The God Who Isn't

Bill Tingley's picture
Submitted by Bill Tingley on Tue, 2007-07-10 11:51

In another thread James Valliant posed to me, a one-time Randian and non-believer who is now a practicing Catholic, some issues he had with Christian doctrine. I declined to give James a direct response. My primary reason was that James’s challenge was mired in misconceptions of what Christian religious beliefs and their relationship to Scripture actually are. I suggested to James that he needed to address the best and strongest arguments for Christianity instead of knocking down straw men. Furthermore, James was off-topic and I did not want to hijack the thread.

Linz, the magnanimous host he is, stepped in with some comments of his own and invited me to hijack the thread with a response to James. I told Linz I would give it some thought, and so I have. With this new thread I put forth a preliminary response to James (and Linz also) as to what are the best and strongest arguments for Christianity. I think any reasonable person will agree that it would be fruitless to raise those arguments absent the modest common ground that God’s existence is logically possible. So that’s where I will start.

I understand the arguments Objectivists generally make to deny God’s existence. They have certain quaintness to them, brimming with the certitude of the late 19th-century atheists who first made them to declare science triumphant and religion a relic. Of course, these atheists were oblivious to the centuries of Catholic and Calvinist philosophy that had refuted their arguments before they even made them, and today’s Objectivists are similarly oblivious to the thorough dismantling of those arguments over the past century by theists. But that only adds to the charm of these arguments because of the faith by which an Objectivist must hold them.

Now I know some here will take that last sentence as an insult. It’s not, even though by “faith” I mean it in the Randian sense of fideism or superstition as opposed to the Catholic sense of intellectual assent. I admire this conviction in an age dominated by bien pensant postmodernists who sneer at any belief in absolute truth. Moreover, the Objectivist arguments are correct: The God they deny doesn’t exist.

However, that God isn’t the God Christians know. Objectivists have been busy knocking down a straw man. It is a measure of the obtuseness many of them have regarding religion, and Christianity in particular, that they do not have the least inkling that they are doing so. While an Objectivist may sometimes succeed in befuddling unknowledgeable believers with challenges like who created God, can God create a rock too heavy for Him to lift, and why not believe in a flying spaghetti monster, the very posing of these questions reveals the Objectivist’s befuddlement as to who God is.

Again I know many here will find insult in what I have just written. But none of us are all-knowing. All of us are ignorant in some manner. I am merely suggesting that one exercise care in what he claims as certainly true. Therefore, if you are going to deny the God Christians believe exists, might it not be prudent to know who Christians believe that God is? After all, it does little good to argue that [1] God is X , [2] X is logically impossible, and so [3] God is logically impossible, when Christians know God as Y. Even worse is the foolishness of some Objectivists, when confronted with this response, to then insist that Christians do not know God as Y but as X in a futile attempt to salvage a straw man argument. Now if this sounds harsh, let me acknowledge that Objectivists share some illustrious company in their theological ignorance, including atheist fellow-travelers George Smith, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and, someone who really should know better, Daniel Dennett.

But that should be small comfort, because God is Y and not X. So it matters not how bright the fellas and how brilliant their arguments are in disproving X. All that sparkles is not gold. Nothing is accomplished. You may as well spend time knocking down the Ptolemaic model of the solar system, the flat-earthers, and Bigfoot. Therefore, if you want to point your arguments against God in the right direction, let me give you a crib sheet as to who He really is and how the present arguments against Him go awry.

To that end this is the God who Christians know. He is the creator of the universe, Who like all creators did so for a purpose. He is a purely spiritual being Who, as the creator of spacetime and so external to it, requires no extension as matter would provide. He is a fully and perfectly realized being and as such is pure act, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good. With this in mind, let us review those qualities of God that atheists most frequently cite as making Him logically impossible (or at least extremely unlikely): Creator, pure spirit, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.

God is the Creator. God is the person Who created the universe and everything within it. God’s relationship to the universe is analogous to that of a contractor to a house he has built. Just as the contractor is not a part of the house he has built, God is not a part of the universe He has created. Like the contractor, God is external to, superior to, and independent of His work. So, like the contractor, God is unconstrained by what He has fashioned. That lack of constraint means that, like the contractor, God can carry on without regard to His creation or return to alter it as He pleases.

It should be evident why the common Objectivist objection that the universe means everything that exists and so it must include God if He exists (and so must be subject to the constraints of causation within it) doesn’t wash with the Christian. The word “universe” can be used like that, but to rest an argument upon that idiosyncratic meaning to deny the existence of God is to substitute semantics for logic. By “universe” Christians mean that finite astronomical structure of expanding spacetime we inhabit, and whatever Objectivists want to call that, that is what they must address in a refutation of God as the creator of it.

Because God, as its creator, is external to, superior to, and independent of spacetime, there can be no issue as to what caused God. The infinite regression of causes commonly argued by atheists to deny God has no traction, because causation exists only in relation to spacetime. As a being beyond spacetime, God is eternal and the ground (either directly or indirectly) of all causation in the universe. This includes the physical order of the universe upon which all laws of nature are predicated, but no law of nature can explain because any such explanation must presume the very thing – i.e., order – to be explained. It also includes the mental phenomena which we all experience – e.g., consciousness, rationality, knowledge, free will – but cannot physically identify and reduce in terms of that order just noted. Yet that phenomena, in particular free will, does cause physical effects. This is explicable only if the mental is fundamental to (or independent of) the physical, as God, a purely spiritual being, is to the universe, a construct of matter.

God is pure spirit. Objectivists often cite the impossibility of the primacy of consciousness to deny the existence of God as a spiritual being. They argue that consciousness can only exist once there exists something to be conscious of. Implicit in this argument is that first “something” must be physical and not mental. If asked why a consciousness cannot be conscious of itself, the Objectivist response is that consciousness cannot exist independent of a physical entity. Again, as above, this argument rests upon a definition of the universe that Christians do not accept and begs the question so long as Objectivists fail to address what Christians do mean by the universe as God’s creation.

It is reasonable to argue that which exists within spacetime must have some manner of physical existence, because existence within spacetime means extension – i.e., temporally and spatially identifiable. Matter provides that extension, and so even though human consciousness is not physical, to the extent that it exists within spacetime, it must exist in conjunction with a material body. Thomists have always understood this through their philosophical doctrine of hylomorphism and have not been troubled by the fact that in this world consciousness does not manifest itself separately of the body. So the Objectivist claim that science has never identified such a separation is uncontroversial. (As an aside: Even if such separations do occur, science dependent upon spatial and temporal measurements could not in any case identify that which lacks such extension.)

However, it is unpersuasive to argue that the only possible universe is one that is an infinite expanse of spacetime so that all that exists must be extended – i.e., composed of or directly related to matter. Setting aside that astronomical observations do not support this belief, there is no sound logical basis for believing that the only possible universe is an infinite one. To argue that the universe is what it is and so the only possible universe is this one, as Objectivists commonly do, is not only logically deficient – to wit, a confusion of the necessary with the actual – but brings us back to the empirical evidence of what the universe is – and so far that evidence indicates a universe that is finite in spacetime. So the premise that is impossible for the universe to be anything other than an infinite expanse of spacetime is nothing but unfounded assertion.

Absent that premise, we can conceive of an eternal realm beyond the spacetime of the universe in which God exists as a purely spiritual being. Indeed, outside of spacetime, extension is meaningless. In that realm, with no need for extension and so no need of matter to provide it, only the mental and not the physical exists. There a being unknowable to our senses, although not completely alien to our experience (of our own consciousness and free will), can exist in non-physical form. For example, the purely spiritual being of God. The logical possibility of this appears to elude Objectivists and many other atheists, such as Dawkins with his flying spaghetti monster. They insist upon anthropomorphizing God, a natural human tendency, but to the extreme extent of finding any being but a physical one inconceivable. But the nonsense of equating God to a flying spaghetti monster is only logically consistent with a thorough and unrelenting materialism, and that logic is at the expense of any objective foundation for human morality, happiness, and purpose while doing riot to our experience of mental phenomena like consciousness and free will as something other than illusions.

That is the price an Objectivist must pay to deny God because a purely spiritual being is impossible.

God is omnipotent. Christians know God as all-powerful. Atheists, including Objectivists, frequently counter that is impossible because omnipotence creates logical contradictions as demonstrated by the trite question: “Can God create a rock so heavy He cannot lift it?” Yes, of course, that poses a contradiction, but then omnipotence is the power to do anything that is logically possible. God’s being defines what is logically possible. This is because He is a fully and perfectly realized being and so is pure act. As such He encompasses the Truth in its entirety, which brooks no contradiction. Therefore, for God to do what is logically impossible is to violate His own identity.

God is omniscient. Christians also know God as all-knowing. Objectivists and other atheists often object that God’s omniscience violates human free will, but this would be true only if knowledge of an event is synonymous with the cause of an event. As the bedrock of Objectivism is that what is true is objectively true and so independent of anyone’s knowledge of that truth, it is odd that Objectivists should make this argument against God’s omniscience. Your knowledge that I will take a particular action simply does not entail that you are the cause of that action. Nor does this entailment arise if that knowledge is understood as foreknowledge, as God is often presumed to have of human actions. Knowledge is not causation.

Furthermore, God’s knowledge of all human actions is not necessarily foreknowledge. Once again, Christians know God to exist beyond the constraints of spacetime. What human beings comprehend as the past, present, and future is an eternal present to God. He knows what occurs at all points in spacetime at the same moment. Therefore, if one is insistent upon arguing that foreknowledge of future human actions constitutes causation of those actions, and so God’s omniscience violates free will, God’s existence outside of spacetime does not require that He possess foreknowledge to possess omniscience.

Moreover, the atheist argument here rests upon the premise that free will is genuine and libertarian, as opposed to an illusion propagated by the physical processes of a deterministic universe, lest there be no violation of it by God’s omniscience. And once the atheist concedes the existence of libertarian free will, then he undercuts any arguments against the logical possibility of God as a purely spiritual being Who is the uncaused cause of the universe.

