'Supernatural' and 'immaterial' are not "broken concepts"

Gavagai
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'Supernatural' and 'immaterial' are not "broken concepts"

 

Todangst claims that terms like "immaterial" are meaningless. He wants us to believe that such terms are "broken concepts". Why should we believe this? Well, Todangst thinks we can’t positively denote anything with these terms. There’s nothing out there that these terms actually refer to. The terms, says Todangst, “are therefore meaningless, incoherent.”[1] Thus, Todangst’s argument rests on the view that bits of language are meaningful when there is something to which they refer. (The problems that I am about to present for Todangst’s view will take us into some philosophy of language. This area of analytic philosophy may be unfamiliar to some readers. But do not let the jargon intimidate you. If there’s something you don’t understand, PM me and I’ll be happy to explain it for you.)

Todangst's argument is unsound. First, empirical linguistic evidence proves that many bits of language, whether they’re in the form of text or an acoustic blast from the mouth, are meaningful but do not refer to anything, e.g. “hello”, “and”, “on behalf of”, “alas”, etc. It is a fact that English speakers regularly use sentences with these non-referring expressions. Yet it would be absurd to say that none of these English speakers mean anything by what they say when they use such language.

Another, more technical, problem with Todangst's view is that it logically implies that there are no contingent statements that express identity between an object denoted by a proper name and a definite description. (I assume classic identity here: quantifying over any x and y, x = y only if, for any property or feature F, Fx if and only if Fy. This is an uncontroversial assumption. Moreover, a statement is contingent if and only if it expresses a proposition that is true in some possible worlds and false in others; again, uncontroversial.) Assume for reductio that Todangst’s view is true. Then statements like “Socrates = Plato’s teacher” become necessary truths, since “Socrates” and “Plato’s teacher” pick out the same object and therefore have the same meaning. But we know that it was only a contingent truth that Socrates was Plato’s teacher; so there are contingent identity statements. So we must reject Todangst’s view. Reductio complete. There are several other objections to the view. But I’ll leave them aside, since what I’ve said is sufficient to show that Todangst's argument is unsound.

To be clear, reference is important to language. But it’s not what constrains meaning. And nearly all contemporary analytic philosophers of language would reject views like Todangst’s. There are only a few very subtle versions of “referentialism” still around, e.g. theories that rely on intensional classes as the referents. (See e.g. certain entries at logicalsemanticism.wordpress.com) But these theories allow copulas and other apparently non-referring expressions like “sake” and “so on and so forth” to represent a sense or at any rate something that may not exist as a material object. Since they preserve the meaningfulness of terms like “immaterial”, Todangst would presumably not want to endorse them.

What’s worse, Todangst would still have to show that predicates like “immaterial” and “supernatural” don’t have a nonempty extension. I don’t think he’s given us any reason to believe this, but I’ll save this discussion for another time.



[1] Exact quotation: “There's literally nothing left over for these terms to refer to, so there's nothing left over for them to be. The terms are therefore meaningless, incoherent.”

 


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I have found this thread

I have found this thread very interesting and have learned things from it. But I'm a pragmatist, so at some point I need descend from the mountain top and breath some thicker air.


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Yeah. It's certainly made me

Yeah. It's certainly made me rethink a bit...
I might have been mis-using the word 'non-cognitive', I should probably call my position 'anti-realism' instead.
I'm still quite interested to see where he goes with this.
He's clearly studied some philosophy of mind, but whether he's discovered something of relevence to the subject at hand is another matter.
One week till we find out. Smiling


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Gavagai wrote:

Gavagai wrote:

 

Todangst claims that terms like "immaterial" are meaningless. He wants us to believe that such terms are "broken concepts".

Actually, negative theologians were saying that eons before I was born.

Quote:

Why should we believe this? Well, Todangst thinks we can’t positively denote anything with these terms.

What I am saying is, a negative definition, devoid of any universe of discourse, is equitable with 'nothing'. Those who propose arguments that use terms like 'immaterial' have an epistemic responsibility to provide an ontology for their hypothetical terms or they must withdraw them.

But I doubt you'll make the attempt. Instead, you'll simply focus on my argument and avoid the actual problem before you, despite the very title you've given your thread.

Quote:

There’s nothing out there that these terms actually refer to. The terms, says Todangst, “are therefore meaningless, incoherent.”[1] Thus, Todangst’s argument rests on the view that bits of language are meaningful when there is something to which they refer.

No.

I make this claim only in regard to stipulative definitions of putative nouns like 'god' or 'immateriality'

Here lies the error in your argument: As deluedgod writes:

The predicate of a logical statement (in this case, that would be "God" or "supernatural" or "spirit" must refer to something, otherwise it is nonsensical).

 I'm aware that the foundation of this part of my argument, which relies on referentialism, is not the favored school of thought in linguistic philosophy. True. But how does this relate to the specific points I make? An out of fashion school can still make valid points. And it does so, here. 

The real matter here is this: is there any way to make a coherent reference to something beyond nature? You've started a thread that clearly implies that you think that you can:

 

'Supernatural' and 'immaterial' are not "broken concepts"

yet I don't see any argument in support of that implied contention. How can a purely negative definition, that rules out any universe of discourse, have meaning? Can you reply?

Quote:

Todangst's argument is unsound.

No, your erroneous strawman of my argument is unsound. My argument relates specifically to terms used as predicates in arguments, not to all possible words, ergo your response is a red herring.

Quote:

First, empirical linguistic evidence proves that many bits of language, whether they’re in the form of text or an acoustic blast from the mouth, are meaningful but do not refer to anything, e.g. “hello”, “and”, “on behalf of”, “alas”, etc.

So immateriality is 'on behalf of' and 'hello'?

Even if there are meaningful terms that really do not refer to anything (which I still question, but let's leave that aside as it's entirely moot) you've not given any reason for us to believe that terms like 'god' and 'supernatural' belong in that class. Yet that's the real issue here!

So even if you can show a weakness in my argument (which I'd appreciate, by the way), I don't think you've done this yet, nor have you even given us anything for the theist case. You've entitled your thread thusly:

'Supernatural' and 'immaterial' are not "broken concepts"

but you've done nothing at all to demonstrate this... Let's accept without argument that a term can be meaningful without making a reference, now show me how 'supernatural' belongs in that class, or concede that your claim is irrelevant. My argument does not rely on all terms needing to make such a reference, it only relies on terms like 'immateriality' doing so...


Quote:

It is a fact that English speakers regularly use sentences with these non-referring expressions.

But they have no bearing on the actual matter before you, and again, my argumet does not rely on holding that ALL terms must do so to be coherent.

Quote:

Yet it would be absurd to say that none of these English speakers mean anything by what they say when they use such language.

This sounds like a red herring to me.... in other words, even if this is the case, how does this matter in the case of a 'god', i.e. a purported entity/referent? Can you give me a bit more on this and its relevance here? How do terms like 'god' and 'supernatural' relate to terms like ''hello' and 'behalf"? You don't even attempt to demonstrate this. Is saying 'god' saying "on behalf of"?

The points in my essay are that terms like 'supernatural' are defined contra-nature, they are solely negative, and they rule out any universe of discourse. To provide them with meaning one must commit a stolen concept fallacy. Please tell me how terms like 'as far as" or 'on behalf of" relate to the matter, seeing as they are not references to nouns/entities, they are not negative definitions, they do not rule out any possible universe of discourse, and they do not even attempt to make reference to entities!

What you've given me here is a fancy red herring. It doesn't relate to anything in my argument.

Quote:

Another, more technical, problem with Todangst's view is that it logically implies that there are no contingent statements that express identity between an object denoted by a proper name and a definite description. (I assume classic identity here: quantifying over any x and y, x = y only if, for any property or feature F, Fx if and only if Fy. This is an uncontroversial assumption. Moreover, a statement is contingent if and only if it expresses a proposition that is true in some possible worlds and false in others; again, uncontroversial.) Assume for reductio that Todangst’s view is true. Then statements like “Socrates = Plato’s teacher” become necessary truths, since “Socrates” and “Plato’s teacher” pick out the same object and therefore have the same meaning.

You assert the basics of modal logic, but you don't give me the specifics as to what you call 'contingent identity statements'. Please tell me more about 'contingent identity statements". I think you're making a mistake here.

Quote:

To be clear, reference is important to language. But it’s not what constrains meaning.

But what matters if whether it contrains meaning in the case of the particular terms used in my argument! Whether these others manners of constraining meaning are relevant in my argument, an issue you never address, because you instead focus on a strawman that my argument implies that ALL terms contrain meaning through referentialism.

I again ask how this is exactly relevant to the matter of 'god' ... i.e. a purported 'entity'..., something specifically being referenced....something positive theologians hold as an existent, a being, something with identity

I really do wish to learn more about this, my argument would be bolstered by a more complete understanding of how one constrains meaning.

