Epistemological Crisis For God

Chaoslord2004
Chaoslord2004's picture
Posts: 353
Joined: 2006-02-23
User is offlineOffline
Epistemological Crisis For God

The argument I am about to give claims to prove that if God exists, he is not in a position to know something very basic: That his mind is reliable. Before I start, I am assuming a theory of justification that I subscribe to: Internal Foundationalism. For those not familiar with Epistemological jargon, he is what the theory claims: A belief P is justified iff the evidence I have causes p. Moreover, it claims that some propositions are prima facie justified, such as sensory experience. However, even an externalist like Alvin Planting, cannot escape this argument. Here is the argument:

 

If God exists, then by definition he knows all truths. If God knows the truth value of every proposition, God knows whether his own mind is reliable. However, how can God know that? If God knew this, he would have to be justified in believing that his mind is reliable. How can God be justified in knowing his mind is reliable? Since he created the outside world, to appeal to this would beg the question. Internally, how could he be justified? By asking himself? That would be circular. God cannot be justified in knowing his mind is reliable given external or internal evidence. Therefore, if God pondered the following proposition: "My mind is reliable" he could not know this; unless you allow for circular justification.

"In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out" ~ Rush, from Subdivisions


jmm
Theist
jmm's picture
Posts: 837
Joined: 2007-03-03
User is offlineOffline
Or unless you allow for the

Or unless you allow for the fact that "mind" is an inherently human characteristic that has been transposed onto the idea of God by human beings for the purpose of gaining a better understanding of him. 


Family_Guy
Family_Guy's picture
Posts: 110
Joined: 2007-02-08
User is offlineOffline
So, JMM, if God doesn't

So, JMM, if God doesn't have a 'mind', how can anyone talk about what God 'thinks'?  If we can't talk about what God 'thinks', because 'thought' is an inherently human characteristic, then the theist is left without a leg to stand on.

'Communication' is a characteristic of natural, living beings - not buildings, nor rocks.  So, I understand how you can attempt to communicate with God, as you are a natural, living being.  God, who is purportedly 'supernatural' and 'eternal' doesn't have the same luxury.

So, if I have this straight, you believe in a thoughtless, mindless, non-natural 'being' that has no method to communicate or spread its nonexistant thoughts.  How exactly are you different from an atheist?

"Like Fingerpainting 101, gimme no credit for having class; one thumb on the pulse of the nation, one thumb in your girlfriend's ass; written on, written off, some calling me a joke, I don't think that I'm a sellout but I do enjoy Coke."

-BHG


jmm
Theist
jmm's picture
Posts: 837
Joined: 2007-03-03
User is offlineOffline
Family_Guy wrote: So, JMM,

Family_Guy wrote:

So, JMM, if God doesn't have a 'mind', how can anyone talk about what God 'thinks'? If we can't talk about what God 'thinks', because 'thought' is an inherently human characteristic, then the theist is left without a leg to stand on.

'Communication' is a characteristic of natural, living beings - not buildings, nor rocks. So, I understand how you can attempt to communicate with God, as you are a natural, living being. God, who is purportedly 'supernatural' and 'eternal' doesn't have the same luxury.

So, if I have this straight, you believe in a thoughtless, mindless, non-natural 'being' that has no method to communicate or spread its nonexistant thoughts. How exactly are you different from an atheist?

Not quite.  

When I say that God doesn't really have a mind, I mean that we've looked at ourselves, we've considered the idea of this thing that we (mostly) all have, called a "mind", and we've erroneously transposed that idea onto the even more abstract idea of "God" in order to better understand him.  We do that - we humanize non-human things in order to gain a better understanding of them. 

I'm not saying that God doesn't communicate, and I'm certainly not saying that God doesn't think.  But whether or not he communicates and thinks (traditionally) has nothing to do with his probable role as creator.  In other words, I see no reason why it is necessary for God to communicate and think in order to be God.  

