Language, fundamentalism and rationality.

Strafio
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Language, fundamentalism and rationality.

Alright... as this is new-ish thinking to me, this topic might not be as well presented and explained as I might've liked, but you've got to give your first try somehow, so here goes: Smiling

This post will make more sense if you're familiar with Wittgenstein's later work.
To summarise:
He said that the meaning of a word is how we use it.
If someone shouts "Quie!" in order to find out what the time is, the meaning of the shout "Quie!" is a signal to request the time. He likened language to playing a game. In order to play a game you follow the rules, and it's the rules that our logic is rooted in. However, different games have different rules so different 'logic' involved. Your strategies in a game of chess are very different to those in a game of Othello.

One famous claim that Wittgenstein made was that the psychological language game was very different to the empirical one. The empirical one is where we describe facts of the world, e.g.
"There is a blue chair in the corner"
"Water molecules contain one oxygen atom and two hydrogen."
It is the language game we use for science.
He claimed that many psychologists were trying to treat psychological objects as if they were empirical ones and this was a cause of many philosophical problems. Part of his 'private language argument' was to try and show that conditions necessary for the empirical language game to work (e.g. objects that existed in dependently of our perception) weren't present in psychology. So beliefs and intentions aren't 'things' that can be explained 'physcially'. They are more like numbers in that respect.

So what has this got to do with religion?
There tends be two types of thinking in religion, one that is more common to fundamentalists and one that is more common to moderates. (when I say 'moderates', I think you Americans would call them 'liberals' - a little transatlantic translation for you there! Eye-wink)
A Christian will tell you that their religion is truth. You then ask:
"Is this truth crystal clear like 'that table is blue' or 'salt dissolves in water'?"
The fundamentalist will say yes and talk about historical facts and scientific evidence.
The moderate will say 'not quite...' and start talking about mysticism.
To put it in Wittgenstienian terms, the fundamentalist claims we can talk about religion in our empirical language game while the moderate is playing a different one.

The difference is quite substantial.
The most obvious one is the exclusivity of truth.
In our empirical language game, either the table is blue or it is not.
In other language games where 'truth' has a different use and therefore a different meaning, truth need not be exclusive. This is why modern moderates see no contradiction in saying that all religions are true. This means that they are more open to accepting (let alone tolerating!) of other views.
Fundamentalists, on the other hand, believe that there's one truth and that it is clear and that anyone who denies it is atleast wrong, maybe even dishonest!

Another major difference is the 'truth maker'.
The truth maker is what makes things true, so for science the truth maker is empirical reality - a scientific fact is true if it accords with empirical reality. In the empirical language game, the truth is independent of your feelings and ideas. If the table is blue then it is blue and whether you think it should be or not is irrelevent. When a fundamentalist makes the Bible (or rather, the tradition of interpretation they've been brought up in) their truth-maker, it over-rules any common sense they might have.
In his Case for Faith book, Lee Strobel admits to being able to make no sense whatsoever of the idea that a loving God would burn people in hell. Moreland carries on to give him a bucket load of sophistry to try and ease his mind (I think that he was one of the few people capable of writing that chapter!) which Strobel accepts, but in the 'Conclusion' chapter he admits that is still vexes him. Moreland makes a speech about how we might not fully understand something that makes a lot more sense in the bigger picture, but what we do know is that the Bible is true so we should accept what it says even when it doesn't make sense to us. The fundamentalist is willing to accept morals that are totally counter intuitive if it comes from their 'authority', because the truth-maker of their religious beliefs is independent of their natural humanistic values.

The moderate is different. Their language game of religious belief has a different truth maker. It's not completely dependent on their sentiments but it has to make sense to a degree. In short, if their Bible says something that makes no ethical sense, their truth maker leans more towards their ethical sense rather than what the Bible says. That's why moderates tend to be open to interpreting the Bible in humanistic ways. Fundies perhaps hate moderates much more than atheists - atleast the atheists admit that they're infidels!

The last difference is rationality.
As the fundamentalists make objective truth claims, their religious claims a falsifiable through philosophical/scientific investigation. According the theological non-cognitivists (the position that God has no meaning in the language game of empirical truth), fundamentalism is completely false. However, non-cognitivism doesn't have the same effect on moderates as their religion isn't tied to the empirical language game in the same way. Their 'God' can be a bit more mystical because it doesn't need to be a coherent empirical object. Infact, the logical methods of our empirical language game has no bearing on it as it is an altogether different game with different rules so it has a different 'logic' of its own. Some people have criticised Wittgenstein of Fideism - of vindicating an anti-rational faith. I disagree. Different games can be criticised, it's just that we now have to criticise them on different terms rather than logical. When we criticise something on logical terms we are saying that someone has broken the rules of the empirical language game. When we criticise a religious language game we are saying that the rules themselves suck. So we are condemning the practice as a whole on practical terms. Criticisms (and defenses) of moderate religion can only be on pragmatic terms.

It's not a simple cut and dry distinction between moderatism and fundamentalism.
Moderates will often have a fair few beliefs about the real world based on their religion and fundamentalists will have their fair share of mysticism but the difference is where the driving force is. A fundy will say that if Christ did not really rise then their faith is for nothing. A moderate will be open to the possibility that it did not happen and declare that it's not really relevent to their faith.

So where am I going with all of this?
The Rational Response that we give to fundamentalists is not so persuasive towards moderates. A good example is one of our residents losingstreak. Anyone who has debated with losingstreak will notice that he argues rationally but says that the atheistic results of rationality are unimportant to him. The excessive adherence to the empirical language game doesn't appeal to him and he'd much rather experience life through the rules of a different game. Christian scientists seem to be similar - they'll play the empirical language game with a rare mastery when finding groundbreaking research in neuroscience but leave it in the office and prefer to play a different game when dealing with other parts of their life. (Like Goulds' NOMA?)

It also explains the disgust some people can have when we demand scientific evidence for their beliefs. It means that we are demanding that they play the language game of empirical facts. This is why they respond by finding other things outside the empirical language game, like morals or arts/aesthetics, and accusing us of having no 'soul' or emotion. Wittgenstein suspected that much confusion was caused by confusing different language games and equivocating words that different uses in different language games. Recognising this would allow us to communicate our scepticism to believers more effectively. We would get a better idea of how to ask the right questions.


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This is excellent.

This is excellent.


Jacob Cordingley
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I'm very impressed Strafio.

I'm very impressed Strafio. I'm not all that familiar with Wittgenstein although I did watch a very surreal film about his like a few months ago with the Philosophy Society at Uni.

You present a coherent, persuasive argument and it's actually inspired me to add Wittgenstein to my 'to read' list. Are there any titles you'd recommend?


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Certainly.

Certainly. Smiling
Here is a good site that give the first 100 'aphorisms' of his Philosophical Investigations alongside a commentary. (For some reason, this first 100 are public domain.)
His first book the Tractatus is also online. It's worth looking at, even if it's just to take one look at it and go, "wtf is that all about?"
It's a pretty unique piece of work.

If you fancy buying some books:
For his later Philosophy, Philosophical Investigations and Mcginn's Guidebook are very good for the topic at hand and give a good introduction into the meat of his philosophy. Ray Monks' biography provides a good background to Wittgenstein's life and how his philosophy ties into it.

There's also the Tractatus (his first work) and the Wittgenstein Reader which is a selection from across his works, but they're perhaps worth saving until you get a more serious interest. Especially with the Tractatus. I wouldn't have touched that book if it hadn't been the first half of the university module! Laughing out loud


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This is good stuff, thank

This is good stuff, thank you for posting this.

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. - William S. Burroughs


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This answers (or provides

This answers (or provides one possible answer for) a question I've been pondering.

Many theists I've debated (particularly of the fundamentialist christian variety) have accused me of exactly the same negative traits I see in them. Closed-minded, Irrational,and Arrogant (I'll admit to that one - it's hard to treat someone who still believes in santa claus as my intelectual equal). For all apearances they have applied the same tools  - intellect and logic - that I have but arrived at the opposite conviction. They will usually walk away from a debate convinced of the same thing I am. That their opponent's argument was full of gaping holes that they definitively tore apart with logic, and that their opponent was just too stubborn to realise it.

I  was wondering how I can be so certain of my position when they have the same tools as me and are equally certain of theirs... Other than arrogantly dismissing them as stupid.

 

The idea of a different "truth maker" seems to answer why they approach the same problem with the same tools but get the opposite answer.

Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. I'm-My-Own-Grandpa!


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These fundamentalists might

These fundamentalists might well have been playing a slightly different language game, as they tend to bring issues like 'sin' and 'morality' into their arguments, but it's also possible that they were still playing the empirical language game and there were different reasons for the disagreement.
You might be interested in the concept of a 'paradigm'.
When we do a scientific experiment, grounding assumptions must already be in place. For example, if we are testing one variable then we need knowledge about the other conditions in order to keep them constant. So observations will always be dependent on the theory behind them - the paradigm.

The schoolastics (medieval times) had an paradigm based on Aristotles metaphysics. It was gradually replaced by a law based paradigm that was marked by the work of Newton. Newton's own paradigm also proved to be insufficient and was gradually replaced by Einstein's relativity. The replacement process usually follows like this - the old paradigm has mounted up so many problems and mysteries that some start to question the gounding assumptions and look for alternatives. A new theory is found and its success is marked by how all the best bits of the old theory remain while problems and anomalies that the old theory suffered from are now breakable.

There is yet to be a distinct method for choosing between paradigms, so if two people have two different paradigms, there isn't a clear method for judging superiority. However, there should be intuitive indicators, for instance the Newtonian paradigm was replaced by Einstein's when Newtonian's paradigm made some phenomena unexplainable and it took the theory of relativity as the background in order to make sense of them.

Paradigms are different to separate language games as they aiming for the same truthmaker, but similar in that you cannot refute them using assumptions of another. You have to attack a paradigm holistically (as a whole) and this can be difficult compared to attacking a theory within a paradigm. So the paradigm practically acts as a partial truthmaker until it gets replaced by another. I think the application of this theory is that rather than attack individual beliefs of a theistic system, you have to attack its metaphysics as a whole. (This is why I like arguments from non-cognitivism.)

The ID crew are also aware of the nature of paradigms - they are trying to replace the current naturalistic paradigm with one that involves an intelligent designer. I think that there are a several reasons why the fail in this (for instance, I don't think that their suggested replacement is coherent) but it explains why their approach is to try and find problems with naturalism.

That's my limited knowledge of paradigms anyway.
Kuhn is the man who invented the concept so his work would definately be of interest.
My personal recommandation is What is this thing called science? - a great book on the Philosophy of Science in general.

So different language games explains the difference between those who treat religion as facts and those who treat is as a mystical approach to life, and different paradigms explains how fundamentalists and ourselves can be look at the same world but have a different grounding theory that we evaluate facts by.
That's why religious debates are almost philosophical rather than scientific.


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Nice work strafio. I have

Nice work strafio. I have read a lot of the P.I., but not much more than that. Everything you said sounded right on.

Also, I find that I agree and share a lot of the views that you expressed. I have often wanted to say what you said to my parents so they can atleast understand the dillemma surrounding people who live in different ideological paradigms. The speaking past one another that goes on between different cultures and religions is terribly unfortunate. Somehow if everyone could read and atleast try to understand the basic outline of what you laid out, things would be a lot better. Eye-wink

The implication that we should put Darwinism on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community. -- From Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller

Chaos and chance don't mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our abilities to grasp and describe it. -- From From Certainty to Uncertainty by F. David Peat


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Good stuff overall,

Good stuff overall, although I’ll like to make some points.

I should mention that there is something about Wittgenstein that I just don’t like/get. I can’t really put my finger on it. I think it’s the fact that he draws everything down to “language games”, and while it’s technically possible to do so, and while he might not be wrong in some of the things he says; I just think it is for the most part unnecessary. He makes things into a bigger issue than they really are, or should be. I find it hard to explain though. I discuss this at the end of the post.

Anyway…

Strafio wrote:
A Christian will tell you that their religion is truth. You then ask:
"Is this truth crystal clear like 'that table is blue' or 'salt dissolves in water'?"
The fundamentalist will say yes and talk about historical facts and scientific evidence.
The moderate will say 'not quite...' and start talking about mysticism.
To put it in Wittgenstienian terms, the fundamentalist claims we can talk about religion in our empirical language game while the moderate is playing a different one.

But usually, they both think they are proving empirical proofs for their claims.

While I agree moderates will tend to talk a lot about the spiritual/mystical side of theology, I don’t particularly view moderates and fundamentalists in this way.

To me, the distinction between a moderate and a fundamentalist is context and interpretation of scripture.

The doctrine of both the moderate and fundamentalist is in their holy books, but which doctrine is ‘revealed’ depends on the theist, since their doctrine is a projection of them. They start with their desires; what they believe; their political views and so on, then search their holy books to support it.

So the moderate tends to highlight the good parts, that is, the parts which conform to the current moral/social zeitgeist, while also ignoring and/or reinterpreting other (again, according to the zeitgeist). Then they pretend their conclusions derived from the god/scripture, and not them. In other words, they recognise the context and then interpret it according to modern insights.

The fundamentalists however simply transport claims and beliefs in their original context. The fundamentalist doctrine would be quite normal in its originating period. We only call them ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘extremist’ in comparison to the changing zeitgeist.

I agree that fundamentalists are more likely to try to formulate an evidence-based argument, while moderates would more likely talk about the benefits of religion, meaning and ‘fuzzy feelings’ etc, but I don’t think this is what distinguishes them, since these methods are often interchangeable and not exclusive to each side.

Strafio wrote:
The most obvious one is the exclusivity of truth.
In our empirical language game, either the table is blue or it is not.
In other language games where 'truth' has a different use and therefore a different meaning, truth need not be exclusive.

In one sense truth is an objective matter, while in another is it a subjective matter. But when it comes to religion, the claims are not subjective. It’s not a matter of “X is true for me” since they are really implying far more than that, that it corresponds with reality.

Strafio wrote:
This is why modern moderates see no contradiction in saying that all religions are true. This means that they are more open to accepting (let alone tolerating!) of other views.

Only if they’re talking in the subjective sense of the term, but they really imply it in the objective sense.

I think some consider that all religions are paths to the ‘elephant in the room’, but I find it hard to believe that they would be willing to accept another religion (although I’m not saying this doesn’t happen.) I think most moderates consider their religion to be true (objectively), and think people of other religions are just misguided, but that it isn’t there job to ‘interfere’ and turn evangelical. Ii might be because they likely think religion is a personal matter, and that it is rude to question someone religious beliefs.

Strafio wrote:
When a fundamentalist makes the Bible (or rather, the tradition of interpretation they've been brought up in) their truth-maker, it over-rules any common sense they might have.

I agree. This is clearly one of the dangers of indoctrinating children. Richard Dawkins likened this to a computer firewall – done in order to prevent incoming information.

This reminds me of the geologist Kurt Wise (who Richard Dawkins calls the most honest creationist), he is a young earth creationist who studied at Harvard under Stephen Jay Gould (so he clearly has a reputable education) but he couldn’t reconcile his faith with he scientific knowledge/education, so he decided to choose - he took his bible and check everything that he would have to discard if he accepted science; there was virtually nothing left of his bible!

He said this: "if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate.”
--
http://www.scepsis.ru/eng/articles/id_2.php

Strafio wrote:
The moderate is different. Their language game of religious belief has a different truth maker. It's not completely dependent on their sentiments but it has to make sense to a degree. In short, if their Bible says something that makes no ethical sense, their truth maker leans more towards their ethical sense rather than what the Bible says. That's why moderates tend to be open to interpreting the Bible in humanistic ways.

Right. The moderate interprets according the moral and social zeitgeist… and in the process they admit that morals are entirely secular, derived from human nature, culture, social discourse… etc.

But also note that fundamentalists also do this! Probably not so much the terrorist kind, and not to the degree of moderates, but fundamentalists still reject a large chunk of their bible. Would a fundamentalist, as todangst asked in another thread, equate ‘rape’ with ‘stealing a pencil’? Of course not, but they would if they really believed their bible.

Strafio wrote:
A fundy will say that if Christ did not really rise then their faith is for nothing. A moderate will be open to the possibility that it did not happen and declare that it's not really relevent to their faith.

I have to disagree here.

The entire basis of Christianity is the resurrection and without it you’re left with a mere Jewish rabbi, who claimed to be a messiah.

Consider the words of Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford, and one of the most liberal theists around: “[the virgin birth is] not in par with the resurrection… I do believe the resurrection of Jesus is absolutely fundamental to Christianity…”

Now I’m sure if the resurrection were disproved, say, by finding the remains of ‘Jesus’, Christians would either ignore it, or somehow try work around it.

___________________________________________________


With regards to the two “language games” you talked about:
I’m not entirely sure there is such a distinction between how we test and evaluate beliefs and claims.

What it comes down to is this: are your claims/beliefs logical and rational, and do they correspond to reality?

Science is the only method of discovering if this is the case, since anything we use to explore the natural world, reality, is science.