God is omnibenevolent. Finally Christians know God as all-good. He neither embodies nor causes any evil. Evil is entirely the product of human will. Objectivists and other atheists almost always object that omnibenevolence is contradictory to omnipotence, and so God cannot be both. They argue that if God is all-powerful then He cannot be all-good, because He allows evil to occur despite His power to prevent it; or conversely if He is all-good then He is not all-powerful because He cannot prevent evil despite His desire to do so. What this argument fails to do is account for God’s omniscience.

God is both omnibenevolent and omnipotent, because in His omniscience He knows that the human exercise of free will, despite the evil that can cause, makes possible the greatest good. If God prevented all our evil acts, He would extinguish free will. Absent free will no human act can be said to be good for there is no choice in doing so. We would not be moral agents, just automatons. We would not add to the good in the universe. We would just be so many cogs in its machinery robotically functioning according to divine specification. In short, without free will human beings can do no good. Only with free will, even with the risk of evil that permits, human beings can add to God’s goodness to bring about greatest good possible in His creation.

Also, as noted in the previous passage on God’s omniscience, the extent that atheist argument on this score has any strength is based upon his belief that libertarian free will exists. Therefore, pushing hard here necessarily undercuts the atheist argument elsewhere.

While I don’t think the logic of this will escape Objectivists, who acknowledge human free will (volition) as an essential property of human nature, I think the force of it may be elusive. This is because most Objectivists do not understand what Christians believe to be the root of God’s goodness and ours. It is love. Sadly Objectivists routinely pervert the Christian concept of love to mean destructive self-abnegation. That of course is hatred, hatred of the self, hatred of the world, ultimately hatred of God Himself. None of the components of Christian love – eros, philia, and agape – embrace such evil. Indeed, by accepting God’s love for him, a Christian returns it through these forms of love to God, himself, his fellow man, and the world. Through this love the Christian rids himself of falsehoods to see truth and beauty more clearly. Thus, he becomes just, productive, and happy and attains self-respect and self-reliance. He becomes his own man unburdened by false pride and vanity.

I know this is true from my own experience, but I will go no further along this line for the moment. This gets us into the “best and strongest” arguments for Christianity when the task at hand is the modest one of establishing the logical possibility of God’s existence.


( categories: )

Bill

seddon's picture

Linz just informed me of your post and I would like to share the following notes with you.

1. I think I would agree with you more if instead of telling us what “Christians” think and believe, you told us what you think and believe. There is a reason that Europe was ravished by so many religious wars—those who call themselves Christians agree on precious little—and the tiniest things can set them off to killing each other. So I will take what you say to represent your position.

2. ON GOD IS THE CREATOR. I think you make a mistake, akin to Paley’s, when you analogize your God to a contractor. If God is like a contractor, then he works with pre-existing materials and hence does not create the world ex nihilo. Plato’s Demiurge is like a contractor, not the Christian God as thought by Catholicism.

3. By “universe” Christians mean that finite astronomical structure of expanding spacetime we inhabit . . .”
Your use of the word “finite” is question begging, as Aquinas knew. Call it “finite” begs the question, Who created it. In order not to beg the question, you have to assume (at least for the sake of argument) that the universe is infinite or eternal. But when you do that, you obviate the need for a creator. Maybe this is why guys like Descartes prefer to regard God as the preservers and sustainer of motion—remember, not law of inertia in Aristotle or Aquinas.

Also, I question spacetime. Not only did Aristotle and Aquinas not clump these two together, both denied the existence of space. In place (no pun intended) of space, they had place.

4. I think you interpretation of the omnipotence and omniscience of God to be more rational than the Christians I meet in my classrooms. They maintain, and here I will only deal with omnipotence, that God can create a rock he can’t life and he can life it—they explain that we’re just too stupid to understand how. As an atheist, I want to deal with the best, most rational, most logical defense of God that is out there. So kudos for you.

5. On God’s omnibenevolence. Since I’m after the most rational arguments for God, I must consider thinkers like Leibniz who thought he had to settle for the “best of all possible worlds” that God could create which is not necessarily one without God created evil. Now this may be the result of the fact that he thinks he has to have a good that is not only good but also must display his power in plenitude. So he is, so to speak, juggling two balls—while you only have one to recon with (like Lance Armstrong—sorry couldn’t resist). Bottom line, if Leibniz is right, then God does cause evil.

Fred

X nor Y Leonid

gregster's picture

I like your post. Mysticism has endless contradictions. I still enjoy reminding myself of them.

Linz

JoeM's picture

Linz, thank you for accepting the apology.
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Spaceplayermusic.com

Again with this one.

Emma Kathryn's picture

Just to emphasise (because I'm sure many people have brought this up already) - you cannot argue the validity of certain characteristics anyone assigns (yes, I said "assigns") to "God" without first establishing god's existence. You're working on the details of a theory you have yet to prove - which is much like the flat-earthists reducing the world governments to conspiratory agents (for the purpose of... they still have yet to figure that one out (though they're "pretty sure it's money")) because they're working off the assumption that the world is flat - for which they have no evidence.

Thank you, Claudia. I

JoeM's picture

Thank you, Claudia.

I don't know if a thread will be forthcoming about my "issue," because a. I don't know how to state it any clearer, and b. I suspect it's more a "personal" issue" at this point. I think I expect too much of SOLO for what it is, meaning my expectations may be a bit unrealistic (although with a tagline "nothing less than to change the world," maybe excusable. Smiling The only thing I can add, after some thought on it today, is that it's a bit too "magazine," or "department store," to do too much of one specific goal. I was thinking about the different "forums," like SOLO ARCHITECTURE, SOLO MUSIC, SOLO ECONOMICS, etc. They get little action, and overall there's very little activism involved, which is where I'm headed. I'm personally less about the "discussion" aspect, I think because I'm at a personal stage where I'm ready to do something, both on a personal and social scale. I expected SOLO to be a starting point for something that's more my own responsibility at this point.

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Spaceplayermusic.com

Thanks Joe...

Olivia's picture

for being prepared to reflect and rethink. Good man. Smiling

As for the rest, I still have an issue right now with the concept of compatibility of an open forum with an organization that wants to change things. But this was not the way to air it (even if I've brought it up in the past under calmer circumstances.) However, I still think it's an important issue to work out, and I hope you take my argument for the constructive criticism it was meant to be.

I must admit, I don't undersand what your issue is here at all, but no doubt you'll write a thread about it when it's clear to you.

Take care for now.

Joe

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I appreciate your gesture, though for me personally it wasn't necessary—I know how you get from time to time—and actually missed the mark.

Let's back up:

1) There are no taboos here.

2) Folk are free to criticise SOLO and/or me, just as I am free to respond.

3) If we're trying to change the culture of Objectivism to one where disagreement and open debate are accepted in the interests of reiterating/arriving at the truth, then we should accept them here.

4) Ditto changing the culture at large. One of our adversaries is Christianity. If a Christian wants to come here and argue for his faith, then I say, "Bring 'im on!"

5) Saying this is not engaging in a contradiction.

6) I am not a hypocrite, and object so strongly to being called one that anyone calling me one had better not come near me if he knows what's good for him. Unless he can show me he's right. Pointing out the infantile, premature crybaby "Waaaaa!" umbrage-taking rampant in the culture we want to change does not mean umbrage is never justified. Whoever said it did mean that? Not I. I wouldn't use the term "premature umbrage" if I didn't think there was such a thing as justified umbrage.

7) If we're not on the same page after that, I want to at least make it an honest disagreement.

Again, who said it wasn't? Disagree away. Just grant me the same courtesy, and refrain from calling me a hypocrite, and we'll be fine.

Re "name-calling sprees"—here is the current list of Linzisms, with explanations. If any one of them is unjust, let me know. Smiling

Calmed down

JoeM's picture

Claudia: "At no point did Linz even imply that a negative response was taboo! You're making up fictions....Joe, please consider the possibility that you are rationalising rather than being rational."

Claudia, I was not making up fictions, but I do confess do blowing it out of proportion. True, Linz did NOT impose a "taboo." But I had been in a bad mood for a few weeks, (though not menstrual), and was in a frame of mind to interpret any little thing as the worst case scenario. And in this case, I did so because I thought it "odd" to be asked by Linz, of all people, to "tone it down," so to speak. It's one thing to snap at him (sometimes rightfully so) when he goes off on his namecalling sprees. It's another thing to go off when he's calling for civility. It was hypocritical of me to do so, because I was, in effect, arguing for the right to behave like Linz when I've criticized him for it in the past. So I apologize for Linz for that. Linz, I'm sorry.

As for the rest, I still have an issue right now with the concept of compatibility of an open forum with an organization that wants to change things. But this was not the way to air it (even if I've brought it up in the past under calmer circumstances.) However, I still think it's an important issue to work out, and I hope you take my argument for the constructive criticism it was meant to be. If we're not on the same page after that, I want to at least make it an honest disagreement.

(Incidentally, I was amused to learn, via the Colbert Report, that Bill O'Reilly was raising a similar issue regarding posts on a liberal "open forum" website, Daily Kos, regarding nazi material, holding the site owner responsible for all content. To your credit, Linz, you did NOT allow such material, via Orion Reasoner, so I should have tempered myself.)

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Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

God is not X, God is Y

Leonid's picture

Leonid

When you say that you define God. However God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, He possess infinite properties and therefore indefinable.But to be is to be something, indefined entity is contradiction in terms. If you define God you reduce Him to the status of mere entity, one among many which one can study. Such a God can represent base for science, but he doesn't require Faith, religion. So this God would be useless to any believer. That why Pasquale proclaimed: No God of Descartes but God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

God created Universe.
Universe or rather existence is every thing which exists. To create it you have to transcend existence, not to be part of it. If God is not part of existence it has only one meaning: He doesn't exist. Therefore the very idea that God created Universe negates the concept of God.Besides,this idea represents logical fallacy of infinite regress.
God is pure spirit, cosciousness. But consciousness cannot precede existence.To be conscious one have to be conscious of something which exists. Consciousness which conscious only of itself is worse than contradiction in terms.

