Perhaps Atheism Doesn't Actually Exist [Moved back, my bad, Jacob]

Beloved Spear
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Perhaps Atheism Doesn't Actually Exist [Moved back, my bad, Jacob]

I was re-reading Decartes' "Meditations" recently, and while me and Renee don't see eye to eye on a lot of things, something struck me as I went back through his development of the cogito. That argument, in which Decartes roots all philosophy in the irrefutable assertion that we exist ("I think, therefore I am"), lies at the heart of most modern thinking. It's the one undeniable thing...that we are, that we are aware. You can't deny it, for in denying it, you affirm it. There are problems with that as a philosophical cornerstone, of course, because it 1) is so self evident as to border on tautology and 2) really doesn't provide a foundation for much other than subjectivism.

What struck me is that even this assertion is assumed to be somehow irrelevant by neoatheism. Our being and existence..that light behind our eyes that perceives and knows and irrefutably is...is assumed to have less reality than a rock or a quark or a complex protein strand. Sentience is reduced to little more than a collateral side effect of complex biochemical processes, and deemed ultimately to be basically nothing. The idea that our consciousness might have a deeper and more eternal ground is dismissed as unprovable, even though the fact of our being is a logical absolute.

So do you guys exist, or not?


deludedgod
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Of course we exist, your

Of course we exist, you are essentially screaming bloody murder at the materialist. If consciousness is the essence of physical structure, it still exists. It is a non sequitor to state that it does not merely because it complies, like anything else, to reductionism.

Actually, the atheist holds in a more cogent position the notion "I exist" than does the theist seeing as the theist postulates an entity which necessarily by its own negative ontological status cannot exist as the essence of the human being, in this way the theist is asserting that the "I" concept does not exist. The atheist says it exists, merely that it reducible.

It seems you are making a very well worded fallacy of composition.

For more reading on the subject, turn to my essay on noncognitivism of supernaturalism and theism here:

http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/sapient/kill_em_with_kindness/7720

I have hitherto to hear of a serious philosopher who genuinely still entertains Descartes dualism. It has long since been debunked.

Beloved_Spear wrote:

and deemed ultimately to be basically nothing.

Again, this is grave projectionism, since it is the theist who asserts some kind of vital force or "spirit" which can be reduced to ontologically nothing, not the atheist. This is another fallacy of composition.

Beloved_Spear wrote:

The idea that our consciousness might have a deeper and more eternal ground is dismissed as unprovable, even though the fact of our being is a logical absolute.

This again, is projectionism, and a fallacy of stolen concept, since it is not only unprovable but necessarily incoherent. I don't need evidence for the spirit to "exist". It means utterly nothing. I clearly showed in my essay that any ontological category requires physicality, to say otherwise is stolen concept, as well as a necessarily incoherent reference, as such it refutes itself, or at least is utterly forced to steal from naturalism. Please don't be such a hypocrite.

Beloved Spear wrote:

Our being and existence..that light behind our eyes that perceives and knows and irrefutably is...is assumed to have less reality than a rock or a quark or a complex protein strand.

Ahem.

I have never heard a physicalist claim this.

 

 

"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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 Deluded:  My apologies

 Deluded:  My apologies for stealing the concept.  If you ask nicely, I might let you have it back.  Heh.

Fallacy of composition?  Your application of that label is not without irony, given your subsequent misarticulation of theist ontology.  Perhaps you should try speaking without using objectivist terms of art, my friend.  

Despite your thicket of admirably multisyllabic flak, my assertion...which is that atheism gives no ground for an ontology of the self...hasn't been meaningfully addressed.  At best, atheism proclaims the self to be utterly contingent to material processes, which assumes that the self is of a lower ontological order than the processes that support it.  The self has no being per se, evidenced by your assertion that the self has no continuance after biological processes cease.

Care to try again? 

 

 


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Beloved Spear wrote:

Beloved Spear wrote:

Deluded: My apologies for stealing the concept. If you ask nicely, I might let you have it back. Heh.

Fallacy of composition? Your application of that label is not without irony, given your subsequent misarticulation of theist ontology. Perhaps you should try speaking without using objectivist terms of art, my friend.

Despite your thicket of admirably multisyllabic flak, my assertion...which is that atheism gives no ground for an ontology of the self...hasn't been meaningfully addressed. At best, atheism proclaims the self to be utterly contingent to material processes, which assumes that the self is of a lower ontological order than the processes that support it. The self has no being per se, evidenced by your assertion that the self has no continuance after biological processes cease.

Care to try again?

 

OK.

Atheism does not address ontology.  Atheism simply is the answer "no" to the question "do you believe in any gods?"  Now, physicalism might be your intended target here, but not all atheists are physcalists.

I am a physicalist.  The self is a simulation of the state of the body as it is perceived through sensory organs and processed in the brain.  The brain is aware of processes that happen in the body (and around it, to some degree) and is able to respond to certain needs of the body as perceived.  It is a result of complex physical processes throughout the nervous system.

You should read some Antonio Damasio, especially his Descartes' Error, some Dennet (Consciousness Explained), and some other literature on the subject by materialists/physicalists.

Shaun 

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What's your point here?

What's your point here? You're promoting Cartesian dualism over materialism because it gives you a more comfortable "ontology of the self"? Just because some of us (you may be interested to know that not all atheists are strict materialists and that materialists are not necessarily atheists) believe that this sense of consciousness or self-concept are a result of physical, natural processes does not mean that the "self" has no value or worth--it just does not exist independent of those processes and is contingent upon them.

If you find dualism attractive, then please demonstrate exactly where the soul resides (pineal gland?) or how it can be detected. Essentially, what you are saying is that you want to believe that there is this "self" above and beyond that which can be shown demonstrably to exist and that your "self" continues to exist separate from your physical body. Sounds like a bunch of wishful thinking to me.


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"I" may or may not exist.

"I" may or may not exist. Which is dependent on a lot of factors I'm undecided about. Either way, there is still no god.


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This is a complete

This is a complete misapplication of the Cogito, which only concludes that we know we exist. It does not imply anything about what we are, or suggest that we are "better" than a rock, or a quark, or a complex protein strand, so your conclusion is an irrelevant thesis.

The Cogito simply demonstrates that our own existence is deduced directly from axioms, whereas our knowledge of other things existent is inductive. However, that does not imply that we will exist forever, since if we were to cease thinking, the conclusion that we exist no longer would follow.

[edit: typo]
[edit2: actually, our existence is deduced]

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Beloved Spear wrote: At

Beloved Spear wrote:

At best, atheism proclaims the self to be utterly contingent to material processes, which assumes that the self is of a lower ontological order than the processes that support it.

 

So what? The self is of a lower ontological order than the processes which support it. It is logically necessary that there be something before there can be self. The material world exists whether there is a consiousness there to perceive it or not. 

The reason self is a logical necessity is because logic is likewise contingent upon the self. The ontological chain goes like this: matter/energy -> consciousness -> logic. 

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shaunphilly:  I know that

shaunphilly:  I know that atheism is, as a movement, as disunified as the theism it resists.  I agree that it has very little useful to say about ontology, purpose, and being. That, I suppose, is why it fails to interest me, and why it fails to be a competitive meme in the conceptual marketplace.

kelly:  The point, I suppose, was to elicit responses that gave me a better sense of where y'all stand relative to being and the self.  I'm not a dualist, but I do find Descartes methodology of radical doubt entertaining.  If you look past the Platonic and neo-Platonic accretions of early Christianity, and go back to the cosmology of the ancient Hebrews, you find a worldview remarkably similar to the one you've articulated...that the self/soul and the body are completely interwoven with one another.  Pinpointing a location for the "I?"  Goodness me. My pineal gland throbs at the very thought.  You do raise an interesting question, though, for those of you who feel that the self has value or worth.  Upon what basis do you make that assertion?

kmisho:  I'll assume you typed that...so you exist.  Hope that helps.

tilberian:  Does it?  How can you say that with complete certainty?  So...logic and reason are of a lower order still?

rexlunae:  The cogito doesn't imply value of the self..just it's provability.  What struck me as amusing is the assumption that this axiomatic statement is viewed as expressing a subordinate existence to that of those things that we know inductively.  Energy, matter, all of these things have a sort of permanence about them, yet the self is assumed to lack this permanence.  That sense of self cannot, as Kelly points out, be meaningfully located...unless you're a frat boy, in which case...well...it ain't in the pineal gland.