When it comes to non-physical things (which still exist physically, in a brain) we analyse them with logic and rationality, but I don’t distinguish this as a separate “language game” and I think it is unnecessary to do so.

We simply establish the logic and rationality of the claim and belief, and if necessary we progress to scientific testing.

When it comes to religion, we simply look at the logic and rationality of the belief/claim, then, if necessary/possible, we empirically test it. I see this as one big process. When it comes to religion, they are rarely separate, since most religions claims have some implication in the natural world, thus they naturally spill into the domain of empirical science.

Strafio wrote:
It also explains the disgust some people can have when we demand scientific evidence for their beliefs. It means that we are demanding that they play the language game of empirical facts.

Surely this disgust comes from the fact that we’ve just asked them to do something they know they cannot do, i.e. provide proof.

As I said above, rarely do we get a religious claim that does not have implications on the natural world, thus it is entirely appropriate to ask them to explain themselves.

Strafio wrote:
This is why they respond by finding other things outside the empirical language game, like morals or arts/aesthetics, and accusing us of having no 'soul' or emotion.

When they do this they think they’re providing empirical evidence.

Strafio wrote:
Wittgenstein suspected that much confusion was caused by confusing different language games and equivocating words that different uses in different language games.

I guess the only distinction in language I’d make is colloquial vs. academic, but I wouldn’t refer to them as two separate “language games.”

I certainly agree that we should use clarify terms and explain what we mean, otherwise we’ll talk over each others heads, but Wittgenstein seems to make this into a bigger issue than it actually is.

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


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Strafio wrote: These

Strafio wrote:
These fundamentalists might well have been playing a slightly different language game, as they tend to bring issues like 'sin' and 'morality' into their arguments, but it's also possible that they were still playing the empirical language game and there were different reasons for the disagreement. You might be interested in the concept of a 'paradigm'. When we do a scientific experiment, grounding assumptions must already be in place. For example, if we are testing one variable then we need knowledge about the other conditions in order to keep them constant. So observations will always be dependent on the theory behind them - the paradigm. The schoolastics (medieval times) had an paradigm based on Aristotles metaphysics. It was gradually replaced by a law based paradigm that was marked by the work of Newton. Newton's own paradigm also proved to be insufficient and was gradually replaced by Einstein's relativity. The replacement process usually follows like this - the old paradigm has mounted up so many problems and mysteries that some start to question the gounding assumptions and look for alternatives. A new theory is found and its success is marked by how all the best bits of the old theory remain while problems and anomalies that the old theory suffered from are now breakable. There is yet to be a distinct method for choosing between paradigms, so if two people have two different paradigms, there isn't a clear method for judging superiority. However, there should be intuitive indicators, for instance the Newtonian paradigm was replaced by Einstein's when Newtonian's paradigm made some phenomena unexplainable and it took the theory of relativity as the background in order to make sense of them. Paradigms are different to separate language games as they aiming for the same truthmaker, but similar in that you cannot refute them using assumptions of another. You have to attack a paradigm holistically (as a whole) and this can be difficult compared to attacking a theory within a paradigm. So the paradigm practically acts as a partial truthmaker until it gets replaced by another. I think the application of this theory is that rather than attack individual beliefs of a theistic system, you have to attack its metaphysics as a whole. (This is why I like arguments from non-cognitivism.) The ID crew are also aware of the nature of paradigms - they are trying to replace the current naturalistic paradigm with one that involves an intelligent designer. I think that there are a several reasons why the fail in this (for instance, I don't think that their suggested replacement is coherent) but it explains why their approach is to try and find problems with naturalism. That's my limited knowledge of paradigms anyway. Kuhn is the man who invented the concept so his work would definately be of interest. My personal recommandation is What is this thing called science? - a great book on the Philosophy of Science in general. So different language games explains the difference between those who treat religion as facts and those who treat is as a mystical approach to life, and different paradigms explains how fundamentalists and ourselves can be look at the same world but have a different grounding theory that we evaluate facts by. That's why religious debates are almost philosophical rather than scientific.

 

With regards to starting assumption, see todangst’s new essay explaining why assumptions are not necessarily equal.

http://www.rationalresponders.com/doesnt_everyone_need_to_start_out_with_an_assumption

No one is free to just make any assumptions they like. Theists are the worst offenders here… they think their assumptions are equally valid with that of the atheist/materialist.

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


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Topher wrote:

Topher wrote:
I should mention that there is something about Wittgenstein that I just don’t like/get. I can’t really put my finger on it. I think it’s the fact that he draws everything down to “language games”, and while it’s technically possible to do so, and while he might not be wrong in some of the things he says; I just think it is for the most part unnecessary. He makes things into a bigger issue than they really are, or should be. I find it hard to explain though. I discuss this at the end of the post.

It can be very difficult to understand a philosopher if you are not familiar with the work that came before that they are answering to. The background to W's work was Frege and Russel's work on logic and language. They were trying to construct the logically ideal language, a very mathematical language that would be more suited to dealing with problems and have less confusions within it. This turned out to be impossible, but their results were very valuable. They pretty much (along with other logicians of the time like Hilbert and Godel) develloped mathematical logic to how it is today, as it is used in Mathematics and Physics. Wittgenstein started with this approach which produced the Tractatus. After that he gradually started changing his mind.

He thought that rather than presuppose what language ought to be like, he came to find that we could get more valuable insights by taking a look at language as it really is. When he did this, he came to see language as a tool or game, the rules of which depending on the situation at hand. So if we are trying to ascertain empirical truth then evidence is important, but if we are telling a joke then it is absolutely irrelevent.

Strafio wrote:
A Christian will tell you that their religion is truth. You then ask:
"Is this truth crystal clear like 'that table is blue' or 'salt dissolves in water'?"
The fundamentalist will say yes and talk about historical facts and scientific evidence.
The moderate will say 'not quite...' and start talking about mysticism.
To put it in Wittgenstienian terms, the fundamentalist claims we can talk about religion in our empirical language game while the moderate is playing a different one.

Topher wrote:
But usually, they both think they are proving empirical proofs for their claims.

While I agree moderates will tend to talk a lot about the spiritual/mystical side of theology, I don’t particularly view moderates and fundamentalists in this way.

To me, the distinction between a moderate and a fundamentalist is context and interpretation of scripture.

There are many distinctions between fundamentalists and moderates. This one is an important one and I disagree that both are trying to provide empirical proofs. There's a good reason why moderates didn't see evolution as contradicting their faith while fundamentalists did. I think you hit a several nails on the head whenever you used the word zeitgeist. (skipped most of those points as there wasn't much to disagree with)

Quote:
I agree that fundamentalists are more likely to try to formulate an evidence-based argument, while moderates would more likely talk about the benefits of religion, meaning and ‘fuzzy feelings’ etc, but I don’t think this is what distinguishes them, since these methods are often interchangeable and not exclusive to each side.

Ofcourse. I pointed out that these aren't strict differences, more an observation of the tendencies.

Strafio wrote:
The most obvious one is the exclusivity of truth.
In our empirical language game, either the table is blue or it is not.
In other language games where 'truth' has a different use and therefore a different meaning, truth need not be exclusive.

Quote:
In one sense truth is an objective matter, while in another is it a subjective matter. But when it comes to religion, the claims are not subjective. It’s not a matter of “X is true for me” since they are really implying far more than that, that it corresponds with reality.

Here you pre-supposed the empirical language game.
The whole purpose of this topic was to question such presuppositions. I'd also like to point out that there is a lot more to reality than empirical fact. The world we experience is coloured by our projections and prejudices. Kant argued that there was nothing in our knowledge that did not depend on projection. He argued that our logical methods of organising empirical data presupposed that we project order onto our experience. But that's a complex topic in itself.

Strafio wrote:
A fundy will say that if Christ did not really rise then their faith is for nothing. A moderate will be open to the possibility that it did not happen and declare that it's not really relevent to their faith.

Topher wrote:
I have to disagree here. The entire basis of Christianity is the resurrection and without it you’re left with a mere Jewish rabbi, who claimed to be a messiah.

Yes, but as their beliefs aren't rooted in 'historical fact', this isn't necessarily a big problem.

Quote:
Consider the words of Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford, and one of the most liberal theists around: “[the virgin birth is] not in par with the resurrection… I do believe the resurrection of Jesus is absolutely fundamental to Christianity…” Now I’m sure if the resurrection were disproved, say, by finding the remains of ‘Jesus’, Christians would either ignore it, or somehow try work around it.

Or they'd re-interpret the Bible and come out with a new theology that is compatible. There would be changes but it would still be the same 'faith'... if you know what I mean... the changes would be kind of superficial.

Quote:
With regards to the two “language games” you talked about:
I’m not entirely sure there is such a distinction between how we test and evaluate beliefs and claims.

What it comes down to is this: are your claims/beliefs logical and rational, and do they correspond to reality?

Science is the only method of discovering if this is the case, since anything we use to explore the natural world, reality, is science.

When it comes to non-physical things (which still exist physically, in a brain) we analyse them with logic and rationality, but I don’t distinguish this as a separate “language game” and I think it is unnecessary to do so.

The thing is, logic is rooted in the rules of the language game.
Wittgenstein came across language games in his search for the root of logic. Remember the difference between evaluating a joke and evaluating a claim? Obvious the difference between the moderate and fundie language game is more subtle but the differences are there. Moderates don't use the word 'truth' in an exclusive way and have the zeitgeist rather than empirical truth as a truth-maker. Obviously it's not that simple. The zeitgeist is one of many influences on the truth maker of moderates, and fundamentalists will also appeal to these things sometimes, it's once again a rule of thumb observation that gives us a general trend.

Quote:
Surely this disgust comes from the fact that we’ve just asked them to do something they know they cannot do, i.e. provide proof.

Nope. And I think you're doing a mixture of projection and wishful thinking here. I think that the disgust really comes from that they smell sophistry... a bit like the disgust we might have when a theist provides a 'proof' that although we can intuitively see is flawed, we cannot explain off the top of our head so it looks like they have gotten the better of us.

Demanding a scientific proof is missing the point.
Science deals with empirical reality only, and there is more to reality than that. We are not the only ones who conflate the different language games - they often do too, otherwise they would call us on it and otherwise they would not conflate the differences for their own arguments as well. Being able to spot an 'equivocation' by conflating a word with its use in another language game would be a handy skill in debate.

Quote:
As I said above, rarely do we get a religious claim that does not have implications on the natural world, thus it is entirely appropriate to ask them to explain themselves.

Right, but you often demand them to explain in a scientific way as if the scientific language game was the be all and end all. This view is called scientism and is looked down upon as a "science fundamentalism".

Strafio wrote:
This is why they respond by finding other things outside the empirical language game, like morals or arts/aesthetics, and accusing us of having no 'soul' or emotion.

Topher wrote:
]When they do this they think they’re providing empirical evidence.

Right. They don't necessarily see the difference between language games either.

Quote:
I certainly agree that we should use clarify terms and explain what we mean, otherwise we’ll talk over each others heads, but Wittgenstein seems to make this into a bigger issue than it actually is.

The effects are subtle but make a large difference.
For instance, Wittgenstein applies it to psychology and, IMO, dissolves the assumption that our psychological language (desires and beliefs etc) can be treated the same way as our empirical language.

Topher wrote:

With regards to starting assumption, see todangst’s new essay explaining why assumptions are not necessarily equal.

http://www.rationalresponders.com/doesnt_everyone_need_to_start_out_with_an_assumption

No one is free to just make any assumptions they like. Theists are the worst offenders here… they think their assumptions are equally valid with that of the atheist/materialist.


That essay was quite interesting.
I'm a coherentist rather than a foundationalist but to the point:
The point of paradigms is to put to rest the claim that theists are ignoring empirical evidence. The fact is, they are merely interpreting it through the lense of their paradigm, which must be attacked holistically. (as a whole)
That explains the kind of situations that Paranoid Agnostic was talking about, that arguments that seem to work within our paradigm might well be begging the question against theirs.

As a paradigm must be attacked as a whole. This is a complex process and there isn't a fixed starting point. A paradigm is shaped by osmosis (intuitive thinking) on the way to best tie our fragmented knowledge of the world together as a whole. When a theist rejects our arguments they aren't necessarily being irrational. Recognising things like this will help us learn which questions to ask and which assumptions of theirs to target.

I think that much of 'popular athiesm' seems to rely on arguments from 'scientism' and I don't think that's a good position to be arguing from at all.


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Strafio wrote: ]It can be

Strafio wrote:
]It can be very difficult to understand a philosopher if you are not familiar with the work that came before that they are answering to.

Well it’s not really Wittgenstein, as much as it is the Philosophy of Language as a whole.

Strafio wrote:
When he did this, he came to see language as a tool or game, the rules of which depending on the situation at hand.

Sure, language is a tool of communication, but I wouldn’t say there are separate rules. I’d say it’s based around coherence and context. Coherence applies to all valid, logical language, and context depends on situation.

While there are different situations, I don’t think each situation requires an entirely different ‘language game.’ 

It’s probably just semantics really. I just think he makes it a bigger topic that it needs to be. 

Strafio wrote:
So if we are trying to ascertain empirical truth then evidence is important, but if we are telling a joke then it is absolutely irrelevent.

Sure. It’s about context… so when claims are being made about reality, we can/should ask for evidence/justification. But even if the claim is not a direct claim about reality, I think we can still question it. 

Strafio wrote:
and I disagree that both are trying to provide empirical proofs.

Well they clearly do try to, either explicitly or implicitly. A fundamentalist might talk about creation or and historical truth of the bible for example. A moderate will more likely refer to ‘weird feelings’ or an ‘experience’ as proof. Fundamentalists tend to explicitly make claims of proof, while the moderates tend to indirectly do this. But the bottom line is both are trying to seek proof.

Strafio wrote:
There's a good reason why moderates didn't see evolution as contradicting their faith while fundamentalists did.

Sure, but this doesn’t mean they don’t try to present ‘proofs’ in other ways. Also, there are many people who I would regard as moderates who doubt evolution.

 

Strafio wrote:
Here you pre-supposed the empirical language game.

No, I’m just acknowledging that while a theist may say their belief is subjectively true for them, they actually believe or are implying that it is objectively true. I think this is an assumption, since theists always try to present subjective experiences and [objective] proofs. I’ve never even come across a theist who only sees their belief in their god/religion as entirely subjective… probably because such theists (if they exist) will not broadcast their belief, to they would be irrelevant in debates and discussion.

Strafio wrote:
I'd also like to point out that there is a lot more to reality than empirical fact. The world we experience is coloured by our projections and prejudices. Kant argued that there was nothing in our knowledge that did not depend on projection. He argued that our logical methods of organising empirical data presupposed that we project order onto our experience. But that's a complex topic in itself.

Sure, and this is where science and peer review comes in. I’ve always held the view that non-bias is an impossibility… personal desires, political views, beliefs and views and so on will always creep in. The point is to be a least bias as possible.

 

Strafio wrote:
Yes, but as their beliefs aren't rooted in 'historical fact', this isn't necessarily a big problem.

Are you saying they don’t believe this as historical, and the bible isn’t proof of this? The fact of the matter is that Christians, moderate or otherwise, believe in a historical Jesus, a historical physical resurrection and that the bible is proof of Jesus-claims.

 

Strafio wrote:
Or they'd re-interpret the Bible and come out with a new theology that is compatible. There would be changes but it would still be the same 'faith'... if you know what I mean... the changes would be kind of superficial.

Well they would actually be quite drastic I think. They would have to say this was a purely spiritual resurrection, and that Jesus actually died. This would undermine Christianity entirely, as the single proof of his divinity was the physical resurrection and the bodily appearances. This would mean that the doctrine of the bodily appearances would be wrong. In addition, Jesus’ humanity and divinity were joint (sects which held them to be separate were heretical) so to say he bodily died undermines this doctrine.

 

Strafio wrote:
Wittgenstein came across language games in his search for the root of logic. Remember the difference between evaluating a joke and evaluating a claim? Obvious the difference between the moderate and fundie language game is more subtle but the differences are there. Moderates don't use the word 'truth' in an exclusive way and have the zeitgeist rather than empirical truth as a truth-maker.

That’s the thing… I don’t think they have a different “language game.”

While they may have different methods or approaches (e.g. fundamentalists are more assertive and sure, moderates are more passive and subtle), I think for the most part they both believe their beliefs conform to reality (i.e. objectively true) and that they both try to present evidence for their belief, either explicitly or implicitly. A fundamentalist will say things like the “universe proves god” where as a moderate will subtly imply proof via ‘experiences’, or ‘feelings.’

As for the zeitgeist, this doesn’t mean the moderate doesn’t think their religion conforms to reality, or that they don’t try to present evidence. They are just more willing to change things because they do not hold the bible is inerrant.

The fundamentalist doesn’t adapt their beliefs precisely because they think they are the inerrant word of god, hence they wont alter them. The moderate concedes they were authored by fallible men, and thus there willing to alter certain parts, but they don’t change with regards to the underlining principles, and they still try to present proofs for them.