Quote:

And nearly all contemporary analytic philosophers of language would reject views like Todangst’s.

They'd knock referentialism, but would they knock my specific argument concerning attempts to reference the supernatural? And if so, what are the arguments that they'd use? That's all that really matters here... the argument. Why not just give the arguments?

Quote:

There are only a few very subtle versions of “referentialism” still around, e.g. theories that rely on intensional classes as the referents.

I have to agree, but this remains a red herring, what matters here is whether my specific argument fails, not whether the school to which it belongs is held in esteem.

And I want to again stress that at most you're not demonstrating that 'god' is not a broken term, as you claim:

'Supernatural' and 'immaterial' are not "broken concepts"

instead you're simply arguing that my argument alone does not rule out the possibility of 'god' being a coherent term, because there are other methods of assigning meaning besides referentialism. So as things stand, your conclusion above commits the formal fallacy of denyng the antecedant.

The burden is on the theist to demonstrate that these terms are coherent when used to reference something beyond nature, and not merely expressions of wonder or mystery, i.e. references to matters of nature. At most, all you can say here is that my argument, as present, is weak because of the possibility of assigning meaning in another way. Well, what is this way? And more importantly, how does "behalf" and 'hello" have any bearing on the terms 'god' and 'supernatural'? How do your claims relate to the terms under discussion? If you can't answer, you've done nothing but offer up a red herring.

Quote:

What’s worse, Todangst would still have to show that predicates like “immaterial” and “supernatural” don’t have a nonempty extension.

But I am intending to demonstratre that these terms have no intention. The only meaning they can possess is a surreptitious one, a repression of a contradiction:


St. Augustine wrote:


What then, brethren, shall we say of God? For if thou hast been able to understand what thou wouldest say, it is not God. If thou hast been able to comprehend it, thou hast comprehended something else instead of God. If thou hast been able to comprehend him as thou thinkest, by so thinking thou hast deceived thyself. This then is not God, if thou hast comprehended it; but if this be God, thou has not comprehended it.

 

Thanks for your feedback.

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Vessel wrote:

Vessel wrote:
Gavagai wrote:

 

Todangst claims that terms like "immaterial" are meaningless. He wants us to believe that such terms are "broken concepts". Why should we believe this? Well, Todangst thinks we can’t positively denote anything with these terms. There’s nothing out there that these terms actually refer to. The terms, says Todangst, “are therefore meaningless, incoherent.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[1]<!--[endif]--> Thus, Todangst’s argument rests on the view that bits of language are meaningful when there is something to which they refer. (The problems that I am about to present for Todangst’s view will take us into some philosophy of language. This area of analytic philosophy may be unfamiliar to some readers. But do not let the jargon intimidate you. If there’s something you don’t understand, PM me and I’ll be happy to explain it for you.)

Todangst's argument is unsound. First, empirical linguistic evidence proves that many bits of language, whether they’re in the form of text or an acoustic blast from the mouth, are meaningful but do not refer to anything, e.g. “hello”, “and”, “on behalf of”, “alas”, etc. It is a fact that English speakers regularly use sentences with these non-referring expressions. Yet it would be absurd to say that none of these English speakers mean anything by what they say when they use such language.

Another, more technical, problem with Todangst's view is that it logically implies that there are no contingent statements that express identity between an object denoted by a proper name and a definite description. (I assume classic identity here: quantifying over any x and y, x = y only if, for any property or feature F, Fx if and only if Fy. This is an uncontroversial assumption. Moreover, a statement is contingent if and only if it expresses a proposition that is true in some possible worlds and false in others; again, uncontroversial.) Assume for reductio that Todangst’s view is true. Then statements like “Socrates = Plato’s teacher” become necessary truths, since “Socrates” and “Plato’s teacher” pick out the same object and therefore have the same meaning. But we know that it was only a contingent truth that Socrates was Plato’s teacher; so there are contingent identity statements. So we must reject Todangst’s view. Reductio complete. There are several other objections to the view. But I’ll leave them aside, since what I’ve said is sufficient to show that Todangst's argument is unsound.

To be clear, reference is important to language. But it’s not what constrains meaning. And nearly all contemporary analytic philosophers of language would reject views like Todangst’s. There are only a few very subtle versions of “referentialism” still around, e.g. theories that rely on intensional classes as the referents. (See e.g. certain entries at logicalsemanticism.wordpress.com) But these theories allow copulas and other apparently non-referring expressions like “sake” and “so on and so forth” to represent a sense or at any rate something that may not exist as a material object. Since they preserve the meaningfulness of terms like “immaterial”, Todangst would presumably not want to endorse them.

What’s worse, Todangst would still have to show that predicates like “immaterial” and “supernatural” don’t have a nonempty extension. I don’t think he’s given us any reason to believe this, but I’ll save this discussion for another time.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->

<!--[endif]-->

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[1]<!--[endif]--> Exact quotation: “There's literally nothing left over for these terms to refer to, so there's nothing left over for them to be. The terms are therefore meaningless, incoherent.”

 

All you have done is basically state that immaterial and supernatural have meaning,  

No, he has not.

I was concerned that some would make this mistake.

All he has done, at most, is demonstrate that a term can be meaningful without a referent. This does nothing to demonstrate that ALL terms without referent are meaningful. Nor does it even begin to demonstrate how terms like 'supernatural' are meaningful. In order to do this, he must cease being coy and 1) present other ways to provide meaning for terms other than referentialism (obviously possible) and 2) demonstrate how these methods can be used on terms like 'god' and 'supernatural' (nobel prize level impossible)

That is the real issue here. However, if our friend can help improve my argument in the meantime, I more than welcome the discourse.

 

 

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Strafio wrote:

Strafio wrote:
This is likely to be a re-wording of Hambydammit's response, but here goes anyway! Smiling
Gavagai wrote:
It is a fact that English speakers regularly use sentences with these non-referring expressions. Yet it would be absurd to say that none of these English speakers mean anything by what they say when they use such language.

 

Todangst wouldn't deny this. Non-cognitivists happily admit that God has some kind of meaning in some kind of language game, but not the kind of meaning required for an 'existing entity'.

Meaningful non-referential words like 'please' don't refer to 'existing things'.

What matters here is that Gav must demonstrate how is point is relevant to the question of assigning meaning to terms like 'god'... he's not actually addressed that issue at all.

 

  

Quote:
To be clear, reference is important to language. But it’s not what constrains meaning. And nearly all contemporary analytic philosophers of language would reject views like Todangst’s.

Quote:

The thing is, don't we use the word 'God' like a noun, as if it is supposed to refer to something? 

Bingo.

Quote:
 

All Todangst rules out is 'God' having meaning as a noun. I guess that most people use God as a noun was an assumption on his part.

Again, I don't see the relevancy of his points, nor does he connect them to the terms 'god', etc. and demonstrate how this solves the dilemma.

That would be the best way to proceed in my estimation.

Quote:
What’s worse, Todangst would still have to show that predicates like “immaterial” and “supernatural” don’t have a nonempty extension. I don’t think he’s given us any reason to believe this, but I’ll save this discussion for another time.

Quote:

I disagree with this. Todangst's aim is to show that the word God has no intension. If a word has no intension then it surely cannot have extension.

Quote:
Exact quotation: “There's literally nothing left over for these terms to refer to, so there's nothing left over for them to be. The terms are therefore meaningless, incoherent.”

Thank you.

Quote:

I think that the best way to view Todangst argument is as a challenge rather than an absolute argument. If something isn't material or natural, then what exactly is it? If you are not talking about something that is material, then what are you talking about? Anyway, I love philosophy of language and am looking forward to your reply! Smiling

You know me better than I know myself!

Oh, and I'm glad someone here loves linguistic philosophy!

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Gavagai

Gavagai wrote:

Strafio,

It's not a red herring. Even if you tweak Todangst's argument to allow that only nouns must refer to something to be meaningful expressions, this doesn't get you anywhere. The point is that reference is not essential for meaning in general, i.e. for any linguistic item you care to specify.

But you never show how this has any bearing, at all, to the matter, before you: terms like 'god', 'immaterial'. So your point is a red herring, unless of course you make this connection. 

I think the best way for you to make your point is to show how your points are in fact relevant vis-a-vis the very terms of the discussion 'god', 'supernatural'. 

 

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Gavagai wrote: Many of you

Gavagai wrote:

Many of you think that what I've said suddenly isn't relevant because I still haven't shown that something immaterial exists.

It isn't, until you demonstrate how these others purported methods of assessing meaning apply to terms like 'god'.

 

 

Quote:

But this represents elementary philosophical confusion: you're confusing ontological commitments with conceptual analyses.