The whole concept of God is a huge logical fallacy because it is arbitrary concept, not supported by any factual evidence.And if one can find factual evidence for God's existence it will immediately cancel his divine stature by turning him to the object of observation.
"God is not X, God is Y"
That statement begs another question: How do you know that?
Since God is indefinable unobservable Being and cannot be studied by rational means it left to us only 3 epistemological tools:Innate knowledge, revelations,Holy scriptures. All three are invalid since they represent fallacy of circular argument-they prove the premiss by using this very premiss as a proof.

Jesus Joe!

Olivia's picture

This has gone from the petty to the unbelievable.

There is no contradiction. Linz has created an open forum where people can debate openly and take the results on the chin. You're attacking Linz by constructing an elaborately syllogistic argument to paint him as a hypocrite. Stop it.

You had the right to voice your snipe (thanks to the open forum):

Yeah, just remember this line the next time you see "Hseikovian" and "treason" on SOLO while ex-objectivists who preach Christianity/Not Christianity are coddled.

Father Billygoat was hardly coddled - he took a hammering and was a lone defender.

Then you come out with this:

"Linz reserves the right to express his opinion on any topic same as everyone else."
Before this, you wrote:
[quoting Linz] "Those who don't like certain topics should simply avoid threads that discuss those subjects. Save themselves and me all that grief."
So no topic is taboo, but a negative response is? Unless it's Linz?

At no point did Linz even imply that a negative response was taboo! You're making up fictions.

Basically, Linz commended everyone for the spirit of goodwill in conducting the debate and then you pissed all over it. Linz told you to get a grip. You come back and label him a contrary hypocrite and now it's snowballed into a major deconstruction of the whole Solo Credo and objectives. WTF?!

Joe, please consider the possibility that you are rationalising rather than being rational.

On that note...

JoeM's picture

So this is how you respond to constructive criticism, with "premature umbrage?" So much for honest debate.

If that's the best you can do, Linz, then you make it easy for me. You set up a strawman; I'm not condemning honest debate, of which most of your rants aren't. Certainly your interruption on the "jazz thread" I mentioned was not honest debate. And I stand by my theory. The most recent Neil/PARC post bears me out: You've got a dedicated member angry at the persistance of these posts, which was followed by the rebuttal that it's an open forum for debate. And it will continue.

No, I did not take your umbrage quote out of context. And you have nerve to talk, as you reserve the right to insult everyone and anyone with whatever colorful epitaph you can think of. You really do deserve to be called a hypocrite.

You can assert all you want, your actions speak for themselves. You can quote the damn credo to kingdom come. Methinks the man doth protest too much. And you just get louder as you take more umbrage.

I'm done talking to you. Take care.

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Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

Oh for fuck's sake

Lindsay Perigo's picture

None of this justifies your calling me a hypocrite. Or misinterpreting my point re "umbrage." Premature, chronic umbrage-taking as a substitute for argument, if you read what I actually wrote rather than using the issue to try to point-score yet again. Fact is, I am not a hypocrite and I despise hypocrisy, as a reading of the Credo will show. And if you can't own that of late you've reverted to being a snide prick then you're still a lesser person than the one you were blooming into.

There's no either-or such as you presume to insist. The open debate—more importantly, the openness to debate that still eludes some of your snotty latter-day Hsiekovian friends—is part of changing the world, and assuredly part of changing the culture of Objectivism.

Now I must go to the studio. Got some world-changin' to do.

Linz

Solo's "Tower of Babel"

JoeM's picture

Bring on the adults? Aw, Linz, not taking umbrage, are we? Don't violate your own “Linz Sinz..” ( Actually, I have no problem with your being offended if you think you’ve been accused unfairly, it’s understandable. But you write: “Call them evil, and they repair to their hurt feelings. End of discussion. End of the challenge to evil.” Then you take offense to being guilty of a double standard. It’s another double standard. Judge and prepare to be judged.)

But I'll stop "sniping," and explain my rationale, because I take this seriously. It's not about your musical opinions. I think I see a bigger issue, a contradiction in SOLO that may lead to some double standards.

SOLO has two stated purposes that seem to be in conflict. One is to be a place for "homeless" Objectivists, who don't fit the TOC or ARI mold. The other is to be a force that seeks nothing less than to "change the world." I think these two purposes are in opposition to each other. Homeless objectivists really only says what some people are not. It doesn't define who or what they are for, which could be as various as the number of "homeless."
Trying to "change" the world with such a "motley crew" is simply not realistic. It's the same problem in The Fable of the Cardiac Surgeon.

I also though about this because I was one who posted on old SOLO stuff contrary to Objectivism, sincere as it was. But I posted because it was a home for "homeless Objectivists." It could be argued that SOLO "changed" me, and can change others who come here to debate (for all I know, that could be the motive behind the invitation to Bill's post), but I don't believe that. For me, it was the "accident" of PARC (not that the book was an accident, but its appearance in my reading) that lead me to reconsider. I had no intention to change MY mind before that, rather, I was on a crusade to change the minds of others. What a difference a book makes. To its credit, SOLO did host James, but it needs to be remembered the initial hostility towards the book by the leader of SOLO as well. I wouldn't say SOLO changed things via PARC, but that PARC changed SOLO.

So then I gravitated towards SOLO for its idea of change. But now I find myself on the opposite side of where I stood before, reading posts and claims similar to my old stance re some ideas. Ironic, yes, but frustrating. One the one hand, I have to remind myself of that, on the other hand, I'm still concerned about the influences going into any vehicle for change that I'm to be a part of.

This lead me to my theory that their is a contradiction in SOLO's intended purposes. That's why I see a double standard in your railing against your "pet peeves," and your call for those who disagree with a thread to not participate. (If I needed only one example, it would be your interruption on old SOLO of a Jazz threat where you put down people for listening to jazz, and not discussing Rachmaninoff or whatever. When called on it, you asserted that it's your list and you can do whatever you want. Now, you tell people on this thread not to partake if they don't like it. Forget the particular topics involved in the threads, how is that, in principle, NOT a double standard?). If it's not a double standard on purpose, it's by the nature of SOLO's conflicting missions. This is not to be snide; I simply see the double standard in your behavior. It speaks for itself. If it’s not intentional, and I’m extending the benefit of the doubt here, then I think my theory explains the “discrepancy.” It's either an open forum where all topics are welcome (and all responses, including the ravings of its owner), or it's a group with a defined mission that excludes an open forum, the way Objectivism is not compatible with libertarianism, which is an "open forum" sort of party.

How do we resolve it? In the end, I think it comes down to what Rand wrote in “What Can One Do?”: “Above all, do not join the wrong ideological groups or movements, in order to “do something.” By “ideological” (in this context), I mean groups or movements proclaiming some vaguely generalized, undefined, (and, usually, CONTRADICTORY [emphasis mine]), political goals. …the only groups one may properly join today are ad hoc committees, i.e., groups organized to achieve a single, specific, clearly defined goal, on which men of differing views can agree. In such cases, no one may attempt to ascribe his views to the entire membership, or to use the group to serve some hidden ideological purpose (and this has to be watched very, very, carefully.)

I think this applies to “group movements” like SOLO as well. Especially the last line.
Anyone who decides to participate in your call for “change the world” should ask themselves about this seeming contradiction. How does one balance an “open forum” with a cultural movement with specific goals? Is it possible, or is it one or the other?
For what it’s worth, I think it’s either-or. An open forum IS a form of ad hoc committee, it’s single purpose being just that, an place where people can come to debate, dissuade, present a viewpoint, etc. It can be a meeting place for likeminded people to get together and go somewhere else to form said ad hoc committe, but that committee can't be the open forum itself. That, by its nature, does not work towards having a group of conflicting ideologies work together to change a culture. It's not a melting pot, but a boiler plate. To be told a forum is open, yet to berate those who don't fit into the "curriculum" of the group's goals is bound to cause trouble, and umbrage. It's not fair to those who see it as a vehicle for change to be expected to interract with people who would promote antithetical values; it's seen as an obstacle to the ad hoc committe's goal. It's not fair, either, to people like Bill or Nick Otani who come here with the expectation of an open forum. At the least, it's confusing, at its worst, it's a trap.

It puts the babble in Babel.

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Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

Joe

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I have no double standard for you to be tired of. If you still resent me for stating—on my own turf, Galt forbid!— that esthetic crap is esthetic crap, that's your problem. I thought you'd gotten over it. Riggenbach/Sibelius revisited?

Bring on some adults I say!!!

Linz

Engaged via your condemnation?

JoeM's picture

Whatever, Linz, I'm tired of your double standard. Nothing mentstrual about that.

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Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

I rather had the impression ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... there were lots of headbangers and metalheads here already, being engaged, if not converted. Fortunately they're not all permanently menstrual.

Well Linz

JoeM's picture

By THAT logic, headbangers and metalheads are the amongst those we need to engage, since caterwauling is going to destroy the free world and Linz won't be able to listen to his precious opera. WAAAH!!!!!

"I'll walk with God," indeed.

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Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

Well Joe

Lindsay Perigo's picture

In the real world, Christians are among those we need to engage, in this contest of ideas. Apparently the need is especially urgent in the case of Christians, since they're going to establish a theocracy in your country next Tuesday and you Americans will find your access to SOLO blocked. Save SOLO! Convert Father Bill!

should this

JoeM's picture

Why don't I avoid it? In all seriousness, I was under the impression that SOLO had a purpose. I don't see how inviting those who are hostile to Objectivism to insult the intelligence of Objectivists via Christianity is furthering that goal. It's the same problem Rand had with the Libertarian Party, and the same problem Rand had answering questions from rude Donahue guests.

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Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

Sigh

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Well then Joe, just for you, let me put it in a "should"-free way:

If you don't think a Christian should be invited to make his case, and it upsets you, why not simply avoid that thread?

You're at perfect liberty to upset Father Bill, though he doesn't seem half as touchy as you.

I'm not upset by "Bush's cock-sucker." Gave me a huge laugh actually. Casey having a vent. No law against that here.