 

Strafio wrote:
And I think you're doing a mixture of projection and wishful thinking here. I think that the disgust really comes from that they smell sophistry...

Not at all. If a moderate says “I prayed for X and X happened” or “I was depressed and broke so I called out to Jesus, then started getting my life back in order…” (both of these are presented subtle ‘proofs’ for their beliefs) I will ask them on what basis are they saying the praying caused this, and I’ll remind them they the prayer doesn’t not validation/proof their claim (i.e. causation fallacy). This is perfectly valid. Even if they don’t prefix their statement with “this is my proof” it doesn’t change the fact that they are trying to present it as proof.

 

Strafio wrote:
Demanding a scientific proof is missing the point.

But it isn’t. It’s the correct thing to do. If they are making a positive claim, explicitly or implicitly, I’ll ask them for proof; I’ll ask them to validate their claim; I’ll ask them to provide the basis which this claim is being made. If I can I’ll provide a more parsimonious explanation. And I’ll also remind them that their claim contradicts something we already know should this be the case.

 

Strafio wrote:
Science deals with empirical reality only

Yes, and holding a claim as objectively true, i.e. believing it conforms to reality, calls for science and reason to question it.

Nothing in theism is akin to “telling a joke” in any sense.

 

Strafio wrote:
Being able to spot an 'equivocation' by conflating a word with its use in another language game would be a handy skill in debate.

So you’re saying ‘colloquial language’ and ‘academic language’ are two separate language games? That each use of a word is a separate language game?

 This is my point about making this into a bigger issue than is really needed. It seems like you’re saying language game = context.

 

Strafio wrote:
Right, but you often demand them to explain in a scientific way as if the scientific language game was the be all and end all. This view is called scientism and is looked down upon as a "science fundamentalism".

Well I hold that science is the method of evaluating nature, so when a claim is made about the natural world, or a claim has repercussions on the natural world, scientific methods and knowledge would be appropriate in critiquing it. There is nothing “scientism” about this. I only refer to science if it is necessary, i.e. if the natural world is somehow involved in the issue. And religion, in any guise, if involved in the natural world, implicitly or explicitly.

Strafio wrote:
For instance, Wittgenstein applies it to psychology and, IMO, dissolves the assumption that our psychological language (desires and beliefs etc) can be treated the same way as our empirical language.

I’m not too sure. If someone says they believe X, we can and should ask them what the belief is based on, and look at whether it contradicts reality (i.e. what we already know). I think beliefs can and should be tested according to our scientific knowledge, even if they’re not presented as confident claims, because most people think that failure to critique their beliefs/views is an acceptance of them, and even a validation of them!

I do it all the time for that reason... if someone says they believe in ghosts, or UFOs, or psychics etc, even without claiming they exist/are true, I’ll still ask them why, and maybe propose a better explanation if they get specific.

Strafio wrote:
I'm a coherentist rather than a foundationalist but to the point:

While I agree with a lot of coherentism, such as that things have to be coherent and that it is always reasonable to ask for justification, I don’t agree that something is true simply by being coherent. I also hold that there are foundations, axioms, which are self evidence, that prove themselves (i.e. true by definition).

 One of the problems of coherentism is that you can the coherent view doesn’t necessarily relate to reality, and I think for something to be true, it must not only be coherent, it must also conform to reality.

 

Strafio wrote:
The point of paradigms is to put to rest the claim that theists are ignoring empirical evidence. The fact is, they are merely interpreting it through the lense of their paradigm, which must be attacked holistically. (as a whole)

Sure, they’re interpreting it via faith/scripture/religion X, however this doesn’t mean we cannot critique individual aspects too vis-à-vis the individual claims.

 When it comes to religions, I agree we should attack its foundation (faith, supernaturalism); doing this means criticising both moderates and fundamentalists.

 To me, both moderates and fundamentalists use exactly the same means and methods, just in different ways… i.e. they both rely on faith, they both try to present proofs, they both project their desires.

 

Strafio wrote:
That explains the kind of situations that Paranoid Agnostic was talking about, that arguments that seem to work within our paradigm might well be begging the question against theirs.

But the point is both paradigms are not equally valid. Ours in based on evidence, there’s isn’t. For example, all we observe and experience is the natural, material world, hence our paradigm that this is all that exists is justified. Their paradigm of supernaturalism is not justified, and certainly not equal to ours.

We are not begging the question against there’s since we have no reason or grounds to even consider there’s. They are making the positive claim, so they’re the ones who have to justify it. When this is done, then we will be expected to consider both.

 

Strafio wrote:
When a theist rejects our arguments they aren't necessarily being irrational.

When we show them that our claim(s) conforms to reality and evidence, and then explain how theirs don’t, if they still hold onto it, due to emotion/desire/faith, then that are being irrational. Similarly, if they to hold their desire without even evaluating the evidence/argument, then they are being irrational.

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


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Topher wrote:

Topher wrote:
Sure, language is a tool of communication, but I wouldn’t say there are separate rules. I’d say it’s based around coherence and context. Coherence applies to all valid, logical language, and context depends on situation.

It's difficult to see what you're saying here...
Coherence and logic follows from linguistic rules rather than linguistic rules following from them. The 'context' and 'situation' appears to be a rehashing of Wittgenstein's 'language game' point.

Quote:
Sure. It’s about context… so when claims are being made about reality, we can/should ask for evidence/justification. But even if the claim is not a direct claim about reality, I think we can still question it.

Scientism is the belief that scientific fact is all there is to reality.
Rejecting scientism doesn't mean that you cannot question claims, it just means you don't make the demand that all claims make scientific standards.

Quote:
Well they clearly do try to, either explicitly or implicitly. A fundamentalist might talk about creation or and historical truth of the bible for example. A moderate will more likely refer to ‘weird feelings’ or an ‘experience’ as proof. Fundamentalists tend to explicitly make claims of proof, while the moderates tend to indirectly do this. But the bottom line is both are trying to seek proof.

Yes, but not a scientific ones.
They know that their feelings cannot be quantised in scientific language. When they bring in their experience they are selling the way of life first and foremost. Those who go onto infer empirical truth out of their feelings make an error, but not all do.

Strafio wrote:
Here you pre-supposed the empirical language game.

Topher wrote:
No, I’m just acknowledging that while a theist may say their belief is subjectively true for them, they actually believe or are implying that it is objectively true. I think this is an assumption, since theists always try to present subjective experiences and [objective] proofs.

Once again you assume that the scientific language game is the only one relevent to reality. This is scientism again. The dichotomy between objective and subjective is one that is useful in science but false elsewhere.

Strafio wrote:
I'd also like to point out that there is a lot more to reality than empirical fact. The world we experience is coloured by our projections and prejudices. Kant argued that there was nothing in our knowledge that did not depend on projection. He argued that our logical methods of organising empirical data presupposed that we project order onto our experience. But that's a complex topic in itself.

Topher wrote:
Sure, and this is where science and peer review comes in. I’ve always held the view that non-bias is an impossibility… personal desires, political views, beliefs and views and so on will always creep in. The point is to be a least bias as possible.

You completely missed the point I was making.
I wasn't calling these projections as something that blurred reality, I was stating that these projections are a necessary part of constituting reality.

Strafio wrote:
Yes, but as their beliefs aren't rooted in 'historical fact', this isn't necessarily a big problem.

Topher wrote:
Are you saying they don’t believe this as historical, and the bible isn’t proof of this? The fact of the matter is that Christians, moderate or otherwise, believe in a historical Jesus, a historical physical resurrection and that the bible is proof of Jesus-claims.

1) They don't claim that the Bible is proof.
2) Although a disproof of the Bible would shake up their theology, their God belief and theism in general would still remain intact, even if altered.
The resulting religion might not be Christianity as we know it, but it would be a theism of some kind.

Quote:
If a moderate says “I prayed for X and X happened” or “I was depressed and broke so I called out to Jesus, then started getting my life back in order…” (both of these are presented subtle ‘proofs’ for their beliefs) I will ask them on what basis are they saying the praying caused this, and I’ll remind them they the prayer doesn’t not validation/proof their claim (i.e. causation fallacy). This is perfectly valid.

No it's not. It's a fallacy if they've explicitly refered to the empirical type of causation, but otherwise they are just expressing about how religion turned their life around. To take their words in a scientific context is to equivocate and miss the point.

Quote:
But it isn’t. It’s the correct thing to do. If they are making a positive claim, explicitly or implicitly, I’ll ask them for proof; I’ll ask them to validate their claim; I’ll ask them to provide the basis which this claim is being made. If I can I’ll provide a more parsimonious explanation. And I’ll also remind them that their claim contradicts something we already know should this be the case.

And all the while you are making the underlying assumption that what they are saying is expressible in scientific terms or should be. And in doing so you miss the point.
I know, often they will be the ones who make this equivocation and in those cases they will be wrong.

Strafio wrote:
Science deals with empirical reality only

Topher wrote:
Yes, and holding a claim as objectively true, i.e. believing it conforms to reality, calls for science and reason to question it.

Only if you believe that everything that constitutes our experience of reality has a scientific explanation. As it happens, I have good reason to believe that much of our reality, as we experience it, to approach it in a scientific way is to miss the point.

Quote:
So you’re saying ‘colloquial language’ and ‘academic language’ are two separate language games? That each use of a word is a separate language game?

I'm not actually. Some language games are academic, some language games are, some seem to cross between the two.

Quote:
Well I hold that science is the method of evaluating nature, so when a claim is made about the natural world, or a claim has repercussions on the natural world, scientific methods and knowledge would be appropriate in critiquing it. There is nothing “scientism” about this. I only refer to science if it is necessary, i.e. if the natural world is somehow involved in the issue. And religion, in any guise, if involved in the natural world, implicitly or explicitly.

It's difficult to work out what you're saying here.
If you are saying that "I only apply science to scientific questions" then fine. The thing is, I don't think that you are necessarily keeping to this restriction.

Strafio wrote:
For instance, Wittgenstein applies it to psychology and, IMO, dissolves the assumption that our psychological language (desires and beliefs etc) can be treated the same way as our empirical language.

Topher wrote:
I’m not too sure. If someone says they believe X, we can and should ask them what the belief is based on, and look at whether it contradicts reality (i.e. what we already know).

You missed what I was saying here.
I said that 'beliefs' aren't empirical objects that can be described scientifically. It had absolutely nothing to do with evaluating beliefs. That's our epistemic language game rather than our psychological one.

Quote:
I think beliefs can and should be tested according to our scientific knowledge

So beliefs can only be about scientific topics?
Sounds like scientism to me...

Strafio wrote:
I'm a coherentist rather than a foundationalist but to the point:

Topher wrote:
While I agree with a lot of coherentism, such as that things have to be coherent and that it is always reasonable to ask for justification, I don’t agree that something is true simply by being coherent.

That's not what coherentism claims.
Coherentism claims that there can be no foundation.
Our knowledge is holistic and each individual belief we have only make sense within the context of our entire outlook. The only way to compare two holistic systems (which include the same empirical data) is how coherent they are.

Strafio wrote:
That explains the kind of situations that Paranoid Agnostic was talking about, that arguments that seem to work within our paradigm might well be begging the question against theirs.

Topher wrote:
But the point is both paradigms are not equally valid. Ours in based on evidence, there’s isn’t.

They whole point of a paradigm is that it determines how the evidence should be interpreted, so evidence cannot be for or against it. What works against paradigms is problems like incoherencies and inconsistencies.

Paradigms always have a few problems but while they are few they do not seem too severe and might yet be solved. When the problems build up to rediculous amounts, the paradigm is said to be in a 'crisis' and theoretical scientists start looking for a new paradigm to replace it, one that will not suffer such problems. The point is, you cannot use evidence against a paradigm, to break it you have show that it is riddled with inconsistencies compared to one that isn't. This is the aim of the ID crew when they try to show that the 'without-intelligence' paradigm is 'in crisis' and needs replacing. In this respect their approach is valid... but that's not saying a whole lot! Smiling

Quote:
For example, all we observe and experience is the natural, material world, hence our paradigm that this is all that exists is justified. Their paradigm of supernaturalism is not justified, and certainly not equal to ours.

Right. But the problems with supernaturalism aren't evidencial - they are a priori conceptual.

Quote:
When we show them that our claim(s) conforms to reality and evidence, and then explain how theirs don’t, if they still hold onto it, due to emotion/desire/faith, then that are being irrational. Similarly, if they to hold their desire without even evaluating the evidence/argument, then they are being irrational.

The whole point of this topic was to show that just because they reject our arguments, that doesn't mean that they are doing it out of desire. They could be following valid logic but still end up disagreeing with us because the differences are so deep, often deeper than they can comprehend. This is why conversion is a gradual process as rather than suddenly being won over by a particular argument (unless it's the straw that breaks the camels back), it's a long term engagement with opposition that gradually informs the inquirer that his position is full of holes and requires re-thinking.


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Strafio wrote: It's

Strafio wrote:
It's difficult to see what you're saying here...
Coherence and logic follows from linguistic rules rather than linguistic rules following from them. The 'context' and 'situation' appears to be a rehashing of Wittgenstein's 'language game' point.

What I’m trying to say is that the problem I have is that while you can study language and semantics – and it is clearly important to understand language and be coherent in your argument and context – I just don’t see the need to make it the focus, to focus everything around it, because I don’t think language itself should be the point, it should only be the means to get the point across, and all we need for this is to ensure that we are coherent and distinct/clear in our arguments and context.

Strafio wrote:
Scientism is the belief that scientific fact is all there is to reality.
Rejecting scientism doesn't mean that you cannot question claims, it just means you don't make the demand that all claims make scientific standards.

All I’m saying is that if something conforms to reality, then it is, by definition, within the remit of science to examine, since science is the study of nature/reality. Similarly, if a claim is made about nature/reality, of affects nature/reality, science is the mean by which it should be looked at.

Strafio wrote:
Yes, but not a scientific ones.
They know that their feelings cannot be quantised in scientific language. When they bring in their experience they are selling the way of life first and foremost. Those who go onto infer empirical truth out of their feelings make an error, but not all do.

But the point is if their claims or proposed proof involves nature/reality, then science becomes involved by definition.

I’m NOT saying there claims/proofs are scientific, I am saying that they often think they are and I am saying that we should examine the claims/proofs scientifically, as per the scientific method.
You seem to be saying we should only scientifically examine claims/beliefs if they are presented scientifically/empirically whereas I’m saying we should scientifically examine them if they concern or affect nature/reality whatsoever. I don’t think something has to be presented scientifically or empirically in order to it to fall into the domain of science.

I think you underestimate just how many people use ‘weird/strange experiences’ as proof. They may not explicitly present it as a proof, but in presenting it they are trying to infer validation/proof.

Strafio wrote:
Once again you assume that the scientific language game is the only one relevent to reality. This is scientism again. The dichotomy between objective and subjective is one that is useful in science but false elsewhere.

Well please tell me of a method/process we can use to evaluate claims about reality/nature, and come to accurate results, that is not science/the scientific method?

Strafio wrote:
I wasn't calling these projections as something that blurred reality, I was stating that these projections are a necessary part of constituting reality.

Then you hold that everything is essentially subjective!!? That it is impossible to collect objective data, because reality is essentially just the projection of people’s subjectivity, that there are no objective facts which transcend human subjectivity?

Clearly our biases can and do obscure/blur the objective nature of reality, and it is down to objective and critical, scientific investigation (i.e. peer review) to root out any ‘subjective leakage’ in the data. This precisely this reason that we can get data that is objectively true, irrespective of subjective beliefs… we can run an experiment about the nature of reality in any part of the world, by people with all sorts of differing views, and come to exactly the same results.

Strafio wrote:
1) They don't claim that the Bible is proof.

They hold that Jesus existed, that he was god, that he performed miracles and resurrected… The Bible is the only source they have for this. So they hold, in some way or another, that the Bible is a proof. Even if they don’t present it as a proof, they infer it as a proof.

Strafio wrote:
No it's not. It's a fallacy if they've explicitly refered to the empirical type of causation, but otherwise they are just expressing about how religion turned their life around. To take their words in a scientific context is to equivocate and miss the point.

You seem to think that claims/statements have to be explicitly presented empirically and scientifically before it can be constituted as fallacious and before it can be evaluated as per the scientific method.

I couldn’t disagree more with this. If claims or beliefs in any way concern reality/nature then it falls into the remit of science and should be examined as such. They do not have to be presented scientifically/empirically for them to be examined scientifically or for fallacies to be pointed out.

Here an good example of a non-scientific/empirical, religious claim and see how it is dealt with:
It’s in an episode of the podcast “The Skeptics Guide to the Universe,” in the “Name This Logical Fallacy” segment (51:20):
http://media.libsyn.com/media/skepticsguide/skepticast2007-06-06.mp3

Strafio wrote:
And all the while you are making the underlying assumption that what they are saying is expressible in scientific terms or should be. And in doing so you miss the point.

By the point is if their claim/beliefs concern nature/reality, then they can be scientifically looked at.