No. What it represents is a very basic point: you haven't demonstrated whether or not your exceptions have any bearing on the very point of discussion. You've declared that terms like 'supernatural' are not broken concepts... well, get to it man.

 

 

 

 

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deludedgod wrote:   For

deludedgod wrote:

 

For a second when I read the title, I thought you were going to give us a positive ontological status for supernaturalism, which would mean you’ve successfully invented an entirely new system of epistemology, and then would undoubtably be flying to Stockholm to recieve your Nobel Prize.

Actually, I was suprised. You admitted that supernaturalism doesn’t refer to anything, instead focusing on linguistic technicalities.

 

I'm not surprised. There's no other choice for his side but to focus on problems in the atheistic case, as there is no way to provide an ontology for these terms. 

Notice that many of the replies he received could  have been better responded to if he had simply told us how his alternate methods of providing meaning salvage terms like 'supernartural'.... we are told that terms without reference can have meaning, but never learn how terms like 'supernatural' belong to the class of terms like 'hello' 

 

Quote:

 The first objection was a little...odd, the one that a piece of language can be meaningful and not refer to anything. This is true...but it doesn’t apply to the term “supernatural”, because supernatural is an adjective, which means it is attempting to describe something. We use adjectives to denote what something is. We also use them to denote what something is not, but as todangst pointed out, if the term supernatural refers solely to what something is not, then it cannot be meaningful. If I have an apple, a bannana and an orange on a table, we presumably would not refer to the orange as “not the bannana”. However, we could refer to the orange as being “not the apple or bannana” and then one would be able to deduce we are referring the orange, however, this is only valid since there is a positive referent, otherwise it becomes incoherent. What similar positive ontological status can you give me for supernatural?

This is the question that matters.

 

  
Quote:

Now, obviously we use negatives all the time in language, but as I explained above in the apple/orange/banana analogy, these are only meaningful because there are positive referents. Without such a referent (ie remove the orange) then suddenly the term becomes meaningless as by defining it solely by negatives, and eliminating all possible positives, the concept is hence eliminated from the universe of discourse. This is essentially what todangst was saying eliminating all possible positives.

Yes, this is my actual argument. Thank you.

Quote:
 

Unless you can correct me there, the term supernatural does quite successfully eliminate all possible positive things it could be, described only by what it is not, and leaving no room for positive property (eliminates self from the universe of discourse). This is why use of other negatives are not analogous, because they are always accompanied by a positive. We can describe someone as “unwavering” or as “steady”, we could describe someone as “undeterred” or “perservering”, we could describe someone as... etc .Correct me if I’m wrong, but supernatural is quite unique in it doesn’t refer to anything.

Also, todangst never suggested that something needed to exist to be coherent in the language set. As Hamby pointed out, the term unicorn is coherent, despite referring to a nonexistent creature. Under discussion here is not whether supernatural things exist, but rather whether it is even coherent to speak of supernatural things at all! The existence or nonexistence of the supernatural is at this point irrelevant. Before even bothering to discuss that, you must overcome the hurdle of explaining what supernatural is, much like someone convinced of the existence of a mythical creature called an “Urk” would have to explain what an urk is before providing evidence of it.

Thanks for making these corrections.

 

Quote:

Meh. Philosophy of language is not my thing. I'll return to my electron microscope now...(or at least I would, but LOL I'm on vacation)

'Meh' indeed! 

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Cernunnos wrote: I think

Cernunnos wrote:

I think the idea is

the assertion (call this p)

implies

that there are no contingent statements that express identity between an object denoted by a proper name and a definite description (call this q)

If we accept p implies q to be true, then IF q is false p is false.

Gavagai then gives evidence to why q is false.

Concluding that supernatural and immaterial have meaning.

However I am not sure how q is a consequence of p, or that q is false.

While I've already spoken on this above, thank you for succintly identifying his formal logic error. 

Fallacy of denying the antecedent

p > q

~p
~q

 

 

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Gavagai wrote: Second, my

Gavagai wrote:

Second, my argument does not even remotely suggest that there are new ways of talking about God or 'immaterial'.

May I remind you of the very title you chose for this thread? 

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Cernunnos wrote:

Cernunnos wrote:

Gavagai wrote:
Todangst's argument is unsound. First, empirical linguistic evidence proves that many bits of language, whether they’re in the form of text or an acoustic blast from the mouth, are meaningful but do not refer to anything, e.g. “hello”, “and”, “on behalf of”, “alas”, etc.

Todangst does not state that all words that do not refer to anything are broken concepts.

He states that supernatural and immaterial can only be defined in negative terms. Therefore these adjectives can not qualify a noun that has a positive ontology and are hence broken concepts.

Yes.

I'm glad that so many posters are referencing my essay. Thank you.


Gavagai wrote:
Another, more technical, problem with Todangst's view is that it logically implies that there are no contingent statements that express identity between an object denoted by a proper name and a definite description.

Quote:

I have had difficulty discerning what you mean here. I expect others have too! So I will start by stating how I understand it...and hope for some guidance/clarification.

...terms like immaterial are meaningless (i'm not sure what you want todangst view to be. I use your opening statement).

IMPLIES

that there are NO possible statements that are ALWAYS true between a proper name that refers to a real object AND a clear description.

I would like to know how todangsts view implies this.

Me too.

Quote:

I feel this is paramount as I think your argument is in the form of...

todansgt idea implies this philosophically accepted idea to be false.

However I see it in my naivety thus:

A proper name does not create mutual exclusivity (I had a hamster called Socrates). Statements such as "Socrates = Plato's teacher" only express identity under the conditions in which they are true.....and my hamster did not teach Plato. I am left unsure if contingent identity statements exist.

I don't see how referentialism rules out the very possibility of making contingent statements. 

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Textom wrote:

Textom wrote:

Actually Gavagai does have a reasonable argument here.

The great weakness of Tod's ontology (noticed this a long time ago but didn't want to go against the prevailing opinion of the board) is that it is founded on the logical positivist position.

Is it? I'll steal this quote from deludedgod: "I do not reject these concepts on grounds of their lack of verifiability/falsifiability, but rather their lack of conceptual coherency."

The very point of my essay is to say the following:

I don't see how anyone can make a coherent reference to the supernatural. If you disagree, please show me the way. I make a point of saying that there's no need for me to rule out theistic claims a priori (I assume this is what you mean by your logical positivism reference) the real problem is that theists cannot offer a viable alternative.

By the way, I also see little value in arguing "X holds to tenet Y, and Y is no longer in favor, ergo X is wrong". What matters are the specifics of the arguments.

Quote:

That doesn't mean Tod's position is incorrect or untrue, and it certainly doesn't mean that Theism is a correct/true position by default. But it's an error of exclusion to disregard the weaknesses in the logical positivist ontology that Gavagai has pointed out here.

If there are other ways to provide meaning for terms like 'god' that are relevant here, then let's discuss them. I'd love to include them in my essay. So far, I fail to see how the means for rendering 'hello' meaningful can possibly relate to making a reference to 'something' beyond existence!

 

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Quote: However I see it in

Quote:
However I see it in my naivety thus:

A proper name does not create mutual exclusivity (I had a hamster called Socrates). Statements such as "Socrates = Plato's teacher" only express identity under the conditions in which they are true.....and my hamster did not teach Plato. I am left unsure if contingent identity statements exist.

todangst wrote:
I don't see how referentialism rules out the very possibility of making contingent statements.

The issue I have is with contingent identity statements not with contingent statements.

 Not really understanding what Gavagai meant I cheated and used his conclusion.

Gavagai wrote:
so there are contingent identity statements. So we must reject Todangst’s view

I consider a contingent statement to be something like "It is raining". This statement is only true under certain conditions.

I consider an identity statement a propostion that is always true. For instance

"In Euclidean geometry, the square of the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other sides"

 Thus I consider a contingent identity statement to be an oxymoron. Galagai's own definition of identity describes something that is true for all of its variables. For Socrates to equal Plato's teacher to be an identity statement you must insist upon some variables (in this case that they both refer to the same Socrates/object). On the other side if you insist Socrates is always the same object the statement loses its contingency.

I come at this discussion from a mathematical background and if my definitions are too draconian so be it...but I imagine that's the point! (contingency and identity should show different qualifications of truth).

 

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.


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todangst wrote: Textom

todangst wrote:
Textom wrote:

Actually Gavagai does have a reasonable argument here.

The great weakness of Tod's ontology (noticed this a long time ago but didn't want to go against the prevailing opinion of the board) is that it is founded on the logical positivist position.

Is it? I'll steal this quote from deludedgod: "I do not reject these concepts on grounds of their lack of verifiability/falsifiability, but rather their lack of conceptual coherency."

