously depends on what you choose to define your atheism with respect or in opposition to. The word atheism has meant different things throughout history. Jews and Christians used to be called "atheists" by the pagans because their concept of God was so foreign it didn't really seem like God at all, at least at the time. Nowadays, the relevant context of atheism is with respect to and in opposition to a particular belief about...well, we've just been discussing it, this whole notion of a mind entity, causal powers, created the universe, etc. etc. the whole ethereal father figure schtick.

"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

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Quote:Hamby, does that mean

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Hamby, does that mean that there might be a god concept that is described, or can be described, by coherent properties and necessitates weak Atheism?

I wish you'd quoted which sentence you're referring to with "that."  I can't say off the top of my head if what you're thinking of directly leads to the idea that there might be a god concept that necessitates weak atheism.

Having said that, I don't know of a way to deductively prove that the word "god" can never be defined in a way that is coherent and would still qualify as a god.  This kind of crosses over into empiricism, since it invokes the uncertainty of the future remaining like the past, and requires the inductive assumption that we will never encounter a material form of existence that can violate our currently understood laws in significant enough ways to qualify as a god.

In that sense, I think it's possibly valid to say that the uncertainty of future discoveries necessitates weak atheism towards the possible existence of a coherent life form that could be god-like enough to be called a god.

Of course, such a being would have to be more like a Greek god -- limited in power.  Omnimax paradoxes don't suffer from this uncertainty.

On another note, I've been known to say that it's remotely possible that there currently exists a definition of god that is coherent, but excluding the non-natural, I can't fathom what it might be.  Considering the number of scientists in the world, and their complete silence on the subject, I think it's safe to assume that no such definition currently exists.

 

 

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

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Thomathy
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That is what I had thought

That is what I had thought your answer might be.  It's nice to have my ideas validated.  Of course, if there exists something that is god-like enough to call god, soon after discovering it we would find every reason not to call it god.  It would seem that the result is that the concept of god is very really very impossible.  Or at least, it is impossible enough.

BigUniverse wrote,

"Well the things that happen less often are more likely to be the result of the supper natural. A thing like loosing my keys in the morning is not likely supper natural, but finding a thousand dollars or meeting a celebrity might be."


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 Thomathy wrote:HA!  Don't

 

Thomathy wrote:
HA!  Don't fall into that trap.  What are the necessary conditions for something to be a god?  There are limitless definitions as far as I can tell.

By what criteria do we say a natural being is a god? If a natural being created us and our universe, does this mean that if we created sentient computers, of a virtual race of beings in its own virtual universe, we would also be gods?

 

To me it makes no sense calling a natural being a god. A god is usually invoked as an explanation, but what is this natural god being invoked to explain... us, our universe? If this is the case then we must ask what is responsible for this natural gods existence and universe? If this being is natural then either another god is responsible (leading to infinite regression) or this natural gods existence and universe arose through natural means (evolution), and if we accept that answer, then there is no need to posit a natural god as an explanation for us/our universe to begin with.


Thomathy wrote:
I've always maintained that strong or weak Atheism is dependant on the god-concept in question.  It seems, though, that more often there are more god-concepts that demand strong Atheism.

Agreed. There are also sorts of defined god, but there is only really one kind of undefined god by virtue of the fact it is undefined. 

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Strafio wrote:The only

Strafio wrote:
The only reason I'm not a Strong Atheist is because I accept that some God concepts out there are coherent.


(e.g. The one that likens God to a Matrix programmer)

Topher wrote:
]This god-programmer would be a natural being, and therefore not a god!

deludedgod wrote:
This is a good point. There appears to be a contradiction between the assertion that God is supernatural with the assertion that God is an object or entity, a being. Don't credit me with that one, though, since I think it was Tillich who pointed it out.


The thing is, the whole point in what I said is that not all God concepts are supernatural, atleast not in the philosophical sense.
I take it we've all seen Bruce almighty.
Bruce Almighty displayed a coherent description of God.
Morgan Freeman certainly wasn't supernatural in the philosophical sense - he had characteristics like feelings and even a face.
Yet most people I know would be happy to accept Morgan Freeman's character as a valid portrayal of God.
I don't see how Topher's premise of "all God concepts must be supernatural" can be justified.
Perhaps it's the most popular among theologians so most people consider it the most relevant.
That still doesn't justify that all God concepts ought to be supernatural.

The reason I say this is because many theists who come on to atheist websites to debate go through the same experience that I did when I first joined IG as an agnostic.
They get introduced to a specialist metaphysical term called 'supernatural' which bears no relation to the layman term 'supernatural' that they had been using all their lives.
Then get told that as a theist, this new concept of supernatural is what they mean by God so no matter what they personally conceptualise God to be they have to defend this one.
Stawmanning is bad enough - when they attack an effigy and call it you.
This approach seems to be Wickermanning - where they make the man of straw and then demand that you get inside before they set it on fire!!


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Strafio wrote:The thing is,

Strafio wrote:
The thing is, the whole point in what I said is that not all God concepts are supernatural, atleast not in the philosophical sense.

While a natural being is coherent, it makes no sense to call a natural being a god for the reason I outlined in my post above to Thomathy.

 

Strafio wrote:
I take it we've all seen Bruce almighty.

Bruce Almighty displayed a coherent description of God.

Morgan Freeman certainly wasn't supernatural in the philosophical sense - he had characteristics like feelings and even a face.

He was a supernatural god in so far as what he done... mentally/acusually willing things into existence, etc.

 

Strafio wrote:
I don't see how Topher's premise of "all God concepts must be supernatural" can be justified.

Because I don't think it makes sense to call a natural being a god. Calling a natural being a god has its own problems (i.e. what is this god being invoked for?). I will concede that people will probably consider such a being a god, but to me a god is not merely a natural being. Could we (humans) also be gods?

 

Strafio wrote:
They get introduced to a specialist metaphysical term called 'supernatural' which bears no relation to the layman term 'supernatural' that they had been using all their lives.

Most people use supernatural to mean paranormal.

 

Strafio wrote:
Then get told that as a theist, this new concept of supernatural is what they mean by God so no matter what they personally conceptualise God to be they have to defend this one.

Stawmanning is bad enough - when they attack an effigy and call it you.

I don't think it is a straw man. Most theists will believe in a god that includes supernatural 'attributes' (beyond nature) and natural attributes (it does stuff, engages with matter), which as DG highlighted would be a contradiction.

 

So the atheist is not attacking a straw man god, they are attacking the very god the theists believes in, the theists however wants it both ways, they want there god to be supernatural and natural at the same time.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Quote:They get introduced to

Quote:

They get introduced to a specialist metaphysical term called 'supernatural' which bears no relation to the layman term 'supernatural' that they had been using all their lives.
Then get told that as a theist, this new concept of supernatural is what they mean by God so no matter what they personally conceptualise God to be they have to defend this one

It's like Topher said. Most theists hold to the God notion just discussed, an independant cause of natural events being a conscious mind-entity, etc. those who hold to a personal God will also consider this mind-entity to be anthropomorphic and display human emotions (such as concern over what you do while naked etc. ). Additionally, most theists believe in the "supernatural" in the sense of a seperate ontological category distinct from the material universe and that God falls under such a category as a supernatural entity, a mechanic of the natural world independant of it(of course, there's also panentheism, but I would say that is completely incoherent, more so than usual theism). Unless, of course, you wish to articulate precisely what you think they think.

"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

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