Strafio wrote:
Only if you believe that everything that constitutes our experience of reality has a scientific explanation. As it happens, I have good reason to believe that much of our reality, as we experience it, to approach it in a scientific way is to miss the point.

Then give me of a method/process we can use to evaluate claims about reality/nature, and come to accurate results, that is not science/the scientific method?

Science is the study of reality/nature, so anything which occurs within it is within the remit of science.

Objective claims certainly fall within the remit of science, but I can also say subjective claims do to, in the form of psychology and neurology.

Strafio wrote:
It's difficult to work out what you're saying here.
If you are saying that "I only apply science to scientific questions" then fine. The thing is, I don't think that you are necessarily keeping to this restriction.

I saying, lets apply scientific methods and knowledge when the issue under contention is within the remit of science. The remit of science is nature/reality.

I’m also saying that something doesn’t have to be presented scientifically or empirically in order for it to fall into the remit of science, or to be relevant to science.

Strafio wrote:
I said that 'beliefs' aren't empirical objects that can be described scientifically.

Sure, there not ‘empirical objects’, but they can be scientifically analysed and described, via psychology and neurology, and to some degree anthropology and sociology.

The fact they might not be able to be treated exactly the same way we treat physical empirical data doesn’t mean science and the scientific method is redundant in the matter.

Strafio wrote:
So beliefs can only be about scientific topics?

What on earth are you talking about!?
The content of a belief is not really the issue. The point is that science and the scientific method can be used to assess beliefs.

Give me a belief that doesn’t refer to nature/reality or have implications on nature/reality?

Topher wrote:
While I agree with a lot of coherentism, such as that things have to be coherent and that it is always reasonable to ask for justification, I don’t agree that something is true simply by being coherent.


Strafio wrote:
That's not what coherentism claims.[/quote

It says it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coherentism

Strafio wrote:
They whole point of a paradigm is that it determines how the evidence should be interpreted, so evidence cannot be for or against it. What works against paradigms is problems like incoherencies and inconsistencies.

But the point is the interpretations can only be equally valid if the paradigms are, but they’re not equally valid. I agree that incoherencies and inconsistencies are the best way at evaluating them.

”A common misinterpretation of paradigms is the belief that the discovery of paradigm shifts and the dynamic nature of science (with its many opportunities for subjective judgments by scientists) is a case for relativism: the view that all kinds of belief systems are equal, such that magic, religious concepts or pseudoscience would be of equal working value to true science. Kuhn vehemently denies this interpretation and states that when a scientific paradigm is replaced by a new one, albeit through a complex social process, the new one is always better, not just different.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradigm_shift#Science_and_paradigm_shift


It seems that paradigms themselves can be changed by evidence, such as with science, where if the evidence is clearly contradicting the assumptions or predictions of the paradigm, they will be changed, because at the end of the day, science follows the evidence.

Strafio wrote:
Right. But the problems with supernaturalism aren't evidencial - they are a priori conceptual.

Yes, but we can make predictions on the concepts, then physically look for evidence to see if they are true.

Strafio wrote:
The whole point of this topic was to show that just because they reject our arguments, that doesn't mean that they are doing it out of desire. They could be following valid logic but still end up disagreeing with us because the differences are so deep, often deeper than they can comprehend. This is why conversion is a gradual process as rather than suddenly being won over by a particular argument (unless it's the straw that breaks the camels back), it's a long term engagement with opposition that gradually informs the inquirer that his position is full of holes and requires re-thinking.

Sure. I don’t think anyone expects it to be a sudden thing.

When convincing people they are wrong, we can show them the evidence that proves our claims. I think often it is rejected either due to desire or ignorance and incredulity, probably because they are too indoctrinated / brainwashed. But I think that often, they know deep down that we’re right and they’re wrong, but it is just a reflex to reject it. Over time the seed grows and they admit they’re wrong. This of often how many theists reject theism.

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


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Topher wrote:

Topher wrote:
What I’m trying to say is that the problem I have is that while you can study language and semantics – and it is clearly important to understand language and be coherent in your argument and context – I just don’t see the need to make it the focus, to focus everything around it, because I don’t think language itself should be the point, it should only be the means to get the point across, and all we need for this is to ensure that we are coherent and distinct/clear in our arguments and context.

If it was that simple then Wittgenstein's philosophy would never have come about. It turns out that we abuse language a lot more than we think. Just like how some naive people are unwittingly rife full of contradictions, there are other flaws to look out for. Seeing how important that the rules of logic are, as linguistic rules are what the rules of logic are based on, they are perhaps the daddy of all criticism.

The main point here is:
Conflating language games causes real confusions and there are real applications to Wittgenstein's work.
Not everyone agrees with this but the language game of psychology might be a completely different language game to the one of physics/science. It is believed that conflating these two language games is the cause of the mind-body problem, that people are looking to unite our psychological language game with our physical one and that is the cause of the confusion.

The mind-body problem was how physicalists were having a hard time nailing mental concepts into physical terms. It is counter intuitive for one thing and in some cases appear to be logically impossible. Non-physicalists had a problem even more damning - how their non-physical mental concepts related to the physical world, as our actions are supposed to be caused by our desires and our perceptions caused by our physical sensations.

My preferred solution is that beliefs and desires are not empirical objects that 'cause'. We look to what our purpose in using concepts like 'belief' and 'desire' and other psychological concepts and we find that the purpose of the language game is to make sense of and regulate behaviour. So rather than a person being in a physical state of belief, belief is what we use to explain a person's actions. Without dissecting the language game, a person who just assumed that the physical language game should be applied to mind would be caught in this contradiction.

To cut to the point:
This means that both physicalists and anti-physicalists both had good points, both had grasped something intuitively right about their position. Would it be right to call them irrational for such an error?
It also means that while dualists like Descartes had gotten it wrong overall, their common-sense intuitions were not far off and that they were right in a lot of ways.

That would defend moderates even if their religious language game was all about factual accuracy. You will find that their language game is more interested in values and personal experience rather than facts of the world. Where facts are presented, their purpose is enrichen experience rather than be accurate. Sort of half way between fiction and truth - the romantic relevence of fiction combined with the added 'realism' with the 'it might well be true' possibility added to it. You yourself have recognised that often they aren't that bothered about actual truth, but that doesn't mean that it's desire. This language game explanation is alternative one. It means that the claims aren't necessarily true, and to use methods of verification on them is to miss the point.
It also gives an insight into faith, why people might be willing to 'believe' in something without evidence.

Topher wrote:
But the point is the interpretations can only be equally valid if the paradigms are, but they’re not equally valid. I agree that incoherencies and inconsistencies are the best way at evaluating them.

It seems that paradigms themselves can be changed by evidence, such as with science, where if the evidence is clearly contradicting the assumptions or predictions of the paradigm, they will be changed, because at the end of the day, science follows the evidence.


Sort of... The evidence is interpreted through the paradigm but in doing so problems arise. There's a billion possibilities where the problem can be - it might be the theory being used to organise the data, it might be the theory that has determined how the variables are so be measured, etc...
Obviously the evidence plays a part but it's not a case of: "This is the hypothesis and the evidence will either confirm or falsify it."
There's not a falsification going on, so much as problems with the theory as a whole arising.

Strafio wrote:
Right. But the problems with supernaturalism aren't evidencial - they are a priori conceptual.

Topher wrote:
Yes, but we can make predictions on the concepts, then physically look for evidence to see if they are true.

Um... would you physically confirm whether 2+2=4? Sticking out tongue
Talking seriously, my last few points have been a bit nit-picky.
I think that we're more or less in agreement when it comes to paradigms. (I liked what you said about sowing the seed and how realisation happens gradually.)
There is one consequence of this though - it means that the theist is not necessarily being irrational. As there is no clear cut and dry method to evaluating one's paradigm, (it is something you gradually come to through 'fine tuning') it means that theists aren't necessarily being irrational in rejecting our arguments.

You're also right that this wouldn't be such a problem if preachers weren't tampering with their initial education. Paradigms are important in the arguments with fundies as they make claims about scientific fact. Moderates, like you say, use feelings and personal experience and I still think are playing the language game of "make sense of my personal experience" rather than "ascertain correct phsyical causes for the event that happened last tuesday."


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This language argument

This language argument seems like a big cop-out to me. It is basically a way to dismiss other's viewpoints by invalidating their underlying competence, even if they make rational sense. Let's just be real; some religious fanatics (going by behavior and definitions of fanaticism here) believe what they believe and will accept what supports it and deny what doesn't. If logic, reasoning and science will support their belief system, they are for it and will use it, access it and promote it within that framework. For example; Christians were the 1st to employ the science of biblical historical archaeology in the search for Noah's arc. But since historical and archaeological evidence have come to not support their book more often than not, and when logic, reasoning and science does not, then they deny them. Further, fanatics will preemptively clump all those who don't beleive the exact thing in the exact same way that they do(sometimes even others of the same larger faith group) into a big group that is labeled whatever - "non-believers", "liberals", "the world", "the lost."  Conveniently, those in that given sect will not have to even listen to arguments, valid or not, from anyone in those labeled groups because they are already shut out from being heard because they are being used by the devil to influence them or whatever brainwash garbage has been placed.

Likewise, this argument appears to be a way to dismiss others outside a very narrow group of atheists, even when their arguments are valid and rational, on the basis of some underlying language game they have been labeled as using, which has no testing whatsoever to support it (because scientific method won't appy here?) and which compels to overgeneralize complex individuals into large groups of people with labels that have no defined borders.

All Wittgenstein was saying is that language in science, for example, makes sense in science because it was developed in the context of science. However, when a scientist attempts to communicate using the same format but for a different end and with people who's languages were developed for that end, then communication is stifled and philosophy runs into a road block. For expample, if a surgeon says the word "scalpel"  it is understood by the tech that s/he is to hand her/him that certain object (even though the surgeon didn't speciffically say to hand it to her/him). This communication was developed and is efficient in surgery. However, if a surgeon walked up to a pastry chef and said "frosting" the chef would say "what? is there some on my nose?" or "yeah, it's pretty, isn't it?" or "Is a big pile of it about to fall on me?" when the surgeon meant for the frosting to be handed to her/him. 

 So, Wittgenstein is just explaining the restrictions language plays because of its function within a purpose. It is not to take away the credibility of indivilual competency or validation if individual experience. The pastry chef may even use the exact same language format within the context of the art - s/he may say "spatula" and someone will hand it her/him... if it's called spatula in their culture. Same paradigm may work in different fields so long as the purpose within the fields or schools of thought has the same end on a sub-level within it. So, we just need to be aware of communication barriers so they don't get in the way of progress. I don't think they are general psychological formats to individual harddrives.


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TheDalbster wrote: Let's

TheDalbster wrote:
Let's just be real; some religious fanatics (going by behavior and definitions of fanaticism here) believe what they believe and will accept what supports it and deny what doesn't.

The fact that an 'opponent' would abuse the argument, that doesn't make it false. The fact is, I think that theist arguments already conflate language games in their arguments. Being able to spot this will just allow us to argue against them more effectively.

Quote:
Likewise, this argument appears to be a way to dismiss others outside a very narrow group of atheists, even when their arguments are valid and rational, on the basis of some underlying language game they have been labeled as using, which has no testing whatsoever to support it (because scientific method won't appy here?) and which compels to overgeneralize complex individuals into large groups of people with labels that have no defined borders.

Not quite sure what you're saying here...

Quote:
All Wittgenstein was saying is that language in science, for example, makes sense in science because it was developed in the context of science. However, when a scientist attempts to communicate using the same format but for a different end and with people who's languages were developed for that end, then communication is stifled and philosophy runs into a road block.

This is right.
If we are to evaluate something then we should evaluate it by the appropiate language game. We shouldn't evaluate a joke scientifically or a scientific fact by a sense of humour. So if a person's religious practice isn't based in scientific claims then it is wrong to evaluate by scientific methods.
You made the point that some Christians will make scientific claims where it suits them and in those cases their arguments will be under the scrutiny of scientific method. However, saying to someone who believes in God "prove is scientifically" is to miss the point if their belief is not of the scientific sort.

Quote:
So, Wittgenstein is just explaining the restrictions language plays because of its function within a purpose. It is not to take away the credibility of indivilual competency or validation if individual experience.

Ofcourse. I think you've misunderstood me greatly here.
Perhaps this might put things into perspective:
Science has a reputation for giving us useful information about the world, as are the historical methods, other epistemologies, etc.
If the theist denies that their religious practice can be evaluated by these methods, you can ask then what, if any, relevence their practice has at all. There is a chance that they will try to tie into concepts of a language game you know (e.g. 'historical fact' of the resurrection, 'scientific proof' of intelligent design, or whetever...) and when they do so they will be bound by the rules of the concepts they use.

If you've listened to a lot of theistic speeches then it is common for them to take a concept that we all value like 'freedom' or 'morality' and then to twist/redefine it into a way that wedges us into their theology.


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Strafio wrote: If it was

Strafio wrote:
If it was that simple then Wittgenstein's philosophy would never have come about. It turns out that we abuse language a lot more than we think.

Sure, but I still think there is just not need to go as far as he went.

Strafio wrote:
Seeing how important that the rules of logic are, as linguistic rules are what the rules of logic are based on, they are perhaps the daddy of all criticism.

Logic can also be formulated via symbols.

But sure, language is important, but the point is there isn’t a need to focus on it as Wittgenstein did.

Strafio wrote:
Conflating language games causes real confusions and there are real applications to Wittgenstein's work.

Can you list all the “language games” there are? And how they are different.

To me it just sounds like a fancy name for ‘context.’

Like I said, if you understand context, if you use the definition of terms according to the correct context, then there shouldn’t be a problem. And also, there is not always a clear distinction between different contexts, so it almost like one big gradient

Strafio wrote:
Not everyone agrees with this but the language game of psychology might be a completely different language game to the one of physics/science. It is believed that conflating these two language games is the cause of the mind-body problem, that people are looking to unite our psychological language game with our physical one and that is the cause of the confusion.

Well I hold that everything is material, so ultimately everything can be drawn back to a material end (in terms of psychology, this is the brain). But sure, some contexts (other than what I just describe) it’s an error in to treat physical things how we treat de-facto non-physical things. But this doesn’t means we cannot look at both scientifically.

For example, we can physically observe behaviour, both in person and at the level of the brain, but we can’t physically observe a belief in person, we can only observe it at the level of the brain. Just like with evolution, we can physically observe ‘micro’ evolution, but we can’t physically observe ‘macro’ evolution.
So there are certain situations in which they can become equal, other situations they are not. But ultimately science and the scientific method can and should still be used for both, since they both concern nature/reality.

Strafio wrote:
The mind-body problem was how physicalists were having a hard time nailing mental concepts into physical terms. It is counter intuitive for one thing and in some cases appear to be logically impossible. Non-physicalists had a problem even more damning - how their non-physical mental concepts related to the physical world, as our actions are supposed to be caused by our desires and our perceptions caused by our physical sensations.
They are physical, in the brain.

Strafio wrote:
My preferred solution is that beliefs and desires are not empirical objects that 'cause'.

Sure they are. As I described above, they may not be empirical in person as a physical movement would be, but in the brain both a movement and a belief/desire are exactly the same.

 

Strafio wrote:
So rather than a person being in a physical state of belief, belief is what we use to explain a person's actions.

Well things other than belief can explain actions, such as knowledge, observation, or physical stimuli, but that’s another issue.
The point is belief is physical, in the brain. When you activate certain beliefs via stimuli you get physical responses in the brain. The belief is these physical responses. Just as love triggers a physical response… we tend to think of love as an immaterial, but in reality love is just physical chemical responses in the brain.

 

Strafio wrote:
Obviously the evidence plays a part but it's not a case of: "This is the hypothesis and the evidence will either confirm or falsify it."
There's not a falsification going on, so much as problems with the theory as a whole arising.

Well what happens is predictions are made then they are tested. If they are repeatedly falsified, the hypothesis is wrong. Sometimes it doesn’t change the whole idea, but sometimes it does.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_paradigm_shifts_in_science

 

Strafio wrote:
Um... would you physically confirm whether 2+2=4?

2+2=4 isn’t supernatural, since was your premise.

Strafio wrote:
There is one consequence of this though - it means that the theist is not necessarily being irrational.

No quite. I like how BobSpence1 discussed irration: 


“I think "irrational" should be applied to the case where the person makes no serious attempt to observe logical rules and/or ignores relevant evidence. IOW I think it should be used to describe the approach rather than whether it is invalid. If someone is genuinely trying to use proper logic and reasoning and makes some mistake or uses some data which is actually faulty (unknown to them), and thereby comes to a faulty conclusion, that is not "irrational", it is an error.

EDIT: If they cling to their conclusion when the error is pointed in an undeniable way, then you can start accusing them of being irrational, but even then, if the argument is relatively complicated, detecting and avoiding errors may not be simple. If they flatly refuse to check their chain of 'reasoning', then we are much more justified in calling them "irrational".”