Rap-and-crap-lovers subjected to "all sorts of vitriol"? Waaaaa. Waaaaa. Them's the breaks, I guess. Ain't life a bitch?! Ain't Linz an even bigger bitch?!

As for shutting down...

JoeM's picture

I didn't say shut it down, I questioned the invitation to begin with. And I don't apologize for that.

But since it is an open forum, and because of your own past history, I can't understand why you would suddenly advise against negative responses to articles like Bill's.

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Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

As for shutting down...

JoeM's picture

I didn't say shut it down, I questioned the invitation to begin with. And I don't apologize for that.

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Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

Should and must...

JoeM's picture

"Since when did 'should' mean 'must'"?
SHOULD:
1. Used to express obligation or duty: You should send her a note.
2. Used to express probability or expectation: They should arrive at noon.
3. Used to express conditionality or contingency: If she should fall, then so would I.
4. Used to moderate the directness or bluntness of a statement: I should think he would like to go.

Close enough.

Petty...well, I think it rather odd that you APPLAUD others when they rip certain positions to shreds and question the integrity of those posters, yet when people did it to Bill this time re his religious arguments, you all of a sudden turned into Barbara Branden. But what really bugs me is the relation of Bill's topic to your stance against Peikoff, et. all re theocracy. People here who listen to rock music and substandard opera singers are subjected to all sorts of vitriol, yet we must not upset "Father Bill" or appear to be a "closed forum," since SOLO is a forum for all viewpoints... you get upset with the accusation of being a republican cocksucker, and you make assertions to the contrary, but if you think that Hsiekovians are traitorous, you're starting to look like you're offering succour to the conservative religious right.

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Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

Joe

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Since when did "should" mean "must"?

You'd been whining about something or other being discussed—wanted me to close it down—I suggested you and other wannabe censors just avoid those threads. Where's the contradiction?

Now quit being a petty jerk.

Still waiting...

JoeM's picture

for you to explain your contradiction:

"Butting in with my objections is not the same as declaring a topic taboo. How many times must I explain this?"
"Linz reserves the right to express his opinion on any topic same as everyone else."
Before this, you wrote:
Those who don't like certain topics should simply avoid threads that discuss those subjects. Save themselves and me all that grief.
So no topic is taboo, but a negative response is? Unless it's Linz?

duplicate

JoeM's picture

dup

Reed- Interesting question.

Aaron's picture

Reed-
Interesting question. A deistic notion of a deity - a creator of the universe who set up natural laws and let it go - is an arbitrary idea akin to 'invisible spiders on Mars'. Bill's notion goes further to include contradictions such as omniscience with free will, and omnipotence with omnibenevolence and the reality of evil, so corresponds even to 'invisible green spiders on Mars'.

Linz & Reed

Bill Tingley's picture

Hi, Linz.

Still, I thank all comers for the spirit in which, for the most part, they've conducted this debate.

And thanks once again for giving me a soapbox. You have been a gracious host. I enjoyed for the most part the discussion we had here. If I hadn't such a load of business here at my company to clear out (two patent applications plus a third in the process, a roll-up of our little industry, and funding a new investment firm to run it all), I would have probably had more patience to explain how wayward the path is your team is following. Eye

But then again, as James suspects, there are of course far superior apologists for Christianity than me -- Craig, Neuhaus, Platinga, Ratzinger, Swinburne, and Wojtyla, to name but a few -- who are readily accessible via the internet. So those who want to understand what that Friday afternoon really means to Christians don't lack for resources to find out.

Hi, Reed.

I was surprised by your position on evolution, I guess you have some good reasons for it.

I'm not particularly interested at this time in starting a new thread to discuss evolution, so let me briefly respond to you here.

If by evolution you mean common descent with modification over the generations, the paleontological evidence is convincing. It doesn't appear as though there was more than one origin of life, or at least one that survived, and living organism clearly changed over time, at least during the past 600 million years.

As to how life originated on this planet and what the mechanism for its modification over time is, science does not have any compelling explanations for that at this time. I don't think science will ever answer the first question, because life is a principle of an organism's form (hylomorphically speaking) and so beyond the ken of science. I think science can address the issue of the mechanism of modification, although it hasn't provided a definitive answer yet. At best Darwinism (non-teleological natural selection) scales up a process known only to have some limited effect within a species, and there is no clear evidence that that process is scalable as a mechanism for speciation.

So, that's what I think about evolution in a nutshell.

Regards, Bill

P.S. As to all you other jokers who have been flummoxed by my brilliance and too often reduced to contradiction and incoherence in response, I regret not giving you further opportunity to clean up your arguments to make a respectable case for your atheism. However, my final replies in this thread to Linz and Reed are a courtesy they merit, and not an invitation to carry on this debate. So bone up on Swinburne, Ratzinger, et al. and enlighten yourselves on your own. It's your job to educate yourselves, not mine.

Joe

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Treason is what Hsiekovians advocate when they propose blanket voting for Dem-scum. I've explained my reasons for this view. Disagree with me if you like, but don't think the old-time sniping against me to which you've reverted is going to deter me from expressing my candid opinion on my own fucking forum.

Linz

"Still, I thank all comers

JoeM's picture

"Still, I thank all comers for the spirit in which, for the most part, they've conducted this debate."

Yeah, just remember this line the next time you see "Hseikovian" and "treason" on SOLO while ex-objectivists who preach Christianity/Not Christianity are coddled.

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Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

"Pure" Consciousness

James S. Valliant's picture

... i.e., one allegedly NOT the "consciousness" OF somebody or a "consciousness" that is NOT aware OF existence, yes, is just like the "invisible and green" thing, Reed. It cannot be.

Everyone -In a different

reed's picture

Everyone -
In a different thread "invisible green spiders on mars" was presented as an example of an arbitrary statement and compared to the assertion that god exists. Now a thing can not be invisible and green at the same time so "invisible green spiders" are impossible. If the example was "invisible spiders on mars" then it would not be impossible, just extremely unlikely and a crazy belief without any evidence.

Do objectivists here consider the god Bill presented impossible like the "invisible green spiders on mars" or arbitrary like "invisible spiders on mars"?

Bill -
Now that you have finished with this topic...
I was surprised by your position on evolution, I guess you have some good reasons for it. If you are not too busy aiding with the establishment of the coming theocracy would you be interested in sharing your reasoning in the evolution vs creation topic? So far I've failed to get much participation discussing evolution, so the topic hasn't really been done justice.

Cheers,

Reed

James

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'd bet that there are many in the Christian camp who can do a lot better than this, Linz.

I've been surprised at Bill's misunderstandings of the Objectivist position. I noted in one recent post he said that if we had been able to accept the logical possibility of God we might have been able to move on to empirical considerations. Oooops. Smiling Father Bill, if you're reading this, I fear what you moved to Christianity from was not Objectivism but a rationalistic misunderstanding thereof. Still, I thank all comers for the spirit in which, for the most part, they've conducted this debate.

Merlin's Right...

James S. Valliant's picture

This has become risible.

Causality comes in one "flavor" -- namely, the Law of Identity. Just as entities, and the attributes of those entities, are what they are, so the actions of those entities are the result of the nature of things that are acting. Absent the context of action, "causality" has no meaning. But it is not limited to "physical" things.

Consciousness, like any other action, has a cause -- and it operates causally. In order to see, I must look. In order to know, I must learn. If the doctor gives me drugs, I go unconscious. When I am fully awake, I think better.

Causality applies to ALL actions, including consciousness.

Consciousness is an activity, the act of being aware. Absent the context of a conscious entity, aware OF something other than itself, "consciousness" has no meaning.

"Pure" consciousness is literally a meaningless contradiction in terms.

In none of this is any sort of "materialism" even implied, unless by that Bill means any notion that contradicts very the "possibility" for which he argues. Bill carves the world up into his dualism as he walks in the door -- and insists that anything else is "materialism." On top of all this, he consistently just ignores the inconvenient -- things like Rand's actual arguments.

I'd bet that there are many in the Christian camp who can do a lot better than this, Linz.

Farewell, Black Knight

Greg Perkins's picture

Kind of sad. Anymore, engagements with Christian apologists turn into Black Knight encounters.

By the Grace of God

Bill Tingley's picture

Hi, Greg.

I understand that you are not happy that I keep pointing out the implicit (indeed, often explicit) materialist premises that Objectivists must have to justify the denial of God’s existence. As I said, it’s not my fault that Objectivism lacks an ontology to support as true both its claims of physical-mental dualism and metaphysical atheism, and so leaves many Objectivists grasping at materialist straws to (hopelessly) reconcile the two claims. You say that the lack of ontology is deliberate to avoid cosmological commitments that are properly empirical matters. Of course, ontology does not entail a cosmology. So your answer is unpersuasive, especially when Rand and Peikoff have both made very clear etiological declarations about the universe, which are unsupported assertions absent any ontological argument.

You also complain that I have failed to understand that regarding the existence of God, your arguments were epistemological not metaphysical. Of course, what is real determines what can be known, and the issue at hand was: Is it logically possible for God to be real? You could have answered that question with a simple and clear “yes” if you wanted to move onto epistemological issues. I agree that once the metaphysical possibility of God is established, then the discussion moves onto whether through reason we can obtain sufficient knowledge about the universe to determine the truth of that possibility. But you did not do that, Greg. You left the metaphysical question open, and so I proceeded to argue it. Now you huff (rather churlishly I might say) that all I have established are a number of key points about the physical-mental duality of existence that Objectivists do not dispute.

Finally, this …

Please understand, though, that my first and fundamental response is that your method is wrong: you need to drop this pervasive rationalism and show us how your ideas have a genuine basis in reality (or admit that they are simply fantasy). No person of reason is interested in deductions from floating notions imported from your religion.

Your frustration is clearly showing. You have a big mental block created by the desire for two irreconcilable things to be true: [1] The mind is not reducible to matter and [2] God does not exist. Another problem, endemic to Objectivists, is the conflation of the necessary with the actual, hence your repeated cry of rationalism on my part. You just don’t get that I am establishing what necessarily exists (a logical project) before discussing what actually exists (an empirical project). If you are impatient with this process, I can’t help you. There is no paint-by-numbers philosophy that colors the complex world of God and man as it truly is.