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Beloved Spear

Beloved Spear wrote:
rexlunae:  The cogito doesn't imply value of the self..just it's provability.

That's exactly my point. So what's the problem?

Beloved Spear wrote:
What struck me as amusing is the assumption that this axiomatic statement is viewed as expressing a subordinate existence to that of those things that we know inductively.  Energy, matter, all of these things have a sort of permanence about them, yet the self is assumed to lack this permanence.  That sense of self cannot, as Kelly points out, be meaningfully located...unless you're a frat boy, in which case...well...it ain't in the pineal gland.

Nothing the Cogito says contradicts the position that the thing we know more certainly, our existence, is dependent on something we know with less certainty, the existence of matter/energy. So again, what's your objection to this view? I don't even see your argument.

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Maybe this forum is an

Maybe this forum is an illusion.

 

FYI. 


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rex:  I have no difficulty

rex:  I have no difficulty with the idea that self is rooted in material being, although you and I would likely disagree on the source of self.  The argument...if we have to couch it as such...is simply to note that unlike the outputs of all other material processes, the self is presumed to completely disappear once the underlying process ceases.  There is no residue.  There is no energy.  The dissolution of the self is complete.  I don't think I'm misrepresenting the position of materialism.  That presumes...as several commenters have already asserted...that the self is not just dependent on matter, but ontologically subordinate. 


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Beloved Spear wrote: rex:

Beloved Spear wrote:
rex: I have no difficulty with the idea that self is rooted in material being, although you and I would likely disagree on the source of self. The argument...if we have to couch it as such...is simply to note that unlike the outputs of all other material processes, the self is presumed to completely disappear once the underlying process ceases. There is no residue. There is no energy. The dissolution of the self is complete. I don't think I'm misrepresenting the position of materialism. That presumes...as several commenters have already asserted...that the self is not just dependent on matter, but ontologically subordinate.

I've been following this thread and having the same questions that Rex does so far.  Now at this point my next question is:

...and you're pointing out this is bad (?) because....?

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Beloved Spear

Beloved Spear wrote:

tilberian: Does it? How can you say that with complete certainty? So...logic and reason are of a lower order still?

We're talking philosophy and you ask for certainty? Methinks you jest.

I can say that consciousness must be of a lower ontological order than matter/energy because I have never observed consciousness to exist without a material brain. Therefore parsimony would dictate that consciousness comes from material brains - at theory that is supported by reams of evidence and experiment.

Yes, our logic and reason are the result of and dependent on first our material brains and secondly our consciousness. If either of those two things were different, our logic and reason would be different, too, and in the same degree. 

 

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The original poster is

The original poster is saying "what is desirable is true," which is, of course, absurd. 

Hey, it's desirable that I just won the lottery and was able to employ a personal doctor who figured out exactly what was wrong with me, restored me to A1 health and now I can spend my life traveling to exotic locales.  Therefore, it's true! Smiling  Hey, I like your reality much better than the real one. 

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Beloved Spear

Beloved Spear wrote:

Fallacy of composition? Your application of that label is not without irony, given your subsequent misarticulation of theist ontology. Perhaps you should try speaking without using objectivist terms of art, my friend.

My misarticulation of theist ontology? Oh please, there is no ontology for me to misarticulate! Perhaps you should be more thorough before giving an unsubstantiated assertion. I clearly stated that the theist holds a position where they describe the "self" or consciousness by a ontologically nothing concept, which means they are claiming it doesn't exist. Why do you think for centuries negative theologians have conceded "God exists" is a mutually contradicty statement? If you read the link, you will understand that "vitalism" is a nothing concept.

 

Beloved Spear wrote:

hasn't been meaningfully addressed

I told you, you are making a fallacy of composition by stating that since consciousness complies with reductionism, it does not exist. Anyone with half a brain can see the error in that statement. It's like the textbook example:

Brains think

Brains are made of neurons

Neurons cannot think

Therefore brains cannot think

Get it?

 

Beloved Spear wrote:

The self has no being per se, evidenced by your assertion that the self has no continuance after biological processes cease.

Ugh, not this. Lower ontological status is still an ontological status, which is much more than I can say for dualistic philosophy. This is like a stating the obvious concept: The self has no being indepedent of physical process and structure. Yes...so what? This is not an ontological invalidation, on the contrary it reaffirms it as existing.

You might as well say your computer does not exist, only the imprinted circuits that make it. For the computer to exist, there must be something outside the imprinted circuit boards, some sort of vital force. See how stupid it sounds now. When  you say that something does not exist, only the components that make it,  you are setting up a very large strawman.

"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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textom:  Bad?  What would

textom:  Bad?  What would be the point of making a normative statement in an atheistic forum?  It'd be like playing Mogwai to a lawnchair.  Interesting, perhaps. But not "bad."

tilberian:  Sure...why not?  For all of it's solipcistic limitations, the cogito can be articulated with certainty. I think you and I could agree that material existence and "self" are deeply related.  What I wonder at is the presumption of subordination.  Reason is of a lower order?  Or is it representative of a higher level of complexity?

Iruka:  Huh?  I've made such arguments before, but I'm not doing that here.  Are you responding to this post, or another thread?


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deluded:  Understanding

deluded:  Understanding the self ontologically...and as having an existence that is not so contingent as to render it functionally without being...is hardly cause for your groaning.  Your materialist brethren routinely assail theism for making assumptions that violate the basic principles of conservation of matter and conservation of energy.  I think I've heard you monologuing on that topic myself.  What I find interesting is that the actuality of the self...even in the face of it's axiomatic existence...doesn't merit that consideration.

Your articulation of "negative theology" is strikingly simplistic.  Theistic ontology requires it, not as a concession, but as an affirmation of transcendence.  Asserting a transcendent being that is bounded and defined by spatial and temporal categories would be illogical.  You've read Tillich, I'll assume.

What...a vital force...like...um...electricity?  Are you *trying* to make my point with your metaphor?  Perhaps metaphorical and allegorical thinking aren't your strong point. 


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Beloved Spear

Beloved Spear wrote:

tilberian: Sure...why not? For all of it's solipcistic limitations, the cogito can be articulated with certainty. I think you and I could agree that material existence and "self" are deeply related. What I wonder at is the presumption of subordination. Reason is of a lower order? Or is it representative of a higher level of complexity?

I'm defining high/low in terms of dependencies, but I'm not sure if we are meaning the same thing. All I'm saying is that "I think therefore I am" is fine, but there are also a lot of things that don't think, whereas there is no thought without being. So thought must be dependent on being and not the other way around, as the saying seems to indicate.

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Beloved Spear wrote:

Beloved Spear wrote:

What I find interesting is that the actuality of the self...even in the face of it's axiomatic existence...doesn't merit that consideration.

And why, pray, do you make this giagantic unsubstantiated assertion? You know how many times I have heard theoillogians claim that materialism does not allow for abstract concepts like "information" or "data". Consciousness is a process. If a process is the result of physical structure, the materialist has an easy ontology for it. It is a fallacy of composition to say otherwise (said that seven times now). Believe me, I know. I spent ages in physics studying the information/entropy laws.

Beloved Spear wrote:

Your articulation of "negative theology" is strikingly simplistic. Theistic ontology requires it, not as a concession, but as an affirmation of transcendence. Asserting a transcendent being that is bounded and defined by spatial and temporal categories would be illogical. You've read Tillich, I'll assume.

Groan. Please for the love of no God don't bring up Tillich and please do not use the phrase "theistic ontology". Because a concept which exists only in negative ontologies really cannot be considered to have an ontology. This is why I take up the position of theological noncognitivism. There is absolutely no cogency to the concept of supernaturalism or vitalism. My take on it was:

deludedgod wrote:

In short, God (ie supernaturalism) is defined only as what it is not, and by these definitions, God is reduced, quite truly, to ontologically nothing. Without a coherent positive ontology, God is a necessarily incoherent concept, and is eliminated through the laws of non-contradiction. It is for a very good reason that Benjamin Franklin wrote:

To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say the human soul, God, angels are immaterial is to say they are nothing, or that there is no soul, no God, no angels. I cannot reason otherwise…

The concept of supernatural is meaningless. From a verifications standpoint there is no rational epistemology for supernatural because if there was, it would be natural. The very notion of non-physical and vitalism is nonsense. By eliminating all things it could be, by defining it as solely what is not, there is nothing left in the universe of discourse for a term like supernatural.