The very point of my essay is to say the following:

I don't see how anyone can make a coherent reference to the supernatural. If you disagree, please show me the way. I make a point of saying that there's no need for me to rule out theistic claims a priori (I assume this is what you mean by your logical positivism reference) the real problem is that theists cannot offer a viable alternative.

Okay, then let me drop the label "logical positivist" from my position, since I accept the statement that you're not assigning incoherence to terms like 'god' on the basis of the verifyability criterion of meaning.

The assumption I'm referring to is the one that goes, "in order to have meaning, a concept must have a positive ontological status."  I've been checking around, but haven't been able to find the origin of this proposition (I'm finding some echoes in the traditions of the analytic philosophy school?).  I think in order to continue this discussion in a more informed way, I need some references for this concept if maybe you could help me out here?

It's a completely alien idea to the realm of post-modern rhetoric, in which pretty much everything is assumed to have some meaning and nearly nothing can be labeled as "incoherent."

Offhand, though, I did not intend to argue that this idea is necessarily false because it is older or less popular than other ideas.  I only intend to indicate that it cannot be assumed automatically and without question. 

 

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  Quote:All you

todangst wrote:
Quote:

All you have done is basically state that immaterial and supernatural have meaning,  

No, he has not.

I was concerned that some would make this mistake.

Yes. Perhaps the way I worded my reply was misleading. I did not say that he had demonstrated that the terms had meaning, I said all he had done is state that they had meaning. And I would allow that they do have a kind of superficial meaning as contrasts to existent things, not natural and not material. This is irrelevant to the point as I see it though, hence my claim that his objection is merely obfuscation. He has not demonstrated anything of relevance toward showing that supernatural and immaterial are supported by coherent concepts. I go on to challenge him to do as much.

Quote:
All he has done, at most, is demonstrate that a term can be meaningful without a referent. This does nothing to demonstrate that ALL terms without referent are meaningful. Nor does it even begin to demonstrate how terms like 'supernatural' are meaningful. In order to do this, he must cease being coy and 1) present other ways to provide meaning for terms other than referentialism (obviously possible) and 2) demonstrate how these methods can be used on terms like 'god' and 'supernatural' (nobel prize level impossible)

That is the real issue here. However, if our friend can help improve my argument in the meantime, I more than welcome the discourse.

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Vessel wrote: He has not

Vessel wrote:

He has not demonstrated anything of relevance toward showing that supernatural and immaterial are supported by coherent concepts. I go on to challenge him to do as much.

I'm also interested in this question.  Maybe somebody could spell out the specific requirements for a concept to qualify as "coherent" or provide a link to information that does this?

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Textom wrote: Vessel

Textom wrote:
Vessel wrote:

He has not demonstrated anything of relevance toward showing that supernatural and immaterial are supported by coherent concepts. I go on to challenge him to do as much.

I'm also interested in this question.  Maybe somebody could spell out the specific requirements for a concept to qualify as "coherent" or provide a link to information that does this?

Here are the questions I would expect one to be able to answer if they actually have an understanding of what they mean when they use the terms:

1.) In what way can immaterial or supernatural be said to exist?

2.) If they can't be said to exist then what exactly can we say of them?

The term coherent may be inappropriate as I'm not sure that saying the concepts are contradictory would be an applicable without first holding a materialist assumption which wouldbasically be assuming my conclusion.

When I use coherent concept in this way what I'm asking for is for them to demonstrate to me what it is that they understand supernatural and immaterial to mean through use of some positive characteristics. I find it impossible to draw any frame of reference to any concept that helps me to understand what an immaterial or supernatural thing might be. I can hold a concept of what it is not, but not what it is. 

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Cool, thanks so far,

Cool, thanks so far, Vessel.  I'm still working on getting to the root of the positive ontological status thing, so I have a question, if you or anybody can respond to these.

vessel wrote:

Here are the questions I would expect one to be able to answer if they actually have an understanding of what they mean when they use the terms:

1.) In what way can immaterial or supernatural be said to exist?

2.) If they can't be said to exist then what exactly can we say of them?

Okay, so far so good.  Next, my question is on what basis do these questions necessarily define the characteristics of coherence (which I think is the right term here) ?  Or, to put it another way, why is it necessary to be able to say something (and something positive at that) about a concept or its existence in order for it to be coherent? 

I don't think I'm drifting off topic here because I believe I'm driving toward the OP's criticism of Tod's article. 


 

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Textom wrote: Cool, thanks

Textom wrote:

Cool, thanks so far, Vessel.  I'm still working on getting to the root of the positive ontological status thing, so I have a question, if you or anybody can respond to these.

vessel wrote:

Here are the questions I would expect one to be able to answer if they actually have an understanding of what they mean when they use the terms:

1.) In what way can immaterial or supernatural be said to exist?

2.) If they can't be said to exist then what exactly can we say of them?

Okay, so far so good.  Next, my question is on what basis do these questions necessarily define the characteristics of coherence (which I think is the right term here) ?  Or, to put it another way, why is it necessary to be able to say something (and something positive at that) about a concept or its existence in order for it to be coherent?

It seems to me that it would be because this is the way our brain functions. In order for me to be able to understand what is being referenced I must have some frame of reference from which to draw my concept. 

I would imagine that to one who has never experienced any change in temperature to speak of things being either hot or cold would be non-sensical. These would be incoherent concepts. It would be in no way helpful to them in understanding what hot and cold are if I simply told them, "Well, hot and cold are not the temperature you experience". If, however, I could explain to them the physics of what hot and cold actually are, then even if they had never experienced them they should be able to form some coherent concept by which to consider them.

Is that relevant to what you are asking?


 

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Vessel wrote: I would

Vessel wrote:

I would imagine that to one who has never experienced any change in temperature to speak of things being either hot or cold would be non-sensical. These would be incoherent concepts. It would be in no way helpful to them in understanding what hot and cold are if I simply told them, "Well, hot and cold are not the temperature you experience". If, however, I could explain to them the physics of what hot and cold actually are, then even if they had never experienced them they should be able to form some coherent concept by which to consider them.

Is that relevant to what you are asking?

Substitute religious experience for change in temperature and you get the argument that many believers offer. You can't understand religion until you have a religious experience.


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Textom wrote:

Textom wrote:
todangst wrote:

Is it? I'll steal this quote from deludedgod: "I do not reject these concepts on grounds of their lack of verifiability/falsifiability, but rather their lack of conceptual coherency."

The very point of my essay is to say the following:

I don't see how anyone can make a coherent reference to the supernatural. If you disagree, please show me the way. I make a point of saying that there's no need for me to rule out theistic claims a priori (I assume this is what you mean by your logical positivism reference) the real problem is that theists cannot offer a viable alternative.

Okay, then let me drop the label "logical positivist" from my position, since I accept the statement that you're not assigning incoherence to terms like 'god' on the basis of the verifyability criterion of meaning.

Ok. Can you now drop all attempts to argue in this fashion and just deal with my argument. If a school of philosophy no longer holds a premise in my argument as valid, don't just tell me School X disagrees with philosophy Y, just give me the argument.

Quote:

The assumption I'm referring to is the one that goes, "in order to have meaning, a concept must have a positive ontological status." I've been checking around, but haven't been able to find the origin of this proposition (I'm finding some echoes in the traditions of the analytic philosophy school?).

Can you guys please stop trying to write off arguments by telling me that it either belongs to a school no longer in fashion, or that you cant' find reference to it. Please instead deal with my argument.

Tell me, how can a term that attempts to refer or denote an entity, such as a 'god' or a 'supernatural realm' have any meaning at all, if

1) You define it only negatively and

2) You rule out any universe of discourse.

Don't tell me that my argument is based on some type of philosophy that is out of favor, don't tell me that you can't find a refererence to my argument, instead, show me how you can assign meaning in such a case - or concede the issue.

Quote:

I think in order to continue this discussion in a more informed way, I need some references for this concept if maybe you could help me out here?

I speak on this matter in my essay, concerning negative definitions and universe of discouse:

Terms like "supernatural" or "immaterial" are broken concepts: They cannot actually refer to anything - other than what they are not. They are broken terms because they are defined solely in negative terms (according to what they are not) without any universe of discourse (anything left over for them to be).

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Quote:

It's a completely alien idea to the realm of post-modern rhetoric,

Do you realize that this is not a response to my argument? Show me the problem with my argument, if you think there is one... So far, the main argument against my essay is that we can supposedly say words like "alas" and "hello" without referentialism.  To this I respond "Who cares?" Even if I accept this as true, how does it relate to my argument? My argument holds that there is no way for these terms to denote anything... if you have a  way, present it. 

 

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Cernunnos wrote:
Quote:
However I see it in my naivety thus:

A proper name does not create mutual exclusivity (I had a hamster called Socrates). Statements such as "Socrates = Plato's teacher" only express identity under the conditions in which they are true.....and my hamster did not teach Plato. I am left unsure if contingent identity statements exist.

todangst wrote:
I don't see how referentialism rules out the very possibility of making contingent statements.