Thought (as well as mind) is an inherently human characteristic.  It presupposes finitude, imperfection, incompleteness, and linear temporality - all of which God cannot be associated with.  When I explicitly think, for instance, it is typically towards gaining or at least retrieving knowledge - to work out a math problem, to ponder a philosophical point, even something as simple as what I want for dinner tonight.  All things that either I don't know and have to work towards, or have a good idea of but still haven't worked out yet.  

Thought also presupposes a gap between an initial inquiry and retrieval of knowledge.  Even at my most implicit level of thinking (such as breathing or blinking my eyes), there is still a (very minute) gap between thinking and doing.  It's a cause and effect sort of thing, one thing happening after the other.  With God, things are not bound by linear temporality.  There is no process of knowledge retrieval, because it is entirely already there.  On top of that it's even problematic to say that "God has knowledge", because again, it implies a previous unknowing. 

The initial connundrum in this thread would only be valid if God were a human being, and it's been well established that if he exists, he's not human. 


Strafio
Strafio's picture
Posts: 1346
Joined: 2006-09-11
User is offlineOffline
The concept of mind isn't

The concept of mind isn't limited to humans.
Anything that communicates or thinks requires a mind.
The main argument against God (in my opinion) is that the concept is incoherent in a number of ways. This thread is a good presentation of the argument.

I'd like to hear your comments on it.


drummermonkey
Theist
Posts: 54
Joined: 2006-12-17
User is offlineOffline
Last time I checked

Last time I checked questions are not really premises in an argument so I will attempt to construct the argument for you then deny premise/premises which I think are suspect. Your basic idea is that God cannot know whether his own mind is reliable.

1. If God exists then by definition he knows all truths.

2. If (1) then God knows whether his own mind is reliable. (definition

3. If God knows his own mind is reliable then he knows by internal or external evidence.

4. It is not the case that God has any evidence about the reliability of his mind.

5. Thus, God does not know his own mind is reliable. (3, 4 Modus Tollens)

6. Thus not (1). (2,5 Modus Tollens)

Alright, one could not deny (5) and (6) since they are conclusions. (1) seems to be true, and (2) seems plausible and perhaps held by a lot of contemporary Christians. So if one is going to deny a proposition then (3) or (4) seem the best options. The question is what is internal or external evidence, and is it really the case that God knows his own mind is reliable only by internal or external evidence? I suspect God could know his own mind is reliable by definition (a priori). So does internal or external evidence include a priori knowledge? If it is the case that God can know his own mind is reliable a priori, then either (3) is false if internal or external evidence does not include a priori knowledge. Or (4) is false if a priori knowledge is included in what you call “internal or external evidence“.

1*. If God exists then by definition God knows all truths. (by definition)

2*. If God exists then God is all perfect. (by definition)

3*. If (2*) then God’s mind is reliable.

4*. God’s mind is reliable. (2*, 3* Modus Ponens)

5*. Thus (2*) and (4*). (2*, 4* Conjunction)

6*. Thus (5*) and (1*). (1*, 5* Conjunction)

7*. If (6*) then God knows his own mind is reliable via definition (a priori) and thus has evidence for the reliability of his own mind.

8*. Thus God knows his own mind is reliable. (6*,7* Modus Ponens)

(1*) seems to be true by definition, (2*) seems to be true by definition, and (3*) seems plausible. (4*), (5*) and (6*) are conclusions so they can’t be denied. (7*) is the premise you would want to deny, since it seems the weakest, but I’m not sure how you would want to go about doing that. And finally (8*) is a conclusion so it can’t be denied. Your argument does not seem to be sound.


Vastet
atheistBloggerHigh Level ModeratorSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 10502
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
I guess a valid question

I guess a valid question is:

Does a self aware being need to know that it's mind is reliable in order to function in a reliable way?

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


Chaoslord2004
Chaoslord2004's picture
Posts: 353
Joined: 2006-02-23
User is offlineOffline
drummermonkey wrote: Last

drummermonkey wrote:
Last time I checked questions are not really premises in an argument

What are you, a fucking moron?  The question I posed was:  Can God know his mind is reliable?  I asked questions as a way to rule out possibilities.  It was an informal argument style.  Instead of trying to burn me, spend more time looking at the actual argument.

drummermonkey wrote:
Your basic idea is that God cannot know whether his own mind is reliable.