The very notion of a positive ontology for God would be impossible in much the same way that joining two North magnets is impossible. The definition is such that the notion would invariable contradict itself. The term "supernatural" has meaning which is set outside every epistemological parameter for the ontology of anything. If we could establish a positive ontology for supernatural, it wouldn't be called supernatural, it would be called natural. This is thus what I mean when I say it is impossible. The word supernatural is in direct contradiction to "positive ontology", and because there is no deduction or even induction reasoning chain attached to the rationalization of supernatural (again, because if that were possible, it would no longer be supernatural QED) the concept has no coherency. It's an absurd deus ex machina.

...

But an entity which has no coherent reference point (as existing outside of the spatial-temporal world) is necessarily incoherent. More to the point “existence” would seem a fairly reasonable requisite for an entity to designate itself “I”. The trouble is that to describe God as a coherent entity is mutually contradictory, because God is not bound by any of the necessary references against which an entity can call itself “I”.

This is an epistemic black hole, yet one which, most amusingly, is impossible to avoid given the nature of human linguistics. This is just a more expanded version of the subject/object problem, which moves into the realm/entity conjecture. It is mutually contradictory to state that an entity can be both the subject and the object (however, it is fine to say that the subject can be consubstantial with the object). It is also contradictory to state that an entity can be transcendent of the properties which are required for something to be an entity. God is a self-refuting concept.

In summary

To say God has properties is to steal from naturalism. To say God has a nature at all is to steal from naturalism, not to mention the various sub-properties commonly ascribed. To say God is an entity is to steal from naturalism.

To say that God occupies a realm is necessarily incoherent, as "occupies" and "realm" are both physical concepts. It implies God is the object and the realm the subject, yet if God is transcendent, such a limitation is incoherent. It is contradictory to state God can be the object and subject.

To state God is an entity is incoherent as it has no frame of reference, as this too, implies physicalism.
Indeed, to say God exists at all is to imply physicalism. There is no positive definition word in the English language which can help this case. It is truly a nothing concept. The human mind is so subconsciously conditioned to think in terms of naturalism, that even the most ardent supernaturalist cannot help but use words like "entity" and "substance" when describing the transcendant entity called God, yet not realizing this is contra to their position about God.

Or to sum it up in one sentence: What is the positive definition of "supernatural existence"
Hint: Nothing

Let us look at some basic theoretical physics to see why:

The universe is composed of a sheet of space-time, as shown:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/Spacetime_curvature.png

Space and time are inseparable, they cannot be broken from each other. One cannot exist without the other, they are one and the same. On the surface of the space time continuum are bodies of matter which distort the field of the continuum. Space time is a Euclidean “Cartesian theatre” with a pseudo-Reinmann manifold in which events take place. This is seemingly problematic, since every GUT theory predicts that the fundamental composition of matter, that is, if we could peer into the heart of the quark, is the same substance as space time itself, on the order of the Planck length. Yet, if matter is an illusion generated by space time, how can this effect seen in the picture be? Clearly they are not the same. Matter has a distorting effect on space time.

The answer is they aren’t. Matter is not an illusion generated by space time. To assert they are the same is to make a fallacy of composition. I will show you why.

The most open question in QM and theoretical physics today is the number of dimensions needed to describe the universe. For this, we turn to the physics concept of branes. Where a brane describes a dimension, and the unfortunately named p-brane denotes the number of spatial dimensions. To find the number of dimension to describe an object is simply {p+1) since we always add one time dimension. There are many dimensions that may be needed to explain the universe. The space time continuum in which events take place is a 3-brane, with three spatial dimensions and one time dimension, at least as traditionally described. Some theories predict it is a membrane, which would imply the universe is holographic.

In the competing GUT theories, physical matter is of the same substance as the space-time continuum, except that it exists in a different number of dimensions, hence they are different. And this is what gives the distinction between matter and the space time continuum in which events take place. The number of dimensions. This is an open question seeing as almost all theories describe physical matter as having compact dimensions. M-Theory predicts 11 dimensions, another form of string theory (the least plausible) predicts 26.

http://ftp.kermit-project.org/cu/record/23/18/11c.gif

As we can see from this picture, physical matter, as predicted at the fundamental level, while of the same substance as spacetime, exists in more dimensions, and as such, is still different from spacetime. String theory requires many tightly curled up dimensions that exist only at the subatomic level (you can see them here in this drawing).

http://physicsweb.org/objects/world/12/12/20/pw-12-12-20fig1.jpg

In this topological model, the fundamental unit of the particle is the 10-brane (with an extra dimension to accommodate time). Only three of these dimensions will be noticeable at the macroscopic world.

The spacetime continuum is a four dimensional absolute Euclidean referential, a kind of sheet on the surface which events take place. These events are orchestrated by bodies of matter, which exist in a number of dimensions which remains open. While for the space time continuum we have only to choose between two competing theories, the popular 3-brane and the new membrane (holographic universe theory), the number of dimensions of physical matter is much more open.

In short, we can view the space-time continuum as a 4D stage on which matter acts. The fundamental unit of both is the brane, a unit of mathematical topology which dictates dimensional frame of reference. The space time continuum can either have three or four dimensions. As for matter, it is much more open. We have predictions for 10, 11 and 26 and several others of lesser renown. Despite both being comprised of branes, matter is still different from space-time since it has many more branes. The addition of extra branes means that physical matter suddenly becomes an object which influences the 3-brane space time continuum, rather than the space-time continuum itself. However, despite both being comprised of branes, to equate them would be a clear fallacy of composition.

The materialist does not claim that all that exists is matter/energy, instead claiming that all that exists is material dimensions. Physical entities, composed of physical dimensions, are all that exists. The traditional supernaturalism is described is outside the universe, or "aethereal" not being composed of physical dimension. Physical dimension implies direct frame of reference and physical size, as well as absolute Euclidean geometric referentials something which the notion of "spirit" is antithetical.

Branes imply physical existence, the ontological category for physical existence is the brane seeing as a brane is a physical dimension. To be composed of branes is to be physical, and by extension, any object constructed of branes is naturalistic. Also, any object with more than four branes is considered physical matter, since it now, at the macroscopic level, clearly becomes a physical object, a notion antithetical to supernaturalism, it obeys all laws of naturalism.

Supernatural/spiritual by its own accord is decribred as atemporal. This is totally antithetical to the notion of matter from branes. All branes must have a time dimension. Even a 0-brane has a time dimension. Any object of branes obeys the laws of naturalism, the laws of the quantum at the subatomic level and the laws of Neweton at the macroscopic level. To say that "supernatural" is a "different kind" of matter can only be described as a cop-out, as such a notion is in and of itself contradictory to the concept of supernaturalism.

Todangst says all that exists is matter/energy. I'll have to talk to him about that since by matter I don't know if he is referring to 3-brane particles, or just a reference to all things physical, in which case all brane-objects in the psuedo-Reinmann manifold fall under this definition.

By my own definition, the fundamental unit of construction is physical dimensions, the brane. Space time and the material bodies which influence the continuum then both fall under this definition. I for this reason dislike the term materialist and prefer the term physicalist, implying only physical things exist.

But the notion of spirit is contradictory to the term "physical existence" and as such is logically absurd. Without physical existence, there is no entity, as the concept of entity presupposes the concept of physical existence.

From wikipedia:

Spirituality, in a narrow sense, concerns itself with matters of the spirit. The spiritual, involving (as it may) perceived eternal verities regarding humankind's ultimate nature, often contrasts with the temporal, with the material, or with the worldly.

By the definition given by wikipedia, which is the correct definition, spiritual is a logically absurd concept. The term "existenc" has a meaning which directly implies phsyicalism, seeing as it directly implies the need for a direct geometric reference in a physical dimension, and under this category, spacetime and matter would all be physical. Anything which is outside of space-time or the matter which acts upon it is not physical and is logically absurd.

The supernatural (Latin: super- "above" + nature) pertains to entities, forces or powers regarded as beyond nature,

Beyond nature implies not bound by natural laws, and as such is also logically absurd.

Existence requires a referent, something which supernaturalism or the concept of spirit ultimately lacks.

And thus can be reduced to the absurd. It means nothing. Without a Euclidean geometrical spatial or temporal referent point, to say that something supernatural exists at all is to contradict itself. Using theoretical physics in this way is a helpful sum to my points above about coherently defined entities requiring absolute reference points to exist. When pondering this, I am often reminded forcibly of the book The Cartographers Guild, in which mapmakers construct a map which is of exact scale 1:1 with the city of the map they are constructing, thusly making the map exactly the same as the city, and totally indistinguishable. The map has become its own reference point.

