Non-cognitivist rebuttal

wavefreak
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More definitions of

More definitions of non-cognitive to add to the list! Laughing out loud
I'm starting to think that it's the wrong word.
My claim is that God has no empirical meaning.
So all the concepts we use to describe the being and behaviour of the everyday world, like objects and relations like causation, God is meaningless in this context... except for the anthropomorphic conceptions...

Meh!
You get gist of what I mean, right? Smiling


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Anybody know where Todangst

Anybody know where Todangst is hiding?  Between this and um... can't think of his name right now... the guy Strafio and I have been debating about the ontological status of supernatural...

This is all up Todangst's alley, and he has a way of saying everything I think in at least ten more paragraphs, with much more supporting bibliography.

(That is a compliment, by the way, Todangst...)

 

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I don't quite think they've

I don't quite think they've defined it correctly...

See this for a better explanation

http://www.rationalresponders.com/a_clarification_of_the_theological_noncognitivist_position

Conifer's paper is good, but with regards to our disagreement, it seems to be only about the distinguishing between "atheism" and "noncognitivism". Many of the dissections of the incoherencies of "God" as a concept which Conifer examines relates to omnipotence, omniscience etc. My critique of God as a concept rests fundamentally on the notion of "spirit" and "supernatural". He does, briefly touch upon the incoherency of supernaturalism with regards to lack of spatial-temporality and such, however, he concludes at the end of these that the correct position is atheism, not noncognitivism, because he says, the correct conclusion is that "God exists" is a false proposition, not an unintelligible one. This seems to me like splitting hairs. I would say that God is defined, it is just that God is described as supernatural, and supernatural is not defined. In this respect, I am not a traditional noncognitivist, because I hold that the reason that we might view God exists as a false statement is because "supernatural" is an unintelligble predicate. In this respect, I would be in agreement with Conifer. I hold the term supernatural is meaningless, so by extension, the phrase God Exists is a necessary falsehood. Honestly, this is so insignificant...it is the sort of thing only a philosopher would argue about...see my signature.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Wavefreak, This is

Wavefreak,

This is certainly a well-written article. However, I do know of several better critiques of noncognitivism. (This is not meant to take credit away from Conifer's work -- for being an undergrad, his paper is fantastic.)

The fact is, hardly any philosophers still defend noncognitivism (whether in metaethics or in philosophy of religion). And virtually all atheists even reject it when it comes to discourse about God (Conifer himself is a nontheist). I was puzzled, therefore, to see articles like Todangst's being defended by so many people here. From interacting with a few of them now, I can tell they haven't really been studying the relevant philosophical literature in detail.

Cheers,

Gavagai 

 

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wavefreak wrote: Found

wavefreak wrote:

Found this:

http://www.sewanee.edu/philosophy/Journal/Archives/2002/Conifer.htm

 

I assume there are rebuttals to this rebuttal. Care to illuminate?

Well the rebuttal of logical positivism in general that I'm most familiar with is Deconstruction and its descendants (structuralism, semiotics). 

In a nutshell, these schools of thinking say that the meanings of  words are not determined by their reference to empirical reality (or an abstract system of absolute correspondences) but rather by their reference to the author, the audience, and the context of discourse.

So in order to be truly "meaningless," a word would have to be true nonsense--a random string of letters that did not communicate any information to any audience ever.  Terms like "God" still mean something, even if that meaning doesn't fit the definition of "cognitively meaningful" in the context of logical positivism--and even if nobody can entirely encapsulate what that meaning is.

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I agree, Textom. I also

I agree, Textom. I also concured with the writer of the paper, as you will note from my first post. 

A side note, I am not a traditional TN. I do not believe that God is a meaningless term. However, I believe that supernatural and spiritual are meaningless, so saying that God is supernatural is equivocant to saying that "God exists" is a false statement, not a false statement. Honestly, like I said, this is the sort of the thing that only philosophers could find interesting, whether a statement is false or meaningless. One of things I argued was that since the term supernatural is postulated as a noun, but does not make reference to any positive concept, it is more or less a nonsensical string of letters, it is just that most people do not acknowledge it, much like if I went to a pet shop and asked to purchase a "Fonkle"

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Fair enough, Deludedgod. I

Fair enough, Deludedgod.

I think our difference still lie in two areas:

1. Under the influence of linguistic philosophers since Wittgenstein,  I don't consider any relationship between "positive concept" and meaning to be useful.  The distinction between what's being referred to here as "positive concepts" and other types of concepts in categorizing classes of meaning is something I only found out about by studying backward into old-fashioned styles of philosophy of language.  This stuff isn't used anymore--it's been superseded by things like intentionality, consequence and discourse contexts.

2. I don't think the position "'God is supernatural is equivalent to saying that "God exists" is a false statement" is a necessary argument to make. Although it can be shown to be valid within the context of Tod's positivist assumptions, it tends to work against your rhetorical purpose by (1) confusing/alienating that part of the audience that doesn't understand it and (2) giving rise to tangential arguments about the assumptions by that part of the audience that does understand it.  Even if you can convince everybody of the validity of the argument within its scope, at the end of the day the argument is still unsound applied outside its scope.

Overall I think the argument "there is no good evidence for the existence of God" is a stronger argument that doesn't require as many shared assumptions and leads to a more tenable rhetorical position. 

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Is it important to have

Is it important to have names for things that don't exist?

There are a lot more of them than things that do... but what purpose would it serve?


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Textom wrote: 1. Under the

Textom wrote:

1. Under the influence of linguistic philosophers since Wittgenstein,  I don't consider any relationship between "positive concept" and meaning to be useful.

 Nor do I, except, critically, in the cases of literal reference of nouns and adjectives. And, more critically, in the predicate of a logical statement, such as "supernatural things exist". If supernatural is not defined, this is invalid. I believe I pointed this out when I wrote:

 

deludedgod wrote:

Eliminative lack of definition: We define the supernatural solely in negative terms relative to naturalism. Thus, while the natural refers to spatial, temporal, tangible, and physical, we refer to the supernatural as atemporal, non-spatial, transcendent of physicality, intangible, incorporeal, insubstantial etc.

But, we haven’t actually defined what supernatural is. We’ve defined what it is not. But by itself, this is incoherent. So...what is it? Does the term supernatural have any cognitive meaning? If it is a noun, it should be representing a concept. What concept is it representing? We have seen what concept it is not representing, but have not been told what the term supernatural refers to. It is, as of yet, undefined. Supernatural can also be used as an adjective. It is a concept, hence it must describe something. As an adjective (ie “supernatural beings”) we would presume that the term supernatural refers to what something is ie giving it properties. For example, “blue” is a property, so is “happy”. Supernatural...well, unless you can correct me, really isn’t a descriptive term at all, it is devoid of meaning. It is only referred to as a negative concept against “natural”. The word “natural” does have positive meaning. However, the word supernatural has no meaning, it is defined only as an absence of or a transcendence of natural properties, hence it has no properties of its own to speak of!

And with regards to (2), obviously, what is the point of me arguing with a theist regarding a word neither of us has any idea what it means? 

 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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deludedgod wrote: Textom

deludedgod wrote:

Textom wrote:

1. Under the influence of linguistic philosophers since Wittgenstein, I don't consider any relationship between "positive concept" and meaning to be useful.

Nor do I, except, critically, in the cases of literal reference of nouns and adjectives. And, more critically, in the predicate of a logical statement, such as "supernatural things exist". If supernatural is not defined, this is invalid.

Hmmm, I can tell something I'm trying to stay still isn't working the way I want because this isn't the response I was expecting.  Let me try again.

It appears that you're saying that terms that are not defined are meaningless, and any statement about such terms is therefore false.  This assumption is consistent with the school of philosophy called logical positivism.

Since the heyday of logical positivism in the early 20th century, a bunch of philosophers and rhetoricians have come along and said that whether or not a term is "defined" is not a function of whether or not it denotes anything in the objective environment.  That view was seen as too limiting and not really descriptive of the way language works.  Instead, words are defined, for example, by how they function in a discourse context (Deconstruction) or by what they do (Speech Act Theory).

So under these more recent ideas, whether or not a statement such as "supernatural things exist" is not determined to be meaningful as a function of whether or not "supernatural" can be defined in positive terms.   It doesn't matter whether or not "supernatural" can be defined.  The meaning of the statement is determined by, for example, who says it to whom in what language and context (Deconstruction) or by what consequences and outcomes result from it (Speech Act).

Does that make sense? 

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Textom wrote: It appears

Textom wrote:

It appears that you're saying that terms that are not defined are meaningless, and any statement about such terms is therefore false.  This assumption is consistent with the school of philosophy called logical positivism.

I am not a logical positivist. I do not reject a priori methods (the cornerstone of positivism). Also, as I said multiple times, I do not necessarily belief terms have define things to be meaningful. The lexicon is littered with meaningful words which do not define things. However, nouns and adjectives do have to denote concepts...that's sort of the definition of them, right?

Textom wrote:

 Since the heyday of logical positivism in the early 20th century, a bunch of philosophers and rhetoricians have come along and said that whether or not a term is "defined" is not a function of whether or not it denotes anything in the objective environment.

And I would not agree with that either. That would apply only to nouns and adjectives. Supernatural is used as both. In either case, it is not referring to anything.

Textom wrote:

 That view was seen as too limiting and not really descriptive of the way language works.  Instead, words are defined, for example, by how they function in a discourse context (Deconstruction) or by what they do (Speech Act Theory).