Thanks for the recap.

 

drummermonkey wrote:
4. It is not the case that God has any evidence about the reliability of his mind.

4 isn't essential to the argument.  God may have a ton of evidence.  However, all the evidence he has will be circular.

 

drummermonkey wrote:
I suspect God could know his own mind is reliable by definition (a priori).

This begs the question.  To simply postulate that he knows it A Priori is to beg the question against me.  Simply defining God's knowledge of his own mind as definitional.  Even if it was an a priori truth, God could only comprehend the proposition "My mind is reliable."  He could even believe it.  However, how would he KNOW it was true?  He would have to be justified in some way.  Knowing a priori truths requires justification.  This is where God runs into an epistemological blunder.  How could he justify the proposition?  Once again, it would have to either be internal or external to him.  How can there be a third possibility?  Quasi-internal?  Quasi-external?  This sounds absurd.

Moreoever, it isn't obvious that this is an a priori truth.  Show how you reach a contradiction by assuming the opposition of "Gods mind is reliable."

 

drummermonkey wrote:
but I’m not sure how you would want to go about doing that

my argument is a reductio against 1* and 2*. 

"In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out" ~ Rush, from Subdivisions


todangst
atheistRational VIP!
todangst's picture
Posts: 2811
Joined: 2006-03-10
User is offlineOffline
jmm wrote: Or unless you

jmm wrote:
Or unless you allow for the fact that "mind" is an inherently human characteristic that has been transposed onto the idea of God by human beings for the purpose of gaining a(n) better understanding of him.

 

To make your statement accurate, you'd need to take out the word in bold.  Any term you 'apply' to 'god' would either be naturalistic/anthropomorphic, or, conversely, entirely negative.

So either your terms would steal from naturalisn and fail to describe 'god' at all, or they would be entirely negative, and merely express what 'god' is not...

In short, if you want to hold to your argument, you need to go all the way with it, and concede that your 'god' is incoherent.



 
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.  - St. Augustine

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

Books on atheism.


Asshat 1
Asshat 1's picture
Posts: 4
Joined: 2007-03-13
User is offlineOffline
All epistemologies beg the

All epistemologies beg the question. It is, in fact, *logically impossible* to have an epistemology that doesn't. - Richard Carrier


Chaoslord2004
Chaoslord2004's picture
Posts: 353
Joined: 2006-02-23
User is offlineOffline
Asshat 1 wrote: All

Asshat 1 wrote:
All epistemologies beg the question. It is, in fact, *logically impossible* to have an epistemology that doesn't. - Richard Carrier

Assuming this is true, what is it's relevance to the topic at hand? 

"In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out" ~ Rush, from Subdivisions


axiom
Posts: 4
Joined: 2007-03-13
User is offlineOffline
If it's true, then the point

If it's true, then the point that god has an epistemic crisis becomes not as controversial.


Chaoslord2004
Chaoslord2004's picture
Posts: 353
Joined: 2006-02-23
User is offlineOffline
axiom wrote: If it's true,

axiom wrote:
If it's true, then the point that god has an epistemic crisis becomes not as controversial.

No, it means that humans are in just as much of a jam as God is, period.  Thats all it would mean.  God is still in quite a pickle.  Pointing out that humans are also in a pickle, does not make God's jam, less of a jam. 

"In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out" ~ Rush, from Subdivisions


drummermonkey
Theist
Posts: 54
Joined: 2006-12-17
User is offlineOffline
Chaoslord2004 wrote: What

Chaoslord2004 wrote:

What are you, a fucking moron? The question I posed was: Can God know his mind is reliable? I asked questions as a way to rule out possibilities. It was an informal argument style. Instead of trying to burn me, spend more time looking at the actual argument.

There’s no need for name calling, I was stating something obvious. Questions are not premises, whether you are making an informal or formal argument. In fact most philosophy professors frown on arguing using questions. If anything, I was helping you by giving your argument a formal structure, I was not burning you; I was having a philosophical discourse with you because epistemology intrigues me. The problem I have with the argument is that it seems metaphysically absurd from the beginning.