The concept of God is attempting to remove the reference points as predicates of existence, meaning no city or no map. It's logically absurd. Clearly, the ontological category for "existence" as subconsciously recognized invovles Substance and entites, merely because existence absolutely requires referential points of temporal and spatial coordinates. Without these, there is nothing. God then, without a "realm" and necessarily not an "entity" as this would be mutually contradictory, does not exist by extension, since God is ultimately placed outside the concepts (anyone with half a brain should see the glaring contradiction even in that statement seeing as for something to exist "apart from" or "outside" requires absolute Euclidean frame of physical reference)., without it there is no coherency to this statement. This is why there is no direction in space time (not enough dimensions).

 

That was taken from a snippet of this essay:

http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/sapient/kill_em_with_kindness/7720

For more reading on how silly the concept is, you can read todangst's work:

http://www.rationalresponders.com/supernatural_and_immaterial_are_broken_concepts

 

[qoute=Beloved Spear]

What...a vital force...like...um...electricity? Are you *trying* to make my point with your metaphor? Perhaps metaphorical and allegorical thinking aren't your strong point.

Electricity is a physical process which has direct quantifiable relationship to physical occurance. it is caused by the flow of electrons down a current-carrying medium. Please don't make the false analogy fallacy.

"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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Beloved Spear

Beloved Spear wrote:
Understanding the self ontologically...and as having an existence that is not so contingent as to render it functionally without being...is hardly cause for your groaning.

No one is denying that self exists, you just don't like what materialists say it exists as. The Cogito doesn't help make your case.

Beloved Spear wrote:
Your materialist brethren routinely assail theism for making assumptions that violate the basic principles of conservation of matter and conservation of energy. I think I've heard you monologuing on that topic myself.

Are you saying that we should just allow theology to claim that things happen which we know cannot? You haven't yet presented a real conflict in anything that materialists say.

Beloved Spear wrote:
What I find interesting is that the actuality of the self...even in the face of it's axiomatic existence...doesn't merit that consideration.

Interesting, perhaps. But, there's no problem with it, and you haven't been able to point out real any conflict. We are simply more certain of the existence of self than the existence of other things. That certainty doesn't even suggest any conclusion about the dependency of ones existence on the other. You are trying to draw an irrelevant conclusion.

It's only the fairy tales they believe.


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Beloved Spear wrote: I was

Beloved Spear wrote:
I was re-reading Decartes' "Meditations" recently, and while me and Renee don't see eye to eye on a lot of things, something struck me as I went back through his development of the cogito. That argument, in which Decartes roots all philosophy in the irrefutable assertion that we exist ("I think, therefore I am"), lies at the heart of most modern thinking. It's the one undeniable thing...that we are, that we are aware. You can't deny it, for in denying it, you affirm it. There are problems with that as a philosophical cornerstone, of course, because it 1) is so self evident as to border on tautology and 2) really doesn't provide a foundation for much other than subjectivism.

What struck me is that even this assertion is assumed to be somehow irrelevant by neoatheism. Our being and existence..that light behind our eyes that perceives and knows and irrefutably is...is assumed to have less reality than a rock or a quark or a complex protein strand. Sentience is reduced to little more than a collateral side effect of complex biochemical processes, and deemed ultimately to be basically nothing. The idea that our consciousness might have a deeper and more eternal ground is dismissed as unprovable, even though the fact of our being is a logical absolute.

So do you guys exist, or not?

Theists don't exist. You know your objections are lies. Come out of the shroud of false theistic darkness and embrace the light of reason and atheism. Stop deluding yourself. Stop lying to yourself. Theists don't exist.

That, quite frankly, is all this topic deserves as a response.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


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Perhaps Atheism Does

Perhaps Atheism Does Actually Exist.


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tilberian:  That there are

tilberian:  That there are things that have being and do not think is self-evident, from both the evidences of inorganic chemistry and the continued existence of the Republican party.  I think you're right in emphasizing being in cogito, even if it's tends to get spun more epistemologically.  It's more a declaration of the absolute reality of the self-recognizing self, a rooting of the self in existence.

deluded:  "Believe me.  I know?"  Gracious goodness, my friend.  You're starting to sound like a theist.  Don't bring up Tillich?  Why?  Because he's relevant to the topic at hand?  Because he makes the arguments you make in your paper--grounding them in both classical and existential philosophy--and reconciles them effectively with faith?  Or perhaps you just like groaning as much as you enjoy monologuing. 

rex:  Yes, it is interesting.  I'll admit its not a slam dunk "hah look at you stupid atheists who don't even exist" kind of interesting.  Just a "perhaps this concept is worth a chat, preferably over a beer or three" kind of interesting.  I'll admit I posed it a tad truculently...but that seems to be what y'all enjoy.

vastet:  Well, you've certainly proved intellectual laziness exists. 


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Please kindly show me where

Please kindly show me where Tillich does this. I have never ever seen him or anyone else for that matter make a positive ontology for the incoherent concepts you are claiming. If you show me where Tillich makes these arguments and proves that supernaturalism is ontologically positive, I will get off my existentialist high horse, but until then, you've made an assertion without backing. If Tillich has actually succeeded in providing cohereny to the subject without resorting to negative ontology, stolen concept or special pleading, I'll lay a Nobel Prize on his grave-with a full fanfare and all.

But I don't see why you should try, when even Tillich himself conceded he could not do it. He was my inspiration for writing that, not a nemesis, as a negative theologian, he conceded.

"God does not exist. He is being itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists is to deny him."

The only difference between us, then, is that I hold that existence is all-encompassing, and he does not. Frankly, I think that s such a shameless stolen concept that...that I cannot think of a metaphor to accompany it. I'm losing my touch. Damn.

So, if you can show me where Tillich manages this brilliant reconciliation, I will stand down. Not until then, though. 

Oh, yeah, and when I said "believe me" I did not expect faith. I really am versed in the information/entropy laws. I'll show you:

 http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/sapient/philosophy_and_psychology_with_chaoslord_and_todangst/6279

"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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deluded:  Given the

deluded:  Given the information asymmetry between us within that specialized field, I'm not in a position to judge the validity of your claim to valid knowledge in that field.  Being a person of faith (and you know how I'll grant that you most likely are.  But that doesn't qualify you to make informed statements about faith, any more than it would qualify a Toyota service technician to make meaningful statements about chaos theory.  Or..because service technicians are among the most useful proletarians...perhaps it would be better to say any more than it would qualify a fundamentalist to make meaningful statements about the mechanics of the universe.

My reference of existentialist theology doesn't speak to the cogito discussion, but to your direct reference to negative theologians.  Tillich is ceding nothing, particularly in the context of existentialist thought.  Unlike the structural analysis that typifies your field, existentialism (in both it's theistic and atheistic forms) analyzes the question of being and purpose.  In such, that school of thought was primarily concerned with the nexus of ontology and teleology...perhaps the last point at which philosophy was actually interesting, and not just the precious epistemological wanking that we get in this era.

The reconciliation comes in establishing that transcendence is necessary for meaning, by articulating the futility of assuming meaning or purpose in contingent reality.  That assertion, of course, requires faith, understood as Kierkegaard understood it and as Tillich articulates it in his Systematics, his "Faith and Doubt," and his collection of essays in "The Courage to Be."

Jolly good fun!  Did your mom ever tell you you'd have made a damn fine rabbi? 


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Meaningful statements about

Meaningful statements about faith???

Where am I doing this? I am calling into question the validity of the concept of supernaturalism, or the axiological concept that the existence of a "soul" renders the consciousness as having a genuine ontological status, when in fact I hold the reverse. I furthermore point out that there is reason to suppose that consciousness "does not exst" merely because it is the essence of physical structure. If it is...then so what? It is a fallacy of composition to say it does not exist because it can be reduced to fundamental components. On the contrary, to deny the reductionist status of consciousness, or indeed of any seemingly abstract process like information or motion, is to deny its existence. 

At least you admit that Tillich and Kierkegaard conceded that faith was a necessary requisite. But I am not a man of faith, and I do not believe in swallowing a concept for which I can see no coherent extestentialism. I asked you if Tillich had shown there to be coherency to the concept of supernatural. but you have not shown where Tillich has acheived this.