Of course, I realize that this is all blather to those content with the primary colors of Rand’s philosophy. I know that, because I was once so contented – until I became dissatisfied with the incompleteness of Objectivism and seriously studied outside its confines. By the grace of God I had not closed my mind around only that which was comfortable to believe, and as a result I have discovered great knowledge that has made my life a much happier one (and it wasn’t a bad one at all before then). And I gained a little wisdom, too. For example, I see that any further discussion on this subject is fruitless. So let this post serve as my salutation as I end once and for all my participation in this thread.

Regards, Bill

The Law of Causality

Bill Tingley's picture

Hi, Greg.

You say the Law of Causality applies deterministically to physical existents and non-deterministically to mental existents. That’s fine to say that causality comes in two flavors, and I don’t disagree as far as that goes. However, I don’t find it of great utility to stretch out the Law of Causality to cover that which is non-deterministic.

Why? Any non-deterministic cause of a thing can only be understood in its particularity; whereas, universal principles, such as the laws of physics, allow us to understand deterministic causes without regard to particulars. This fundamental epistemological distinction is rooted in the fundamental ontological difference between the physical and the mental. So I don’t see the usefulness of making the Law of Causality include two disparate types of sequences.

Regards, Bill

Scientism & Materialism

Bill Tingley's picture

Hi, Laure, Merlin, & Greg.

You have all indicated a belief that science will some day tell us how the mind, as a non-physical entity, operates. If that epistemological statement is something other than a floating abstraction, it must be predicated upon an ontology of the mind. The problem is that any ontology that supports your purported epistemology is materialist. It’s not hard to understand why.

The methods of science can only provide information about those things which have extension – i.e., matter or the effects of matter – and so can be measured and quantified. This restricts scientific knowledge to matter and mechanics, or in Aristotelian terms, the material and efficient causes of an entity. Science can not tell us anything of the formal and final causes. Therefore, to believe that science is sufficient (in principle) as a means of knowledge about all that exists is to believe that all things are ultimately reducible to measurement and quantification. Yet only matter and its effects are.

If it were otherwise, then we should be able to objectively identify and delimit the minds of others. We should be able to bell jar them. Of course, we can’t do that. Therefore your epistemology of scientism can only logically rest upon an ontology of materialism.

Regards, Bill

The Next Step

Bill Tingley's picture

Hi, Luke.

If we had all agreed that the existence of God is logically possible, then the next step would have been a discussion as to whether a belief in God is empirically justified. That discussion would then center on the Aristotelian formal and final causes of entities, the problem of universals, and the design and teleological arguments for God.

Regards, Bill

Consciousness a scientific question

Laure Chipman's picture

Merlin: "Science is working on it. And what's your answer to this question? Invoking an incredible diety, i.e. an argument from ignorance."

It all comes down to this. Bill, you're amazed by the fact that consciousness exists, and can't see how it could arise from matter. I'm amazed, too! As Merlin says, science is working on it. We can either posit a deity to "explain" it all (which explains nothing), or we can work toward a real explanation through science.

This is Humorous

Merlin Jetton's picture

Mr. Tingley, thank you for reproving my previous point. You assume anyone who isn't a substance dualist must be a materialist.

You write:
Then Mr. Jetton, presumably an Objectivist, proceeds to make my point for me. He denies my Statement #5 as "blatantly false", which means he believes that which is mental is material and deterministic per my Statement #3 (which he did not deny). Thus, Mr. Jetton has declared that the mind is matter or an effect of matter, which is, in a word, materialism.

How do you know what I believe? Oh, I get it. You are expert at believing without evidence. And you're wrong, again.

You say:
I hope you are relying upon something better than a Wikipedia article to understand property dualism. At the end of the day, property dualism either evades the question of how the operation of a mental property escapes the determinism of the physical entity embodying it or implicitly reduces itself to materialism.

The article was intended as a pointer, not a treatise. Regarding "evasion" property dualism does not profess to have a complete answer. Science is working on it. And what's your answer to this question? Invoking an incredible diety, i.e. an argument from ignorance.

Delusional psychosis

gregster's picture

Bill, I pray for you getting well again, like when you were a child. The mind is intimately one and the same with matter. Just as God would not exist if there were no humans with the faculties for perception (and misperception).

Rationalism is a hard habit to break.

Greg Perkins's picture

Bill writes: “It's not my fault that you have not thought through the implications of your premises. If you acknowledge that there are two modes of existence -- i.e., the physical and deterministic represented by matter and the mental and non-deterministic represented by the mind -- then, excellent. We share that premise. Reality is dualistic.

Bill, I particularly enjoy it when someone can show me facts and implications I’ve missed or not fully appreciated; that’s a big value in conversation, and it of course isn’t what I am complaining about.

The problem is your posture of understanding Objectivists and Objectivism, which clashes with your exhibiting a clear and deep lack of understanding of same. You have spent time here arguing that Objectivists should appreciate that existents are finite, that consciousness is real and volition causally efficacious, that all of existence is not necessarily exhausted by the physical universe, and labored mightily to help us see that monism is false -- when these are all basic facts recognized in Objectivism! Your avoided understanding and addressing the basic Objectivist appreciation of minds as subject to causal law and volition as a nondeterministic species of causality. You have argued that there are ontological holes in the Objectivist metaphysics, while not addressing the idea that it is purposefully and legitimately spare to avoid cosmology and the kinds of error-riddled positions you are spinning out in this thread. And worst, you have repeatedly failed to appreciate that the fundamental (and characteristically Objectivist) objection I am offering to your argument is epistemological and not metaphysical. How was it neglected in your essay, much less missed here when directly presented? So, in contrast to your posture, this exchange has betrayed an incompetent understanding of your target in so many ways, and you have been given plenty of feedback to that effect, yet you barrel ahead round after round as if nothing is amiss. I'm struggling to find any charitable interpretation.

Bill continues: “The problem for you is that premise is not sufficient to conclude that it is not logically possible for God, the being of pure spirit Who created the universe, to exist.

The problem for you is that you don’t understand that I’ve offered an epistemological objection to your argument. I’m saying your entire approach is invalid; your ideas are arbitrary, devoid of real connection to reality, and your conclusions rationalistic and meaningless. Your thinking is worse than wrong in content -- it is wrong in method. My original response worked to highlight this, gesturing to the actual basis in reality for the various ideas you were misusing, showing why I saw absolutely no valid basis for what you were trying to do, asking for the reality-based roots of your approach. To no avail.

So let’s look at how this can get things tangled up by marching through your summary looking for errors and groundless cosmological commitments. (By the way, given your rationalistic bent, all it takes is any *one* of your deductive steps to be shaky for your entire argument to collapse -- if you really think this is your reason for believing God is "logically possible", I presume you’ll suddenly become an atheist?)

Bill summarizes: “So, if your experience is true, then reality is not monistic. It is dualistic. Both mind and matter are fundamental modes of existence. We also know from experience that: [1] All material entities require a cause and not all mental phenomena does (e.g., our intentions), and [2] a mental act can give rise to an alteration in the arrangement of matter (i.e., an intention of the mind causing an electro-chemical response in the brain). Finally, we have no evidence that matter can cause a mind to exist. (This is not to say that matter cannot affect the mind. A common instance is sensory perception delivering data to the mind via the brain.) Therefore, if matter cannot cause the mind, but the mind can at least cause changes in matter, and all material entities must be caused, then the ultimate cause of material entities must be a mind. In that syllogism arises the logical possibility for the existence of God as pure spirit.

  • Non-monism: Thank you again for taking the time to try to convince Objectivists of a basic point they already know.
  • All material entities require a cause: Just how do you know this from experience? Our scientific experience is that matter/energy is strictly conserved, changing its form but not being created or destroyed. Philosophically, the principle of causality certainly does not indicate that all entities have a cause (for example, all of existence is often regarded as an entity, and it is eternal). The law of causality simply recognizes what we *do* know: that all actions have a cause -- the entity doing the acting -- and that the actor acts in accordance with its nature.
  • Not all mental phenomena are caused: This of course relies on your misunderstanding of causality. The law of causality (properly understood) certainly says all mental phenomena are caused -- they are caused by the entity doing the thinking. And as mentioned earlier, the concept of causality is not properly exhausted by deterministic action.
  • The mental can affect the physical: Thank you here as well for taking the time to try to convince Objectivists of a basic point they already know.
  • Matter not causing minds: You are making a cosmological argument based on speculation in a scientific field that isn’t well understood -- precisely an error that Objectivists avoid. We do have these facts, though: we always and only find minds as attributes of biological (i.e., physical) animals -- and we find a tight causal relationship between (and *only* between) the brain and the mind, with the physical affecting the content and operation of the mental and vice versa. We also know about emergent phenomena, where systems of one kind of thing (like matter?) can give rise to new (even fundamentally different) kinds of things (like consciousness?). But as I said, it is a matter for scientists to sort out, not for us to dogmatize about from our philosophical armchairs. However, we do know enough to dismiss your argument as beyond problematic.
  • Your grand syllogism: On top of the above issues with your rationalistic premises, here you arbitrarily leap from our observing minds (only ever) affecting the actions of their biological organism’s brain/body, to mind(Drunk *creating* ALL things physical.

Your rationalistic construct collapses at so many points, and these issues aren’t fresh in the thread, yet you still offered this paragraph again rather than retracting it.

Please understand, though, that my first and fundamental response is that your method is wrong: you need to drop this pervasive rationalism and show us how your ideas have a genuine basis in reality (or admit that they are simply fantasy). No person of reason is interested in deductions from floating notions imported from your religion.

Thanks,
Greg

Next Step

Luke Setzer's picture

Bill, assuming you had actually persuaded us of hylomorphism, God, etc. as "logically possible," where had you intended to carry this discussion?