The issue I have is with contingent identity statements not with contingent statements.

Not really understanding what Gavagai meant I cheated and used his conclusion.

Gavagai wrote:
so there are contingent identity statements. So we must reject Todangst’s view

I consider a contingent statement to be something like "It is raining". This statement is only true under certain conditions.

I consider an identity statement a propostion that is always true. For instance

"In Euclidean geometry, the square of the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other sides"

Thus I consider a contingent identity statement to be an oxymoron.

Thank you. It didn't make sense to me either. At any rate, Gav didn't really give us all the steps of his argument, so it's hard to assess what he's saying.

Quote:
 

Galagai's own definition of identity describes something that is true for all of its variables. For Socrates to equal Plato's teacher to be an identity statement you must insist upon some variables (in this case that they both refer to the same Socrates/object). On the other side if you insist Socrates is always the same object the statement loses its contingency.

I come at this discussion from a mathematical background and if my definitions are too draconian so be it...but I imagine that's the point! (contingency and identity should show different qualifications of truth).

 

Again, thank you. 

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wavefreak wrote: Vessel

wavefreak wrote:
Vessel wrote:

I would imagine that to one who has never experienced any change in temperature to speak of things being either hot or cold would be non-sensical. These would be incoherent concepts. It would be in no way helpful to them in understanding what hot and cold are if I simply told them, "Well, hot and cold are not the temperature you experience". If, however, I could explain to them the physics of what hot and cold actually are, then even if they had never experienced them they should be able to form some coherent concept by which to consider them.

Is that relevant to what you are asking?

Substitute religious experience for change in temperature and you get the argument that many believers offer. You can't understand religion until you have a religious experience.

Which leaves it incoherent from my perspective and thus makes it impossible for me to hold a belief in their claim being as I have no coherent concept of what they are claiming. 

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Textom wrote: Vessel

Textom wrote:
Vessel wrote:

He has not demonstrated anything of relevance toward showing that supernatural and immaterial are supported by coherent concepts. I go on to challenge him to do as much.

I'm also interested in this question. Maybe somebody could spell out the specific requirements for a concept to qualify as "coherent" or provide a link to information that does this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Vessel wrote:

Vessel wrote:

It seems to me that it would be because this is the way our brain functions. In order for me to be able to understand what is being referenced I must have some frame of reference from which to draw my concept.

I would imagine that to one who has never experienced any change in temperature to speak of things being either hot or cold would be non-sensical. These would be incoherent concepts. It would be in no way helpful to them in understanding what hot and cold are if I simply told them, "Well, hot and cold are not the temperature you experience". If, however, I could explain to them the physics of what hot and cold actually are, then even if they had never experienced them they should be able to form some coherent concept by which to consider them.

Is that relevant to what you are asking?

Yep, it addresses the question, and I think it points back to this essay for a more complete answer. Rather than just recursively asking "yeah, but how do you know that's true?" I'll prepare some kind of more comprehensive response. Thanks, Vessel.

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Textom wrote:

Textom wrote:
The assumption I'm referring to is the one that goes, "in order to have meaning, a concept must have a positive ontological status.

That assumption has not been made. Clearly much symbolism will lack positive ontology.

I think you make the same mistake as Gavagai in that you break up a logical expression of todangsts argument (the other half).

a concept requires:

positive ontology (X) OR refers (Y)

//by positive ontology I mean be existent

//by refers I mean hooks onto an existent(s) either directly (Joe Bloggs) or abstractly (a unicorn)

a concept is broken only when it has neither.

In writing this I assume todangst argument to be via a principle rather than an isolated case - that all concepts without X AND Y are broken. From what he has written I realise he may not like me doing this (+ i've perhaps badly reworded it) so please do not try and use this against his argument!

 

Textom wrote:
why is it necessary to be able to say something (and something positive at that) about a concept or its existence in order for it to be coherent?

Consistency. For a concept to be coherent it requires some sort of standard accepted as norm....or with little variation.

 (If you can only say something negative you are left with nothing.)

 

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.


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Since Todangst wrote the

Since Todangst wrote the essay in question, I've seen all sorts of philosophical/logical attempts to discredit the assertion, and frankly, I think almost everyone has missed the point.

Todangst, feel free to correct me if I'm not echoing your thoughts, but here's what most of the arguments against todangst seem to be saying:

 

Theist: But, you can't prove materialism, so there might be something else.

or

Theist: But you can't prove the certainty of induction, so there might be something else.

or

Theist: But you can't prove that there isn't another way in which language can refer positively to it.

ad nauseum...

To which, if I understand the argument, the standard reply is:

Atheist: Ok, fine. Demonstrate/describe it for me.

To which the theist replies:

Theist: But, you see, there might be another way to do it. You can't prove there isn't...

 

Am I missing something, or is this about what it boils down to?

I don't mean to sound flippant, but every objection I've seen seems to be saying the same thing... "It's possible that it's not incoherent... it's just that it's coherent in another way"

Which, of course, is simply reassigning the error to another set of words. It's the shell game. Where's the special pleading going to end up this time?

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Okay, I'm more of a

Okay, I'm more of a continental philosophy guy myself, so naturally all of this analytic stuff is giving me a headache.  

There have been some very eloquent arguments in this thread that I've enjoyed reading very much, but one statement really grabbed my attention:  

Hambydammit wrote:

I fail to see the relevance of this word game to the fundamental question of whether or not there is an empirical, objective reality which contains a positive ontology for "supernatural" and "immaterial."

The terms "supernatural" and "immaterial" by their very meaning refer to something which is not empirical and not objective.  So in reality, if someone were to construct a positive ontology for the terms supernatural and immaterial, they would not actually be constructing a positive ontology for the terms but rather showing that the terms really didn't mean what we thought they meant after all - they would lose their current meaning altogether.  

From a theist's standpoint, I see absolutely no need to attempt such a thing anyway.  The only thing that a theist could possibly achieve by doing this is prove that he can intellectually one-up an atheist, and effectively prove that the argument stopped being about the existence of God a long time ago and started being about who is smarter. 

I fully and unabashedly embrace the meaninglessness of my beliefs in the face of logic and analytic philosophy.  

    

 

 

 


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Quote: So in reality, if

Quote:
So in reality, if someone were to construct a positive ontology for the terms supernatural and immaterial, they would not actually be constructing a positive ontology for the terms but rather showing that the terms really didn't mean what we thought they meant after all - they would lose their current meaning altogether

Which is an eloquent explanation of why they are inherently meaningless, and why anything described as either is also necessarily meaningless. Which, of course, brings us to the question of how you know something about something which has no meaning... but that's another topic.

It is, of course, nonsense to talk about their current meaning outside of language, since you have just admitted that there is no way to say anything about them at all. So, you've reduced your god down to a word game.

Quote:
From a theist's standpoint, I see absolutely no need to attempt such a thing anyway.

But, you would claim to know about this god and what he wants from you, and presumably me? When he's meaningless and indescribable?

Surely this contradiction begs an attempt!

Quote:
The only thing that a theist could possibly achieve by doing this is prove that he can intellectually one-up an atheist, and effectively prove that the argument stopped being about the existence of God a long time ago and started being about who is smarter.

How exactly is this so? Sounds like a dodge to me. It's ok if you want to admit you're just irrational. Hell, if you decide we're smarter than you, that's ok, too. I don't know if it's true or not, but it doesn't seem to have any relevance to the discussion.

Quote:
I fully and unabashedly embrace the meaninglessness of my beliefs in the face of logic and analytic philosophy.

If only you could convince the rest of your fellow believers to do the same...

I'm trying to help.

 

 

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Hambydammit

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
So in reality, if someone were to construct a positive ontology for the terms supernatural and immaterial, they would not actually be constructing a positive ontology for the terms but rather showing that the terms really didn't mean what we thought they meant after all - they would lose their current meaning altogether

Which is an eloquent explanation of why they are inherently meaningless, and why anything described as either is also necessarily meaningless. Which, of course, brings us to the question of how you know something about something which has no meaning... but that's another topic.

It is, of course, nonsense to talk about their current meaning outside of language, since you have just admitted that there is no way to say anything about them at all. So, you've reduced your god down to a word game.

My experiences with God have never really involved speech or even thoughts related to words. Sure, later on I've attempted to sort of capsulize these experiences with words (as we do), but to little or no avail.

And I don't believe that I've reduced my God down to a word game, I've simply acknowledged that speaking about my God within the parameters of this thread reduces him to a word game - hence why I don't put much stock into this brand of philosophy.

Hambydammit wrote:
Quote:
From a theist's standpoint, I see absolutely no need to attempt such a thing anyway.