And, as I explained, due to the fact that it has no literal meaning, supernatural is used in such a way in linguistic discourse such that it makes a standard definition fallacy called equivocation, in this case, confusing literal/metaphorical meaning, as a pointed out. So when making reference to supernatural as literally existing in logical argument, oftentimes the supernaturalist makes reference to metaphorical descriptions and equivocates them with literal reference. This is invalid:

deludedgod wrote:

Deliberate obscurity and circular definition: The various philosophies which endorse supernaturalism often describe it in terms of deliberate obfuscation and misleading and confusing vagueness without coherent definitions. Terms like “vital force” and “spiritual essence” and the host of other incoherent metaphysical references. Terms like spiritual are sometimes circularly defined by synonyms. The “spirit” is defined as an “unseen essence”. To the best of my knowledge, however, these terms do not have literal coherent meaning, hence there can be no attempt to construct logical arguments regarding them unless this is clarified. They are often utilized for metaphorical references such as the phrase “the pawns are the soul of chess”, however, there is no coherency to the literal phrase “vital essence” or “spirit”. What does it mean to make reference to these things as literal existences? What is an essence? Can these terms be defined in ways which are not circular ie “a spirit is a vital essence”?

Equivocation of metaphorical and literal references: When speaking of the supernatural, we often utilize phrases like “entity”, “substance”, “realm” “spiritual world”. This is unacceptable when constructing logical arguments. These terms imply physicality. God, presumably, with the ability to designate itself an entity, would require one to accept the definition that God is a coherent, unified, single being. How is this possible? The very notion of an entity requires a reference point against which an entity can be described as an entity. For example, a human being tends to be viewed as a separate entity from the world it inhabits (subject/object bias). When making reference to terms like “non-spatial” and “non-material”, then in what sense is something supernatural an entity? In what sense is something a substance if it has no physicality, in what sense is there a world? Please don’t say a “non-physical” sense,because that is a negative definition. A positive one is required for coherency. Making reference to terms like “entity” and “substance” and “world” in literal reference to the supernatural is incoherent. Of particular insult is the use of the term force as in "vital force" or "supernatural force". This is an obvious equivocation fallacy, and when attempting to make reference to literal concepts, it is absurd. Force is a physics term. We can make reference to it in metaphorical context, yes, but when describing these incoherent "non-physical" things, please refrain from using this term, as it implies electromagnetism, nuclear bonding or gravitational distortion.

In popular culture, we often make reference to the supernatural by means of stealing from naturalism, like when “ghosts” in horror films are shown as transparent versions of their physical body, or a “soul” as a vaguely silvery smokelike substance, I have to laugh. After all, how else can we represent such incoherent concepts as to steal from naturalism and make reference to physical tangibility?

 

Textom wrote:

Does that make sense?

Perfectly, however, as I noted, the context of the paper is the language of logical argument (ie making the logical proposition regarding supernatural things existing:

Fortunately, we do not have to deal with a great deal of the complexities of theory of meaning, because in this context, we are attempting to make reference to logical, existent beings using logical statements based on nouns and predicates. This makes our job incredibly easy. In the language of logic, things must be coherently defined, literal definitions must be employed and concepts must have cognitive meaning. We can bypass all these complications like metaphorical reference, multiple definitions, slang, cultural reference and other complexities that make linguistic meaning supremely complex.

 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Aha, I think this is where

Aha, I think this is where it is.  Forget everything else I said about categories like 'logical positivist' and let's start from here. 

deludedgod wrote:

In the language of logic, things must be coherently defined, literal definitions must be employed and concepts must have cognitive meaning. We can bypass all these complications like metaphorical reference, multiple definitions, slang, cultural reference and other complexities that make linguistic meaning supremely complex.

In formal logic it is true that you can bypass linguistic complexities.

But the relationship between truth in formal logic and 'truth' in human consciousness is problemmatic at best.

If your goal is to show, within the limited scope of formal logic, that 'statement X is meaningless,' then that's all fine and good.

But if your goal is to persuade humans to question their schema or even change their minds about something, you can't disregard the complexities of human language.

So my issue is not the question "has Todangst successfully demonstrated his point?"  Clearly the answer is yes, if you agree with his key assumption.

(The key assumption I'm referring to here is the one that goes "things which are not defined in positive terms are meaningless."  This assumption is not necessarily true.  The argument is true if you agree with it, so the argument is valid, but not sound.)

My question is, does the argument "the statement 'supernatural things exist' is false" really get us anywhere in rhetorical terms?  I think the answer is that the persuasive payoff this argument provides is fairly minimal, especially compared with the amount of work going into it.

 

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OK, but that being the case,

OK, but that being the case, the supernaturalist cannot validly argue the case for their beliefs by using rational discourse. They might as well just admit that their belief is illogical, hence the RRS is correct in saying it is an irrational precipt, one which can only be defended by an Appeal to magic fallacy. Being that, anyone attempting to make logical arguments for such concepts must cease and desist, and trust me, there are plenty who would try...

To understand why, let us not look at semantics and instead look at the presentation of evidence. Obviously, we cannot present evidence of "hello" or "the" or any other word which we employ as a conjunctive or grammatical copula etc. But concepts for which evidence is attempted to be presented (which are almost always predicates of logical statements) must refer to something and be positively defined...otherwise, what are we providing evidence of?

In other words, a theist cannot even begin to present evidence of the supernatural until they have positively defined it. Wouldn't you agree ? This is why when they attempt to present such evidence, I always stop them and remind them that supernatural is, as of yet, undefined, so they cannot, as of yet, present evidence for it.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Textom, I think this is a

Textom, I think this is a simple conflation gone exponential.

Yes, the relationship between formal logic and colloquial "truth" and "validity" is problematic, but that's because at the heart of it, they are two independent and largely unrelated things.

What todangst is showing is pretty simple:

1) Formal logic is the codification of how humans arrive at valid statements.

2) If you plug valid data into valid logic, you get truth.

3) blah blah blah, God cannot exist if god is supernatural.

Where the conflation occurs is when people start talking about whether god/supernatural/immaterial exist in ways that we can codify within the language of humans

I've always been perfectly willing to accept the validity and meaningfulness of these words within the lexicon.  This has absolutely no relation to their existence in reality, and I don't think that todangst ever meant to imply such a thing.  He will, of course, have to speak for himself, but that's what I get from it.

 

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Quote: OK, but that being

Quote:
OK, but that being the case, the supernaturalist cannot validly argue the case for their beliefs by using rational discourse. They might as well just admit that their belief is illogical, hence the RRS is correct in saying it is an irrational precipt, one which can only be defended by an Appeal to magic fallacy. Being that, anyone attempting to make logical arguments for such concepts must cease and desist, and trust me, there are plenty who would try...

Thanks.  That's what I was trying to say.

 

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Very informative, people! 

Very informative, people!  It's pretty cool. Ask a simple question, sit back and watch the show. I'm sucking knowledge from your brains and you didn't even know it.

 

Bwhahahaha.

 

 


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Okay, good, so we are on

Okay, good, so we are on the same page.  Two things still at issue.

First, if Todangst is really saying, as Hamby quotes, "If you plug valid data into valid logic, you get truth," then Tod is factually incorrect.  If you plug valid data into valid logic, you get *valid* conclusions. Valid conclusions aren't necessarily true.


Okay, now second thing.

 

 I agree with everything up to "the supernaturalist cannot validly argue the case for their beliefs by using rational discourse." 

You can validly argue for anything as long as the logic that connects your premises to your conclusion is valid.
  Your arguments may not be sound (if the premises aren't known to be true) and your conclusions may or may not be true, but you can still make a valid argument.

Finally, the "supernaturalist cannot argue rationally" line of argument is itself unsound.  It goes, if I understand it correctly and please correct me if I'm wrong, like this:

1. Concepts which are not defined in positive terms are meaningless

2. "Supernatural" is not defined in positive terms

3. Any argument for God's existence requires use of the concept "supernatural"

4. Therefore any argument for God's existence is meaningless

This is a valid argument, but the first premise is an assumption. Gavagai pointed this assumption out in the other forum. It cannot be known to be true, so the argument is unsound.

Finally finally, not to call anybody a logical positivist, but premise 1 is a fundamental principle consistent with logical positivism.  There are many many rival assumptions currently floating around that say things more like "Concepts that influence people's behavior have meaning" or "Concepts that interact with a discourse community have meaning."  These assumptions can be used in arguments that are just as valid (and just as unsound) as the argument above.

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Careful, again I must

Careful, again I must reiterate that I did not say that concepts necessarily need to have positive reference. However, certain concepts do require positive referent. I don't think we could call a noun a noun or an adjective an adjective without positive referent, because it is not describing or referring to anything. Likewise, when attempting to make reference to concepts as existent beings, we quite obviously have to make positive references, otherwise we aren't really talking about anything are we?

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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deludedgod wrote: In other

deludedgod wrote:

In other words, a theist cannot even begin to present evidence of the supernatural until they have positively defined it. Wouldn't you agree ? This is why when they attempt to present such evidence, I always stop them and remind them that supernatural is, as of yet, undefined, so they cannot, as of yet, present evidence for it.

Yes, I agree in strictly technical terms, but I think this pattern of argument is overly literal. 

There is a definite equivocation happening when people argue about "evidence for the supernatural," but in rhetoric we step back from the strict literal meaning and consider the connotations and intention.  By "evidence for the supernatural" most people actually mean "evidence for natural phenomena that we don't understand and which therefore appear to be supernatural."  It's standard operating procedure among English teachers at least to give people a pass on this kind of equivocation.

Similarly, you can work around the "God exists" problem by defining a new type of existence for God.  Call it "ur-existence," and say, in positive definitional terms, that it's the type of existence that God has.  So then Theists could argue that God ur-exists, but that was what they really meant in the first place anyway.