Would I make a fine rabbi? Funnily enough...I am Jewish by blood, of Ashkenazic descent. The standing joke was that the Jewish community where I live is so enlightened, not even the rabbi believed in God! You can imagine my shock when I discovered that it was actually true, he doesn'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.

-Me

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Beloved Spear

Beloved Spear wrote:

textom: Bad? What would be the point of making a normative statement in an atheistic forum? It'd be like playing Mogwai to a lawnchair. Interesting, perhaps. But not "bad."

I read the word "subordinate" in your statement that the self is "ontologically subordinate" as connoting some negative quality.  I'd argue that qualifies as a normative statement.

If I've misread and you are just observing the relative position of the self as being of a lower order without attaching any value assessment to the observation, then my question becomes: what's your point?

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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Beloved Spear wrote: The

Beloved Spear wrote:

The reconciliation comes in establishing that transcendence is necessary for meaning, by articulating the futility of assuming meaning or purpose in contingent reality. That assertion, of course, requires faith, understood as Kierkegaard understood it and as Tillich articulates it in his Systematics, his "Faith and Doubt," and his collection of essays in "The Courage to Be."

If I'm understanding this characterization of the Tillich/Kerkegaard position correctly here, this argument sketches out something like this:

(1) reality is contingent

(2) asserting meaning in a contingent reality is futile 

(3) the transcendent (or "unconditional" in Tillich) makes makes meaning non-futile

(4) Faith is necessary for the trancendent 

Therefore, faith is necessary for non-futile assertion of meaning.

This argument is pretty clearly bogus.  It buries the hidden assumption that non-futility is somehow necessary (it isn't) and thus ignores the fact that the temporary, non-transcendent, or conditional can be used to assert meaning (which may ultimately be futile, but who cares?).

Now I remember why I went for semiotics over theology.  Semiotics assumes that all meaning is essentially contingent, arbitrary and ultimately futile. 

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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deluded:  Yeah, I saw your

deluded:  Yeah, I saw your conflicted relationship with that ancient culture in your long list of axioms.  Generations of valuing Torah study and debate have to have an effect on the constituent members of a culture, eh?  Assuming two millenia of societally-mediated selection for those traits, there's no small irony in your obviously keen intellect.   If you ever decided to become a rabbi, it looks like you already've found the perfect synagogue. I'm sure they'd find you entertaining!

Tillich and Kierkegaard don't "cede" the necessity of faith for ontology to have any meaning.  They assert it.  Speaking of assertions, did you mean to say that "..there is reason to suppose that consciousness 'does not exist'"?  Before I jump all over that statement (which yields to my assumption about the cogito, but isn't logically supported by your two subsequent statements), I'm willing to use Mr. Occam's Gilette and assume you've just left out a word.

textom:  Forgive me...we theists have a hard time concealing our norms.  They're just so very..large.

Your response fails to effectively rebut the assertion of existentialist theology that faith is necessary for existence to have meaning.  In fact, your statements explicitly affirm it.  As you say, everything contingent is ultimately futile. You even assert your preference for the arbitrary and the futile. That, I think, is the primary memetic challenge for atheism...you have no legitimate basis for asserting meaning.  In the absence of faith, you are welcome to argue for the ultimate meaninglessness of existence.  But that's a trickier wicket than just whappin' on the microcephalic assertions of Biblical literalists.

 


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Beloved Spear wrote: Your

Beloved Spear wrote:

Your response fails to effectively rebut the assertion of existentialist theology that faith is necessary for existence to have meaning. In fact, your statements explicitly affirm it. As you say, everything contingent is ultimately futile. You even assert your preference for the arbitrary and the futile. That, I think, is the primary memetic challenge for atheism...you have no legitimate basis for asserting meaning. In the absence of faith, you are welcome to argue for the ultimate meaninglessness of existence. But that's a trickier wicket than just whappin' on the microcephalic assertions of Biblical literalists.

 

Yep, this is where semiotics provides.  Meaning doesn't have to be asserted in reference to some kind of non-contingent trancendent.  Meaning is asserted in reference to an arbitrary, temporary system of signs (and I mean "sign" in the structuralist sense of including also the system of interpretation and the audience). Like a game, the system of signs doesn't need to represent any meaning outside its own rules in order to be legitimate in asserting meaning with reference to those rules.

I agree that faith exists and allows you to appeal to a trancendent for meaning.  But I don't agree that it is necessary to do so and I haven't yet seen a convincing argument for why should be.  

And I'd argue that, like with the question of God's existence, the burden of proof is on those who assert that life is ultimately trancendently meaningful to show why it is.  I'm not aware of any evidence to support the conclusion "life must necessarily be meaningful with reference to the trancendent, and not merely contingent."

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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Ultimately, everything will

Ultimately, everything will become meaningless. The universe will become a dark, dead, cold place, and no one will be alive to remember to value anything. The only place to find meaning is in the present, in the transitory experiences of life. If you spend your life in search of transcendent ultimate meaning, you may miss much of the meaning that you can derive from your life in the immediate, and after all, the immediate is the only place that such meaning is possible.

It's only the fairy tales they believe.


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Textom wrote: And I'd

Textom wrote:

And I'd argue that, like with the question of God's existence, the burden of proof is on those who assert that life is ultimately trancendently meaningful to show why it is. I'm not aware of any evidence to support the conclusion "life must necessarily be meaningful with reference to the trancendent, and not merely contingent."

Yes...Yess...YYYEEESSSSSSSS!!!!!!

I just had a truthgasm.

This is the ultimate answer to a theist when they try to defend their God presupposition with yet another presupposition: that it is necessary that the universe should exist or have meaning. 

 

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textom:  Semiotics

textom:  Semiotics provides the semeia, sure, but as you say, assumes they derive meaning only from the mutually affirmed context of their group or system of cognition.  There are no referents, no engagement with actuality, no engagement with being, which is assumed to be inherently meaningless.

But that hardly answers the question of meaning in existence.  What it affirms is simply that life is arbitrary and temporary, without a governing purpose that exists outside of systems of knowing that we establish.  Those systems are..as you acknowledge...both arbitrary and temporary, which makes positing meaning into them inherently absurd.  Contingent meaning is only "meaningful" if rational analysis and an openness to deconstruction of your own epistemological framework is suspended. Without the suspension of critical analysis, the unifying framework within a contingent system cannot hold.  In other words, those systems require an analogue of faith.  With the theist existentialists, I would argue that contingent systems of knowing and structuring knowledge are inherently destructive.  Contingent ends...like nationalism, racism, anthropocentrism, and religious fundamentalism...invariably result in systemic calcification around the defense of the operating framework's assumptions, and a refusal to see value in other systems. 

That tends to...how to put this...operationalize in some pretty nasty ways.  Darfur, Auschwitz, the last Republican Convention.  Not, of course, that you'd have any basis to assert that the human suffering such systems of knowing cause is meaningful.

Except for that last little dig, I don't think I'm being polemic here...if I'm misrepresenting what you've articulated, please correct me.

 


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tilberian:  There's a

tilberian:  There's a certain irony in that.  What is contingent semiotics but epistemological onanism?  If you're into that, well, just be sure to clean off your keyboard afterwards.  All those wasted semeia are so hard to clean up after they've calcified.

 


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Tilberian, thanks for your

Tilberian, thanks for your support.   Smiling 

This is fun, Beloved Spear.  Let's do another round... 

Beloved Spear wrote:

textom: Semiotics provides the semeia, sure, but as you say, assumes they derive meaning only from the mutually affirmed context of their group or system of cognition. There are no referents, no engagement with actuality, no engagement with being, which is assumed to be inherently meaningless.

But that hardly answers the question of meaning in existence.

Hmmm, I thought I was arguing that the answer to the question of meaning in existence is "there is no meaning in existence."

Or, to be more specific, there is no inherent, necessary meaning in existence--only transient, contingent meaning. 

Beloved Spear wrote:

What it affirms is simply that life is arbitrary and temporary, without a governing purpose that exists outside of systems of knowing that we establish. Those systems are..as you acknowledge...both arbitrary and temporary, which makes positing meaning into them inherently absurd.

Agree with everything up to this point.

Beloved Spear wrote:
Contingent meaning is only "meaningful" if rational analysis and an openness to deconstruction of your own epistemological framework is suspended. Without the suspension of critical analysis, the unifying framework within a contingent system cannot hold.