I think more theists that you realise do this. Many do try to have a reasoned discussion, and some of them occasionally, but rarely concede when they’ve been shown their error. But often, even after they’ve been show they there argument is wrong/illogical etc, they still insist they are right, and they still present the same refuted argument as if it’s not been refuted. This clearly means they have no regard for logic and evidence if it doesn’t conform to their beliefs.

Strafio wrote:
Moderates, like you say, use feelings and personal experience and I still think are playing the language game of "make sense of my personal experience" rather than "ascertain correct phsyical causes for the event that happened last tuesday."

But the point I was making about ‘feelings’ and ‘experience’ is they are presenting/inferring them as proof. They’re not just saying X makes sense of the situation; they are inferring proof/justification from X. It’s subtle but this is how most theists maintain their belief. It’s a mixture of confirmation bias (the ‘rainmaker fallacy’) and a causation fallacy, and it’s also exactly how astrology fans validate astrology, and how psychic fans validate psychics.

For example, you can keep praying for the rain and when it eventually rains you can infer that the praying brought the rain (while ignore the days nothing happened), either by explicitly stating it as the cause, or subtly, by saying that is the only way you can make sense of the situation.

Imagine if someone had cancer, prayed to god, and the cancer then went into remission, they might say that god is the only way it all makes sense to them, they might even say the cancer was so advance it was a miracle. In doing this they are subtly inferring god as a cause/reason/explanation. In this case we can refer to science and ask them just how god did this, and we can tell them how medicine and doctors were probably what cause it, and explain to them how it happens.

Basically, the belief drives the observation, and the observation in turn sustains the belief.

 

You didn’t answer my comments on using science and the scientific method to explain claims about nature/reality. I don’t mind, but I don’t know what to infer from that. Do you agree?

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


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Strafio, my compliments on

Strafio, my compliments on that great essay. 

I'm uneasy with putting empirical language and mystic language on the same plane. Isn't it important that everyone must live according to empirical language rules most of the time? Shouldn't we attach some significance to the fact that even the lowest creatures observe the empirical rules of stimulus/response in their environment? Dont empirical langage rules take on an added weight when we reflect on the fact that those who don't observe them are no longer around to promote their pure mysticism? 

It just feels to me that a paradigm which is so necessary must be closer to truth than one which can easily be abandoned altogether. And there's this distasteful odor of hypocrisy that hovers around mystics every time they balance their chequebooks or take a bite of food.

 

Lazy is a word we use when someone isn't doing what we want them to do.
- Dr. Joy Brown


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TheDalbster wrote: All

TheDalbster wrote:
All Wittgenstein was saying is that language in science, for example, makes sense in science because it was developed in the context of science. However, when a scientist attempts to communicate using the same format but for a different end and with people who's languages were developed for that end, then communication is stifled and philosophy runs into a road block. For expample, if a surgeon says the word "scalpel"  it is understood by the tech that s/he is to hand her/him that certain object (even though the surgeon didn't speciffically say to hand it to her/him). This communication was developed and is efficient in surgery. However, if a surgeon walked up to a pastry chef and said "frosting" the chef would say "what? is there some on my nose?" or "yeah, it's pretty, isn't it?" or "Is a big pile of it about to fall on me?" when the surgeon meant for the frosting to be handed to her/him.

Sure. This is all fine. It basically means that we must apply terms and arguments in the correct context.

My argument with regards to science was that the context of science is nature/reality; hence anything in this context, a claim or belief, falls into the interest of science.

This doesn’t mean we have to use ‘scientific language’ which might be hard to the person to understand. We can get the same point across in a manner which works better for the individual, such as colloquial language or analogy. The basic point is that the underlining issue – that it is of interest to science – remains.
We could say for example: “science has proven X, or X has been proven to be impossible, yet your belief/claim contradicts this. Please explain yourself.”


TheDalbster wrote:
So, Wittgenstein is just explaining the restrictions language plays because of its function within a purpose. It is not to take away the credibility of indivilual competency or validation if individual experience. The pastry chef may even use the exact same language format within the context of the art - s/he may say "spatula" and someone will hand it her/him... if it's called spatula in their culture. Same paradigm may work in different fields so long as the purpose within the fields or schools of thought has the same end on a sub-level within it. So, we just need to be aware of communication barriers so they don't get in the way of progress.

Right. This was my point. Once we recognise the potential communication barriers, such as contexts and definitions of terms, we can work to make our argument work around it.

Strafio wrote:
If we are to evaluate something then we should evaluate it by the appropiate language game. We shouldn't evaluate a joke scientifically or a scientific fact by a sense of humour. So if a person's religious practice isn't based in scientific claims then it is wrong to evaluate by scientific methods.

But the point is it doesn’t have to be based on science for it to fall into the remit of science. This is the very point I'm trying to make. Just because their belief isn’t scientific doesn’t mean it isn’t of interest to science and it doesn’t mean it cannot be looked at scientifically.


I agree we shouldn’t scientifically evaluate a joke or vice versa, but I don’t think this analogy is valid with religion/science because religion and science are more linked that I think you realise.

For something to be of relevance to science it has to concern the natural world/reality in some way. It can either a) directly involve or be presented as scientific (whether it is scientific or not is beside the point), such as “evolution is false” and “the second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution.”
Or b) it indirectly involves science, such as implicit claims which are of scientific relevance, claims which have scientific implications, for example: “I believe Jesus rose from the dead.” There is nothing explicitly scientific about the belief or claim, but it certainly affects and encroaches on science so we can scientifically look at the claim.

 
I think your claim that "if a person's religious practice isn't based in scientific claims then it is wrong to evaluate by scientific methods” is quite ridiculous since virtually no religious belief/practice is scientifically based, yet most religious beliefs/practices encroach of science in some way.

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


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Strafio wrote: Seeing how

Strafio wrote:
Seeing how important that the rules of logic are, as linguistic rules are what the rules of logic are based on, they are perhaps the daddy of all criticism.

Topher wrote:
Logic can also be formulated via symbols.

Then those symbols would form a language.
In each case, it would be the rules of the language that determined the rules of logic,

Quote:
Can you list all the “language games” there are? And how they are different. To me it just sounds like a fancy name for ‘context.’

'context' is a great way to look at it.
I think that the reductive physicalist (we will see that this is your position) conflates the context of psychology with the context of physics.

Quote:
Like I said, if you understand context, if you use the definition of terms according to the correct context, then there shouldn’t be a problem.

Just like that if you follows the rules of logic properly then there shouldn't be a problem. If it was that obvious and easy! Smiling

Quote:
And also, there is not always a clear distinction between different contexts, so it almost like one big gradient.

You're right. Distinctions can be difficult and they rely on our competence of the game in hand. There are not as easy to work with compared to working within a language game where the rules are clearly defined.

Topher wrote:
[beliefs] are physical, in the brain.

This is an example of reductive physicalism.
It identifies a mental concept (e.g. belief) with a physical concept (in this case a state of the brain) and in doing so pre-supposes that the belief is an empirical object that exists as a physical stucture. This probably isn't the topic to go into a "Reductive Physicalism Vs Anomalous Monism" debate so I'm just going to try and get you to see how atleast potentially that mental concepts could be from a different language game to physical concepts.

If someone points to an object or described the world around them, this is the kind of language game we are using when we do physics. When we talk about someone's mind we are describing experiences in relation as to how they affect our body and behaviour. When we sweat, there will be a physical explanation (hormones released, nerves affected, pores opened etc) and a psychological explanation (the person was stressed, scared etc)
The psychological explanation need not refer to physical states as they might be defined purely as our way of explaining behaviour. (and not looking for a causal explanation, but playing the game of behaviour prediction and making sense of it like that.)

If so then the reductive physicalist is completely off the mark as their most fundamental assumption is false.

Strafio wrote:
Um... would you physically confirm whether 2+2=4?

Topher wrote:
2+2=4 isn’t supernatural, since was your premise.

Read the context again.
I said something about a conceptual investigation and then you talked about confirming it with data. So the 2+2=4 was an example of a conceptual truth. (you probably didn't mean it like that, like I said, I was nit-picking! Eye-wink)

Strafio wrote:
There is one consequence of this though - it means that the theist is not necessarily being irrational.

Quote:
No quite. I like how BobSpence1 discussed irration:
“I think "irrational" should be applied to the case where the person makes no serious attempt to observe logical rules and/or ignores relevant evidence. IOW I think it should be used to describe the approach rather than whether it is invalid. If someone is genuinely trying to use proper logic and reasoning and makes some mistake or uses some data which is actually faulty (unknown to them), and thereby comes to a faulty conclusion, that is not "irrational", it is an error.

EDIT: If they cling to their conclusion when the error is pointed in an undeniable way, then you can start accusing them of being irrational, but even then, if the argument is relatively complicated, detecting and avoiding errors may not be simple. If they flatly refuse to check their chain of 'reasoning', then we are much more justified in calling them "irrational".”

This agrees with me so far.
The theist is not necessarily being irrational.
It's been shown that they can come to a theistic conclusion through honest investigation, even if further investigation will gradually bring them towards a different conclusion. Every example you gave above was a 'case by case' judgement - judgements that, theoretically, could apply to an atheist as easily as a theist. It is the person at hand being judged by the way that they are arguing and their position is more or less irrelevent.

Quote:
I think more theists that you realise do this. Many do try to have a reasoned discussion, and some of them occasionally, but rarely concede when they’ve been shown their error. But often, even after they’ve been show they there argument is wrong/illogical etc, they still insist they are right, and they still present the same refuted argument as if it’s not been refuted. This clearly means they have no regard for logic and evidence if it doesn’t conform to their beliefs.

I've come across theists of both types but I have also come across atheists of both types. I think you over-estimate how many theists do this and maybe under-estimate how much atheists can be like this also. But atleast we agree that we judge on the case rather than the belief! Smiling

Strafio wrote:
Moderates, like you say, use feelings and personal experience and I still think are playing the language game of "make sense of my personal experience" rather than "ascertain correct phsyical causes for the event that happened last tuesday."

Topher wrote:
But the point I was making about ‘feelings’ and ‘experience’ is they are presenting/inferring them as proof. They’re not just saying X makes sense of the situation; they are inferring proof/justification from X.

Ah, but what is is that they are trying to prove here?
In my experience, most theists are trying to prove/justify their way of life and their practice of faith towards something they don't fully understand. To this effect their feelings are evidence. Sometimes they themselves conflate it by inferring a physical-type cause behind it, and that's where we can call them on it. Otherwise, to demand that they talk in terms of physics is missing the point and begging all sorts of questions against them, as their religious practice is for areas of life where science has no relevence. (e.g. ethics)

Quote:
You didn’t answer my comments on using science and the scientific method to explain claims about nature/reality. I don’t mind, but I don’t know what to infer from that. Do you agree?


A good example is ethics.
Ethics isn't a scientific endeavour but does that make it any less 'real' or 'relevent' to real life?


Strafio
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Tilberian wrote: Strafio,

Tilberian wrote:

Strafio, my compliments on that great essay.


Cheers.

Quote:
I'm uneasy with putting empirical language and mystic language on the same plane. Isn't it important that everyone must live according to empirical language rules most of the time? Shouldn't we attach some significance to the fact that even the lowest creatures observe the empirical rules of stimulus/response in their environment? Dont empirical langage rules take on an added weight when we reflect on the fact that those who don't observe them are no longer around to promote their pure mysticism?

There's still room to criticise other language games, but on practical grounds. Gould's NOMA provides a good exemplar for moderates. His religious practice is where he deals with values and ethics and personal experience while science is used for dealing with what we use science for.

I find mysticism actually has promise in that it can be a great practice to live life through. I think Sam Harris is with me on this one. It tends to be a lot more in tune with the intuition and I believe that mastery of the intuition is essential for practical acheivement. It's often been said that reason is regulatory (our way of checking for errors) rather than creative, and it's our intuition that brings us new answers. Mystical approaches to life tend to be the best at handling the intuition.

Quote:
It just feels to me that a paradigm which is so necessary must be closer to truth than one which can easily be abandoned altogether. And there's this distasteful odor of hypocrisy that hovers around mystics every time they balance their chequebooks or take a bite of food.

I should make a slight distinction here:
Two different language games are two different practices.
Two different paradigms are two different background 'assumptions' within the same language game. So Aristotle, Newton and Einstein were all playing the same scientific language game but each brought a new paradigm to the table that changed the face of physics of the time.

So a bad paradigm is to be ditched, and where I'm defending theists here is that there is no clear cut way of evaluating a paradigm, that it's a gradual process of finding that it no longer works. So the fact that a theist is holding to a bad paradigm needn't mean that they are being irrational... it's just that they're holding to a bad assumption which will take gradual contemplation rather than a straight out argument to overcome.
Fundamentalists tend to be the ones whose differences are in paradigms.

Moderates are more likely to agree with the atheist in physics but will point out that there's more to life than what science tells us, and that various other 'language games' have practices that are beneficial to life. That's why the moderate are more likely to defend their practice on pragmatic grounds rather than defend their beliefs on grounds of truth, and are happy to admit of faith in that respect.


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Strafio Said: "The fact

Strafio Said: "The fact that an 'opponent' would abuse the argument, that doesn't make it false."

Well, in my example, the "opponent" isn't using the same argument, but using their own argument to accomplish the same end as this argument - to have a way to dismiss the viewpoint of others as irrelevent, even if it is sound. You are basically saying you don't have to play with them because they aren't playing the same game (even though both are attempting to prove what's right about the issue of the existence of god). That's the same thing they do, exactly.

Strafio Said: "So if a person's religious practice isn't based in scientific claims then it is wrong to evaluate by scientific methods."

What do you mean by scientific claims/methods here - do you mean just empirical experiments? Is it being implied that theoretical physics is not science because it cannot regularly fall back on empirical experiments? It falls back on theoretical mathematics. The base postulates that math is built on cannot be defined without being circular. Mathematics is the universal language that everyone can agree on. Descartes was the one, with his system of doubt that set the stage for scientific deduction, which paved the way for Newton, who developed new math (with Leibniz?) for it's use with the physical world... which is not based on the physical, but on reasoning.

Overall, it seems illogical to say that religion is irrational, so we should reject it, but even if/when it does have rational arguments they should be ignored because they aren't allowed to play that game. So, if rationality doesn't apply to them, then there is no rational justification in which to reject their beleif systems and they don't need one in order to justify them. Then it's just coming down to the game of "my beleifs (science) is better than yours (relgion)." That gets noone anywhere if progress is what is sought.

I am not in defense of religion here, I just find this to be a weak argument.


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TheDalbster wrote: Well, in

TheDalbster wrote:
Well, in my example, the "opponent" isn't using the same argument, but using their own argument to accomplish the same end as this argument - to have a way to dismiss the viewpoint of others as irrelevent, even if it is sound. You are basically saying you don't have to play with them because they aren't playing the same game (even though both are attempting to prove what's right about the issue of the existence of god). That's the same thing they do, exactly.

I never said anything like that.
I said something analogous to that if you are playing the theist at poker then to accuse them of breaking the rules of chess would just be silly. If we are to criticise theistic claims properly then we need to criticise them in the right context. Some theists make claims that are scientifically verifiable/falsifiable and are therefore evaluable through scientific reasoning. But we shouldn't demand upfront that all religious belief be scientific, as that could be missing the point of their practice.

Quote:
What do you mean by scientific claims/methods here - do you mean just empirical experiments? Is it being implied that theoretical physics is not science because it cannot regularly fall back on empirical experiments?

Ofcourse not. But it still has an empirical ontology.
Morality, in comparison, doesn't. We don't deal with moral claims scientifically because they are a different type of question.

Quote:
Overall, it seems illogical to say that religion is irrational, so we should reject it, but even if/when it does have rational arguments they should be ignored because they aren't allowed to play that game.

Who said anything about 'allowed'?
I was saying that just because a religion might not be scientific, that doesn't make it irrational. And any arguments given should be criticised in the correct context. So if they make a move in chess then don't accuse them of breaking the rules of checkers.

Quote:
So, if rationality doesn't apply to them, then there is no rational justification in which to reject their beleif systems and they don't need one in order to justify them. Then it's just coming down to the game of my beleifs (science) is better than yours (relgion). That gets noone anywhere if progress is what is sought.

Ofcourse not. We can rationally criticise/justify different practices on pragmatic grounds.

Quote:
I am not in defense of religion here, I just find this to be a weak argument that won't go very far with theologens - who are rigorously trained in reason and could most easily explain why it does apply to their system of beliefs - though I don't think one person can speak for every relgious person.

Lol! I was actually defending theists with this essay.
The main point is that even if they fail to justify their belief in empirical terms, within physics and metaphysics, that doesn't necessarily make them irrational as they might not be thinking in terms of physics and metaphysics in the first place. So we should judge their claims in the right context, rather than demanding that they think in terms of science.