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Quote: First, if Todangst

Quote:
First, if Todangst is really saying, as Hamby quotes, "If you plug valid data into valid logic, you get truth," then Tod is factually incorrect.  If you plug valid data into valid logic, you get *valid* conclusions. Valid conclusions aren't necessarily true.

Yep.  Careless typo on my part.

 

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And has a theist ever

And has a theist ever coherently defined this meta-existence to which you are referring? I presume you read that short piece I wrote about making reference to discrete numbers such as mono/polytheism with reference to the supernatural is incoherent?

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Ok, Am being dense here?

Ok, Am being dense here? Will someone please explain to me why there is so much difficulty with this concept? I'm not being rude, I truly don't know.

Quote:
There is a definite equivocation happening when people argue about "evidence for the supernatural," but in rhetoric we step back from the strict literal meaning and consider the connotations and intention.

Why is this even an issue? Rhetoric is dealing with language. I truly don't understand why there's any mystery about how we can create reference within language to things which don't exist outside of it.

Quote:
Similarly, you can work around the "God exists" problem by defining a new type of existence for God. Call it "ur-existence," and say, in positive definitional terms, that it's the type of existence that God has. So then Theists could argue that God ur-exists, but that was what they really meant in the first place anyway.

But this simply sidesteps the original problem. To describe god is to describe his existence.

God's existence = God's existence. Duh.

I know we're on the same page, and that we're agreeing on the most important points, but I'm absolutely dumbfounded as to what the problem with this distinction is.

 

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Agreed. I'm struggling as

Agreed. I'm struggling as to how to construe this in a simpler manner:

P1a: Nouns are words which refer to objects

P1b: Adjectives are words which ascribe properties to said objects

P2a: Supernatural is attempted to be used in the lexicon as an adjective and a noun

P2b: Supernatural does not refer to any object nor ascribe any properties to objects

Conclusion 1: Supernatural is, therefore, in literal reference, not a noun or an adjective

Therefore: One cannot attempt to reference existent beings (nouns) by employing the term supernatural (either as a noun or an adjective) 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Textom wrote: My question

Textom wrote:
My question is, does the argument "the statement 'supernatural things exist' is false" really get us anywhere in rhetorical terms? I think the answer is that the persuasive payoff this argument provides is fairly minimal, especially compared with the amount of work going into it.

I personally think that once we have mastered the presentation, it will be the most powerful rhetoric of all. It won't do much against liberals but I'm not out to refute them. I want to nail fundamentalism firmly into the ground.

Fundamentalists tend to be literalists. They think that God literally does things and that there is a causal sequence between our actions, God's will, and the consequences. They like to talk about God in the same literalistic language we use to describe usually events of the world. When we show that the concept of God has no meaning in this context, religious folks in general will be able to say, "Ah! What about other contexts?"
So in that respect, theology will go on.

But there will now be an easy rebuttal for much of fundamentalist rhetoric. When they send threats about a literal 'hell' and 'literal' punishments for sin, it will be clear that they are trying to bring God into the literalistic context. Whenever I used to argue against fundamentalists on humanitarian grounds, they always used to make claims about literal facts. A perfected 'anti-realist' or 'non-cognitivist' rhetoric would be very useful indeed.


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Strafio wrote: I

Strafio wrote:
I personally think that once we have mastered the presentation, it will be the most powerful rhetoric of all. It won't do much against liberals but I'm not out to refute them. I want to nail fundamentalism firmly into the ground.

Fundamentalism gets under my skin, too, but I think you may underestimate the ability of fundamentalists to adapt their literalism to new challenges. If they realize that supernatural isn't a useful idea they will come up with something else such as a god particle or something. I'm not sure this would be an improvment because then they can theorize any manner of interaction between the material world and the god particle and still fall back on the dodge  "proof does not exist because god doesn't want it to be easy".


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I think you under-estimate

I think you under-estimate their audience.
There are rhetorical reasons why Christian theology has the effect that it does. If they found something alternative then it would have to be darn well thought out.


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It's a solid point, wave. I

It's a solid point, wave.

I think the trick to beating fundamentalism (if there is such a thing) is to somehow demonstrate that it cannot possibly work without using multiple standards for not only god, but everything else, pretty much.  Of course, you have to do this in the space available on a bumper sticker, because anything longer and they'll accuse you of using your big brain to try to destroy their simple, unadulterated truth.

I think I'm just ranting now...

Anyway, I agree with you, wave.

 

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Hambydammit wrote: Ok, Am

Hambydammit wrote:

Ok, Am being dense here? Will someone please explain to me why there is so much difficulty with this concept? I'm not being rude, I truly don't know.

Quote:
There is a definite equivocation happening when people argue about "evidence for the supernatural," but in rhetoric we step back from the strict literal meaning and consider the connotations and intention.

Why is this even an issue? Rhetoric is dealing with language. I truly don't understand why there's any mystery about how we can create reference within language to things which don't exist outside of it.

Hamby, if you're saying here that language is capable of refering to things that exist outside of language, then we are in agreement.  Language routinely refers to things which are undefined or ill-defined, or defined only as symbol or metaphor or only in contrast to something known.  The position of post modernist philosophy of language is that these types of language constructions are legitimate, and not meaningless as logical positivists would claim.

Hambydammit wrote:
Quote:
Similarly, you can work around the "God exists" problem by defining a new type of existence for God. Call it "ur-existence," and say, in positive definitional terms, that it's the type of existence that God has. So then Theists could argue that God ur-exists, but that was what they really meant in the first place anyway.

But this simply sidesteps the original problem. To describe god is to describe his existence.

God's existence = God's existence. Duh.

I know we're on the same page, and that we're agreeing on the most important points, but I'm absolutely dumbfounded as to what the problem with this distinction is.

Well the characterization "God's existence = God's existence" is a little off from what I was saying.  I was using the old Aristotelian "A is a type of B" definition:

Existence is a property of material phenomena.  Ur-existence is a type of existence unique to God.

So like every other term, it's defined as a specific case in reference to a larger category. 

But really my overall point is that an overly-literal argument will always suffer from this weakness: if the person insisting on the literalism won't accept an argument because of a misused term, the other side can always coin a new term to get around the misuse. 

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deludedgod wrote: Agreed.

deludedgod wrote:

Agreed. I'm struggling as to how to construe this in a simpler manner:

P1a: Nouns are words which refer to objects

P1b: Adjectives are words which ascribe properties to said objects

P2a: Supernatural is attempted to be used in the lexicon as an adjective and a noun

P2b: Supernatural does not refer to any object nor ascribe any properties to objects

Conclusion 1: Supernatural is, therefore, in literal reference, not a noun or an adjective

Therefore: One cannot attempt to reference existent beings (nouns) by employing the term supernatural (either as a noun or an adjective)

I don't think the part of speech argument is going to communicate the idea, deludedgod.

Parts of speech are, themselves, artificial and arbitrary constructs that vary from one language to another and don't have any necessary correspondence with logic.  Also, even within a single language like English, parts of speech are not consistent.  Nouns and adjectives are interchangable with minor inflection changes ('anger' and 'angry&#39Eye-wink and there are plenty of words that function as either nouns or adjectives without any changes at all (e.g. "red&quotEye-wink.  "Supernatural" is one of these latter types, that works as either a noun or adjective depending on context.

Also I don't think it's possible to say that any linking of an existing modifier with a nonexistent noun makes something automatically meaningless.   In chemistry class they still teach people about "electron shells" with full knowledge that they aren't literally "shells."

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Thanks, textom.  I think

Thanks, textom.  I think we're saying the same things, essentially.

I know you weren't exactly saying that god/god's existence are an equality, but I was pointing out that existence is not a language-only concept.  Since a description of god is necessarily a description of the way in which he exists, it is a description of his existence in practical terms.  Other existences are not particularly relevant within the set of {God, God's Existence}.   In other words, this set is redundant, even though the category of existence is larger.

I'm attempting to play in the language game.  Within the language of description, there is no difference between saying "God is an infinite being" and "God exists as an infinite being."

 

 

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Strafio wrote: I personally

Strafio wrote:
I personally think that once we have mastered the presentation, it will be the most powerful rhetoric of all. It won't do much against liberals but I'm not out to refute them. I want to nail fundamentalism firmly into the ground. Fundamentalists tend to be literalists. They think that God literally does things and that there is a causal sequence between our actions, God's will, and the consequences. They like to talk about God in the same literalistic language we use to describe usually events of the world. When we show that the concept of God has no meaning in this context, religious folks in general will be able to say, "Ah! What about other contexts?" So in that respect, theology will go on. But there will now be an easy rebuttal for much of fundamentalist rhetoric. When they send threats about a literal 'hell' and 'literal' punishments for sin, it will be clear that they are trying to bring God into the literalistic context. Whenever I used to argue against fundamentalists on humanitarian grounds, they always used to make claims about literal facts. A perfected 'anti-realist' or 'non-cognitivist' rhetoric would be very useful indeed.

This is a really intriguing idea, Strafio, and if it can be done, I'll be the first to congratulate you guys and join in. 

Based on the arguments I've seen and the fundie responses, I think the rhetorical (rather than logical) hurdle that you aren't quite clearing yet is getting agreement on the premise that undefined terms, or terms defined only in opposition to defined terms, are meaningless. I don't think the position is tenable in the long run, and I think this is why philosophy of language largely abandoned it in the second half of the 20th century.

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A few more thoughts: I

A few more thoughts:

I think Todangst's essay here has done a good job of showing why the surface structure of the argument for existence of God is nonsensical.  But back in my Baptist days, the way that I personally was taught to reconcile the immaterial nature of God in a material universe was with the statement that God is beyond questions of existence and nonexistence.  Along these lines, I think most theists consciously or unconsciously ascribe the following attributes to God:

1. God exists in a non-material way.

2. Even though God exists in this non-material way, s/he has an influence on material reality.  The exact mechanism for this influence is unknown, nor is it known whether it violates laws of physics (it's not necessary that it should).