But, you would claim to know about this god and what he wants from you, and presumably me? When he's meaningless and indescribable?

Surely this contradiction begs an attempt!

I think that you may have misunderstood what I was saying. I was referring to Gavagai's attempt to construct said ontology, and that it was essentially useless, especially so from a theist's point of view, seeing as how this particular type of theism (Christianity) is not derived from empirical experience. The basis of this religion (shaky as it may be) is certainly rooted in the empirical world, such as the purported life of Christ, and more particularly his death and resurrection, but what separates these empirical actions from the consequences of these actions, and furthermore the mysterious and damn near inexplicable acceptance of these actions on the basis of something as intangible as the soul is very much rooted in, for lack of a better phrase, a realm that exists beyond the physical - which I can logically offer no evidence for, as no "evidence", traditionally speaking, could ever exist for it.

And I'm not one of these Christians that pretends to have God's supposed will for myself figured out, let alone his will for everyone else. I do believe that I know a little bit about him, but only in a way that applies to myself.

Hambydammit wrote:
Quote:
The only thing that a theist could possibly achieve by doing this is prove that he can intellectually one-up an atheist, and effectively prove that the argument stopped being about the existence of God a long time ago and started being about who is smarter.

How exactly is this so? Sounds like a dodge to me. It's ok if you want to admit you're just irrational. Hell, if you decide we're smarter than you, that's ok, too. I don't know if it's true or not, but it doesn't seem to have any relevance to the discussion.

What I was saying is that Gavagai isn't going to achieve anything by constructing a positive ontology for the terms supernatural and immaterial, first and foremost because doing so would dissolve the meanings of the term, which would in effect leave us here arguing about things impertinent to the existence of God. I wasn't taking a shot at atheism.

I've admitted with no problem that I'm irrational from my very first post on this board, and yes, I do believe that many of you are quite a bit smarter than I am. That's why I'm interested in the things many of you have to say.

Hambydammit wrote:
Quote:
I fully and unabashedly embrace the meaninglessness of my beliefs in the face of logic and analytic philosophy.

If only you could convince the rest of your fellow believers to do the same...

I'm trying to help.

We're coming around. I hope. The sooner we can collectively admit that this is a useless battle (trying to offer empirical proof for the non-empirical), the sooner we can delve deeper into the matter.


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jmm, So, you experience a

jmm,

So, you experience a non-material god with your non-material soul.

Do you have a material body?

If you do, does this body do anything, is it part of you? Does your brain do any thinking, processing of data, etc?

What does the soul do?

Do the thoughts of the brain and the actions of the soul interact?

If, depending on your answers, the following description is valid, then I have some questions.

You have some experience with/of god, perhaps through your soul or something like that.  You cannot put it into words easily, but through comtemplation you can approximate the experience into some semblance of meaning, and describe it, although inadequately, to others.   

Is that somewhat fair?

OK< if so, then here's my question; if the brain is physical, and is responsible for thoughts, language, etc (ot even if the soul is, and the soul moves the mouth to form the words, etc) then if the soul/god is immaterial, and the body is material, on what basis can it be said that the immaterial effects the material?

Effect is a process that meterial things undertake.  Protons, electrons, etc (quarks, really--and maybe superstrings beyond that) interact because they share properties that allow interactions.

But you are saying that something that is not made up of matter (protons/electrons, quarks, strings) is also able to effect these material things.  

The argument in question is asking if the supernatural or immaterial (soul/spirit or divine reality) are not made up of things like quarks or superstrings, then what are they?

The natural world is spacetime and the stuff that comes from spacetime (quarks and the like).  If there is something that is not this, how does it make sense to say it is something, if being something implies it being natural? 

That is, if we were to propose a fundemental dualistic nature to the universe (matter and non-matter, let's say), and if these different ontological categories interact, then in what way are the ontological categories even said to be distinct? This type of dualism would collapse into a monism, consisting of two primary types of stuff.

But that is not what we find when we look at reality.  Further, if there were other stuff in the universe that wasn't matter, then what is it? Are we, perhaps, to argue that some types of quarks are matter, others are not, and the things made up of certain kinds of quarks are matter but the other not, thus we are both material and non-material beings? Absurd.

If we are supposed to have things in us that are material (brains) and immaterial (souls), then I simply want to know 1) how they interact and 2) what the soul is--what is it's ontology?

Shaun 

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jmm wrote: The terms

jmm wrote:

The terms "supernatural" and "immaterial" by their very meaning refer to something which is not empirical and not objective. So in reality, if someone were to construct a positive ontology for the terms supernatural and immaterial, they would not actually be constructing a positive ontology for the terms but rather showing that the terms really didn't mean what we thought they meant after all

 

This is precisely the point of my argument.

Which in turn echoes the words of Augustine that I quote on page 2.

Quote:
 

 - they would lose their current meaning altogether.

They have no current meaning by definition!

 

Quote:

From a theist's standpoint, I see absolutely no need to attempt such a thing anyway.

From a positive theological point, it is absolutely necessary.

From a negative position, it is not. But the negative position requires silence on the 'matter' of 'god'

 

Quote:
 

I fully and unabashedly embrace the meaninglessness of my beliefs in the face of logic and analytic philosophy.

 

Do you? If so, you concede that there  are no grounds for your position.

If so, kudos to you.

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Thank you for your post,

Thank you for your post, Cernunnos

 

 

Hambydammit wrote:

 I don't mean to sound flippant, but every objection I've seen seems to be saying the same thing... "It's possible that it's not incoherent... it's just that it's coherent in another way"

 

Almost every 'objection' is an attempt to completely dodge simply answering the question.  Period.  That is precisely what you are seeing.

 

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I'll bite, just for the

I'll bite, just for the sake of arguement, what someone asked earlier.

The frame of reference we have for Supernatural and immaterial would be what we imagine God being, that is, the frame of reference would be our imagination.

What does this do for the arguement, exactly? Well, it ruins it and shows that both concepts are false. This isn't like Icyhot here, people.


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jmm wrote: My experiences

jmm wrote:

My experiences with God have never really involved speech or even thoughts related to words. 

You just conceded that the term 'god' has no positive ontology. This means that you ,yourself, have ruled out the possibility of having 'experiences' of 'god' seeing as you must steal from naturalism to do so.

 

Quote:

 I've simply acknowledged that speaking about my God within the parameters of this thread reduces him to a word game  

It is NOT a 'word game', in fact, it is something utterly vital to the very concept of discourse itself: you are conceding that your term has no identity, and thus, you cannot make any reference to it. This isn't 'semantic's it relates to the very matter of metaphysics, the very grounds for any discusssion at all.

Perhaps this misperception of the seriousness of the situation is precisely why you went  on to make the very error you have just made above, after conceding that the term 'god' is incoherent.

 

Quote:
 

I think that you may have misunderstood what I was saying. I was referring to Gavagai's attempt to construct said ontology, and that it was essentially useless, 

He has not even attempted, at any time, to present such an ontology. If you believe otherwise,  point me to this attempt.

 

 

Quote:
 

What I was saying is that Gavagai isn't going to achieve anything by constructing a positive ontology for the terms supernatural and immaterial, first and foremost because doing so would dissolve the meanings of the term

A necessary ramification of your own words is that these words can have no meaning.

 

Quote:
 

I've admitted with no problem that I'm irrational from my very first post on this board, 

Good. Now you must take step 2 and follow the necessary ramifications of your concession.

By the way, good talking to you. 

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Cernunnos wrote:   That

Cernunnos wrote:

 

That assumption has not been made. Clearly much symbolism will lack positive ontology.

Howso?  It seems you are holding that abstractions have no ontology. But to exist as anything, even an abstraction, is to exist as something, to have identity, and thus, to have an ontology.

"Positive ontology" is redundant, 'negative ontology' is oxymoronic. You yourself will say this below, but in a different way.

[quote'  

I think you make the same mistake as Gavagai in that you break up a logical expression of todangsts argument (the other half).

a concept requires:

positive ontology (X) OR refers (Y)

//by positive ontology I mean be existent

//by refers I mean hooks onto an existent(s) either directly (Joe Bloggs) or abstractly (a unicorn)

This is one of his key blunders. He demonstrates this error in his 'two ontologies' thread. 

Abstract concepts have an ontology. To be conceivable is to have characteristics, identity. Even non-noun/adjective phrases like 'as far as" have identity.

 

Quote:

In writing this I assume todangst argument to be via a principle rather than an isolated case - that all concepts without X AND Y are broken.  

X and Y fall under the same heading. I think perhaps, that people are reading the word 'existent' a 'something that does in fact exist in the world based on my seeing it, etc.  Perhaps the word 'concept' would be better for our purposes.  To conceive of something requires that it have identity.