See where I'm coming from now? Smiling


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Strafio wrote:

Strafio wrote:
Then those symbols would form a language.
In each case, it would be the rules of the language that determined the rules of logic,

Ok sure I agree with this. But I think this ‘logic language,’ like the axioms of logic, wouldn’t be equal to other languages, in that this ‘logic language’ will transcend and dictate all over language.
In any case, I don’t disagree that language is important; I just disagree with how far Wittgenstein took it.

Strafio wrote:
Just like that if you follows the rules of logic properly then there shouldn't be a problem. If it was that obvious and easy!

My point is simply that I don’t think it needs to go as far as Wittgenstein took it. Understanding the context of the issue and definitions of the terms used is all that is need in my view.

Strafio wrote:
This is an example of reductive physicalism.

Are you disagreeing that all things are physical, matter and energy?

Strafio wrote:
It identifies a mental concept (e.g. belief) with a physical concept (in this case a state of the brain) and in doing so pre-supposes that the belief is an empirical object that exists as a physical stucture.

But this is precisely the point – a belief is merely chemical signals in a brain.


Strafio wrote:
This probably isn't the topic to go into a "Reductive Physicalism Vs Anomalous Monism" debate so I'm just going to try and get you to see how atleast potentially that mental concepts could be from a different language game to physical concepts.

I’ve not disagreed that there is a difference between psychological and physical things in person, i.e. say a belief and a movement, as I described in my previous post. I just hold that in the end both are physical in the brain.

Strafio wrote:
If someone points to an object or described the world around them, this is the kind of language game we are using when we do physics. When we talk about someone's mind we are describing experiences in relation as to how they affect our body and behaviour. When we sweat, there will be a physical explanation (hormones released, nerves affected, pores opened etc) and a psychological explanation (the person was stressed, scared etc)

The psychological explanation need not refer to physical states as they might be defined purely as our way of explaining behaviour. (and not looking for a causal explanation, but playing the game of behaviour prediction and making sense of it like that.)

But the psychological explanations are still rooted in the physical brain. They are still physical responses. Being stressed or scared is the chemical reactions in the brain changing as per certain stimuli.

Strafio wrote:
If so then the reductive physicalist is completely off the mark as their most fundamental assumption is false.

In order to show it is false you’d have to show that everything is not in the end material/physical, matter and energy?

Topher wrote:
2+2=4 isn’t supernatural, since was your premise.

Strafio wrote:
Read the context again.
I said something about a conceptual investigation and then you talked about confirming it with data. So the 2+2=4 was an example of a conceptual truth. (you probably didn't mean it like that, like I said, I was nit-picking!)

You said: “But the problems with supernaturalism aren't evidencial - they are a priori conceptual.”

I said: “Yes, but we can make predictions on the concepts, then physically look for evidence to see if they are true.”

I was talking about supernatural concepts, as per your premise.

Strafio wrote:
The theist is not necessarily being irrational.

Right, they’re not necessarily being irrational, you just seem to underestimate just how many are. I come across far more of them ones than the rational ones.

Strafio wrote:
It's been shown that they can come to a theistic conclusion through honest investigation

Right. This doesn’t make them irrational, this just means they made an error. What makes them irrational is if they continue to hold to their view/argument even after being shown how it is wrong, and being shown how their opponents is correct. This is what BobSpence1 was saying.

Strafio wrote:
Ah, but what is is that they are trying to prove here?

They may not be explicitly trying to prove there belief, as in, “this proves my belief…” but they are subtly inferring proof.

Strafio wrote:
To this effect their feelings are evidence.

And we can point out that feelings are not evidence. The only thing ‘feelings’ evidence is that you’re having a feeling! You can’t draw any other conclusion from that alone.

Strafio wrote:
Otherwise, to demand that they talk in terms of physics is missing the point and begging all sorts of questions against them, as their religious practice is for areas of life where science has no relevence. (e.g. ethics)

I’m not saying they have to talk in terms of science, I’m saying that we can response via the scientific method/scientific knowledge, if there claim encroaches on science, i.e. nature/reality.

Strafio wrote:
A good example is ethics.
Ethics isn't a scientific endeavour but does that make it any less 'real' or 'relevent' to real life?

Sure, science for the most part doesn’t play a role in ethics (although I think it can in some issues influence ethical decisions) however we can still call them on claims that ethics/morals derive from their religion/god by scientifically evaluating the truth of their religion and its claims, in addition to looking the scientific basis of morality.

Strafio wrote:
I find mysticism actually has promise in that it can be a great practice to live life through. I think Sam Harris is with me on this one.

Well I agree that we can be spiritual in a sceptical, rational manner, influenced by scientific knowledge. I think we should devorce faith/irrationality from spirituality. I've no problem with it in this sense. I think Tilberian was referring to mysticism in is present, popular sense and in this case I agree with him, it should not be put on the same level as science and scepticism.

Strafio wrote:
I said something analogous to that if you are playing the theist at poker then to accuse them of breaking the rules of chess would just be silly.

If a theist is playing poker, and they think they’re playing blackjack, we should deal with them according to the rules of poker, right, not blackjack?

 

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


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Topher wrote: Ok sure I

Topher wrote:
Ok sure I agree with this. But I think this ‘logic language,’ like the axioms of logic, wouldn’t be equal to other languages, in that this ‘logic language’ will transcend and dictate all over language.

The early Wittgenstein who wrote the Tractatus might've agreed with you, but he certainly changed his mind on this later, and I think that most modern philosophers agree with him on this.
The axioms of logic follow from the rules of language.
The law of non-contradiction, for example, follows from the meanings of the words 'and' and 'not' and these meanings are determined by how we use these words. Having said that, as we tend to use the words 'and' and 'not' uniformly across all language games, the law of non-contradiction appears to apply to all. I can't think of an alternate use to the words 'not' or 'and', although advocates of dialetheism appear to believe so.

Quote:
My point is simply that I don’t think it needs to go as far as Wittgenstein took it. Understanding the context of the issue and definitions of the terms used is all that is need in my view.

All Wittgenstein did was point out some common misconceptions due to confusing the context. Whether he was right or not is up to your own study ofcourse. Smiling

Quote:
Are you disagreeing that all things are physical, matter and energy?

Nope. Within the empirical language game, all things are physical. But we are not always using the empirical language game for the task at hand.

Quote:
But this is precisely the point – a belief is merely chemical signals in a brain.

It is? There are philosophers out there who agree with you, but it's not something obvious taken for granted. You know how I disagree.

Quote:
I’ve not disagreed that there is a difference between psychological and physical things in person, i.e. say a belief and a movement, as I described in my previous post. I just hold that in the end both are physical in the brain.

I know. This is reductive physicalism and what I disagree with. Your argument from materialism doesn't work because materialism only applies within the empirical language game while I'm saying that mental concepts can't be translated to empirical objects.

Quote:
In order to show it is false you’d have to show that everything is not in the end material/physical, matter and energy?

To repeat what I said earlier, everything within the empirical language game is material/physical but that's not that only language game we play.

Quote:
You said: “But the problems with supernaturalism aren't evidencial - they are a priori conceptual.”

I said: “Yes, but we can make predictions on the concepts, then physically look for evidence to see if they are true.”

I was talking about supernatural concepts, as per your premise.

And I was saying that supernatural is supported or discredited a priori/conceptually, so supporting evidence is irrelevent. (A bit like how evidence is irrelevent to a maths or logic problem.)

Quote:
Right, they’re not necessarily being irrational, you just seem to underestimate just how many are. I come across far more of them ones than the rational ones.

I think you over-estimate! Sticking out tongue
I think that most of MAP agreed that much of the resistance against your views came from how you were expressing/presenting them, rather than the views you were putting forward.

Quote:
They may not be explicitly trying to prove there belief, as in, “this proves my belief…” but they are subtly inferring proof.

I think that they use belief in a different way.
(Ckava has made this point a couple of times.)
What they are really advocating is their practice.

Quote:
And we can point out that feelings are not evidence. The only thing ‘feelings’ evidence is that you’re having a feeling! You can’t draw any other conclusion from that alone.

But feelings are evidence in this context.
Remember they are advocating their way of life.
If they are feeling happy and enlightened then that's evidence that their way of life is working. If their faith took them out of a depression then that's clear evidence that their faith is working for them.

Quote:
I’m not saying they have to talk in terms of science, I’m saying that we can response via the scientific method/scientific knowledge, if there claim encroaches on science, i.e. nature/reality.

I almost agree... my thoughts on this are complicated so I need to come back to you on this one. Smiling

Quote:
Sure, science for the most part doesn’t play a role in ethics (although I think it can in some issues influence ethical decisions) however we can still call them on claims that ethics/morals derive from their religion/god by scientifically evaluating the truth of their religion and its claims, in addition to looking the scientific basis of morality.

So my point is that many religious beliefs are a bit like morality in that they don't interact with science. (Buddhism, in my opinion, is the perfect model of mystical religious practice.) Even where these kinds of religion make claims that are in principle evaluable by science, they're not supposed to be as their purpose isn't to be accurate but to be both poetic and believable. (giving a psychological effect of the 'beauty' of poetry and the 'realness' of reality.)

On the issue of fundy morality, I think that it is better to attack their conception of morality directly using arguments like the Euthyphro. After all, their beliefs in reality are more motivated in their morality. (they see losing faith as betraying God, or rebelliousness and disobedience, so I think we should fight them on moral grounds rather than truth grounds.)

Quote:
Tilberian was referring to mysticism in is present, popular sense and in this case I agree with him, it should not be put on the same level as science and scepticism.

I guess I'm not familiar with mysticism in the popular sense.
Is it like magic and superstition?
I don't mean put it on the same level either, just that they should be taken for what they are. Where mysticism is criticised it should be criticised on pragmatic grounds, rather than for not being 'scientific'.

Quote:
If a theist is playing poker, and they think they’re playing blackjack, we should deal with them according to the rules of poker, right, not blackjack?

Indeed. Part of the debate would be to work out what game they are playing.


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Strafio wrote: The law of

Strafio wrote:
The law of non-contradiction, for example, follows from the meanings of the words 'and' and 'not' and these meanings are determined by how we use these words. Having said that, as we tend to use the words 'and' and 'not' uniformly across all language games, the law of non-contradiction appears to apply to all. I can't think of an alternate use to the words 'not' or 'and', although advocates of dialetheism appear to believe so.

Yeah this was what I was tying to say… “language games” are irrelevant to the axioms of logic.

Strafio wrote:
All Wittgenstein did was point out some common misconceptions due to confusing the context.

Yeah, and it took him two books to do this! lol Sticking out tongue
I just think he made a big think over it, certainly bigger then what I needs to be.

I agree we need to understand context in order to avoid misconceptions, I don’t quite agree with his use of ‘context’ or ‘language game,’ for example, I think it is a lot more blurred than he presents it, and can cannot be simply clearly separated in all cases.

Topher wrote:
Are you disagreeing that all things are physical, matter and energy?

Strafio wrote:
Nope. Within the empirical language game, all things are physical. But we are not always using the empirical language game for the task at hand.

I’m not talking language here. I’m talking reality. In reality, do you agree that all things are physical, matter and energy, or do you hold there are immaterial things.

In one context, everything is material, physical. I hold this is ultimately/objectively to be the case, transcending all language. But in other context, we shouldn’t necessarily recourse back to this materialist view. E.g. we can say that ‘love’ is material, chemical reactions in the brain, and while I hold this is ultimately true, it’s not appropriate to refer to ‘love’ in this matter in every case. Just like the fact we can “unweave the rainbow,” but when we look at one, the scientific view is the last thing on our mind. But if someone said “the rainbow is the work of god” then it would be appropriate to correct them, via science.

I don’t think we disagree over the fact that there are different contexts, and appropriate times to refer to each, but I think we just disagree when it is appropriate, i.e. when it is appropriate to fall back to scientific knowledge and methods.

 

Strafio wrote:
It is? There are philosophers out there who agree with you, but it's not something obvious taken for granted. You know how I disagree.

Well I think it can be pretty much proven that beliefs and feelings are triggered by chemical reactions/interactions; the question is whether there is anything non-physical involved. I agree with Dan Dennett that there isn’t.

Strafio wrote:
I know. This is reductive physicalism and what I disagree with. Your argument from materialism doesn't work because materialism only applies within the empirical language game

As I described above, I agree there are appropriate uses for different contexts, but ultimately I think everything can be reduced to a physical state.

Strafio wrote:
while I'm saying that mental concepts can't be translated to empirical objects.

So you hold that there exists non-physical things? And that these non-physical things can influence/dictate material beings.

Strafio wrote:
To repeat what I said earlier, everything within the empirical language game is material/physical but that's not that only language game we play.

Yes, I agree. But this doesn’t change the fact that in the end everything is material. So while everything can be viewed as material, there clearly are different contexts, hence there are appropriate times when we should refer to things in this material manner.
E.g. viewing a rainbow just for its beauty doesn’t call for scientific explanations, but this doesn’t change the fact that both the rainbow and our reaction to it are physical.

Strafio wrote:
And I was saying that supernatural is supported or discredited a priori/conceptually, so supporting evidence is irrelevent. (A bit like how evidence is irrelevent to a maths or logic problem.)

Well while we can internally refute the supernatural a priori, based on the concept alone, we can still make a prediction and look for evidence to see if it is true. We could say: ‘if X is true, we should expect to see Y.’ Then we could look to see if this is the case.
E.g. a psychic will say they can talk to the dead or a faith healer will say they can heal people. So we take there predictions and set up a double blind test and if they can do what they say they can do, which is exactly what the JREF does.

Strafio wrote:
I think that they use belief in a different way.
(Ckava has made this point a couple of times.)
What they are really advocating is their practice.

How do they use belief then?
I think they are trying to advocate its practice by validating it in some way.

Strafio wrote:
But feelings are evidence in this context.

But the point is you cannot use feelings as proof of the true of something.

Strafio wrote:
If they are feeling happy and enlightened then that's evidence that their way of life is working. If their faith took them out of a depression then that's clear evidence that their faith is working for them.

Yes, but they are not necessarily just trying to state that it is working for them. They often state it is working for them in order to justify/validate the belief.

In any case, we can still point out to those, who just believe ‘because it works’, they it doesn’t prove it is true.

 

Strafio wrote:
So my point is that many religious beliefs are a bit like morality in that they don't interact with science.

This is where I disagree. Since I think religion does interact with science, sometime directly, sometimes indirectly. Religious beliefs do have implications on biology, physics and many other sciences.

Strafio wrote:
Even where these kinds of religion make claims that are in principle evaluable by science, they're not supposed to be as their purpose isn't to be accurate but to be both poetic and believable.

Sure, as I’ve said in this post, there is a time and a place for science. So for example if someone says “I know mystical belief Y is likely false, but I enjoy believing in it for poetic reasons, then I wouldn’t barrage them with scientific reason to reject it. (Although I wouldn’t say a religions purpose is purely poetic, or that believing it is is common.)

For example, I know people who check their horoscopes everyday, despite knowing it’s probably bs. I just let them get on with it and this isn’t an issue. The problem is when people really think their belief is true/accurate/valid, and when they fail to acknowledge disconfirming evidence.

Strafio wrote:
I guess I'm not familiar with mysticism in the popular sense.
Is it like magic and superstition?

Basically yeah. It underlines religion, superstitious thinking, supernaturalism etc. Things like karma, transcendental existence, prayer, meditation, spirits, psychics, faith healing, feng shui, astrology, the occult, paranormal and so on.

Strafio wrote:
I don't mean put it on the same level either, just that they should be taken for what they are. Where mysticism is criticised it should be criticised on pragmatic grounds, rather than for not being 'scientific'.

Why not though? I’m sure it can be pragmatically justified if you were to try hard enough. But if they say it is true, that it is actually works, and that it corresponds to reality, then we shouldn’t refer to pragmatic grounds, we should refer to the method of confirming if something corresponds to reality: science. We can disprove them by setting up a scientific test, or showing them how it doesn’t correspond to reality.

Topher wrote:
If a theist is playing poker, and they think they’re playing blackjack, we should deal with them according to the rules of poker, right, not blackjack?

Strafio wrote:
Indeed. Part of the debate would be to work out what game they are playing.

Right. And my point with that analogy was that theists often think their beliefs or claims have nothing to do with science, but in actual fact, when you look at them, we find their beliefs and claim do have scientific implications.

One of the things theists often do is make claims or broadcast their beliefs, which encroach on science, and then when we respond with scientific refutations for their beliefs/claims (E.g. “Physics/geological evidence refutes your belief/claim”) they just dismiss it with “science and religions are separate, go away!” They hold them to be separate when it suites them (read: refutes them), but they also clime the fence when it suites them (read: supports them).

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


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Topher wrote: Yeah, and it

Topher wrote:
Yeah, and it took him two books to do this! lol

Yeah, Wittgenstiin basically just brought things down to common sense - revolutionary in the esoteric world of philosophy. I think he's awesome, though.