Luke Setzer -- Global Organizer -- PROPEL(TM)
http://www.PropelObjectivism.com

This is Humorous

Bill Tingley's picture

Mr. Jetton is upset that I assume Objectivism entails materialism. Of course, I did not say that. I said Objectivists frequently import materialism into Objectivist to fill the ontological hole left by Rand and Peikoff.

Then Mr. Jetton, presumably an Objectivist, proceeds to make my point for me. He denies my Statement #5 as "blatantly false", which means he believes that which is mental is material and deterministic per my Statement #3 (which he did not deny). Thus, Mr. Jetton has declared that the mind is matter or an effect of matter, which is, in a word, materialism.

Regards, Bill

P.S. Merlin, I hope you are relying upon something better than a Wikipedia article to understand property dualism. At the end of the day, property dualism either evades the question of how the operation of a mental property escapes the determinism of the physical entity embodying it or implicitly reduces itself to materialism.

Objectivism is not materialism

Merlin Jetton's picture

Contrary to Mr. Tingley's assumptions, Objectivism does not entail materialism. He obviously subscribes to substance dualism and assumes anyone who doesn't must be a materialist. It seems that he has not heard of property dualism. (Wikipedia has an article about it.)

He writes: 5. That which is mental is conscious, volitional, or rational, and neither consists of matter nor is an effect of matter.

Blatantly false.

The Materialism of Objectivists not Objectivism

Bill Tingley's picture

Hi, Greg.

It's not my fault that you have not thought through the implications of your premises. If you acknowledge that there are two modes of existence -- i.e., the physical and deterministic represented by matter and the mental and non-deterministic represented by the mind -- then, excellent. We share that premise. Reality is dualistic.

The problem for you is that premise is not sufficient to conclude that it is not logically possible for God, the being of pure spirit Who created the universe, to exist. Indeed, the premise permits that logical possibility as I argued here:

So, if your experience is true, then reality is not monistic. It is dualistic. Both mind and matter are fundamental modes of existence. We also know from experience that: [1] All material entities require a cause and not all mental phenomena does (e.g., our intentions), and [2] a mental act can give rise to an alteration in the arrangement of matter (i.e., an intention of the mind causing an electro-chemical response in the brain). Finally, we have no evidence that matter can cause a mind to exist. (This is not to say that matter cannot affect the mind. A common instance is sensory perception delivering data to the mind via the brain.) Therefore, if matter cannot cause the mind, but the mind can at least cause changes in matter, and all material entities must be caused, then the ultimate cause of material entities must be a mind. In that syllogism arises the logical possibility for the existence of God as pure spirit.

Let me express my argument another way:

1. All existents are either physical or mental.

2. That which is physical consists of matter or is an effect of matter.

3. Matter and its effects are spatially and temporally extended, finite, deterministic, and caused.

4. Therefore, all that is physical must be caused.

5. That which is mental is conscious, volitional, or rational, and neither consists of matter nor is an effect of matter.

6. Not all that is mental must be caused.

7. Physical and mental existents can interact and cause changes in one another.
a. Because that which is mental is not material, a physical effect upon a mental existent does not entail the cause of any further mental effects.
b. Because that which is physical is material, a mental effect upon a physical existent deterministically causes further physical effects.

8. Because:
a. All that is physical must be caused (#4),
b. That which is mental need not be caused (#6),
c. Physical and mental existents can interact (#7),
only that which is mental can be the ultimate cause of all that is physical.

The logically possibility for the God I have defined in my articles lies in the truth of Statement #8. If you deny the truth of that statement, then you can logically do so only by denying the truth of one of the prior statements. If so, I only see three resolutions (and severe problems) along that course:

Materialism. Only the physical exists and there is no explanation possible or needed for its cause. (This is, of course, contrary to our experience of mental phenomena and does violence to free will and ethics.)

Emergentism. The physical is the ultimate cause of the mental. (This requires a breakdown of the law of causality, as opposed to its inapplicability to the mental, and at the end of the day is merely “materialism postponed”.)

Parallelism. The physical and the mental have always existed, neither one causing the other. (This, however, still does not logically preclude a Creator, a mentality who arranged matter as we now observe it, while positing the physical with the unobserved attribute of temporal infinity.)

So, I remain steadfast. Your insistence that Objectivism metaphysically precludes the possibility of the Christian God can only rest logically upon materialist presumptions. Either outright materialism or its weak sister, emergentism. You can decry my ignorance of Objectivism, by its not my fault that neither Rand nor Peikoff developed an ontology that squares the formal assertion that Objectivism is not materialism with its metaphysical atheism, and so Objectivism provides no clear answer of how it gets from here to there. What you call ignorance is precisely my knowledge of the incompleteness of Objectivism and my understanding that Objectivists usually try to fill that gap with hidden, if not explicit, materialist premises.

Now it’s true that not all Objectivists have succumbed, wittingly or unwittingly, to materialism. Some have thought out the implications of the primacy of existence, the existence of consciousness, and the law of identity to make non-materialist arguments that do not require the existence of God for the existence of the universe. Usually some manner of the parallelism I noted above. I don’t find those arguments persuasive, but at least their atheism is a reasoned (if flawed) conclusion rather than a Valliant-like faith to which everything must be bent.

That’s where it rests, Greg. Your atheism is pure faith, and a fideistic one at that, if you insist that the existence of God is logically impossible.

Regards, Bill

Materialism is Yet Another Illusion you have about Objectivism

Greg Perkins's picture

Bill, you came out swinging in this thread, indicating you were a longtime ‘Randian’ and that you know all about Objectivism and the Objectivist positions and arguments on these things, but at every turn you have consistently demonstrated utter confusion about your target.  This condition has not improved, even after being given ample evidence that you really don’t know what you are talking about.  I don’t want to be a jerk about it, but something has to change or I’ll be bowing out: please, either show a little respect and do your homework before opening fire, or tone down the uninformed pronouncements. 

You write that I am a materialist and that,“the only means by which you can metaphysically preclude the logical possibility of God within an objective reality is with the premise that everything that exists is matter or an effect of matter. The problem with materialism is that it entails a deterministic universe and so our experience of non-deterministic phenomena of the mind would be an illusion. Thus, our experience could not be relied upon to obtain knowledge of reality. Indeed, knowledge would be meaningless in a materialist universe. But then that doesn’t matter because we would be nothing but matter in motion entirely subject to the law of causality. We would need no knowledge for we would do whatever the deterministic laws of physics dictate. Knowledge has no purpose absent volition. But then, nothing has purpose in a materialist universe. There is only the blind functioning of matter to no end.

But Bill, this entire time I have been making an *epistemological* point, not a metaphysical one.  As people of reason in a scientific era, we (should) note and classify phenomena objectively and avoid rationalistically wedging them into arbitrary categories to suit some dogma hunting for a rationalization.  Here and above, for example, you have been equating a species of causality (deterministic causality) with the entire category.  This is the fallacy of the frozen abstraction -- like mis-forming the category ‘dog’ to subsume only poodles, leaving collies and chihuahuas as unrelated non-dog somethings.  This helps you mistakenly classify volition as some sort of exception-to or violation-of causality, rather than what it is: another species of causality.  Checking out reality, what we observe is that all effects have causes and that no entity acts apart from or in violation of its nature.  We observe that some effects are mechanistically determined (by external influence), while others are chosen (internal influence, someone having a Prime Mover moment).  The general principle we’ve arrived at is that all entities act in accordance with their nature, hence the formulation that causality is identity in the realm of action.  (Note how this includes, but is not exhausted by, deterministic causality.)

As for volition being non-deterministic and required for knowledge and meaning and all that, Objectivists have no disagreement.  Again, you really should do some homework before coming in with guns blazing like this if you don’t want to come off as an intellectually lazy, or worse.  As indicated above, Objectivists’ disagreement with you lies in your mis-classifying volition as an exception-to or violation-of causality.  When I lift my arm, the cause is not properly attributed to anything outside me, *I* am the cause of interest -- and this is an expression, not a violation, of my nature as a volitional being.  And I of course have a cause (my parents got together, yadda yadda), but that cause of me is not properly considered the cause of my arm going up.  Also, as Luke has brought up, it does not follow that if I am constructed of deterministic physical stuff, that my every attribute must be deterministic and physical – after all, we know that emergent phenomena allow for properties to exist in a system which are not present in any of the elements, bringing about a whole strictly greater than the parts.  So it is true that we are conscious and that consciousness is not physical, and that we have volition and volition isn’t deterministic – but these facts do not support the fantastic ideas you have adopted on the authority of your religion.

I’ll stop here because your entire rationalistic construct appears to have fallen flat.  You remain in no position to posit the “logical possibility” of God as you’ve described Him.

Thanks,
Greg

Bill

James S. Valliant's picture

Once more, Bill, I got the idea that you regard your belief as being based on "experience" -- what I was asking was for the specific experiences in question. WHAT "experience" leads you to it? And HOW does it do so? I do not "experience" dualism directly, and do not know how it would logically get us there, anyway -- so what do you mean?

And, how 'bout all of those other questions?

Materialism and Emergence

Luke Setzer's picture

In case anyone cares, an exchange on materialism came in the form of an old SOLO HQ article years ago at

http://solohq.solopassion.com/Articles/Rawlings/;_or,_How_Objectivists_Are_Not_Materialists.shtml

I do not expect it to change anyone's mind but it seemed worth repeating at this point.

The concept of emergence seems relevant to this thread though I do not recall seeing it mentioned yet:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence

Luke Setzer -- Global Organizer -- PROPEL(TM)
http://www.PropelObjectivism.com

James ...

Bill Tingley's picture

And, if you don't mind, please repeat for me -- I guess I must have missed it, so maybe others did, too -- specifically what ~ direct experience ~ of mind and matter demonstrates God's existence in your view?

I do mind. In my response to Greg I clearly based the rationality of my belief in the dualism of mind and matter upon sensory perception and introspection -- i.e., my experience. Indeed, I used the word "experience" several times. Either you won't read what I have written or won't make even a half-assed attempt to understand it.