Quote:

4 isn't essential to the argument. God may have a ton of evidence. However, all the evidence he has will be circular.

Actually 4 is essential to your argument if it is a reductio against 1, and has a formal structure like how I outlined the argument, or at least how i interpreted your argument. Why? Because 5 is arrived at through modus tollens using 3 and 4. If you don’t have 4 then you don’t have modus tollens, and if you don’t have modus tollens then you don’t have 6 (the conclusion of your whole argument). In addition if anything like a strong evidentialist epistemic theory is correct (as Timothy Williamson argues) and Evidence is Knowledge, then we would have a viciously circular argument. Since 4 would just be denying 1 anyways without any justification from other premises.

Quote:

This begs the question. To simply postulate that he knows it A Priori is to beg the question against me. Simply defining God's knowledge of his own mind as definitional. Even if it was an a priori truth, God could only comprehend the proposition "My mind is reliable." He could even believe it. However, how would he KNOW it was true? He would have to be justified in some way. Knowing a priori truths requires justification. This is where God runs into an epistemological blunder. How could he justify the proposition? Once again, it would have to either be internal or external to him. How can there be a third possibility? Quasi-internal? Quasi-external? This sounds absurd.

Moreoever, it isn't obvious that this is an a priori truth. Show how you reach a contradiction by assuming the opposition of "Gods mind is reliable."

No Quasi-internal/external realms are necessary for a priori justification (although Frege seems to think that all conceptual truths are in some sort of “quasi realm”). Further what sort of justification is required for a priori truths, some are just true if you reflect on the nature of the words. For example the proposition “all bachelors are unmarried males“, seems conceptually true, yet when I try to give justification for that proposition it seems pretty obviously true by the nature of bachelors.

In addition, if God is God then all God would have to know is that he is God. Next he could just reason as follows, by reflecting on his own nature:

I am God.

If I am God then I am all perfect.

If I am all perfect then my mind is reliable.

An unreliable mind is a defect.

Thus my mind is reliable.

You might ask how God knows that he is God, but that is beyond the scope of any metaphysical or epistemic speculation. It is the equivalence of jumping into the doxastic skin of God, which is absurd.

You and I however would have different reasons for concluding our minds are reliable, we are not God, and we are fallible, thus our reasons will be fallible and not conceptually true. The very idea of God having an epistemic crisis seems metaphysically implausible. The issue you have is with us, not God, what sort of evidence might we have that our minds are reliable; internal or external?

In addition I’m not sure what you meant by prima facie justification as justification that our minds are reliable. This seems to be false, take a look at some criticisms by White, and Cohen about the “bootstrapping objection” to Pryor’s “dogmatism about perceptual justification”, they both argue that prima facie justification for the conclusion that one‘s mind is reliable, is just plain false and bad reasoning. If Pryor, or prima facie justification is to avoid a bootstrapping objection, then they would have to deny that prima facie justification can conclude that one‘s mind is reliable via perceptual justification, White in addition suggests our minds are reliable a priori (which means without experience, and not necessarily true).

If you are more interested in arguing against Plantinga, then you might do better using an argument like Richard Feldman’s in “Epistemology” since it is more cutting to Plantinga’s whole thesis about epistemology, warrant, and his proper functionalist theory.


Vastet
atheistBloggerHigh Level ModeratorSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 10502
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
How is an unreliable mind a

How is an unreliable mind a defect when you're omniscient?

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


drummermonkey
Theist
Posts: 54
Joined: 2006-12-17
User is offlineOffline
I'm not sure what you mean.

I'm not sure what you mean. An unreliable mind is a defect for anyone. If you state that you are omniscient and that you have an unreliable mind then obviously you are contradicting yourself. However, the proposition "an unreliable mind is a defect" this seems true, I was not saying "an unreliable mind is a defect and an all perfect being has an unreliable mind".