3. The evidence for God's existence consists of the effects of this influence on material reality. 

To borrow Todangst's language, the fact that there is no materialistic account of God does not mean to the theist that s/he does not exist in this non-materialistic way.  Our inability to perform the task does not prove the task impossible.

Similarly, our inability to account for the mechanism of premise 2 does not prove the task impossible to the theist.  As proponents of naturalistic origins of life, we routinely have to say "we don't know the exact mechanism of how it happened yet," and we expect theists to accept that answer.  

So if this is a fair account of what we're up against in arguments, it appears to me that starting off by saying "premise 1 is meaningless" is not going to sell many lollypops.  I think the best point of approach is premise 3--demonstrating that the evidence is subjective, inconsistent, and more reasonably explained by other causes.

 

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Textom wrote:

Textom wrote:

A few more thoughts:

I think Todangst's essay here has done a good job of showing why the surface structure of the argument for existence of God is nonsensical.

Thank you. Please understand that the basis for my argument comes from negative theology. It was the theologian who uncovered the problems with "god talk"; and he did so 1800 years before I could reach a keyboard. The Apophatic tradition has been around for eons, and it's foundations can be found in the words of Paul and even in the OT.

Quote:

But back in my Baptist days, the way that I personally was taught to reconcile the immaterial nature of God in a material universe was with the statement that God is beyond questions of existence and nonexistence.

This is precisely what Negative theologians state. But once you special plead a 'god' beyond coherence, you must remain silent.

Quote:

Along these lines, I think most theists consciously or unconsciously ascribe the following attributes to God:

1. God exists in a non-material way.

2. Even though God exists in this non-material way, s/he has an influence on material reality. The exact mechanism for this influence is unknown, nor is it known whether it violates laws of physics (it's not necessary that it should).

This is precisely where I agree with Victor Stenger - "god" as a supernatural reference is a broken term, BUT we can examine god claims vis claims about 'effects' in the natural world. I.e. your part '2' here.

I put 'effects' in 'scare quotes' because 'supernatural cause' is a double oxymoron. First, it is also a broken term. Second, the supernatural would be acausal! In fact, the very way we'd surmise that something was 'supernatural' would be if we reguraly encountered magic... i.e. events without any cause. We can examine claims about 'effects without causes' in our world even as the term 'god' remains incoherent. The reason we can do this is because I do see one way of demonstrating that a 'god' exists: if the laws of nature were broken in ways that simply defied naturalism... in other words, if our universe were to appear teleological i.e. if a storm hit and only christians survived, etc.... if bibles rained from the skies, etc.

Quote:

3. The evidence for God's existence consists of the effects of this influence on material reality.

Ok.

Quote:

To borrow Todangst's language, the fact that there is no materialistic account of God does not mean to the theist that s/he does not exist in this non-materialistic way.

Perhaps you'd like to say that 'god' is not an 'existent' in the first place?

Quote:

Our inability to perform the task does not prove the task impossible.

We can examine christian claims concerning the way the world works... in this sense, the christian can make coherent claims. Christians claim that events occur that favor christians, for example.

But the christian can never provide a coherent term for 'something' beyond nature itself. It is impossible. Fortunately, these are two different issues.

 

Quote:

Similarly, our inability to account for the mechanism of premise 2 does not prove the task impossible to the theist. As proponents of naturalistic origins of life, we routinely have to say "we don't know the exact mechanism of how it happened yet," and we expect theists to accept that answer.

An inability to answer is simply an inability to answer. Nietzsche once said that all man has to do is feel a need for something to be true for it to be true. But feelings only point to want, not reality.

Quote:

So if this is a fair account of what we're up against in arguments, it appears to me that starting off by saying "premise 1 is meaningless" is not going to sell many lollypops. I think the best point of approach is premise 3--demonstrating that the evidence is subjective, inconsistent, and more reasonably explained by other causes.

Agreed, but on this issue, we do have coherent, falsifiable hypotheses... the matter of 'god' is actually separate in my estimation. 

Nice talking. 

 

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"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


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Thanks for the judicious

Thanks for the judicious replies, Todangst.  I'm the new guy here so I didn't want to step on anybody's toes, but some of these issues have been on my mind lately.

Everything here looks entirely agreeable to me except for one point: 

todangst wrote:
Textom wrote:

Along these lines, I think most theists consciously or unconsciously ascribe the following attributes to God:

1. God exists in a non-material way.

2. Even though God exists in this non-material way, s/he has an influence on material reality. The exact mechanism for this influence is unknown, nor is it known whether it violates laws of physics (it's not necessary that it should).

This is precisely where I agree with Victor Stenger - "god" as a supernatural reference is a broken term, BUT we can examine god claims vis claims about 'effects' in the natural world. I.e. your part '2' here.

I put 'effects' in 'scare quotes' because 'supernatural cause' is a double oxymoron. First, it is also a broken term. Second, the supernatural would be acausal! In fact, the very way we'd surmise that something was 'supernatural' would be if we reguraly encountered magic... i.e. events without any cause. We can examine claims about 'effects without causes' in our world even as the term 'god' remains incoherent. The reason we can do this is because I do see one way of demonstrating that a 'god' exists: if the laws of nature were broken in ways that simply defied naturalism... in other words, if our universe were to appear teleological i.e. if a storm hit and only christians survived, etc.... if bibles rained from the skies, etc. 

 

This is a place where it appears that the argument against takes issue with the literal meaning of the terms used rather than the connotive phenomenon that the author intended to describe (I can speak pretty confidently about the author's intention since I am the author).

I agree that "supernatural cause" is an oxymoron, if you limit the meaning of "cause" to things that result from natural phenomena.  But the theist can escape from this contradiction by redefining supernatural as "unknown" or "divine" with the second term defined as "material effects with a non-material cause."

Or, more likely, the theist hears the argument "supernatural cause is incoherent" as being an overly restrictive attack on semantics, rather than an address to the arguments.  Like when I say "the drapes are green," and you say, "no, they're chartruse." Chartruse is just a type of green and, to the theist, supernatural causes and natural causes are just two types of causes.

Special pleading for God's 'existence?'  Yes, I agree.  But again, I don't think this is an effective tack against the theist mindset because, to them, God is a unique being, and special pleading is therefore the appropriate way to reason about his/her characteristics.  So the coherent terminology that describes God's nature would necessarily be unique to God.

 

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Quote: Special pleading for

Quote:
Special pleading for God's 'existence?'  Yes, I agree.  But again, I don't think this is an effective tack against the theist mindset because, to them, God is a unique being, and special pleading is therefore the appropriate way to reason about his/her characteristics.  So the coherent terminology that describes God's nature would necessarily be unique to God.

Yes.

I think it's important to maintain the distinction between philosophical validity and rhetorical argument, the latter being a much more effective way to bring a theist to the table for the former, in my opinion.

I've struggled over the years with the disconnect that theists, particularly fundamentalists, have between cause and effect, and natural/unnatural.  Once they've decided that there is an unexplained dichotomy, and that our inability to explain it is proof of its existence, they're pretty much out of our territory, and I have yet to come up with a suitably concise way to communicate the error to them.

 

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Hambydammit wrote:

Hambydammit wrote:

I've struggled over the years with the disconnect that theists, particularly fundamentalists, have between cause and effect, and natural/unnatural. Once they've decided that there is an unexplained dichotomy, and that our inability to explain it is proof of its existence, they're pretty much out of our territory, and I have yet to come up with a suitably concise way to communicate the error to them.

 

Cool. Thanks, Hamby. Your feedback is helping me clarify some related ideas.

I think that we strengthen our arguments by recognizing and dealing with their weaknesses rather than insisting on a formalistic rigor that masks those weaknesses. Even though I have yet to meet the theist who has any formal training in rhetoric, I think that pretty much everyone is able to sense two key fallacies that atheists/freethinkers occasionally gloss over:

1. The argumentem ad logicam or fallacy fallacy. Even someone who has never studied rhetoric can sense that arguments that contain fallacies can still produce true conclusions. Just pointing out a fallacy in a theist argument is not enough--it's necessary to follow through with explanations of why the fallacy makes the conclusion false.

2. The argument from ignorance based on misapplication of inductive reasoning. Even if no genuine supernatural event has ever happened in the history of the universe, that doesn't mean it's not possible, and even rhetorical laymen sense this. The absence of examples of a phenomenon provides no evidence, not evidence against. Really all we can say for sure is that there's no evidence (or no good evidence).

[edit] Yay, I finally found the compilation of Tod's essays.  In light of my reading there, I'd relabel #2 as "not adequately acknowledging the problem of induction."  In the matter of the existence or non-existence of a divine being, the questioners are seeking certainty, so the problem can't be glossed by pragmatism or probability theory. 

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We're going off a bit from

We're going off a bit from the OP, but I suspect wave will forgive us. This is a very important topic, and I'm glad to have a sounding board for a bit.

Quote:
1. The argumentem ad logicam or fallacy fallacy. Even someone who has never studied rhetoric can sense that arguments that contain fallacies can still produce true conclusions. Just pointing out a fallacy in a theist argument is not enough--it's necessary to follow through with explanations of why the fallacy makes the conclusion false.

Probably the most common objection I hear. The way I usually handle it is this:

True. Arguments with flaws can produce truth, but how do we find out? We verify the truth of the conclusion by testing it another way, either scientifically, or with another argument. Every argument for god contains a fallacy. This points to god being an invalid conclusion.  