 

Quote:

(If you can only say something negative you are left with nothing.)

 

YES!  See my comments at top.

 

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Quote: Howso?  It seems

Quote:
Howso?  It seems you are holding that abstractions have no ontology. But to exist as anything, even an abstraction, is to exist as something, to have identity, and thus, to have an ontology.

Thank you. I was struggling there. To clarify 'existing' or 'knowing' shows a positive ontology?

You are correct in that I was not seeing the full scope of positive ontology.

Textom, I apoligize, one for my glib answer your question and two for not answering your question!

 

 

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.


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todangst wrote: jmm

todangst wrote:
jmm wrote:

The terms "supernatural" and "immaterial" by their very meaning refer to something which is not empirical and not objective. So in reality, if someone were to construct a positive ontology for the terms supernatural and immaterial, they would not actually be constructing a positive ontology for the terms but rather showing that the terms really didn't mean what we thought they meant after all

 

This is precisely the point of my argument.

Which in turn echoes the words of Augustine that I quote on page 2.

I figured that this was the point of your argument, I just wanted to pull a Caner and restate, haha.  

todangst wrote:
Quote:

- they would lose their current meaning altogether.

They have no current meaning by definition!

But this is where it falls apart for me.  When I say "supernatural" or "immaterial", you know what I'm talking about (I presume), as most people do, even though the terms are technically meaningless within the very narrow parameters of logical discourse.  I explored some things similar to this when I was studying Heidegger during undergrad.  To speak of "nothing" is misleading in that by saying "nothing" you're referring, and to refer is to refer to "something", therefore to say "nothing" is to dissolve it's implied meaning.  Nevertheless, I believe that Heidegger gives a positive ontology for the very backdrop of broken terms and phrases without meaning:  nothingness - the possibility of no more possibilities.  Perhaps I should tweak my thinking more along those lines. 

todangst wrote:
Quote:

From a theist's standpoint, I see absolutely no need to attempt such a thing anyway.

From a positive theological point, it is absolutely necessary.

From a negative position, it is not. But the negative position requires silence on the 'matter' of 'god'

Correct me if I'm wrong, but according to you, is there really no such thing as positive theology at all?  If this is the case, then why would you set parameters for a non-existent theology?   

 

todangst wrote:
Quote:

I fully and unabashedly embrace the meaninglessness of my beliefs in the face of logic and analytic philosophy.

Do you? If so, you concede that there are no grounds for your position.

If so, kudos to you.

I do embrace this, but I will not concede (just yet) that there are no grounds for my position.  Analytic philosophy has led philosophers to some very absurd and irrational conclusions over the centuries:

-There is no such thing as cause and effect (Hume)

-A world could exist in which everything is the same as our present world, except for the chemical composition of water (Putnam)

-What I see as red, you perhaps see as green

-The evil genius (Descartes) 

-The celestial teapot (Russell, my least favorite philosopher) 

-Zeno's paradoxes (the pinnacle of absurdity in my opinion, and thousands of years before Descartes, Hume or Putnam to boot!)

And so on and so forth.  Such things, as well as many others, have led me to approach the analytic school with a pinch of salt.  I mean, if we held to the narrow parameters that govern this school of thought in every aspect of the human experience, the world would be quite a bit more strange than it already is.  

As you noted before, the Buddhists use koans in order to express the unexpressable.  I do similar things in order to better understand God and Christianity, such as expose myself to sacreligious art.  The world is an absurd place, and trying to synthesize this absurdity in a logical manner only makes it more painful and more absurd.  This is why in synthesizing the human experience, I borrow from both the analytic and (far moreso) the continental schools of philosophy.   

 


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todangst wrote: jmm

todangst wrote:
jmm wrote:

My experiences with God have never really involved speech or even thoughts related to words.

You just conceded that the term 'god' has no positive ontology. This means that you ,yourself, have ruled out the possibility of having 'experiences' of 'god' seeing as you must steal from naturalism to do so.

Yes. But the thing is, I do not define the possibility of experiencing something (namely God) on the grounds of whether or not is has a positive ontology.

And I don't believe that I'm strictly "stealing" from naturalism as it is philosophically defined, but rather more broadly I'm stealing from nature. The genesis of questioning is rooted in nature, in empirical experience. I remember specifically the time that I first realized this. I was 5 years old, and I was looking through the skylight of my grandfather's car, just gazing at the seemingly endless abyss of stars on top of stars on top of galaxies, sermon fragments even at that time rattling in my head about eternity, and I realized that the world to which I was confined was both a rational and an absurd place. Of course I wasn't able to even begin putting it into words now, and if the situation ever presents itself to reminisce on this thread 20 years from now, I'll hopefully laugh at the way I'm defining it at this moment.

My point is, I can't rationally separate "supernatural" from "natural", and "immaterial" from "material". As terms and limited by the nature of term, the former is always dependent upon the latter. I began in and am confined to a natural, material world, and this is the basis for the rest of the questioning that I will do in my life. I don't think it's reasonable just yet to abandon the supernatural and the immaterial, seeing as how I'm drawn beyond my will to explore such notions. Now as far as defining that moment of breakthrough from one side to the other...well, I'm still working on that. In the end though, if I'm ultimately unable to define such a breakthrough, the only way in which this will be detrimental concerns my credibility in the eyes of atheism. No offense, but that's not really a big deal to me.

todangst wrote:
Quote:

I've simply acknowledged that speaking about my God within the parameters of this thread reduces him to a word game

It is NOT a 'word game', in fact, it is something utterly vital to the very concept of discourse itself: you are conceding that your term has no identity, and thus, you cannot make any reference to it. This isn't 'semantic's it relates to the very matter of metaphysics, the very grounds for any discusssion at all.

Perhaps this misperception of the seriousness of the situation is precisely why you went on to make the very error you have just made above, after conceding that the term 'god' is incoherent.

I wouldn't say that the term "God" has no identity, though as a term it does have one of the most varied and subjective identities amongst ideas. And I certainly feel as though I make reference to God quite often, although these references are rooted in subjective experience rather than concrete, material, natural fact.

And speaking of metaphysics, is this not a similar word construct as "supernatural" or "immaterial"? The very basic questions of metaphysics hinge on the probing of meaning (i.e. a subjective, immaterial explanation or ordering of natural phenomena):

-What is the meaning of life?

-What is the being of a particular state or object?

Such questions seek to parse subjective, immaterial data out of the everyday, natural occurances of life and the material world. For example, my uncle is currently dying of lung cancer. He smoked 2 packs a day for 40 years, so this is a natural ramification for his actions. THis is not the meaning of his death, but rather a sensible cause and effect explanation for the natural processes. However, within the next few months, my aunt, and to a lesser degree the rest of my family (including myself) will begin the strange mental processes that follow the death of an acquaintance or loved one of trying to extract a meaning from his death. Materially speaking, and certainly within the parameters of positive ontology, my uncle's impending death has no meaning. Nonetheless, we well all strive to position ourselves towards his death in a way that makes sense to us - we will comport ourselves to his death, as Heidegger would say.

I trust you would agree that this is a pretty universal phenomenon, the whole mourning, meaning-seeking thing. Yet through the goggles of positive ontology, this is senseless behavior. And I'm not even talking about the initial shock and grief, and even the later "empty nest" stages, but the pursuit of meaning. And my aunt will probably eventually arrive at some sort of meaning, maybe something like "it was great while it lasted", or "his death prepared me for the rest of my life", or whatever. In any case, the meaning that she extracts from the situation will be unique to her and her alone, as she spent her life in relation to him as no on else quite did.

Now what I'm attempting to do is not implicitly prove the existence of God through a series of riddles, but rather illustrate the fact that the search for meaning and the nature of questioning itself more often than not takes us beyond the realms of "the real", so to speak, and into a supernatural, immaterial realm. The above event begins in the material world (death), then goes to the immaterial (search for meaning), then back to the material world (the effects of the discovery of meaning). So as a result, I see no way to separate "immaterial" from "material" not only in the formal constructs of language, but also the nature of our everyday interactions.

todangst wrote:
Quote:

I think that you may have misunderstood what I was saying. I was referring to Gavagai's attempt to construct said ontology, and that it was essentially useless,

He has not even attempted, at any time, to present such an ontology. If you believe otherwise, point me to this attempt.

I'm sorry, I was just making a general statement. I thought that this was kind of the basis of the ongoing debate between Gavagai and yourself.

todangst wrote:
Quote:

What I was saying is that Gavagai isn't going to achieve anything by constructing a positive ontology for the terms supernatural and immaterial, first and foremost because doing so would dissolve the meanings of the term

A necessary ramification of your own words is that these words can have no meaning.