The thing is, James, when I converse with someone I expect some value in return for what I have given. However, you offer me no value. Instead you deny the value I have given and then demand that I answer this or that question (too often one that I have already addressed). You are an unjust man who expects me to serve his interests while offering nothing in exchange. Apparently the Nietzschean in you has throttled the Randian.

Bill

Laure ...

Bill Tingley's picture

You agreed with this statement made by Greg:

Checking out reality, mind and thinking appear to be a species of action, not any kind of substance. And it is an error to try to conceive of an action as existentially floating free of that which acts: there is no dancing apart from the dancer, no throwing apart from the arm, no thinking apart from the brain.

You are on the right track when you believe the mind to be something not like a substance. That's right. It is not some sort of exotic matter. It has an entirely different mode of existence, which is formal and not material, to use Aristotelian terms.

As for comparing dancing and throwing to thinking, apples and oranges. The dancer doesn't dance and the thrower doesn't throw unless he first thinks. What he thinks is not dependent upon the brain in that what he intends by thinking is not caused by any prior state of matter. Something else is at work.

Regards, Bill

Materialism is a Hard Habit to Break

Bill Tingley's picture

As best I can tell, every element of your account for the “logical possibility” of God is foiled by reality and what we see in it.

Of course, it is, because you are a materialist. You can complain that you are not, but the only means by which you can metaphysically preclude the logical possibility of God within an objective reality is with the premise that everything that exists is matter or an effect of matter. The problem with materialism is that it entails a deterministic universe and so our experience of non-deterministic phenomena of the mind would be an illusion. Thus, our experience could not be relied upon to obtain knowledge of reality. Indeed, knowledge would be meaningless in a materialist universe. But then that doesn’t matter because we would be nothing but matter in motion entirely subject to the law of causality. We would need no knowledge for we would do whatever the deterministic laws of physics dictate. Knowledge has no purpose absent volition. But then, nothing has purpose in a materialist universe. There is only the blind functioning of matter to no end.

If you deny any of this, then logically you must allow for a mode of existence that is non-material – i.e., not subject to the law of causality. Fortunately you have a good reason for believing that there is such a mode of existence. You have the introspective experience of your own mind. With your mind you can intend anything you desire without regard to any prior state of matter. Furthermore, you can act upon that intention without regard to any prior state of matter. The materiality of that act is realized by a mental-physical interaction between your mind and your brain. Of course, once your mental act is reduced to materiality, it is constrained by what the laws of physics will permit your body to do. However, the origin of that act remains a non-material uncaused cause – i.e., an intention of your mind. You know this from your experience of it.

So, if your experience is true, then reality is not monistic. It is dualistic. Both mind and matter are fundamental modes of existence. We also know from experience that: [1] All material entities require a cause and not all mental phenomena does (e.g., our intentions), and [2] a mental act can give rise to an alteration in the arrangement of matter (i.e., an intention of the mind causing an electro-chemical response in the brain). Finally, we have no evidence that matter can cause a mind to exist. (This is not to say that matter cannot affect the mind. A common instance is sensory perception delivering data to the mind via the brain.) Therefore, if matter cannot cause the mind, but the mind can at least cause changes in matter, and all material entities must be caused, then the ultimate cause of material entities must be a mind. In that syllogism arises the logical possibility for the existence of God as pure spirit.

Your argument against this, to the extent that it isn’t implicitly materialist, is that we have no evidence that mind and matter are separable. Within spacetime that is true. All that exists within spacetime must have some manner of extension, a finite volume in space and duration in time. The purpose of matter is to provide that extension. Without that extension, an entity can have no identity and so existence within spacetime. Yet in doing so, matter imposes limitations of finitude and causality on an entity. Therefore, when the mind is joined with matter, matter does not complete the mind, it limits it. Furthermore, this limitation is necessary only within spacetime. A mind outside of spacetime has no need of extension, so no need of matter, and so no limitation imposed upon it by matter. Absent a materialist premise, this is logically possible.

So the question arises whether or not the realm of spacetime constitutes the entirety of reality. Again, absent a materialist premise, reality is not logically restricted to spacetime and that which exists within it. Empirically, scientific observation supports the Standard Model of the universe as an expanding finite bubble of spacetime, and if finite, then it is caused. However, that cause of spacetime must be external to it. So we have sound reasons, including those based upon observation, for believing that reality is not limited to spacetime.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon you, if you deny materialism, to explain how reality does not encompass anything except that which you have observed as normal – i.e., within spacetime. As a finite creature dependent upon the effects of matter (via sensory perception) to obtain data about anything external to your mind, you confuse epistemology with metaphysics to claim the omniscience that all that exists must be like all that you have observed. Doing so is even more problematic when the experience of sensory perception trumps the experience of introspection, so that your evidence of matter outweighs your evidence of mind. You need to justify why this must be so, especially because the mind is the very instrument upon which you are relying to make these assessments. If the evidence of your mind is not as reliable as the evidence of your senses, then how can you have any certainty in your belief that reality is limited to what is “normally” observed?

Having addressed your counter-argument to my metaphysics, I’ll leave it at that for now, Greg. Your other counter-arguments concerning epistemology and ethics are premised upon biological assumptions (i.e., materialism) and so beg the metaphysical question that is in dispute.

Regards, Bill

Bill

James S. Valliant's picture

I am very sorry, Bill, but I must have missed what you said God was communicating through the "allegory" of Genesis. Could you indicate which post that was, or, better still, just repeat for me what that was? (When I first asked the question, you responded by telling me that you wouldn't respond to me anymore, so it must be somewhere else.)

Also, you missed the meaning of my question: How did the understanding that Genesis ~ was in fact only allegory ~ get missed by both Jews and Christians until the Age of Science? It's obvious that if it is allegory, then, clearly, its meaning has always been the same -- but I could've figured that one out on my own.

And, please, go right ahead and assume "the nature of God" for the purposes of the exegesis, I don't mind. Just make clear the "whys" behind your interpretations, and we should have no problem.

And, if you don't mind, please repeat for me -- I guess I must have missed it, so maybe others did, too -- specifically what ~ direct experience ~ of mind and matter demonstrates God's existence in your view?

I am not alone in having missed this, so please bear with me.

Greg states, "Checking out

Laure Chipman's picture

Greg states, "Checking out reality, mind and thinking appear to be a species of action, not any kind of substance.  And it is an error to try to conceive of an action as existentially floating free of that which acts: there is no dancing apart from the dancer, no throwing apart from the arm, no thinking apart from the brain."

This is pretty much what I was thinking.  In previous posts, I indicated that I think there are no non-physical things.  Maybe that's a bit overstated, but what I was trying to get at is that these non-physical things are VERBS.  And the idea of a pure, free-floating VERB doesn't make sense; there has to be a noun DOING it.  The word "mind" is really equivalent to "thinking and feeling and imagining", it's just a noun tag that we put on that stuff so that we can discuss it.  In my view, these verbs and adjectives that are made into nouns for convenience (words with -ing or -tion or -ity on the end like thinking or emotion or imagination or creativity) are not things that exist in and of themselves.

Greg ...

Bill Tingley's picture

Hi, Bill. Thank you for addressing the meat of my post. (And my apologies for the delay in response, Real Life interposed for a bit.)

You're welcome, and no apologies need be given for Real Life. Thank goodness for it. I too am short of time at the moment, but I will get back to you on this.

Regards, Bill

Luke ...

Bill Tingley's picture

Would it be fair to say, Bill, that the miracles documented in the New Testament amount to adequate evidence for you to accept the postulate of a God outside of spacetime who can create those miracles?

No, it is the other way around, Luke. By reason I arrived at the belief God, as the creator of all things, exists. As God He infuses prime matter with form to create every substance (or entity, as you might say) either directly or indirectly through the law of causality. Therefore, a miracle is God's alteration of the form or matter of a substance to serve as a sign of His will. Of course, to function effectively as a sign, that alteration must be inexplicable in terms of nature.

So it with that belief about God and miracles I read the Gospels as historical evidence of the occurrence of particular miracles -- indeed, the one miracle that the truth of Christianity rests upon, the Resurrection.

Regards, Bill

James ...

Bill Tingley's picture

What exactly is God communicating to us through this "allegory"?

Asked and answered.

How did this insight escape everyone until the Age of Science?

It didn't. Scientific knowledge changed not one word of the truth about God and human nature revealed in the Genesis creation story.

[H]ow can you tell from the text that Genesis was meant to be read "allegorically"?

One example of how: Flood myths were common in Near Eastern cultures at the time the story of Noah was written. Plainly the author of the Genesis story knew he was using the trope of a commonly known tale to communicate important principles about man's relationship with God.

Of course, as I have said a number of times now, the problem of addressing any issue of Christian exegesis of the Scriptures is that it is predicated upon the existence of a very particular God. And until we establish at the very least that His existence is logically possible, we cannot even proceed arguendo with a discussion of the Christian interpretation of the Scriptures and the subsequent development of doctrine.

Now I've done my part with the preliminary task, but it is evident that you, if not everyone else here, refuse accept that. To wit, this nonsense ...

And, even with all of those words, and even ignoring all of your ignoring of the actual questions, you still haven't put forth an "argument," a ~ demonstration ~ that any of these floating definitions actually refers to anything to reality. (The main unanswered question.)

Of course, I did. I founded my argument upon my direct experience, through introspection and sensory perception, of mind and matter.

But none of this really matters to you does it? I haven't played the foil for your deluded conspiracy theory of Christianity, so all that I have said is in one ear and out the other.

Bill

Floating ideas foiled by reality...

Greg Perkins's picture

Hi, Bill.  Thank you for addressing the meat of my post.  (And my apologies for the delay in response, Real Life interposed for a bit.)

I asked: “Why do you think the universe (of the physicists, not all-of-existence per-se) was brought about by a person?  I have never heard of any rational basis for suspecting this, much less thinking it true.  This seems utterly arbitrary.  It certainly isn’t “logically possible” given our reality-based concept of ‘person.’”