Quote:
2. The argument from ignorance based on misapplication of inductive reasoning. Even if no genuine supernatural event has ever happened in the history of the universe, that doesn't mean it's not possible, and even rhetorical laymen sense this. The absence of examples of a phenomenon provides no evidence, not evidence against. Really all we can say for sure is that there's no evidence (or no good evidence).

This one, admittedly, gives me real trouble. I haven't quite figured out how to explain that there is a disconnect between the valid statement that lack of evidence does not prove nonexistence, and the invalid statement that the lack of a proof of nonexistence is a proof of existence.

Put another way, I can't think of a way to show that all propositions are not equal, and that the god proposition fails on two levels: First, because there are more parsimonious explanations for the actions attributed to him, and second, because there is no logical link between any of our "unknowns" and god as the solution to those unknowns.

 

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Hambydammit wrote: This

Hambydammit wrote:

This one, admittedly, gives me real trouble. I haven't quite figured out how to explain that there is a disconnect between the valid statement that lack of evidence does not prove nonexistence, and the invalid statement that the lack of a proof of nonexistence is a proof of existence.

Put another way, I can't think of a way to show that all propositions are not equal, and that the god proposition fails on two levels: First, because there are more parsimonious explanations for the actions attributed to him, and second, because there is no logical link between any of our "unknowns" and god as the solution to those unknowns.

 

I found this essay of Tod's helpful on this question.  In brief, it points out that even though everyone starts with an assumption, all assumptions are not without a basis. 

I agree this thread has gone way off topic: my bad.  I'm processing stuff and will likely start a new thread in the next day or two. 

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Textom wrote:

Textom wrote:

Thanks for the judicious replies, Todangst. I'm the new guy here so I didn't want to step on anybody's toes, but some of these issues have been on my mind lately.

If my posts to you ever come off as annoyed, terse, just ignore it and say "lighten up francis"... you're not stepping on anyone's toes, you should feel free to ask whatever you like...

Quote:

I agree that "supernatural cause" is an oxymoron, if you limit the meaning of "cause" to things that result from natural phenomena.

I don't see any need to 'limit' the meaning of the term to natural phenomena... I see it as that there is no way to apply causality to a realm defined from the outset by theists themselves as the antithesis of nature, which, is by definition, 'lawful', 'structured', 'orderly'.. .or 'causal'.

Anyway, what you write next is practically a respnse, so...

Quote:

But the theist can escape from this contradiction by redefining supernatural as "unknown" or "divine" with the second term defined as "material effects with a non-material cause."

Yes, the positive theist must redefine the term. BUT he must make sure to avoid simply providing a euphemism that does nothing to actually change matters.

If the theist tells us that the supernatural is unknown, then what? He merely concedes that 'supernatural' is another word for "I don't know"

This then makes every such statement:

"This has a supernatural cause", read as:

"I don't have a fucking clue as to what happened."

Which leads to the theist reifying ignorance as his god.

So much for that solution.

If the theist tells us that the supernatural is divine, then we must ask him what he means by this, which brings us back to square zero... (we never get to square 1), we simply return to the orginal problematic definition.

If the theist tells us that the supernatural is "material effects with a non-material cause", he simply strips away the word games and bares his contradiction to the world. This has the benefit of making his position more honest, to be sure.

And it does allow us to investigate theist claims, ala Victor Stenger's points.... but it does not provide us with a coherent ontology... only a means of knowing what to look for: events that make no sense.  We can look for events that appear to go against what we consider to be natural.

Now, I know some atheists hold this to be impossible: they may say there's no way to know, a priori, what is natural... a 'change' in a 'law of nature' can always simply mean that we are either wrong about the law, or that we have made an error. But I think this is a backhanded way of ruling out supernaturalism a priori. Another way of saying it as that it's placing a limit on unlimitedness, a contradiction.

If there is a 'god' and this 'god' wishes to make his 'existence' known to natural entities, then he 'can' 'do' so by breaking down the laws of nature - miracles. Some atheists might hold that there are always natural explanations for 'miracles' that are more parsimonious than a supernatural plea, but I disagree... at some point, it become prima facie preposterous to hold that an event is actually a dream or a delusion... there are limits to the nature of delusions or dreams, a delusion is usually not multi-sensory, and dreams are limited in scope... we are their authors, after all... 

If the sky were suddenly filled with a face, looking down at us, while bibles rained from the sky, trumpets blared, angels sang, etc. the 'delusion hypothesis alternative" would be severely stressed. If any attempt to open any book made it turn into a bible, over and over, hour after hour, a bible fully readable, perhaps always open to some passage related to the 'existence of god', the 'dream hypothesis alternative' would be severely stressed. At some point, on a Bayesian basis, it would be more reasonable to hold 'god' 'did' 'it' is the better explanation. Imagine a world where storms struck and killed only criminals, while theists were safe and dry. Such a world would provide a grounds for theism.

But we do not live in such a world.

Quote:

Or, more likely, the theist hears the argument "supernatural cause is incoherent" as being an overly restrictive attack on semantics, rather than an address to the arguments.

But this is merely a complaint, not a response. And semantics IS important: if a term cannot actually denote what one intends for it to denote, then one cannot go on to argue over the concept!

But I recognize a valid point in the complaint: the theist wishes to discuss his 'god' with us, he clearly means 'something' when he uses these terms. Well, he can discuss his god claims, provided he refrains from making any ontological assumptions about his 'god'... he must speak of events in our world, and show how they fit into his hypothesis and his hypothesis alone.

Quote:

Special pleading for God's 'existence?' Yes, I agree.

I am glad you do. A theist position must violate logic somewhere... negative theologians swallow the bullet right up front...

Quote:

But again, I don't think this is an effective tack against the theist mindset because, to them, God is a unique being, and special pleading is therefore the appropriate way to reason about his/her characteristics.

But once you special plead, you've conceded that you are not able to follow the rules of logic and reasoning, you're saying that your claim requires special dispensation from them!

Quote:

So the coherent terminology that describes God's nature would necessarily be unique to God.

The special plead does not demonstrate that any 'coherent terminology' beyond 'coherent terminology' actually exists... it merely holds that it does, damn the logic preventing the claim.

I'm not saying that what you hold, doesn't follow.... if one holds that 'god' is beyond nature, then yes, it follows that 'ordinary ontology' no longer applies. But from this, it does not follow that there actually is super-ordinary ontology. I 

Pleasure talking to you.

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


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Textom wrote: I think that

Textom wrote:

I think that we strengthen our arguments by recognizing and dealing with their weaknesses rather than insisting on a formalistic rigor that masks those weaknesses.

Agreed. A careful theist might see that my arguments are not necessarily antithetical to all theistic belief: an acceptance of my claims leads one only to the following:

1) Negative theology is the only viable theology

2) The theist must special plead his way there, and by doing so, concede that 'faith' is precisely what it is: belief without justification.

  

Quote:

Even though I have yet to meet the theist who has any formal training in rhetoric, I think that pretty much everyone is able to sense two key fallacies that atheists/freethinkers occasionally gloss over:

1. The argumentem ad logicam or fallacy fallacy. Even someone who has never studied rhetoric can sense that arguments that contain fallacies can still produce true conclusions. Just pointing out a fallacy in a theist argument is not enough--it's necessary to follow through with explanations of why the fallacy makes the conclusion false.

Demonstrating that an argument is fallacious proves that the claim is unjustified. I believe that is the only point being made, but I agree that if one holds that this proves the conclusion must be false that they are in error.

But again, discourse is about justification, right?

Quote:
 

 2. The argument from ignorance based on misapplication of inductive reasoning. Even if no genuine supernatural event has ever happened in the history of the universe, that doesn't mean it's not possible, and even rhetorical laymen sense this. The absence of examples of a phenomenon provides no evidence, not evidence against. Really all we can say for sure is that there's no evidence (or no good evidence).

But here's the problem: unless you're arguing for a 'god' who likes to play hide and seek with the universe, an acceptance of a lack of evidence justifies atheism, while requiring non contingent faith on the part of the theist.

Quote:
 

[edit] Yay, I finally found the compilation of Tod's essays. In light of my reading there, I'd relabel #2 as "not adequately acknowledging the problem of induction." In the matter of the existence or non-existence of a divine being, the questioners are seeking certainty, so the problem can't be glossed by pragmatism or probability theory.

True. But I appear to be agreeing with myself here!  

Please feel free to comment on any of my essays, I'd enjoy working along with a fair minded theist on these matters. 

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


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Woot! Let's do another

Woot! Let's do another round.

todangst wrote:

If the theist tells us that the supernatural is unknown, then what? He merely concedes that 'supernatural' is another word for "I don't know"

This then makes every such statement:

"This has a supernatural cause", read as:

"I don't have a fucking clue as to what happened."

Which leads to the theist reifying ignorance as his god.

So much for that solution.

I don't buy the leap from "I don't have a fucking clue" to "ignorance is my god." I think the theist separates the actions of God from his/her being. I'd have to see the intermediate steps in the logic between "God caused X" and "X is my god."

Also, to borrow an apt quote again, (I have to say I really love this sentence) "Your inability to perform a task does not prove the task impossible." A theist's inability to explain a supernatural cause...well you see where that is going. Also I don't yet see the logical connection to "So much for that solution."

todangst wrote:
If the theist tells us that the supernatural is "material effects with a non-material cause", he simply strips away the word games and bares his contradiction to the world. This has the benefit of making his position more honest, to be sure.

I'd argue that it's only a contradiction from a materialist standpoint, for whatever that's worth. I might elaborate on that later.

todangst wrote:

And it does allow us to investigate theist claims, ala Victor Stenger's points.... but it does not provide us with a coherent ontology... only a means of knowing what to look for: events that make no sense. We can look for events that appear to go against what we consider to be natural.