This would be a necessary ramification if I were attempting to construct a positive ontology for the terms, but I am not. I can more freely discuss supernatural and immaterial things with (some) other Christians, as we've usually had similar mystical experiences.

todangst wrote:
Quote:

I've admitted with no problem that I'm irrational from my very first post on this board,

Good. Now you must take step 2 and follow the necessary ramifications of your concession.

By the way, good talking to you.

What is step 2? Keeping quiet? Haha! Not just yet.

It's always a great experience talking to you, todangst. You're always challenging and illuminating.


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Tod,   Thanks for getting

Tod, 

 Thanks for getting back to me. I'll have to be somewhat brief for now. But I'll have more to say later.

Quote:
Quote:

There’s nothing out there that these terms actually refer to. The terms, says Todangst, “are therefore meaningless, incoherent.”[1] Thus, Todangst’s argument rests on the view that bits of language are meaningful when there is something to which they refer.

No.

Then I suppose we can stop right here. If I've misinterpreted your argument, whatever objections I raised have been off-target. So what exactly is your argument? Would you mind stating it with numbered premises and conclusions in your next post? This way, any further misunderstandings can be avoided.


Quote:
My argument relates specifically to terms used as predicates in arguments, not to all possible words, ergo your response is a red herring.

 OK, I'll wait for you to formulate the argument in your next post.  

By the way:

 

Quote:
You assert the basics of modal logic, but you don't give me the specifics as to what you call 'contingent identity statements'. Please tell me more about 'contingent identity statements". I think you're making a mistake here.

No, I haven't asserted the basics of modal logic. To do that I would need to explain the different axiom sets of S5 or some other commonly employed modal system.  Rather, all I did was explain contingency using possible worlds semantics; possible worlds semantics and modal logic aren't the same thing, although they are often confused. You asked me to explain the notion of a contingent identity statement. OK. The statement 

(i) G.W. Bush = the current president of the USA

is an identity statement.  In (i) '=' expresses the formal properties of the classic relation of identity: reflexivity, symmetricality, and transitivity. A relation R is reflexive iff ∀x(Rxx); R is symmetric iff ∀x∀y(Rxy only if Ryx); transitive, iff ∀x∀y∀z(Rxy and Ryz only if Rxz). So in English, (i) says that G.W. Bush is identical to the current president of the USA. But another noticable feature of (i) is that (i) is a contingent truth.  A proposition p is contingently true iff p is true in some possible worlds but not others. Now (i) is true in the actual world. But we know that there's at least one possible world in which (i) is false (e.g. the world in the election results weren't doctored and Gore won.) Thus, (i) may be thought of as a contingently true identity statement.

 In any case, none of this matters if you feel your argument has been misconstrued. So I await your more precise formulation of it.

Take care,

 Gavagai


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I haven't read any of the

Everybody else, 

I haven't read any of the other new posts in detail. So if you said something to me and were hoping for a response, please be patient. I'll get back to you in a couple days.

 Cheers,

Gavagai
 

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Tod,

 z


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I was thinking and

I was thinking and discussing this a bit more with some friends and we came to the conclusion that supernatural can be defined without being contradictory, in very short and simple terms.

Beyond the scope of nature.

The only problem with this would be that things, such as aliens, ghosts, and other phenomena are considered a part of nature (in regards to ghosts being any number of scientifically specific things including some types of limestone... I believe) and aren't actually supernatural.

So, would a God, assuming he/it/whatever existed, be considered a part of nature or not?

This is up to the definition of God, which seems to change from person to person.

If God is supernatural, then he is beyond the scope of nature and anything measurable, making him an illogical entity with a small chance of existing.

If God is not supernatural then he isn't beyond the scope and nature and can be measured, making him a logical entity with a large chance of existing. 

The problem, though, is that if God is not supernatural, then most certainly he would be apparent to us in every day life... I would assume this would coorelate to most Mother Earth religions.  Again, though, the problem is that there is no evidence to support a greater entity withing natures constraints.

On to immaterial. The problem with this concept is the absence of anything. Much like a vacuum, except that the vacuum doesn't exist and absolutely nothing exists. The problem with this definition of the word, though, would be that it's self contradictory and collapses in on itself. This is not like icyhot, though, as icyhot exists and isn't just an idea.

The conclusion we came up with would be that immaterial is akin to a thought. It's not material yet exists. This can be applied to other concepts like ideas.

However, the problem with defining something that is "made" of immaterial would be that it would not exist and is supernatural. Relate to the above to see the problems with the supernatural. 


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Crimson Edge,

Crimson Edge,

Quote:
On to immaterial. The problem with this concept is the absence of anything.

Rather, I think nothingness is the word that best connotes "the absence of anything". Immateriality doesn't seem to have this same connotation. I can easily conceive of possible worlds in which things like unoccupied regions of 3-dimensional substantival space, abstracta, cartesian egos, etc. exist and yet in which no material objects exist.

Cheers,

Gavagai

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Gavagai wrote: Crimson

Gavagai wrote:

Crimson Edge,

Quote:
On to immaterial. The problem with this concept is the absence of anything.

Rather, I think nothingness is the word that best connotes "the absence of anything". Immateriality doesn't seem to have this same connotation. I can easily conceive of possible worlds in which things like unoccupied regions of 3-dimensional substantival space, abstracta, cartesian egos, etc. exist and yet in which no material objects exist.

Cheers,

Gavagai

Oh, I agree. That definition of immaterial fits snugly, however, trying to define a place/object with a term like immaterial seems rather contradictory.


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I don't think that's right.

I don't think that's right. I can easily conceive of spatially nonlocative objects (for example, the objects I just listed in my post above) and I don't run into any contradictions in so doing.

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Gavagai wrote: I don't

Gavagai wrote:
I don't think that's right. I can easily conceive of spatially nonlocative objects (for example, the objects I just listed in my post above) and I don't run into any contradictions in so doing.

I agree entirely with Cartesian Ego's as that is something that does not have matter, just like a thought or idea. I have no idea what Abstracta is, but found a short essay with some details on it I'm going to read later on in the day (a bit busy working on my instruments... have my first practice with my new band today).

Now, the problem with the space around your object is that it isn't specified. If the object is here sitting right next to me, then no, the object is not surrouned by immaterial. If it is in a vacuum, then yes, it is surrounded by immaterial. But I digress. 

I think a big part of the contradiction is when you try to define or explain something made of it, like a place or an object (specifically these).
Besides a place being a void, which is essentially absolutely nothing (and pointless to go into detail about), describing an object not made of matter is pretty silly.

How does one describe a computer that does not consist of matter? What about a pen? 

That's where the contradiction comes into play. 


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Crimson, 'Abstracta'

Crimson,

 'Abstracta' is the plural term for immaterial things like propositions, mathematical objects, properties and so on.  I'm not committed to their existence; nevertheless, I don't think the concept of abstracta is contradictory.

It seems like when you think of an "object" you're picturing ordinary physical objects (e.g. chairs, computers, pens, etc.). This is why "immaterial object" sounds like a contradiction in terms to you. But the concept of objecthood does not entail materiality. In philosophy, the notion of objects (or things or entities) commonly represents a very general category of being. Under that category, there may be different sorts of objects, physical object being just one example. You're free to reject the ordinary philosophical understanding of this word, but then I would no longer understand what you're saying. Other than that, I still haven't seen any contradiction (a schema of the form p and ~p) in the concept of immaterial object.

Cheers,

Gavagai

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Gavagia can you comment on

Gavagia can you comment on this:

I wrote:
 

Gavagai wrote:
so there are contingent identity statements. So we must reject Todangst’s view

I consider a contingent statement to be something like "It is raining". This statement is only true under certain conditions.

I consider an identity statement a propostion that is always true. For instance

"In Euclidean geometry, the square of the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other sides"

 Thus I consider a contingent identity statement to be an oxymoron. Galagai's own definition of identity describes something that is true for all of its variables. For Socrates to equal Plato's teacher to be an identity statement you must insist upon some variables (in this case that they both refer to the same Socrates/object). On the other side if you insist Socrates is always the same object the statement loses its contingency.

I come at this discussion from a mathematical background and if my definitions are too draconian so be it...but I imagine that's the point! (contingency and identity should show different qualifications of truth).

Thankyou. 

 

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.


Gavagai
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Cern,Many identity

Cern,

Many identity statements are necessary truths, such as the one you provided. But that's consistent with the possibility of contingent identity statements. Some philosophers think that all identity statements are necessary truths (especially if the terms on either side of the '=' are thought to be rigid designators); but others disagree. Plunging the depths of this issue would lead us to some very technical and thorny debates in metaphysics and philosophy of language. Neither of the objections I raised matter at this point, however, since Todangst has accused me of misinterpreting him. So I'm waiting for him to provide his real argument, clearly stated with numbered premises and conclusions. This way, we'll avoid talking past each other.

Rude, offensive, irrational jackass.