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Strafio, You might be

Strafio,

You might be interested in Daniel Dennett’s book, Breaking The Spell. It relates to our discussion. In it, Dennett proposed that science should be used to investigate religion, but no so much whether religion and its claims are true – this has already been done – but rather, why religious belief remains, even after they’ve been refuted. Dennett calls this “belief in belief.” [From the link below:] “Why do so many people feel that they must pay homage to religious belief even when they are actually rather skeptical at heart?” I think you, to some degree, fit into this category.

“It is high time that we subject religion as a global phenomenon to the most intensive interdisciplinary research we can muster, calling on the best minds on the planet. Why? Because religion is too important for us to remain ignorant about. It affects not just our social, political and economical conflicts, but the very meanings we find in our lives. For many people, probably a majority of people on Earth, nothing matters more than religion. For this very reason, it is imperative that we learn as much about it as we can. That, in a nutshell, is the argument of this book.” – Dan Dennett.

See this critique of a right-wing review of the book, which sums up well the project the book proposes: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/mar2006/denn-m21.shtml

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


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Topher wrote: Yeah this was

Topher wrote:
Yeah this was what I was tying to say… “language games” are irrelevant to the axioms of logic.

Not quite... the axioms of logic are still contingent on the rules of the language game, just that language games tend to be similar enough that the same rules always apply. There's always potential for an exception to the rule though.

Quote:
Yeah, and it took him two books to do this! lol Sticking out tongue
I just think he made a big think over it, certainly bigger then what I needs to be.

Lol! I remembering wondering why he was making such a big deal out of language, and wondering why he didn't attend to the more important topics out there. The truth is, what he is saying is of fundamental importance and can be counter intuitive to people who are used to 'traditional' philosophy. (A bit like TheDalbster said!)

Quote:
I’m not talking language here. I’m talking reality. In reality, do you agree that all things are physical, matter and energy, or do you hold there are immaterial things.

Don't you see, this statement only makes sense within the empirical language game? I think you are defining 'reality' here as what can be described by the empirical language game. So when we are talking about reality then yes, everything is physical.
But minds, feelings, ethics, numbers, values, and many more things don't exist. They don't really have meaning in this context.

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In one context, everything is material, physical. I hold this is ultimately/objectively to be the case, transcending all language.

Transcending all language?
This is just a statement within language.
All your scientific beliefs depend on the linguistic framework that holds them.

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Well I think it can be pretty much proven that beliefs and feelings are triggered by chemical reactions/interactions;

This only makes sense within colliquial terminology.
As beliefs and feelings aren't scientific terms, it makes no sense to say that they are caused. If we are being technical, we say that the physical events that we are projecting the psychological concepts of 'belief' and 'feeling' onto have physical causes.

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As I described above, I agree there are appropriate uses for different contexts, but ultimately I think everything can be reduced to a physical state.

This is the scientismic assumption that Wittgenstein set out to challenge. For you, this assumption is incredibly intuitive and would be very hard to challenge. This is why it took Wittgenstein so much work to try and argue against it.

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So you hold that there exists non-physical things? And that these non-physical things can influence/dictate material beings.

Nope. The 'reality' language game is being assumed again.
When philosophers assume that the language game of psychology is the same as that of reality, they do one of two things.

1) Take psychological concepts as they are and build a theory of reality to match it.
This is the path of dualists, recognising the psychological concepts as they are and recognising that they can't be described physically, so they put them in a reality class of their own, hence the dualism. They come across the problems of mental causation.

2) Take the physical world as it is and try and reduce psychology to physics.
This is your position. This has the opposite problem, as although it has no problems in causation, it has the 'explanatory gap' of trying to squeeze psychological concepts in to physical terms. Some people find this acceptable, but this is from the perspective of trying to explain everything physically rather than the perspective of explaining our psychological concepts as accurately as possible.

The alternative option is to recognise that psychological concepts belong to a different language game altogether. Although I use Wittgensteinian terminology, my position is quite similar to Anomalous Monism by Davidson.

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But this doesn’t change the fact that in the end everything is material.

But the 'fact' that everything is material is only relevent in a certain context. You admit it in the obvious cases like jokes, aesthetics (the rainbow) and values, but it also affects cases that aren't so obvious. I like to think that my comments on contemporary philosophy of mind have illustrated that your assumption that 'beliefs' are 'real' is more controversial than you realised.

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Well while we can internally refute the supernatural a priori, based on the concept alone, we can still make a prediction and look for evidence to see if it is true.

Um... don't you realise that an a priori refutation rules ot the possibility of evidence? Perhaps you mean to prove it to someone who doesn't comprehend the a priori argument so you use an evidencial argument that is easier for them to understand?

Strafio wrote:
I think that they use belief in a different way.
(Ckava has made this point a couple of times.)
What they are really advocating is their practice.

Topher wrote:
How do they use belief then?
I think they are trying to advocate its practice by validating it in some way.

It's funny that you brought up Dennet's infamous "they don't believe in God, the believe in believing in God!" claim as I've come to find it of great insight lately. It has relevence to this question too.
Moderates tend to have a very pragmatic view of belief.
The truthmaker of a belief depends on what part the belief plays in their life. When they are trying to solve a technical problem then science's strict empirical truthmaking is the order of the day.
When their beliefs about their spiritual/moral practice, then beliefs have a different purpose. The purpose is to aid practice rather than to be 'technically correct'. This is why they allow contradicting worldviews to both be true, as both can provide a good practice to the different practitioners.

It's the practice that makes the difference to them.
Yes, they sometimes play that game of 'give scientific evidence', but the purpose isn't like in science where the belief depends on such evidence. The belief depends on the success of the practice. The only purpose of the 'scientific evidence' charade is to boost practice. If the scientific evidence is false then it won't stop them from 'believing' if their practice is still working for them.
If the scientific evidence is true then it won't stop them from ditching the belief is their practice stops working for them.

Strafio wrote:
But feelings are evidence in this context.

Topher wrote:
But the point is you cannot use feelings as proof of the true of something.

Lol! You're assuming the language game of reality again!
Feelings can't prove something physical.
(Infact, that should be blatantly obvious if you took my argument that feelings aren't even in the same language game as physical events!)
What feelings do is give evidence whether we are enjoying ourselves or miserable. Is our practice leading us into a happy life? Our feelings are the only way to verify this! Is it making us depressed? How can we possibly verify that without feelings?

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Since I think religion does interact with science, sometime directly, sometimes indirectly. Religious beliefs do have implications on biology, physics and many other sciences.

Not really... not the beliefs of moderates anyhow.
Fundamentalists make claims of 'reality' and I agree that they are playing the language game of physics/metaphysics and the only logical barrier is the paradigm/background assumptions.

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Sure, as I’ve said in this post, there is a time and a place for science. So for example if someone says “I know mystical belief Y is likely false, but I enjoy believing in it for poetic reasons, then I wouldn’t barrage them with scientific reason to reject it.

Then here is what I am trying to explain to you.
Moderates don't explicitly say this but it is implicit in their practice.
This is why they say that religion is about faith rather than science, but they still believe that reason applies. This is because it is a separate language game to science, so it still has rules but different ones.

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One of the things theists often do is make claims or broadcast their beliefs, which encroach on science, and then when we respond with scientific refutations for their beliefs/claims (E.g. “Physics/geological evidence refutes your belief/claim”) they just dismiss it with “science and religions are separate, go away!” They hold them to be separate when it suites them (read: refutes them), but they also clime the fence when it suites them (read: supports them).

They're right. You're the one that is interpreting their claims within the scientific practice. I've given reasons why they might make claims that sound scientific, but there's this fundamental difference:
The scientific claims are purely aesthetic, a bit like masturbating the feeling of a real scientific discovery. The real truth maker is whether their religious practice is working for them. When it comes to what decisions they make, the 'scientific evidence' tends to be worthless.

This has turned out to be a really interesting conversation.
I don't think we've debated along these lines before. Smiling
I'd made a note to read some Dennet but I wasn't sure which book to start with. Does 'Breaking the Spell' get your recommendation then?


Topher
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Strafio wrote:

Strafio wrote:
Not quite... the axioms of logic are still contingent on the rules of the language game, just that language games tend to be similar enough that the same rules always apply. There's always potential for an exception to the rule though.

But according to you, there are different “language games” (or contexts), but the axioms of logic do not change per “language game, ” in fact they never change.

Strafio wrote:
But minds, feelings, ethics, numbers, values, and many more things don't exist. They don't really have meaning in this context.

But the very point I’m making is that these things do exist, in the brain!

Sure, we can view them in a non-physical sense, and this if often the correct context, but this doesn’t change the fact that they are, in the end, material.

Strafio wrote:
Transcending all language?

I’m just saying that matter and energy being all that exists is objectively true… it is all that that can be said to really exist. Language does not change this fact. While we can speak of reality in different languages and in different contexts, the fundamental point remains.

Strafio wrote:
As beliefs and feelings aren't scientific terms, it makes no sense to say that they are caused.

Of course it makes sense. Beliefs and feelings can be – and are – scientifically studied. We can say what part of the brain causes what beliefs and feelings. We can trigger these beliefs and feelings. For example, there is a part of the brain which ‘places’ us inside our own body, and then ‘places’ us inside the universe. Stimulating this part of the brain can produce OBEs.

Strafio wrote:
If we are being technical, we say that the physical events that we are projecting the psychological concepts of 'belief' and 'feeling' onto have physical causes.

But we are not merely projecting them; we can say they are causing them. We can say that physical actions are caused by physical interactions in the brain.

Although, please elaborate on what you’re saying.

Strafio wrote:
This is the scientismic assumption that Wittgenstein set out to challenge. For you, this assumption is incredibly intuitive and would be very hard to challenge. This is why it took Wittgenstein so much work to try and argue against it.

This is not ‘scientism’ (See this link http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/mar2006/denn-m21.shtml for an example of how accusations of ‘scientism’ are used to merely dismiss arguments)

This is not merely an assumption. This is what we observe. In order for you to correctly dismiss this you will have to present something which is not physical, not material, not made of matter and energy… something which cannot be reduced to a physical state, as per materialism.

Strafio wrote:
Nope. The 'reality' language game is being assumed again.

Let me repeat because you’re clearly misunderstanding. I acknowledge that there are multiple contexts and that a materialist context is not always appropriate. But what I am saying is that everything in the end is material.
E.g. In one context I might view the concept of ‘love’ as a poetic, mystical, beautiful ‘force,’ while in another, I might view is as physical chemical interactions in the brain. So I am saying that while the former context is often appropriate, in reality, the latter context is true.

Strafio wrote:
2) Take the physical world as it is and try and reduce psychology to physics.
This is your position. This has the opposite problem, as although it has no problems in causation, it has the 'explanatory gap' of trying to squeeze psychological concepts in to physical terms. Some people find this acceptable, but this is from the perspective of trying to explain everything physically rather than the perspective of explaining our psychological concepts as accurately as possible.

But this is explaining our psychological concepts as accurate as possible.
We know that the brain controls everything, that it causes are behaviour, our feelings, our beliefs, our views and so on.

Strafio wrote:
The alternative option is to recognise that psychological concepts belong to a different language game altogether.

And as I just mentioned above with the concept of ‘love,’ its true there are appropriate times for different contexts.

However you seem to think that psychological concepts (and other ‘language games’) should be kept isolated, separate. I disagree with this; I think it is too blurred to distinguish between them with such clarity, but even if we could, we should not keep them isolated since they are all inherently intertwined. For example, when looking at feelings, beliefs, religions, etc, I think we must keep in mind the multiple contexts involved, such as spiritual, personal, historical, scientific, political, economical and so on. I think that when we study these issues, we need to understand and include all perspectives.

So with religion, I think it’s an error to look at the spiritual aspects without including and consulting the political, scientific, economic… aspects of it. That’s why I disagree with people who try to say religion is personal and has nothing to do with science.

Strafio wrote:
But the 'fact' that everything is material is only relevent in a certain context.

Sure, when explicitly discussing and investigating reality, this context comes to the fore. But I think it must be always kept in view. I think anything which corresponds with reality and anything which has evidence should be kept in view and consulted.

If someone wishes to hold a view which conflicts with the evidence, with reality, then it seems they have not considered the evidence, or the implications of the view. Even if they have not asserted that this view is true, or proven, I see no issue with informing them that it’s not proven. They might have just been ignorant and have been glad of the information.

Strafio wrote:
I like to think that my comments on contemporary philosophy of mind have illustrated that your assumption that 'beliefs' are 'real' is more controversial than you realised.

Well, they’re only controversial if you equivocate the term ‘real’ to a different context. I’ve made it perfectly clear that the materialist context, while being true, is not always fitting.
I don’t see how I’ve assumed anything. I’ve clearly said that in terms of the brain, they are very real, physically real. In other contexts, it’s an error to apply the term ‘real’ in that same manner. But I’ve not done this. I do however hold that the context of reality is more important that I think you do.

Strafio wrote:
Um... don't you realise that an a priori refutation rules ot the possibility of evidence? Perhaps you mean to prove it to someone who doesn't comprehend the a priori argument so you use an evidencial argument that is easier for them to understand?

Yes, so, take the claims of a proponent of the supernatural, take their predictions, and test them. Do a double blind test. Do something to actually demonstrate that there claim is wrong. If they can see it for themselves, then I think it is better than an argument which they can dismiss as rhetoric.

Strafio wrote:
When their beliefs about their spiritual/moral practice, then beliefs have a different purpose.

Ironically, when it comes to things such as morals, there religion is actually irrelevant.

Strafio wrote:
Yes, they sometimes play that game of 'give scientific evidence', but the purpose isn't like in science where the belief depends on such evidence. The belief depends on the success of the practice.

Yes, but the alleged ‘success’ of the belief is usually treated as evidence, as validation of the belief. Should you ask them for evidence, there’s a good chance they will present the success (while ignoring the failures.) Many will hold a view along the line of: “well it must be true because it works” or “there has to be ‘something’ to it, how else would you explain it?”

It’s all conformation bias. The successes are determined after the fact, because, as I said, the belief drives the observation, and the observation in turn sustains the belief.

Strafio wrote:
The only purpose of the 'scientific evidence' charade is to boost practice. If the scientific evidence is false then it won't stop them from 'believing' if their practice is still working for them.

Exactly, which is why I am very interested in looking at this scientifically, psychologically and neurologically, which is what Dan Dennett proposed… not disproving the belief, because as we can see, this doesn’t really do much, but instead studying how and why belief is maintained even after it has been disproved. This should be next step. Complaints of “scientism!” or “science doesn’t belong in religion” are just underhand ways of avoiding scrutiny of religion.

Topher wrote:
But the point is you cannot use feelings as proof of the true of something.

Strafio wrote:
Lol! You're assuming the language game of reality again!

No! You clearly misunderstand. You’re too quick to assume that these “language games” are distinct and separate. It’s not a matter of a discussion being just “language game A” and all other language games must “stay out”. Often there is an amalgamation of “language games” involved due to the issues under contention being so intertwined.

What I’m saying is if someone says “this feeling is proof of belief/claim X” or “I wouldn’t be feeling this if it wasn’t true” then they are patently wrong. It would be a non sequitur. That’s all I’m saying.

Strafio wrote:
Feelings can't prove something physical.

Yes, they can. They’ll prove there is a chemical interaction in your brain… that you’re feeling something because of these chemical interactions. However the feelings won’t prove whether a belief or claim objectively corresponds with reality.

Strafio wrote:
What feelings do is give evidence whether we are enjoying ourselves or miserable. Is our practice leading us into a happy life? Our feelings are the only way to verify this! Is it making us depressed? How can we possibly verify that without feelings?

Who is saying we don’t have feelings?
What you said is all true. These is the subjective view of feelings. The objective view of feelings (and beliefs) however can be studied with fMRIs, neuroscience, psychology, etc. This gives us an understanding about how the brain and our psychology works, and how it influences or dictates our behaviour. We can study the brain for example to see what part of the brain produced what feelings, then we can duplicate them in the lab.

Strafio wrote:
Not really... not the beliefs of moderates anyhow.

Yes, it does.
For example:
All Christians believe in Jesus.
Jesus-belief has implications on biology and physics.
That is an example of an indirect encroaching on science.
Whether they are making direct claims about the nature of reality is beside the point. They are making implicit claims which have scientific ramifications.

There are other examples too.

Strafio wrote:
Moderates don't explicitly say this but it is implicit in their practice.
This is why they say that religion is about faith rather than science, but they still believe that reason applies.

But the issue is that moderates still believe that what they believe conforms to reality, and they believe this on faith, which is even worse that the fundamentalists, who at least try to talk about evidence. Faith is the admission that you don’t know, that you don’t have evidence, so to continue to hold the belief even after you concede this is to admit you don’t care about the evidence!

Strafio wrote:
You're the one that is interpreting their claims within the scientific practice.

It doesn’t really matter. If someone says they believe X to be true, and X is factually incorrect, then I’m perfectly justified in point that fact out.
The reason you seem to have a problem with is because you seem to draw a clear, distinct line between all the different “language games.” I don’t, I think they are far more related and intertwined, and I don’t just think we should ignore another context. I think reality and evidence should underline our decision making process.