Now, I know some atheists hold this to be impossible: they may say there's no way to know, a priori, what is natural... a 'change' in a 'law of nature' can always simply mean that we are either wrong about the law, or that we have made an error. But I think this is a backhanded way of ruling out supernaturalism a priori. Another way of saying it as that it's placing a limit on unlimitedness, a contradiction.

I'm not sure, but I think deludedgod is of this party? I think I remember him arguing that any supernatural phenomenon that can be observed is, by definition, thus natural.

But from my (post-modern rhetorical) standpoint, these aren't vital issues since the application of terms to experiential phenomena is all socially constructed anyway.

todangst wrote:

If there is a 'god' and this 'god' wishes to make his 'existence' known to natural entities, then he 'can' 'do' so by breaking down the laws of nature - miracles. Some atheists might hold that there are always natural explanations for 'miracles' that are more parsimonious than a supernatural plea, but I disagree... at some point, it become prima facie preposterous to hold that an event is actually a dream or a delusion... there are limits to the nature of delusions or dreams, a delusion is usually not multi-sensory, and dreams are limited in scope... we are their authors, after all...

I don't think I've ever heard the delusion argument--it seems weak to me too. But I also don't think I've ever heard a well-constructed presentation of the idea that miracles don't have to violate physical laws.

I turned water into wine (actually mead, which is a type of wine) this last winter. I had help from some yeast and I had to add honey and other stuff to the water, but it was done.

There's no particular reason why it is necessary for bibles falling from the sky to be created out of nothing, in violation of conservation of matter/energy. It is possible to take available components and assemble them into bibles (we know it has happened before). It's theoretically possible to start even with something as basic as hydrogen and make it into a bible. If you have a mechanism for bringing hydrogen from elsewhere and shaping it quickly into a bible and then dropping it from the sky...

todangst wrote:

If the sky were suddenly filled with a face, looking down at us, while bibles rained from the sky, trumpets blared, angels sang, etc. the 'delusion hypothesis alternative" would be severely stressed. If any attempt to open any book made it turn into a bible, over and over, hour after hour, a bible fully readable, perhaps always open to some passage related to the 'existence of god', the 'dream hypothesis alternative' would be severely stressed. At some point, on a Bayesian basis, it would be more reasonable to hold 'god' 'did' 'it' is the better explanation. Imagine a world where storms struck and killed only criminals, while theists were safe and dry. Such a world would provide a grounds for theism.

But we do not live in such a world.

And again here I think is the failure to deal adequately with the problem of induction. From reading your essays I don't think that you, Todangst, are presenting the nonexistence of God as certain because of the lack of evidence. But I think your arguments from materialism are being read by some as more certain than the problem of induction would warrant.

 

 

todangst wrote:

But I recognize a valid point in the complaint: the theist wishes to discuss his 'god' with us, he clearly means 'something' when he uses these terms. Well, he can discuss his god claims, provided he refrains from making any ontological assumptions about his 'god'... he must speak of events in our world, and show how they fit into his hypothesis and his hypothesis alone.

I don't think most theists see these restrictions on assumptions as necessary. I'm not sure that I do either (but I'm still reading).

And not to go all tu quoque on you, but I'm not sure that the materialist ontological assumptions that you're using as a basis for imposing these restrictions is subject to the same rigor. I recognize the difference in the foundations for the assumptions and I think that's a valid point, so give me more time to think about this one before responding.

todangst wrote:
A theist position must violate logic somewhere... negative theologians swallow the bullet right up front...

But once you special plead, you've conceded that you are not able to follow the rules of logic and reasoning, you're saying that your claim requires special dispensation from them!

I wouldn't characterize special pleading as a "violation" of logic. It's a fallacy, but fallacies don't automatically produce false conclusions. For this reason, informed use of fallacies in valid inductive arguments is well within the "rules" of rhetoric. Sometimes the only way to reach a useful conclusion is through deliberate use of a fallacy--like the fundamentally tautological nature of the argument for natural selection. Maybe this is a difference in disciplines between rhetoric and philosophy?

I'm not seeing here where special pleading in the inductive premise is necessarily producing a false conclusion.

I skimmed some negative theology materials and IMO they've given up too soon Smiling

 

todangst wrote:

I'm not saying that what you hold, doesn't follow.... if one holds that 'god' is beyond nature, then yes, it follows that 'ordinary ontology' no longer applies. But from this, it does not follow that there actually is super-ordinary ontology.

Right, I don't think that my line of reasoning supplies any evidence for the existence of a super-ordinary ontology. I think rather that, from a theist standpoint, the possibility of the existence of a super-ordinary ontology reflects the inductive problem inherent in the argument that there isn't one.

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


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I find evidencial arguments

I find evidencial arguments rhetorically lacking.
The reason for this is that there's a large disagreement on what counts as evidence. For some theists, their very existence is evidence. Personal experience counts as evidence. When the question "what counts as evidence for God?" is brought up, it surely leads to "what is God?"
That's why I think that a conceptual/linguistic argument completes it. Alright Textom, here's a sketch of how I would use a linguistic based argument to rhetorical effect.

Step 1 - Accuse the Theologian of Incoherence
I make claims that rather than have a coherent idea of God, or use the word as if it refers to a coherent entity, religious folk have different rules for using the word.
e.g. always use positive sounding words.
This leads to individual statements about 'God' that tend to make sense on their own, but not as a whole. There is no consistent God overall, just correct and incorrect ways of applying the word.

Step 2 - An argument against God's natural existence
The argument starts of by stating facts about cosmology, how the laws of conservation follow a priori from the structure of spacetime. So if God exists, there are three possibilities:
Either God exists within spacetime and is bound by the laws of conservation. (which rules out omnipotence)
Or spacetime/conservation must be rejected as false. (it's bad rhetoric to reject science like this)
Or God must be outside spacetime, beyond it so to speak.
Because of modern paradigms of thought, the first two options will be unpopular so they will likely opt for the third option.

Step 3 - Arguments against a God 'beyond' space-time.
Talk about how descriptive words presume a spacio-temporal structure. So if a God is 'beyond' space-time then to describe him is to contradict yourself.
Also talk about causation, how it is relation between spacio-temporal events. Also, causes always come before effects, so atemporal causation doesn't seem to make sense.
Lastly, use an argument involving the laws of conservation to argue for the closure principle - that every physical event has a physical cause, that although it doesn't rule out there being a non-physical cause as well, it's an unnecessary extra that doesn't make any difference.

Step 4 - Repeat the Accusation
So I will claim that theists talk of their God as a natural being when they want him to 'be' things and 'cause' things, and will talk of a God 'beyond' nature when they don't want physics to contradict them, and lack a single coherent idea of God. God is a conceptual chameleon that changes to suit the rhetorical needs of the theologian in question.

I think that there are plenty of holes in my approach.
One that comes straight to mind is that when I say 'beyond space-time', that doesn't necessarily mean leaving the spacio-temporal structure because there could be another one outside. E.g. the real world has a spacetime 'outside' of the Matrix spacetime and whoever programs the code of the Matrix has omnipotent control of what happens in there.
Something to work on I guess. Smiling


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Textom wrote: Woot! Let's

Textom wrote:

Woot! Let's do another round.

todangst wrote:

If the theist tells us that the supernatural is unknown, then what? He merely concedes that 'supernatural' is another word for "I don't know"

This then makes every such statement:

"This has a supernatural cause", read as:

"I don't have a fucking clue as to what happened."

Which leads to the theist reifying ignorance as his god.

So much for that solution.

I don't buy the leap from "I don't have a fucking clue" to "ignorance is my god."

If 'god' = "I don't know"

Then

"God is the cause" ="I don't know the cause"

Which equals - "Whatever I don't know, is due to my god"

Which means that you have a god of the gaps. Ignorance reified.

Quote:

I think the theist separates the actions of God from his/her being.

Yes, but all he can know are the 'effects', so all he can speak to are natural events for which he has no understanding.

Quote:

I'd have to see the intermediate steps in the logic between "God caused X" and "X is my god."

I think I've given them here.

All I can know of my 'god' are the effects of this god in the universe.

The only 'effects' that I can point to as those providing evidence for my god are those for which I can find no naturalistic explanation or cause.

Ergo you have a god of the gaps. A god that lives in the margin of science textbooks. A god that shrinks each passing year, and faces complete annihiliation if cosmology advances much further.

Quote:

Also, to borrow an apt quote again, (I have to say I really love this sentence) "Your inability to perform a task does not prove the task impossible."

And I love this one:

"Inductive uncertainty, in of itself, is never a reason unto itself, to reject an inductive claim."

Quote:

A theist's inability to explain a supernatural cause...well you see where that is going. Also I don't yet see the logical connection to "So much for that solution."

Calling 'god' the unknown is simply conceding that you don't have any way to provide a coherent term for your god. It's giving up in my estimation. The unknown is merely what we do not know!

Atheist: Can you give me a coherent term for god?

Theist 1: No, I can't

Theist 2: I can! The Unknown.

How do theists 1 and 2 responses differ?

 

todangst wrote:
If the theist tells us that the supernatural is "material effects with a non-material cause", he simply strips away the word games and bares his contradiction to the world. This has the benefit of making his position more honest, to be sure.

Quote:

I'd argue that it's only a contradiction from a materialist standpoint, for whatever that's worth.

Give me another standpoint that works. Again, materialism does not rule out other views a priori for a very good reason: it doesn't have to.

Quote:

I might elaborate on that later.