Vastet
atheistBloggerHigh Level ModeratorSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 10502
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
drummermonkey wrote: I'm

drummermonkey wrote:
I'm not sure what you mean. An unreliable mind is a defect for anyone. If you state that you are omniscient and that you have an unreliable mind then obviously you are contradicting yourself. However, the proposition "an unreliable mind is a defect" this seems true, I was not saying "an unreliable mind is a defect and an all perfect being has an unreliable mind".

An unreliable mind is a defect for anyone because we are not omniscient, omnipotent, and immortal; and our minds unreliability would result in our own destruction in a variety of interesting ways. But I see no reason why an omniscient, omnipotent, immortal being would need a reliable mind, or need to know that it's mind was reliable whether or not it was. The only problem would be for those who encountered such a creature.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


Chaoslord2004
Chaoslord2004's picture
Posts: 353
Joined: 2006-02-23
User is offlineOffline
drummermonkey wrote: if God

drummermonkey wrote:
if God is God then all God would have to know is that he is God.

My argument is a reductio against this very claim.

 

drummermonkey wrote:

I am God.

If I am God then I am all perfect.

If I am all perfect then my mind is reliable.

You honestly don't see how this is circular?  God wants to know that he is God.  What does he do?  He consults himself.  How do I know my mind is reliable?  Well, im God.  Let the epistemological blackhole commence. 

"In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out" ~ Rush, from Subdivisions


drummermonkey
Theist
Posts: 54
Joined: 2006-12-17
User is offlineOffline
You're argument is a

You're argument is a reductio against the claim that,

If God is God then all God would have to know is that he is God in order to know that his mind is reliable.?

I thought your argument is a reductio against the claim that:

If God exists then God knows his own mind.

Your claim seems to be the following:

If God exists then God does not know the reliablility of his own mind.

Now I tried to provide a sound formal proof for your reductio, but it ended up being circular. Somewhere in the proof the claim was that if God exists then he does not know the reliablity of his own mind and that was claim was made in (4) which was the following:

(4) God does not have evidence for the reliability of his own mind.

this implicately denies (1) anyways. The reductio is circular.

I'm not sure how my argument is circular, just because one can internally reflect on the nature of themselves, does not mean that any conclusions they make about themselves is circular. Suppose I reflect on whether I'm a bachelor or not:

If I am unmarried I am a bachelor.

I am unmarried.

Thus I am a bachelor.

This is not formally circular. A formally circular argument would be like the following:

A

Thus B

That is Circular!

My argument was formally structured like this

A

A->B

B->K

K=R

Thus R

The proof is as follows:

A

A->B

Thus, B

B->K

K=R

Thus K

Thus R.

So, I'm not understanding what you mean when you say that "If God reflects on his own nature and arrives at the conclusion that his own mind is reliable then the conclusion that his own mind is reliable is maintained through circular reasoning."


todangst
atheistRational VIP!
todangst's picture
Posts: 2811
Joined: 2006-03-10
User is offlineOffline
drummermonkey wrote:I'm

drummermonkey wrote:

I'm not sure how my argument is circular, just because one can internally reflect on the nature of themselves, does not mean that any conclusions they make about themselves is circular. Suppose I reflect on whether I'm a bachelor or not:

If I am unmarried I am a bachelor.

I am unmarried.

Thus I am a bachelor.

This is not formally circular.

Right. It's tautological (as all deductions are), but not a circular argument.

Quote:

A formally circular argument would be like the following:

A

Thus B

That is Circular!

Are you sure about that form? It  looks more like a non sequitur.

 

 

 

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

Books on atheism.


drummermonkey
Theist
Posts: 54
Joined: 2006-12-17
User is offlineOffline
right, my bad, a circular

right, my bad, a circular argument would be the following:

A

B

Thus B


todangst
atheistRational VIP!
todangst's picture
Posts: 2811
Joined: 2006-03-10
User is offlineOffline
drummermonkey

drummermonkey wrote:

right, my bad, a circular argument would be the following:

A

B

Thus B

Yes, that seems correct. Glad to see a person who knows some logic. 