As Godel showed us, these statements are true about any system.  Watch this:

Beloved Spear might just have easily wrote:
Transcendent meaning is only "meaningful" if rational analysis and an openness to deconstruction of your own epistemological framework is suspended. Without the suspension of critical analysis, the unifying framework within a faith-based system cannot hold.

So yes it's true that you have to participate in your system of meaning in order for it to work, and once you pop up to the level where you are questioning the validity of the system it stops working.  But that is true of all systems of signs.  The difference between our viewpoints is the one coming up next...

 

Beloved Spear wrote:
In other words, those systems require an analogue of faith.

Not "require."  Semiotics is agnostic about the relationship between signs and an external reality.  By recognizing (ala Godel) that any system of signs is necessarily going to be incomplete, it suspends the requirement for any external referent, including transcendent referents.  The post-structuralist viewpoint acknowledges the arbitrary nature of all meaning, and then goes on to use meaning to do things anyway while bearing that in mind.

You don't have to believe that Monopoly money is real money in order to play Monopoly.  You could use real money, but if you just want to buy Park Place it works the same either way within the context of the game.

Beloved Spear wrote:
With the theist existentialists, I would argue that contingent systems of knowing and structuring knowledge are inherently destructive. Contingent ends...like nationalism, racism, anthropocentrism, and religious fundamentalism...invariably result in systemic calcification around the defense of the operating framework's assumptions, and a refusal to see value in other systems.

That tends to...how to put this...operationalize in some pretty nasty ways. Darfur, Auschwitz, the last Republican Convention. Not, of course, that you'd have any basis to assert that the human suffering such systems of knowing cause is meaningful.

...and, correct me if I'm wrong, but this looks like our old friend the "there can be no morality without a transcendent moral authority" argument.   This is a tired old false dilemma. Yes there is such a thing as absolute morality, and yes there is such a thing as amorality.  But there is also a third alternative--what Dawkins calls consequentialist morality.  The third alternative is perfectly workable in a secular, contingent-reality world and actually avoids potential abuses of both amorality and moral absolutism.

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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rex:  Vanity, vanity, all

rex:  Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, eh?  I think that's the only philosophically legitimate response from an atheistic perspective.  There's a similar and elegantly worded passage in Bertrand Russell's book "Religion and Science" that articulates that sense of complete absence of meaning in the universe.   Very stiff upper lip, boldly-facing-a-meaningless-oblivion kind of stuff.  I'll assume you've read it?

The quibble I'd have with that, of course, is that transcendent ultimate meaning...understood in a way that doesn't involve sitting around in church waiting to die so you can twang on your autoharp for eternity...confers a depth of meaning to existence that affirms and rejoices in the immediacy of life.


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Well even Ecclesiastes

Well even Ecclesiastes acknowledges that there's a time for every purpose. 

When I had my existential anxiety attack after my first day of Semiotics class and confronted the teacher with the "then what's it all for?" his answer was, "it's a game."  That's the answer that I've ultimately found most satisfying--a game you win by playing and you lose by sitting on the sidelines (or letting somebody else play all your turns for you).

As for the experience of transcendent ultimate meaning, I've had that in the context of several different symbolic and religious systems (including Christianity).  That's actually your temporal lobe talking to you, and there are much easier ways to get at it with a little practice.

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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textom: Aye, it's a

textom: Aye, it's a corker.  I'm certainly entertained!  This is better than playing Brain Age on my son's DS.  But I hear the bell announcing the beginning of the next round, so:

No meaning? Contingent, transitory meaning?  Six pack of one, half a case of the other.  I'm glad you see that!

Where I think you begin to drift afield is where you rearticulate my assertion about contingent epistemologies.  The way you've structured your response doesn't seem to reflect the assertion being made.  My apologies if my development of the argument was overly convoluted. I'll try to clarify.

The "analogue of faith" I ascribe to contingent systems of knowing is not the presumption of a connection between the symbolic structures of that system and objective reality. It is, instead, the presumption that those symbols have absolute authority...that they are, themselves, perfect and complete.  While Godel and the theist existentialists may be aware of the flawed nature of this assertion, most human beings who embrace contingent systems are not.

Here, existentialist theism's understanding of the transcendent ground to our systems of symbols reinforces the contingency of our means of knowing. This inherently subverts the tendency to presume that we have adequately articulated that which can only be expressed through sign, story, and metaphor.  In that, the relationship between post-structuralism and faith (both of which incorporate doubt) is similar to the relationship between infinite resignation and faith in Kierkegaard.  There is less functional difference than I think you presume, although I think that post-structuralism ultimately induces what Milan Kundera describes as an "unbearable lightness of being," where faith results in precisely the opposite...a sense of the infinite weight and significance of being.

 I'm quite interested in your assertion that there is absolute morality and amorality.  How is such a statement possible from your perspective?  Do you mean "contingent absolute morality?" I'm also at a loss as to how you'd construct an...ahem..."meaningful" consequentialism.  Does it involve selfish genes?  I await your reply.

 


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Beloved Spear

Beloved Spear wrote:
Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, eh?

Basically, yes, in an ultimate sense.

Beloved Spear wrote:
I think that's the only philosophically legitimate response from an atheistic perspective.

I'm glad we agree on something at least.

Beloved Spear wrote:
There's a similar and elegantly worded passage in Bertrand Russell's book "Religion and Science" that articulates that sense of complete absence of meaning in the universe.   Very stiff upper lip, boldly-facing-a-meaningless-oblivion kind of stuff.  I'll assume you've read it?

I'm afraid not. I have to confess I've not had time to read as much as I would like to have. I've come to most of my present beliefs with only minimal outside input. Most of what I know of Russell is second-hand and very much after the fact.

Beloved Spear wrote:
The quibble I'd have with that, of course, is that transcendent ultimate meaning...understood in a way that doesn't involve sitting around in church waiting to die so you can twang on your autoharp for eternity...confers a depth of meaning to existence that affirms and rejoices in the immediacy of life.

Maybe it does, but believing in transcendence because you want the depth of meaning it confers is an argument from desire, and therefore fallacious. I just can't adopt my beliefs based on what I want to be true, I'd rather face the truth than live a lie.

When you persue what you consider transcendent meaning, you do nothing more than create for yourself a transient temporary meaning (or copy someone elses) and imagine it to come from another source. It seems like a lot of extra work for no actual gains because you have to try to justify your meaning in absolute terms, rather than accepting that it comes from you yourself.

It's only the fairy tales they believe.


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Beloved Spear wrote:

Beloved Spear wrote:

Deluded: My apologies for stealing the concept. If you ask nicely, I might let you have it back. Heh.

Fallacy of composition? Your application of that label is not without irony, given your subsequent misarticulation of theist ontology.

Theist ontology?

Ain't no such thing. Supernatural terms are broken concepts because they violate ontology.

Care to try again?

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Beloved Spear

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 Your articulation of "negative theology" is strikingly simplistic. Theistic ontology requires it, not as a concession, but as an affirmation of transcendence.

It's a necessary concession to reality: you can't provide an ontology for something that rules out materialism without stealing from it.

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Asserting a transcendent being that is bounded and defined by spatial and temporal categories would be illogical

Asserting the term 'ranscendent being' is illogical, as it's an internal contradiction. 

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Beloved Spear wrote: I'm

Beloved Spear wrote:

I'm quite interested in your assertion that there is absolute morality and amorality. How is such a statement possible from your perspective? Do you mean "contingent absolute morality?"  

 

How could there be any absolutes at all in a theistic worldview, where every parameter of existence is necessarily contingent upon the fiat of an inscrutible 'transcendent being'.

You pile oxymoron on oxymoron without even blushing. Bravo, quite a feat. 

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Well maybe not much

Well maybe not much functional difference between faith and infinite resignation.  I think the key difference is that while faith ultimately regresses for its authority to an external divine being (or other object of faith), infinite resignation doesn't require external validation because it doesn't claim any transcendent authority.  Which is kind of another way of saying what I've been saying all along, I guess.

On the other subject, I mean that amorality and absolute morality exist as theoretical concepts. In practice, I doubt you'd ever see one in pure form.

Moral relativism is a strawman constructed by moral absolutists as a criticism of anyone they don't agree with.  In practice, the strawman is really just amorality by a different name.  I bring up moral relativism because it's a position that many non-absolutists are often accused of having, so I wanted to get it out of the way early.