Cool

todangst wrote:

And it does allow us to investigate theist claims, ala Victor Stenger's points.... but it does not provide us with a coherent ontology... only a means of knowing what to look for: events that make no sense. We can look for events that appear to go against what we consider to be natural.

Now, I know some atheists hold this to be impossible: they may say there's no way to know, a priori, what is natural... a 'change' in a 'law of nature' can always simply mean that we are either wrong about the law, or that we have made an error. But I think this is a backhanded way of ruling out supernaturalism a priori. Another way of saying it as that it's placing a limit on unlimitedness, a contradiction.

Quote:

I'm not sure, but I think deludedgod is of this party? I think I remember him arguing that any supernatural phenomenon that can be observed is, by definition, thus natural.

Well, yes, I agree that anything that we observe must exist, and as an existent, has a nature, an identity, and is therfore part of nature.

But my argument is subtle: it implies that a 'god' can demonstrate his 'existence' by... well.... overturning naturalism. In a sense, if muhammad cannot go to the mountain, Allah must make the mountain move towards muhammad.

And if this occurs, well, how can we reasonably say "Plate tectonics!" My point here is that if our world were to begin to exhibit teleology, then naturalism as we know it would be overturned.

Imagine that I, todangst look to the sky and say "god, prove thyself". God, having heard these challenges for eons finally says "fuck it, I've had it with these todangsts... here we go:

And then bibles rain from the sky, angels sing, every christian with a disease becomes healed, every doubter falls to the ground in pain, and so on...... Saying "hey, this must be natural coz I can see it' somehow no longer flies, right?

I mean, at some point, on even a Bayesian analysis, the scales must tip over to 'god'

This is, in part, precisely why there are theists - to an atheist, a theist holds to a false positive - on a purely Bayesian analysis, he accords much, much too much weight to the 'evidence' for god.

To a theist, an atheist is holding to a false negative. He is not weighing the evidence heavily enough.

Quote:

But from my (post-modern rhetorical) standpoint, these aren't vital issues since the application of terms to experiential phenomena is all socially constructed anyway.

This and a dollar get you a cup of coffee.

Seriously, to me, the fact that the "application of terms to experiential phenomena are (in part) socially constructed" doesn't seem to help your case. To me, it means that you'd have to concede that your 'god' is merely a social construct. I am absolutely fascinated by the marriage of post modernism and religion.... I can't imagine two views more antithetical to each other.... don't you find post modernism incompatable with your view? I mean, don't you as a theist hold that your view isn't just another subjective viewpoint?

todangst wrote:

If there is a 'god' and this 'god' wishes to make his 'existence' known to natural entities, then he 'can' 'do' so by breaking down the laws of nature - miracles. Some atheists might hold that there are always natural explanations for 'miracles' that are more parsimonious than a supernatural plea, but I disagree... at some point, it become prima facie preposterous to hold that an event is actually a dream or a delusion... there are limits to the nature of delusions or dreams, a delusion is usually not multi-sensory, and dreams are limited in scope... we are their authors, after all...

Quote:

I don't think I've ever heard the delusion argument--it seems weak to me too.

It can be a strong argument if and only if the account tends to relate to only one or two sensory modalities, usually audible, sometimes visual. This can and often does explain many purported religious experiences

However, a report that provides multi sensory experiences (sight, hearing, touch) with a good amount of detail, over a good period of time usually defies the 'delusion' explanation.


todangst wrote:

If the sky were suddenly filled with a face, looking down at us, while bibles rained from the sky, trumpets blared, angels sang, etc. the 'delusion hypothesis alternative" would be severely stressed. If any attempt to open any book made it turn into a bible, over and over, hour after hour, a bible fully readable, perhaps always open to some passage related to the 'existence of god', the 'dream hypothesis alternative' would be severely stressed. At some point, on a Bayesian basis, it would be more reasonable to hold 'god' 'did' 'it' is the better explanation. Imagine a world where storms struck and killed only criminals, while theists were safe and dry. Such a world would provide a grounds for theism.

But we do not live in such a world.

Quote:

And again here I think is the failure to deal adequately with the problem of induction. From reading your essays I don't think that you, Todangst, are presenting the nonexistence of God as certain because of the lack of evidence.

I would argue that the non existence of Yahweh, a god who intervenes in our world, who is supposedly omnibenevolent, who threatens non believers with hellfire, can be refuted. But yes, I don't think we can rule out all god claims, a priori.

But then again, we don't have to...

Quote:

But I think your arguments from materialism are being read by some as more certain than the problem of induction would warrant.

These arguments can rule out specific god claims however, particuarlyomnibenevolent ones with the strange, contradictory desire to eternally torture non believers, the characteristics given to these gods require that these gods make themselves known... ergo a lack of evidence can rule them out. 

Butut yes, agreed, these arguments cannot rule out gods who play 'hide and seek' on the universe.

todangst wrote:

But I recognize a valid point in the complaint: the theist wishes to discuss his 'god' with us, he clearly means 'something' when he uses these terms. Well, he can discuss his god claims, provided he refrains from making any ontological assumptions about his 'god'... he must speak of events in our world, and show how they fit into his hypothesis and his hypothesis alone.

Quote:

I don't think most theists see these restrictions on assumptions as necessary. I'm not sure that I do either (but I'm still reading).

Well what I find here is a grounds for discussion. You can provide me with a hypothesis for how the world ought to look if there is god X. You can then show how your hypothesis better fits the world we see.

Quote:

And not to go all tu quoque on you, but I'm not sure that the materialist ontological assumptions that you're using as a basis for imposing these restrictions is subject to the same rigor.

What problems do you see in the materialist ontological assumptions?

 

And again, the restrictions come from the definitions given to us by theists! They are ramifications of the definitions of the terms they use.

Quote:

I recognize the difference in the foundations for the assumptions and I think that's a valid point, so give me more time to think about this one before responding.

I look forward to hearing more. Please undertand that I write to seek understanding, not solely to demonstrate it.

todangst wrote:
A theist position must violate logic somewhere... negative theologians swallow the bullet right up front...

But once you special plead, you've conceded that you are not able to follow the rules of logic and reasoning, you're saying that your claim requires special dispensation from them!

Quote:

I wouldn't characterize special pleading as a "violation" of logic.

It is a violation of logic. In fact, it's just about the most direct and unapologetic violation of logic I can think of (other than ad bacculum).. it states, point blank, that a claim requires special dispensation from the normal rules of logic:

From my logic page:

http://editthis.info/logic/Informal_Fallacies#Special_Plead

Special pleading is a fallacy in which a person applies standards, principles, rules to others while claiming special dispensation or exemption for themselves without providing adequate justification for the exemption.

In particular, special pleading occurs when when a person in logical discourse asserts that their claims lie outside of reason or logic itself.

Example: How can there be an equally godlike Father, Son and Holy Ghost in the same person? Answer: You don't grasp the ineffable mystery of the trinity.

You don't have to grasp the ineffable mystery, (and as stated, your opponent doesn't grasp it either!) If your opponent wants to maintain a belief in an argument, he must provide you with his evidence, not his own explicit admission that he has no evidence!

Remember that the basic premise of rational discourse is to present your reason for why you hold a belief. Stating that you don't know the reason is not a reason. And we cannot invalidate reason simply because reason doesn't give us what we want

nt

From the Nikor Project (http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/special-pleading.html):

From a philosophic standpoint, the fallacy of Special Pleading is violating a well accepted principle, namely the 'Principle of Relevant Difference'. According to this principle, two people can be treated differently if and only if there is a relevant difference between them.

There are cases which are similar to instances of Special Pleading in which a person is offering at least some reason why he should be exempt but the reason is not good enough to warrant the exemption. This could be called "Failed Pleading."

 

Quote:

It's a fallacy,

Because it violates logic.

Quote:

but fallacies don't automatically produce false conclusions.

True, but irrevelant, because you have no grounds upon which to hold that your special plead leads you to truth. To do so is to argue from inductive uncertainty.

We are discussing whether  a special plead violates logic. Logic, as you well know, has to do with justifying when a set of premises can be said to necessarily lead to a conclusion. Logic is about the forms of argument and their validity, not the truth of their premises... truth is a matter of philosophy.

By the way, hope you like my logic page.

Quote:

For this reason, informed use of fallacies in valid inductive arguments is well within the "rules" of rhetoric.

Well, if an argument is valid, then it doesn't commit a fallacy, so I don't know what you are saying here.

As for rhetoric, its a tool for persuasion based not on logic, but on emotions.  I'm not sure why emotions would be a better tool than logic, nor do I see how emotions can get you to 'god' seeing as emotions are merely an expression of a desire. No one denies that there is a desire that a god exist.

Quote:

Sometimes the only way to reach a useful conclusion is through deliberate use of a fallacy

Yes, when valid reasoning fails to give you what you desire!

Quote:

--like the fundamentally tautological nature of the argument for natural selection.

I disagree your claims about natural selection. I don't see how it relies on a rhetorical appeal, and while some like to argue that natural selection is circular, its not a vicious circle.

Quote:

Maybe this is a difference in disciplines between rhetoric and philosophy?

I haven't studied rhetoric all that closely. In fact my section on rhetoric in my logic section of my site is rather meager:

http://editthis.info/logic/Rhetoric

Quote:

I'm not seeing here where special pleading in the inductive premise is necessarily producing a false conclusion.

The point is that it means that your claim is unjustified, not necessarily false. BUT, you also cannot justify rejecting inductive claims on inductive uncertainty alone.

Again, from my site:

http://editthis.info/logic/Informal_Fallacies#Argument_from_Uncertainty

Argument from Uncertainty

This is a bit different from Arguing from Ignorance. Arguing from uncertainty occurs when one attempts to use the tentative nature of inductive claims as a reason, in of itself, to reject an inductive claim. Inductive claims are accepted or rejected on a probabilistic basis, as per their evidence.