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

Books on atheism.


jmm
Theist
jmm's picture
Posts: 837
Joined: 2007-03-03
User is offlineOffline
Chaoslord2004

Chaoslord2004 wrote:

drummermonkey wrote:
if God is God then all God would have to know is that he is God.

My argument is a reductio against this very claim.

drummermonkey wrote:

I am God.

If I am God then I am all perfect.

If I am all perfect then my mind is reliable.

You honestly don't see how this is circular? God wants to know that he is God. What does he do? He consults himself. How do I know my mind is reliable? Well, im God. Let the epistemological blackhole commence.

it is simple minded to assume that god obtains knowledge.  if he is who he says he is, there would never be a point in time that he "wanted to know" something.  once again, this is an example of giving human characteristics to god, and it simply does not work.  

the only black hole i see here is the one located right smack in the middle of your logic.   


RhadTheGizmo
Theist
Posts: 1191
Joined: 2007-01-31
User is offlineOffline
This is the same problem

[Disclaimer] It's possible that the following post is not answering the predicament originally posited. I may have to look at the original predicament again. Yet, in anycase, this post did provide quite fun to write. My response was based upon my understanding of this part of the original post. "If God knew this, he would have to be justified in believing that his mind is reliable. How can God be justified in knowing his mind is reliable?"

As understanding "reliable" as "objectively reliable." For me I can test the reliability of my mind by asking another individual (times infinity) whether or not he sees/perceives the same thing with regards to a certain things. Yet, in order for that person to be real I must have already accepted that my mind is reliable in its assumption that he is an objective source as opposed to an internal (subjective) creation. So.. that is what led down this steram of consciousness. Apologies if its not addressing the actual predicament. [End Disclaimer]

This is the same problem presented to man, is it not? I can know that "I am," but can I know "you are", in the sense that I think you are (a seperate, real, entity), without resorting to "circular (internal) justification"?

It's a weird thought.. but true as far as I can tell. (More to come...)

[added] But I think there might be a distinction between an omnipotent God figure and a human figure.

The problem is a problem for us because we must accept what is given to us and presented to us. You cannot change the environment at will (as an omnipotent God would be able to).

This draws up an interesting distinction that I think seperates the two with regards to this particular problem.

For humans, the world perceived is a perceived external. As such, in order to relate to the external one must already accept that the external is external.. the perceived world can only be justified (and acted in such) using "circular (internal) justification"--unless one assumes that everything is, in fact, just an uncontrollable hallucination and chooses to partake in anycase.

On the other hand, with an (omnipotent) God, would there be a perceived external? I would contend no since everything would be sustained and/or changed at the will of an omnipotent figure.

As for whether or not an omnipotent figure could know whether or not he is omnipotent, only in so far (I suppose) as one could reach the conclusion that just because anything one wills to be, is, that everything one could will, would be.

Unlike humans, for an omnipotent being nothing would be perceived as external since, once again, everything is sustained or changed by his internal will-- therefore the "circular "internal" logic" would be the same as the "existence axiom"-- correct?

I think therefore I am. Except for God it would be a paraphrase might be: "Because I think everything is."

This axiom allows for one to know that his mind is a reliable measure for the existence of itself, not anyone elses.

For God, it would be the same, a reliable measure for the existence of itself-- yet in this case, could be considered all there is (there would be no "anyone else"-- in the sense that "anyone else", in the human case, is someone "externally existent&quotEye-wink.

All this being said.. if the God was only "omniscient" and not "omnipotent".. I could not think of a like-typed answer problem.

Hm.. interesting. I've never thought about it before until now. It seems like a fascinating problem. I really wish I could've found some time to take a philosphy discussion class in college.. I just never got around to it.

[Quick sidenote:] Within this situation, where we define God as omniscient, it is still possible, hypothetically, that what God sustains and changes is in fact not existence in the sense that we or he would assume it to be (think.. a "God" Matrix movie. Where "God" is meant to think that what he sustains and wills is existence-- but not actually "all there is".). While in a hypothetical, this is possible, it would present many more language and philosphical problems then just this epistemological (sp) one.