Are you saying X has to be presented scientifically before is can be dealt with scientifically studied?
And are you saying X has to be explicitly presented as being reality in order to it to be dealt with as such?
I disagree with both.
Firstly, most theists do not talk scientifically. I don’t think they have to talk scientifically in order to for us to respond scientifically.
Secondly, I think almost all theists regard their beliefs as actually being true, in that they conform to reality, so I don’t think it has to be presented as factually true in order for it to be studied as such. Otherwise, under your ‘rules,’ the theist just has to learn to talk in ‘tongue,’ in parables in order to avoid scientific scrutiny.


Strafio wrote:
The real truth maker is whether their religious practice is working for them.

For them, subjectively and personally, yes, but it is not an actual valid indicator.

Strafio wrote:
I'd made a note to read some Dennet but I wasn't sure which book to start with. Does 'Breaking the Spell' get your recommendation then?

So far. I’m already a fan of his philosophy. I’ve not read it all yet (I stopped to read Dawkins book… not even finished that either!)

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


Strafio
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Topher wrote: But according

Topher wrote:
But according to you, there are different “language games” (or contexts), but the axioms of logic do not change per “language game, ” in fact they never change.

Yes. But this is based on an arbitrary similarity between language games rather then evidence that logic transcends language games. The rules of logic are always determined by the rules of the language game they are applied within.

This is not controversial in the least.
More or less all contemporary philosophers I have read seem to agree that logic is rooted in the rules of language.

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But the very point I’m making is that these things [morality, feelings, etc] do exist, in the brain!

I know you are. And you are either equivocating or making a conceptual error.
Equivocation
Todangst claims that numbers exist in the brain because abstract objects exist as thoughts that exist as brain patterns. This kind of equivocates on what we mean by exist. It's like saying, "Santa exists, as an idea in my mind!"
When you put it like that, anything we can think of exists.
This is not the kind of existence we are talking about here.

Concpetual Error
This is where you identify an abstract object as having physical properties. Your belief that beliefs are physical states of the brain is an assumption
We are both materialists, in that we believe that everything within the empirical language game is material. However, you are not transporting non-empirical objects into this language game. This is the same error that substance dualists make, that they smuggle non-empirical objects into the empirical language game, notice that these non-empirical objects have non-material properties, and therefore claim that they must be of a different substance.

The reductive physicalist either denies the non-material properties of these things (thereby re-defining them into different concepts altogether) but is more likely to equivocate between the two.

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I’m just saying that matter and energy being all that exists is objectively true… it is all that that can be said to really exist. Language does not change this fact. While we can speak of reality in different languages and in different contexts, the fundamental point remains.

Yes... and no...
Yes in the colliquial sense.
Technically speaking, 'truth' depends on language.
It is a linguistic concept within a linguistic practice.
To say "all that exists is matter an energy" is to have defined all these concepts linguistically, which means they are all dependent on the language game that they were employed in. This isn't usually an important detail and we can just implicitly acknowledge it, but sometimes we make mistakes and conflate contexts, so we must study language games to see where this confusion comes from.

So all your statements on 'reality' presuppose that a language game is in place.

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Of course it makes sense. Beliefs and feelings can be – and are – scientifically studied. We can say what part of the brain causes what beliefs and feelings. We can trigger these beliefs and feelings.

You're missing the point. These 'beliefs' and 'feelings' aren't 'things' to be 'caused' or 'triggered'. Instead they are social projections to make sense of behaviour, rather than referring to physical states of the brain.

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But we are not merely projecting them; we can say they are causing them. We can say that physical actions are caused by physical interactions in the brain.

In colliquial terms that is fine.
Technically it is incorrect.
Sure there are physical interactions in the brain that cause the body movements we call 'actions', but the terms 'feeling', 'belief' and 'action' do not refer to physical things, they are projectional concepts that we use to make social/psychological sense out of physical events.

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This is not ‘scientism’ (See this link http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/mar2006/denn-m21.shtml for an example of how accusations of ‘scientism’ are used to merely dismiss arguments)

Sure the term 'scientism' can be abused.
It shouldn't be used as an excuse to dismiss arguments.
Then again, just because someone has used it intuitively then it doesn't mean that they are wrong.

I, on the other hand, have done neither.
I've given clear arguments to show where your implicit scientismic assumptions lie. So far you think that a belief is an empirical object. You've not justified this, it is an assumption. My reasoning that the assumption is false is a controverial position, but that doesn't mean that I'm wrong.

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This is not merely an assumption. This is what we observe. In order for you to correctly dismiss this you will have to present something which is not physical, not material, not made of matter and energy… something which cannot be reduced to a physical state, as per materialism.

Don't you see? You have merely repeated the assumption here. You say: "this is how we test for something that is empirically real, so if it's not material then prove it."
But I am saying to you: "My point is that beliefs aren't necessarily empirically real. If you want me to prove their 'immaterial existence' the way I would for something empirically real, then prove to me that they are objects of empirical reality!"

Quote:
Let me repeat because you’re clearly misunderstanding. I acknowledge that there are multiple contexts and that a materialist context is not always appropriate. But what I am saying is that everything in the end is material.

Don't you see that 'everything in the end is material' is only defined within a single context? You seem to assume that there is one language game to rule them all, the language game of empirical reality that all the rest are inferior subgame off.

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But this is explaining our psychological concepts as accurate as possible.

No it doesn't. It involved redefining and equivocating them.

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However you seem to think that psychological concepts (and other ‘language games’) should be kept isolated, separate. I disagree with this; I think it is too blurred to distinguish between them with such clarity, but even if we could, we should not keep them isolated since they are all inherently intertwined.

I like this point! Smiling
As it happens, I don't think that language games should be kept isolated. Like you say, we inherently intertwine them, and confuse them, and that is where many of our confusions come from. The way to solve these confusions is to study the context more carefully to see where these confusions arise from. (now perhaps you realise how complex this task is and why Wittgenstein filled many books worth of material in this task!)

My claim here is that you've taken a method of thinking suited to one language game, 'empirical reality' and tried to apply to others when it isn't appropiate. You've also gone on to criticise those who have treated games appropiately because you think that they should apply the rules of 'empirical reality' uniformly. This is scientism.

Clearly you have distinguished in the more obvious language games like joking and poetry, (and Wittgenstein uses such obvious examples to give us a clear idea what a language game is) but missed the more subtle distinctions, like the ones between psychology and physics.

Quote:
For example, when looking at feelings, beliefs, religions, etc, I think we must keep in mind the multiple contexts involved, such as spiritual, personal, historical, scientific, political, economical and so on. I think that when we study these issues, we need to understand and include all perspectives.

Sort of...
Sometimes, certain perspectives are more relevent to the job in hand than others.
For instance, when deciding between two complex theories, the one that you 'like' might have intuitive significance, that it hints that it is more elegant and works better. However, the more detailed analytic work and experimentation is more important.

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So with religion, I think it’s an error to look at the spiritual aspects without including and consulting the political, scientific, economic… aspects of it. That’s why I disagree with people who try to say religion is personal and has nothing to do with science.

Quote:
I think anything which corresponds with reality and anything which has evidence should be kept in view and consulted.
If someone wishes to hold a view which conflicts with the evidence, with reality, then it seems they have not considered the evidence, or the implications of the view. Even if they have not asserted that this view is true, or proven, I see no issue with informing them that it’s not proven. They might have just been ignorant and have been glad of the information.

Possibly... but it's more likely you're doing the equivalent of saying "that wouldn't really happen!" to a joke.
I've already explained how 'belief' means something different within a religious practice compared to a scientific practice. In science, the accuracy of a belief is necessary for its practical application e.g. technology or solving real world problems.
In religion, the 'practical application' is the effect that such a belief has one's outlook on life and personal practice. That's why, in a religious context, a belief will be more likely judged on the kind of person it makes you rather than whether it is 'scientifically useful'.

Strafio wrote:
I like to think that my comments on contemporary philosophy of mind have illustrated that your assumption that 'beliefs' are 'real' is more controversial than you realised.

Topher wrote:
Well, they’re only controversial if you equivocate the term ‘real’ to a different context. I’ve made it perfectly clear that the materialist context, while being true, is not always fitting.

I think that you were the one equivocating the word 'real'.
When you were saying that morals and beliefs were real, you were using it like he rest of us as we do in everyday language. However, when a religious person wanted to say something was real you'd demand that they prove it in the 'empirical reality' context.
I noticed that you were using the word 'real' as equivalent to 'empirically real' and pointed out that in this context, minds and morals also didn't exist.

Demanding that everything that is 'real' be 'empirically real' is what I was calling scientism, and it requires you to either deny or redefine many things. This causes advocates of scientism to end up equivocating.

Quote:
I don’t see how I’ve assumed anything. I’ve clearly said that in terms of the brain, they are very real, physically real.

As I've pointed out several times, you assume that the words refer to empirical objects.

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I do however hold that the context of reality is more important that I think you do.

Hmmm...
I think it's erroneous to give an a rating to different language games. My only argument is that we should be careful not to try and force a language game into an inappropiate situation.
They are important as where they come up in our lives. So if someone works as a scientist then the empirical language game is going to be very important to their work.
Where we need accurate facts, again, such language games are important.

However, you will notice that the best religious practices are the ones that concern themselves least with factual claims and the ones that concern themselves with spiritual practice. This is the major difference between fundamentalism and moderatism. It is why most people agree that religious practice is important to personal life but should be kept right out of politics!

Quote:
Ironically, when it comes to things such as morals, there religion is actually irrelevant.

I actually disagree here.
Some religions claim that their religion provides a factual base for the 'facts' about morals. Religious claims are certainly irrelevent to the facts about morals. However, morality isn't about 'facts', it's about practice. Religious practices can be powerful ways of bringing exemplary moral behaviour out of people. You might claim that this is good morality for the wrong reasons, an in some respects you are right. Sometimes we do refer to facts when making moral decisions, and when we do make of facts we want the facts to be accurate. However, much of moral practice isn't so much about following the right rules or procedures, it's about having the right attitude to life. A good religious/spiritual practice is all about nuturing a good attitude to life.

Quote:
The alleged ‘success’ of the belief is usually treated as evidence, as validation of the belief.

Ofcourse, but it's a validation of a 'religious belief' rather than a 'scientific belief'. Scientific beliefs are validated by accuracy while religious beliefs are validated by the effect they have on you. They also equivocate between the two, especially fundamentalists who will try and disprove other religions using 'historical facts' of Jesus.

Quote:
Should you ask them for evidence, there’s a good chance they will present the success (while ignoring the failures.)

Yes. That is a common practice of people who try to sell/justify their beliefs to others. We atheists do it too you know. When we advocate science, we point to the sucesses and ignore the failures because we recognise that science can go wrong, but when done right there are huge sucesses.
They are trying to show you that their practice works when done right.
Moderates are more accurate with this than fundies because they point to spiritual success in general and why we should 'explore it'. Fundies, on the other hand, are trying to impose their ideas of what spirituality should be and are happy to steal from the success of other practices while glazing over the failures of their own.

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Many will hold a view along the line of: “well it must be true because it works” or “there has to be ‘something’ to it, how else would you explain it?”

And they're right.
There is something to it.

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It’s all conformation bias. The successes are determined after the fact, because, as I said, the belief drives the observation, and the observation in turn sustains the belief.

I admit that there can be a lot of confirmation bias, especially with those who are out to sell their beliefs to others. (I used to do similar when trying to persuade my friends that a Gamecube is better than a PS2!) To say that it is all confirmation bias though... that's going too far!

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I am very interested in looking at this scientifically, psychologically and neurologically, which is what Dan Dennett proposed… not disproving the belief, because as we can see, this doesn’t really do much, but instead studying how and why belief is maintained even after it has been disproved.

This is what I have given to you, alongside why they are also doing the right thing. You assume that religious practice should be treated the same way as scientific practice. That it should be based on the accuracy of 'facts'. As history shows, treating religion like this is when it fails. People get caught up in dogmas rather than having true experience. The most succesful religious practices are the ones who judge by the effect it makes on their life, and this is where religious practice is valid and pragmatically valuable.

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Complaints of “scientism!” or “science doesn’t belong in religion” are just underhand ways of avoiding scrutiny of religion.

If my arguments are right then these people are actually vindicated. They could intuitively see that people who evaluated religion in terms of scientific fact were missing the point, even if they couldn't express their point philosophically or argue for it like I have.

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No! You clearly misunderstand. You’re too quick to assume that these “language games” are distinct and separate. It’s not a matter of a discussion being just “language game A” and all other language games must “stay out”.

Ofcourse not. But the rules of scientific investigation are tied to the rules of the scientific language game. So if there are more elements to the conversation than 'scientific', then the scientific method is inadequate to evaluate it.

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Often there is an amalgamation of “language games” involved due to the issues under contention being so intertwined.

Absolutely. It causes confusions and fallacies all around.
Both sides are guilty of using the amalgamation to sneak equivocations in. This confusion is a necessary characteristic of language being as it is. For the most part, we can just let it be, but if a problem crops up then it might be that investigating the part the language games play in the problem might just lead us to a solution. Wittgenstein's application of linguistic investigation to psychology was genius and possibly solved a problem that was insoluable under previous assumptions.

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What I’m saying is if someone says “this feeling is proof of belief/claim X” or “I wouldn’t be feeling this if it wasn’t true” then they are patently wrong. It would be a non sequitur. That’s all I’m saying.

Sure. Just remember how 'true' can mean different things in different contexts. In the scientific context, a belief is true if it is an accurate representation of reality. In a religious context, a belief is true if it beneficial to someone's life. Can you see how your example is clearly false in the scientific context but actually a valid argument in the religious context?
Feelings are our primary evidence as to whether 'life' is working out for us.

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All Christians believe in Jesus.
Jesus-belief has implications on biology and physics.
That is an example of an indirect encroaching on science.
Whether they are making direct claims about the nature of reality is beside the point. They are making implicit claims which have scientific ramifications.

Right. BUT, the difference between a religious conversation and a scientific one is that the purpose of science if accurate facts while the purpose of religious conversation is 'develloping spiritual outlook', or something like that.

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But the issue is that moderates still believe that what they believe conforms to reality

You're equivocating both 'reality' and 'belief' here.
The idea that belief must be an accurate representation of nature belongs in a different context and 'reality' in the colliquial sense means experience as a whole rather than just the empirical/material world.

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and they believe this on faith, which is even worse that the fundamentalists, who at least try to talk about evidence.

It's the fundies who are in error as they combine that innacuracy of religious thought with the 'strictness' of scientific thought to create a horrifying hybrid that brings us the worst of both worlds. The ideal moderate does science properly when science is appropiate and does religion properly when religion is appropiate.

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Faith is the admission that you don’t know, that you don’t have evidence, so to continue to hold the belief even after you concede this is to admit you don’t care about the evidence!

Lol! That is why faith has no place in science.
However, the practice of faith can be a huge virtue in our personal life. It's a concept that works in the religious context but not the scientific context.

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If someone says they believe X to be true, and X is factually incorrect, then I’m perfectly justified in point that fact out.

Imagine they said that they believe X to be true as a joke.
Wouldn't pointing out that it isn't true be missing the point?
'True' means something different in the religious sense.
Rather than be an accurate representation of the world it's the expression of the importance of X to their experience of life.

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The reason you seem to have a problem with is because you seem to draw a clear, distinct line between all the different “language games.” I don’t, I think they are far more related and intertwined, and I don’t just think we should ignore another context. I think reality and evidence should underline our decision making process.

This is kind of repeating what I said earlier, but to emphasise the point:
There aren't distinct classes of language games and you are right that they are all inherently intertwined. All the more reason to think carefully before applying 'evidencial' techniques because such techniques are only valid within the empirical language game, when it has been mathematically abstracted from our everyday use of it.

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Are you saying X has to be presented scientifically before is can be dealt with scientifically studied?
And are you saying X has to be explicitly presented as being reality in order to it to be dealt with as such?

In practice we can often suffice with colliquial language, but you yourself have often criticised colliquial language for the confusions it can cause. That's why, if there appears to be a problem, we must look deeper and see if we haven't mixed up language games.

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under your ‘rules,’ the theist just has to learn to talk in ‘tongue,’ in parables in order to avoid scientific scrutiny.

Nice point. Smiling
As it happens, I've been looking forward to this one for a while and have a lovely answer prepared! Smiling
Yes, the theist can define their own language game, but language games can be criticised on a pragmatic level. If the theist wishes to justify their language game then they must tell us what relevence this game has to our life, why we should play along with it. Some try to tie it in with our empirical reality game and fail. Others appeal to religious practice, and in my opinion, are more successful.

Strafio wrote:
The real truth maker is whether their religious practice is working for them.

Topher wrote:
For them, subjectively and personally, yes, but it is not an actual valid indicator.

Bear in mind that I didn't say 'epistemological indicator', I said 'truth maker'. In empirical reality, something is true if it corresponds to the real world. In other language games, there are other conditions for something being true. E.g. in mathematics the statement must be logically entailed by the axioms.