Consider the following table:

Continuum of Truth
Absolute truth Most likely true Maybe true Probably false Defintely False
Tautologies Theory of Gravity Kant's Categories "Big Foot" Contradictions

 

Here we can see that whereas mountains of evidence exist to support the notion of gravity, there is but a dearth of evidence to support "Big Foot' Therefore, while both ideas lie along the continuum, they are hardly equitable in truth value. We can reasonably reject Big foot claims, while we can reasonably accept claims about gravity.

freud.gif

"Quite frequently I encounter people who equate lack of certitude with giant inferential leaps. Science deals with probabilities, often quite high probabilities, but not certitudes. It is one of the strengths of the scientific method as it acknowledges a chance of error(while maintaining rigorous standards to establish provisional acceptance of propositions).

It is a mistake to believe that a science consists in nothing but conclusively proved propositions, and it is unjust to demand that it should. It is a demand only made by those who feel a craving for authority in some form and a need to replace the religious catechism by something else, even if it be a scientific one. Science in its catechism has but few apodictic precepts; it consists mainly of statements which it has developed to varying degrees of probability. The capacity to be content with these approximations to certainty and the ability to carry on constructive work despite the lack of final confirmation are actually a mark of the scientific habit of mind." -- Sigmund Freud

Quote:

I skimmed some negative theology materials and IMO they've given up too soon Smiling

So speaketh the positive theologian!

I think conceding that something defined as the antithesis of nature would be unknowable to any natural entity is sound. Besides, some negative theologians speak about god even more than positive theologians... they just say that they are relying on 'faith' or 'revelation' to do so...

todangst wrote:

I'm not saying that what you hold, doesn't follow.... if one holds that 'god' is beyond nature, then yes, it follows that 'ordinary ontology' no longer applies. But from this, it does not follow that there actually is super-ordinary ontology.

Quote:

Right, I don't think that my line of reasoning supplies any evidence for the existence of a super-ordinary ontology. I think rather that, from a theist standpoint, the possibility of the existence of a super-ordinary ontology reflects the inductive problem inherent in the argument that there isn't one.

Yes. Induction cannot rule out such a thing.

But holding to a claim based on inductive uncertainty is a very tenuous position.... it puts you in the same building as supporters of the Loch Ness Monster and on the same floor with Alien abduction therapists and moon landing conspiracists... The mere fact that an invalid argument may have a true conclusion is a very poor grounds for any belief.

 

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


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I posted something recently

I posted something recently about my standard rebuttal to the fallacy fallacy defense, which goes something like this:

"True, a fallacy in an argument doesn't necessarily invalidate the conclusion.  But, to know that a conclusion is true despite a fallacy in this argument, we must verify its truth outside of the argument.  How should we do this with god since ALL arguments for his existence contain fallacies, and there is no empirical scientific evidence to validate his existence?"

(Not to mention that if there were empirical evidence to validate his existence, some of the arguments would no longer be fallacious, and we wouldn't be having this discussion!)

 

 

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

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Books about atheism


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This actually creates a

This actually creates a very funny picture in my mind of apologists playing hide and seek within a logical-scientific playground...

In answer to my question from the previous post, many theists will just claim special pleading again, saying that personal experience counts as evidence for god, even though it's a fallacious claim in logic.

It's like a shell game... where is the theist going to put the special pleading for this argument?  Is it on god?  Is it on logic?  Is it on evidence?  Or linguistics... ahahahahah!!!   You can't find the special pleading, and if you do, it's somewhere else before you can get it under your thumb.

This is the most frustrating thing for me to try to explain.  There is no point in apologetics where there is not a logical fallacy, at least that I've ever seen.  In any other circle, this would be overwhelming evidence that the claim was false, but in theology, it gets turned around and actually used as evidence FOR god!   The recent conversations of philosophy remind me of the god of the gaps in science.  If god won't fit into syllogism, we'll use linguistics... if that fails, we'll get all post-modern on your medieval ass...

Anyway, I'm ranting.   

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

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Need more time to process

Need more time to process and out of time for today, but first a couple of quick clarifiers that can't wait.

First, I'm not a theist by any definition.  I used to be a true believing Southern Baptist, but reading the Bible deconverted me.  Now I mostly call myself a freethinker, but I live my life as though God did not exist.

Second, ack!  Rhetoric is a fullblown academic discipline with its own literary tradition (going back to Classical Greece) conferences, societies, peer-reviewed journals and illustrious scholars.  Thousands of respectable institutions across the world grant Ph.D. degrees in composition and rhetoric, usually as a specialization within English departments.  Modern rhetoric is built around the work of deconstructionists, semoticians and post-structuralists. My own Ph.D. is technically in literature, but I have a rhetoric specialization and most of my professional work is in rhetoric.

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


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Do theists find this

Do theists find this persuasive, Strafio?  It definitely does a good job of pointing out the contradictions of the concept of god from a materialist standpoint, and I can see where somebody with a particularly analytic style of thinking (and maybe a predisposition toward materialism) would find it persuasive.

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


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Rhetoric

Todangst: I like the fallacies page.  Good examples, great pictures.  Bookmarked it.

A glance at your rhetoric page, though, makes me realize one place where we've been disconnecting.  Defining rhetoric as "an appeal to emotions" is like defining philosophy as "how to make syllogisms."  The Sophists were a relatively insignificant chapter of the history of rhetoric, known mainly for their misuse of persuasive techniques.

 Rhetoric is one of the seven classical liberal arts, right up there with Grammar and Logic.  The seminal work in the field of rhetoric is Aristotle's "Ars Rhetorica," in which he defines rhetoric as the study of the modes of persuasion.  Aristotle and other legitimate rhetoricians of his time are very clearly *against* the emotional appeal of the sophists.  Although Aristotle classifies the appeal to emotion as a type of mode of persuasion (he classified everything), he fills the book with reminders like, "It is not right to pervert the judge by moving him to anger or envy or pity -- one might as well warp a carpenter's rule before using it."  Although Aristotle drew a distinction between rhetoric and dialectic (he loved his distinctions), in modern usage the term "rhetoric" has been conflated to refer to both.

Rhetoric is concerned with logic insofar as logic is used as a means for persuading and for evaluating arguments.  We use the same argumentation theory and informal fallacy terminology used in philosophy, but stick mostly to informal logic (twenty years ago I learned propositional calculus, but I couldn't do it now).

Rhetoric in the 20th century, as I mentioned before, is deeply intertwined with deconstructionist and structuralist theories of discourse: Derrida, Saussure, Levi-Strauss, Barthes, Lacan.  Individual rhetoricians also range off into linguistics, philosophy, literary theory, Marxism.  My own work lies mainly in areas associated with anthropology and cultural studies.  

It's a fundamental premise of the post-modern theorists that meaning is socially constructed.  There is no necessary relationship between the parts of a sign.

This insight is considered useless by some, but it fits right in with the Aristotelian tradition that the rhetorician must:

Quote:
be able to employ persuasion, just as strict reasoning can be employed, on opposite sides of a question, not in order that we may in practice employ it in both ways (for we must not make people believe what is wrong), but in order that we may see clearly what the facts are, and that, if another man argues unfairly, we on our part may be able to confute him. No other of the arts draws opposite conclusions: dialectic and rhetoric alone do this. Both these arts draw opposite conclusions impartially.

Or at least as impartially as our own embedding within our ideologies allows.

So from my point of view, analytic philosophy/materialism is a socially constructed system of meaning.  Christian theism is also a socially constructed system of meaning.  From a rhetorical perspective, it appears that Christian theism is doing a better job of persuading its intended audience of the validity of its meanings. I'm most interested in figuring out why, and in trying to think of ways that materialism can be more persuasive.

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


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todangst wrote: As for

todangst wrote:
As for rhetoric, its a tool for persuasion based not on logic, but on emotions. I'm not sure why emotions would be a better tool than logic, nor do I see how emotions can get you to 'god' seeing as emotions are merely an expression of a desire.

I disagree with this.
Like Textom said, rhetoric doesn't necessarily appeal to emotions.
Often it appeals to the intuition, the undermind.
It's our subconscious way of dealing with the world.
Sure, it can sometimes mislead us but is still an indespensible tool to dealing with the world. My rule of thumb is that you ought to trust your intiution unless you have a reason to doubt it. (and I'd imagine that's what you do naturally)

By the way, I've been reading a book on the intuition and undermind and was interested to see what you make of it. It's mostly psychology, with various experiments cited and stuff, so hearing your critique/evalution of it would be very interesting.

Textom wrote:
Do theists find this persuasive, Strafio? It definitely does a good job of pointing out the contradictions of the concept of god from a materialist standpoint, and I can see where somebody with a particularly analytic style of thinking (and maybe a predisposition toward materialism) would find it persuasive.

Lol! That's the billion dollar question!
I'm planning to perfect it to the point where it seems perfect to me and then unleash it on a theistic public and see the feedback. I'll probably accompany it with a rhetorical advocation of logic and the problems with having contradictions and stuff.


todangst
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Hambydammit wrote: I

Hambydammit wrote:

I posted something recently about my standard rebuttal to the fallacy fallacy defense, which goes something like this:

"True, a fallacy in an argument doesn't necessarily invalidate the conclusion. But, to know that a conclusion is true despite a fallacy in this argument, we must verify its truth outside of the argument.

Yes. The mere fact that an invalid argument may have a true conclusion is not a grounds for holding that one's conclusion is true!

Quote:
 

How should we do this with god since ALL arguments for his existence contain fallacies, and there is no empirical scientific evidence to validate his existence?"

Yep. 

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'