Consequentialist morality as I understand it is based on the observations that show humans share a similar, hard-wired, baseline morality.  All things being equal--the studies and brain scans show us--normal humans don't like to hurt other humans.  The perceptiono f suffering, unfairness and injustice set off all kinds of unpleasant neurochemcal reactions in the brain, and normal humans seek to avoid or rectify these things.

  Things always get complicated when culture and conditioning get involved, but this evidence would predict--if true--that humans everywhere will pretty much develop the same basic moral tendencies everywhere and at all times.  And this is what we actually see reflected in history and anthropology.  With exceptions, people generally tend toward the same moral rules.

So given this tendency it becomes no longer necessary to construct morality on the authority of a supernatural being.  Instead morality can be socially constructed and consensual.  As a society, a group of humans can agree on the things they're okay with, the things that are definitely not okay, and they things they're not sure about yet.  Using the moral hard-wiring of human brains as a baseline, these categories are defined by the consequences of behaviors--what feels right and wrong to the participants--rather than on an abstract, absolute standard of right and wrong.

Is this system subject to abuse?  Of course.  But so are systems of morality based on religious authority.  People used to throw their children into the fires at the temple of Moloch.  This system is no more subject to abuse than any other system of morality because the external transcendent authority is an illusionary social construct anyway.  So why not cut God out of the equation and go directly to  working on morality? 

Also, because it is governed to some extent by reason and is flexible when conditions change or new information arrives,  a consequentialist morality is more responsive to the needs of the participants and flexible in its application.  It doesn't become maladaptive in the way that religious moralities do *because of* their built-in resistance to change.

Does that answer your question? 

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rex:  If you haven't read

rex:  If you haven't read Russell, you really should.  Although some of his works reflect his 20th century context, his atheism is ultimately far more philosophically sophisticated than that articulated by Dawkins or Hitchens.  In large part, I think that's because the Christianity he faced was itself more sophisticated, not the stunted literalism that passes itself off as faith today.  "Religion and Science" is a great place to start...I think you'd enjoy it.

While an argument from desire would not be rational, it is rational to assert that an existence in the absence of transcendence is ultimately meaningless.  It is also rational to assert that the systems of knowing we construct, while conferring contingent meaning, are themselves ultimately meaningless.  At that point, the reasoning being can choose to live in resignation to that meaninglessness, as you have.  But affirming a grounded, non-contingent meaning does not represent "no actual gain."

tod:  Sure there is.  But you have to show me yours, first.  Philosophically, you can't have an ontology without an assertion of being, which...quite frankly...I don't think you can viably articulate from an atheistic epistemological framework.  Unless you've found a via media between materialism and post-structuralism...

"Ranscendent being" is such a delightful typo.  Sounds like what Scooby might suddenly shout while peaking on Scooby Snacks.  Sorry.  Just struck me as funny.  If you get past that, and read the quote itself, you're just making the same point I made about being and transcendence.  So...are we agreeing?

How can I assume any absolutes?  Goodness, tod, I thought that's what we theists *did.*  Attacking such assertions as tautological would be one thing, but saying they're oxymoronic just doesn't make a lick of sense.  Care to elucidate that?

Textom:  Other than the use of the term "regresses," which presumes negative valuation, I think you've summarized Kierkegaard's own position pretty well.  There isn't much functional difference, other than the lack of an underlying sense of futility on the part of the faithful.

As we shift from existentialism and semiotics to history and neurobiology, I do appreciate the desire to see morality as both hardwired and and aspect of basic human design.  Or perhaps, to be fair to your position, I should say "design."   Whichever way, your position is lucidly articulated.  A few responses for your consideration:  Consistent physiological responses to inputs that indicate harm coming to another aren't necessarily evidence of anything other than the desire for self-preservation in the face of danger.  History and anthropology aren't necessarily the best places to turn to support the presumption of a hard-wired morality, either.

I do think that your observation that there are shared moral frameworks that transcend cultural boundaries is a valid one. Historically, however, those cross-cultural moral resonances have come from traditions that ground their ethos in the ecstatic experience of the transcendent.  Those ecstatic experiences are filtered and interpreted through the lens of culture, sure, but they aren't themselves mediated or formed by culture.

Any student of the history of religions can tell you that they are not static entities.  Do they succumb to the same conceptual rigidities as other systems of morality?  Of course.  But because of the essentially ecstatic character of faith, those systems integrate a dynamism into themselves that secularly grounded morality cannot.

By rejecting the validity of the ecstatic, a non-theistic moral framework is in greater danger of becoming a closed system, where  the symbols that structure it's rationality come to define it's consequentialism.  The system becomes "selfish," and unable to either transform or progress.

Speaking of ecstatic experiences, you indicated a notch or two back in this thread that you'd had them yourself.  Why approach those from a stance of mechanistic reductionism?  The book by Bertrand Russell that I recommended above includes a grudging admission of teleological value in such experience.  Thoughts?


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Beloved Spear wrote: If you

Beloved Spear wrote:
If you haven't read Russell, you really should.  Although some of his works reflect his 20th century context, his atheism is ultimately far more philosophically sophisticated than that articulated by Dawkins or Hitchens.  In large part, I think that's because the Christianity he faced was itself more sophisticated, not the stunted literalism that passes itself off as faith today.  "Religion and Science" is a great place to start...I think you'd enjoy it.

Thanks for the recommendation; it's been on my long list of things to read when/if I get time. In fact, I may have read some of Russel in my religion class, but not remember him by name (it was a long time ago).

I've never been too impressed by the theology of Dawkins, although I think he's done a lot to bring the problems with religion to the forefront recently, and he does a good job of bringing science to the public. I've never really liked Hitchens at all; although sometimes I find some of his comments insightful, he is too good at making people upset for no good reason.

I respect Dawkins for having the guts to openly and publically criticize religion, and refuse to defer to it, without offending people unnecessarily. These things, along with his visibility, make him a good spokesman.

Beloved Spear wrote:
While an argument from desire would not be rational, it is rational to assert that an existence in the absence of transcendence is ultimately meaningless.  It is also rational to assert that the systems of knowing we construct, while conferring contingent meaning, are themselves ultimately meaningless.  At that point, the reasoning being can choose to live in resignation to that meaninglessness, as you have. But affirming a grounded, non-contingent meaning does not represent "no actual gain."

You can only take the second option if you can establish the grounding for your non-contingent meaning. So, can you?

Beloved Spear wrote:
tod: Sure there is.

Really? You can provide a positive ontology for the immaterial? This I've gotta see.

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Beloved Spear wrote:

Beloved Spear wrote:


tod: Sure there is. But you have to show me yours, first.



I assume you are responding to this:

"Theist ontology? Ain't no such thing. Supernatural terms are broken concepts because they violate ontology.Care to try again?"

So, I must "show you mine" before you "show yours"? What are we, six year olds looking to learn the facts of life?

If you want to make the claim that there is such a thing as a coherent 'theistic ontology" then back up your claim. As things stand, your response is a dodge.

But then again, you have no choice, seeing as there is no way to present a 'theistic ontology' unless you steal from physicalism. So you'll dodge, you'll rant, you'll shift the burden of proof, you'll do anything other than concede that the very idea of a supernatural ontology is an oxymoron.

Quote:


Philosophically, you can't have an ontology without an assertion of being which...quite frankly...I don't think you can viably articulate from an atheistic epistemological framework.



"Viably articulate"... tell me, do you type with your pinky in the air?

Well, I'll give you a reason why no one can 'viably articulate' an atheistic epistemological framework: because there is no such thing as an atheistic epistemological framework. Atheism is merely a lack of belief in the claims of theism. That's it. Perhaps the "a" in front of the word is a clue?

Now, you can have an ontology (don't know why you slipped into another matter of metaphysics, epistemology, above) in a system that speaks to matters of existence, such as materialism or physicalism.

In fact, that's the only way to have one. But it's a mistake to conflate these positions with atheism itself...  

 

Quote:

"Ranscendent being" is such a delightful typo. Sounds like what Scooby might suddenly shout while peaking on Scooby Snacks. Sorry. Just struck me as funny. If you get past that, and read the quote itself, you're just making the same point I made about being and transcendence. So...are we agreeing?


You seem to have a reading comprehension problem. I told you that 'transcendent being' is a meaningless concept. 'Transcendence', when indicating 'above nature", has no ontological status, so you might as well describe a 'transcedent being' as a "being without being"

You'd see these problems yourself if you actually tried to present your 'theistic ontology". Which is probably why you turn to dodges like "show me yours first"... you hope to just naysay all other positions and then declare victory through default, right?

Quote:

How can I assume any absolutes? Goodness, tod, I thought that's what we theists *did.*



What an obtuse comment. Was it deliberate? Of course you simply assume them in total disregard for consistency, but the actual point before you how CAN you assume them seeing as these assumptions exist in contradiction to the basis for your supposed framework: an omnipotent creator. If there is an omnipotent creator (leaving aside for the moment the insurmountable ontological problems with the term) then every parameter of existence would exist contingently, not necessarily. There would be no necessary truths, no absolutes - all would exist contingently, and merely by fiat.

So, the point isn't whether or not you make these assumtions, the point is how CAN you make these assumptions, given the above problem?

So, do you care to actually respond to this point, or are you just desperately searching for another typo? Here, I'll give you oone. Now you have something to write about.

Quote:


Attacking such assertions as tautological would be one thing, but saying they're oxymoronic just doesn't make a lick of sense.



Actually, it does make sense to note that there can be no necessary parameters of existence in a universe contingent upon an omnipotent creator, and you've not even attempted to deal with the point. You've just naysayed it.

In fact, you never seem to actually argue any points... you write a great deal of flowery words, but there's no actual content. And you seem to be unable to grasp the arguments before you.

Quote:


Care to elucidate that?



I already 'elucidated' upon it. Twice now. Care to respond?

Then again, please don't bother. 

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rexlunae wrote:   Beloved

rexlunae wrote:
 
Beloved Spear wrote:
tod: Sure there is.
Really? You can provide a positive ontology for the immaterial? This I've gotta see.

Indeed!

However, I think all we're likely to get is more Scooby Doo references. 

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Beloved Spear wrote:

Beloved Spear wrote:

Consistent physiological responses to inputs that indicate harm coming to another aren't necessarily evidence of anything other than the desire for self-preservation in the face of danger.

Ultimately, all responses of living things can be boiled down to this. If you think you can prove that our morals come from somewher else, let's see the proof.

Beloved Spear wrote:

History and anthropology aren't necessarily the best places to turn to support the presumption of a hard-wired morality, either.

History and anthropology is where we find out that people have kept the same basic moral patterns through time despite wide variances in almost every other cultural variable. History and anthropology are strong supporters of the notion of a hard-wired morality.

Beloved Spear wrote:

I do think that your observation that there are shared moral frameworks that transcend cultural boundaries is a valid one. Historically, however, those cross-cultural moral resonances have come from traditions that ground their ethos in the ecstatic experience of the transcendent. Those ecstatic experiences are filtered and interpreted through the lens of culture, sure, but they aren't themselves mediated or formed by culture.

Aren't they? Seems to be you are just asserting that transcendent things exist and that they can inform our morals. I think Todangst has show that they cannot, and therefore do not.

Religious leaders always claim to have received moral teaching from God. But what we can observe is that religous moral teaching takes us away from our natural moral instincts, for instance, the human tendancy toward empathy and a desire to reduce suffering. The Big 3 religions are completly unconcerned with human suffering, except as a threat. Obedience to God is paramount, and if the result is pain, well, so be it. 

 We can observe basic hard-wired morals at work in children who are too young to understand morality at all.

Beloved Spear wrote:

But because of the essentially ecstatic character of faith, those systems integrate a dynamism into themselves that secularly grounded morality cannot.

Is this a joke? Nothing is more static and ossified than religious morality. Just look at the Vatican! This is one of the great crimes of religion - holding people's moral notions in Middle Ages freeze-frame while the progress of history makes them more and more irrelevant.

Beloved Spear wrote:

By rejecting the validity of the ecstatic, a non-theistic moral framework is in greater danger of becoming a closed system, where the symbols that structure it's rationality come to define it's consequentialism. The system becomes "selfish," and unable to either transform or progress.

There is no coherent system of thought more inclined to modernization, progress, improvement and updating than science. A morality based on scientific principles would be virtually guaranteed to always remain current and to be challenged as soon as it lost relevancy.


Lazy is a word we use when someone isn't doing what we want them to do.
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Tilberian wrote:

Tilberian wrote:

Beloved Spear wrote:

I do think that your observation that there are shared moral frameworks that transcend cultural boundaries is a valid one. Historically, however, those cross-cultural moral resonances have come from traditions that ground their ethos in the ecstatic experience of the transcendent. Those ecstatic experiences are filtered and interpreted through the lens of culture, sure, but they aren't themselves mediated or formed by culture.

Aren't they? Seems to be you are just asserting that transcendent things exist and that they can inform our morals. I think Todangst has show that they cannot, and therefore do not.

Indeed. He merely begs the question that it's a meaningful term.

But there's an even more glaring error than the ontological problems in his foundation - he goes on to ignore their ramifications.

If man really were in contact with a 'transcendent being' that laid down moral law, then one is saying that geography and culture play no role in the foundation of morals in the first place. Well then, what would be the point of a 'transcendent being' transcending all of reality in order to lay down a moral law that is just going to be reinterpreted through a cultural filter that this creator must also be responsible for in the first place? The same 'transcendent being' would be perfectly responsible for the parameters of existence that allowed for differences in interpretation across culture.

See the problem yet? You'd have to appeal to the same 'transcendent being' as the cause of the problem.... So the theist must steal from secularism to make his argument... he must make the Panglossian error and assume that our world is a given, yet also hold, at the same time, that our world is contingent upon an omnipotent god.

The ultimate contradiction.

Only secular morality can explain differences in morality across culture. Geography, environment, context, zeitgeist, etc., all explain how human need is reflected differently in various moral systems.... There  is one foundation that 'transcends' all human cultures: human nature X environment. The most parsimonious explanation is that  human character is the origin of similiarites across moral systems, whereas environment and culture explain the differences. The 'supernatural hypothesis' is not only the ultimate violation of occam's principle, it fails to account for the differences that environment and culture explain.  To the theist view, the differences in morality across culture are problems, outliers in the data that cannot be made to fit into their 'paradigm'...

Quote:

Religious leaders always claim to have received moral teaching from God.

That is all they can do. Make the claim. But when you examine the claim, it falls to pieces. The reality is that theists steal from secular systems of morality, they have no choice otherwise, and I've demonstrated that here in this post. An actual examination of morality across cultures shows that the more parsimonious explanation for a common cause of morality is human nature, not contact with a 'transcendent being'.

 

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tod:  Having over the past

tod:  Having over the past few days entered a phase of conversation with folks here began to more resembles human contact, I'd sensed in some of them a sense of humor and a willingness to disagree but engage civilly and with some lightness of heart.   Forgive me for mistaking you for a mensch.  I will carefully lower my pinky into it's locked and secure position, and endeavor to write to you simply and methodically in order not to further inflame your spittle-flecked sensibilities.  Oops...wait...the pinky's not down yet.  Ah, there we go.

Yes, I understand that atheism is not a single coherent system of thought, but a variety of reactionary responses to a particular worldview.  There are a variety of different competing conceptual frameworks within it.  That is quite obvious from the variety of perspectives expressed here.  

I will not revisit the "transcendent being" statement, having attempted twice to note that my initial remark implicitly recognized the paradox in such a term.  Terms like being itself or the ground of being are more accurate philosophically.

It is in those concepts that theist ontology lies.  The presumption of an absolute ground to being roots the contingent in the absolute.  From a theist perspective, all being participates in the absolute from which it derives it's being.  Rather than describing this in great detail, I will assume that you have previously read the theist existentialist position.

tilberian:  I must have read different history books.  As for todangst, he has certainly asserted that...somewhere in the depth of his ad hominem attacks...but he has not shown it.  Your assertion that the "Big Three" are not concerned with suffering needs some justification.  On the face of it, the Golden Rule morality that is foundational to those traditions seems specifically directed at suffering.

No, it's not a joke.  Is today's Vatican the same as that in 1600?  No.  Why?  Is there dynamism and development in Protestantism?  Your assertion shows little grasp of the actuality of that tradition.

Guaranteed by what?  Where it's been attempted, it has been a dismal failure...unless you consider the Soviet Union a success.  Modern global capitalism is also reliant on scientific and rational principles...how is it doing? 

tod:  Theists steal from secular systems of morality?  A bold assertion, although not one you've demonstrated other than by expressing it.