And you responded:From my experience, via sensory perception and introspection, I am aware of two fundamental constituents of existence: Matter and mind.  …  So when I act upon an intention to put my body into motion, that intention has non-deterministically altered the disposition of matter.  / Thus, I have direct knowledge of a mental phenomenon as the uncaused cause of an alteration of the physical.  With this knowledge of two fundamental modes of existence, the physical (matter and its effects) and the mental (mind and its effects), I look at the cosmos, that astronomical structure of expanding spacetime we inhabit.  That structure is physical, and so finite, deterministic, and subject to the law of causality.  Scientific observation affirms this.  ...  However, I do know from experience that mental phenomena can be the uncaused cause of physical phenomena.  So I conclude that the uncaused cause of the cosmos is a mind and not matter.  I call that mind God.”

The term ‘fundamental constituent’ connotes that these are kinds of substances, and this leads you to toy with an existential impossibility.  Checking out reality, mind and thinking appear to be a species of action, not any kind of substance.  And it is an error to try to conceive of an action as existentially floating free of that which acts: there is no dancing apart from the dancer, no throwing apart from the arm, no thinking apart from the brain.  An *epistemological distinction* between an entity and its action is certainly possible and quite useful; an *existential separation* is impossible and incoherent to even consider.  You would need to show how such a separation could make any sense to even get started with your account.

And while we do see physical results from thinking, importantly we do not see just *any* kind of physical results: my will doesn’t lift your arms, nor do my thoughts move this ball or heat that table – except via my body (and only via my body).  So you cannot claim any observational basis for ‘pure’ thinking that exists free of a thinker, nor for thought effecting the physical in a broad-based and categorically different manner from what we do observe.  Observations such as these only highlight the arbitrariness in your arguments for the “logical possibility” of God.

I asked: “Why do you think mind apart from body has any possibility of knowledge, much less omniscience?  The concept of knowledge arose from seeing certain biological entities in contact with reality via their senses.  All knowledge is limited, finite, sense-based and obtained by a specific process – not infinite, not gained by no specific process, from no particular means of contact with reality.  Likewise aside from the above issue of mind without body, I have never heard of any rational basis for even suspecting such a notion, much less thinking it is true.  This seems utterly arbitrary.  It certainly isn’t “logically possible” given our reality-based concept of knowledge.”

And you responded: “You are making an unsubstantiated claim that all knowledge is sense-based.  …”

No, I am only recognizing what we mean by the term and making it more difficult to distort that meaning.  This concept, like every valid concept, has its roots here in reality and condenses what we’ve found in a useful form – indeed, the reality-based study of knowledge has clarified its essential nature, purpose, source and methods of attainment.  You would need to show how that reality-based work supports your construct; as best I can tell it doesn’t, because you are working from the arbitrary.  Please, prove me wrong if you can.

I asked: “Why do you think an eternal mind apart from body would have any possibility of pursuing values, or for acting as a moral agent in helping/hindering others' pursuit of values?  The concept of value arises in the context of living entities pursuing life and maintaining their (conditional) existence – ‘value’ doesn’t apply to the eternal.  And (see above) mind without body cannot act to help or hinder those of us who can and must pursue values.  Once again, I have never heard of any rational basis for even suspecting such a notion, much less thinking it is true.  This seems utterly arbitrary.  It certainly isn’t “logically possible” given our reality-based concepts of values, good, evil, and moral agency.”

And you responded: “I take it your argument for “value” comes directly from Rand.  The problem with “value” in Rand’s ethical egoism is two-fold: [1] It is premised on a whopper of an equivocation on the definition of “life”, which shifts from survival to eudemonia; and [2] it is subjective in that what is valued is determined by the goal desired – i.e., if X is desired, then Y is of value.  So you objection isn’t impressive.  But given your understanding of value, there is absolutely no reason why an eternal being cannot desire something and so value what fulfills that desire.”

As in the metaphysics, so in the epistemology and ethics?  For someone purportedly knowledgeable about Objectivism, almost every essential you try to talk about is completely confused.  In all seriousness, you would do well to advertise yourself as not knowing much of anything about Objectivism, and to make clear that whatever sort of ‘Randian’ you may have been in the past, that you were never an Objectivist.  It would save you some effort and others a lot of confusion. 

Here, you avoided grappling with the essential connection, which I provided in my statement: specifically maintaining a conditional biological existence (i.e., not pursuing just any old subjective desire) is what gives rise to the concept of value, and this would not apply to the eternal.  Hence the question: do you have any basis at all in reality for thinking it does?  As someone familiar with Objectivists, you know well that I am not pulling what I am saying out of thin air, and that I could show you extensive evidence and argument from the world, from Rand’s essays, and from books by Peikoff and Smith and others for the basis of the notions I am relying on.  In contrast, your notion seems to be nothing but floating.  Again, please prove me wrong if you can.

As best I can tell, every element of your account for the “logical possibility” of God is foiled by reality and what we see in it.

Thanks,
Greg

Bill

James S. Valliant's picture

What you needed to provide us, in order to show that you had "answered" the questions, was the actual question. We read all of this the first time. See, this was what had informed my statement and was its basis.

And, even with all of those words, and even ignoring all of your ignoring of the actual questions, you still haven't put forth an "argument," a ~ demonstration ~ that any of these floating definitions actually refers to anything to reality. (The main unanswered question.)

You have, however, repeatedly ~ demonstrated ~ your own ignorance on the subject of Objectivism, its view of existence and the physical, its view of free will, its view of causality, its arguments against God, and its view of consciousness generally.

So, among all of those unanswered questions, let me just choose one area: how can you tell from the text that Genesis was meant to be read "allegorically"? How did this insight escape everyone until the Age of Science? What exactly is God communicating to us through this "allegory"?

Miracles

Luke Setzer's picture

Would it be fair to say, Bill, that the miracles documented in the New Testament amount to adequate evidence for you to accept the postulate of a God outside of spacetime who can create those miracles?

In other words, when things act outside their "normal spacetime" nature, would you credit that to a spiritual force outside that spacetime that "volitionally alters the clockworks"?

I do not mean here absurdities such as a "four-sided triangle" but normally impossible events such as raising a man from the dead, extending the length of a day, etc. that require altering the normal behavior of matter and energy.

Luke Setzer -- Global Organizer -- PROPEL(TM)
http://www.PropelObjectivism.com

Luke ...

Bill Tingley's picture

My apologies for misspelling your name.

Bill, do you consider the Law of Identity -- A is A -- ultimately arising from God, i.e. that God manifests the Law of Identity and can thus achieve anything "logically possible" which really means ... anything?

Yes and no. God is the source of logic, but "logically possible" does not mean anything is possible. That which is illogical, such as a four-sided triangle cannot exist.

Bill's position seems to depend upon several broad assumptions:

Acceptance of the text of the Bible as a basically accurate account of the history of the world with certain parts necessarily treated as "allegorical" due to the discoveries made via our God-given reason

No, a finer point needs to be put on this. Only those Biblical texts the authors intended as history -- e.g., the Gospels -- are historically accurate. It is the author's intention that is the starting point for a correct interpretation of the Bible. Furthermore, no historical or scientific truth is contradictory to Biblical truth. So Biblical texts must be interpreted with what we know by reason to be objectively true of the world. This is the lesson that Young-Earth creationists need to learn, because they risk trivializing the profound truths the Bible reveals about God and human nature by adhering to an extreme literalism.

Acceptance of the possibility of a region beyond our normal abstract concept of existence outside our normal experience of space and time

I think I understand what you mean by this. The cosmos is the bubble of finite spacetime which we inhabit. God as the creator of the cosmos exists outside of it. If what I mean by "outside of it" is what you mean by "region", then yes.

Acceptance of the Law of Identity manifested in ways fused ultimately with "pure spirit" rather than with the existents we normally experience as "existence"

Yes. The law of identity does not require that an entity or an existent to be composed of matter or an effect of matter to possess an identity.

Acceptance of the idea that our normal experience of time does not apply to that which falls outside our normal concept of existence

I'm not sure what you mean by this, Luke. If you mean that I believe that spacetime is finite and that it is possible for entities exist outside of spacetime, then yes.

Regards, Bill

My Alleged Lack of Response

Bill Tingley's picture

Thanks, James, for confirming my statement that you refuse to acknowledge anything that doesn't fit into your conspiracy theory about Christianity.

You wrote:

I will let all of those good people speak for themselves, but, as is obvious to any reader of this thread, you have uniformly refused to answer the substance raised in objection to your floating definitions. Luke, Laure, Linz, and, especially, Greg, all raised excellent questions and points.

I am curious if you had a response.

You may not like what I have had to say in response to those "excellent questions", but it is simply a matter of justice to recognize that I have answered them at length over the past two weeks, as evidenced below.

Regards, Bill

Evidence of God

Submitted by Bill Tingley on Tue, 2007-07-10 18:15.

Thanks, Linz, for your compliment on my essay.

You and I share an aversion to rationalism. Even if a concept is correct, it is not enough to know it is a swell idea. We need to understand how it is grounded in fact. So I agree that a rational belief in God requires evidence of God. In my essay I indicated three areas of evidence that are foundational to my belief that the existence of God is not only logically possible but is true. Here is the passage:

Because God, as its creator, is external to, superior to, and independent of spacetime, there can be no issue as to what caused God. The infinite regression of causes commonly argued by atheists to deny God has no traction, because causation exists only in relation to spacetime. As a being beyond spacetime, God is eternal and the ground (either directly or indirectly) of all causation in the universe. This includes the physical order of the universe upon which all laws of nature are predicated, but no law of nature can explain because any such explanation must presume the very thing – i.e., order – to be explained. It also includes the mental phenomena which we all experience – e.g., consciousness, rationality, knowledge, free will – but cannot physically identify and reduce in terms of that order just noted. Yet that phenomena, in particular free will, does cause physical effects. This is explicable only if the mental is fundamental to (or independent of) the physical, as God, a purely spiritual being, is to the universe, a construct of matter.

Those areas of evidence are: [1] That which is physical is finite, [2] that which is physical has order (i.e., a deterministic nature), and [3] not everything is physical. To be clear by physical I mean that which is composed of or arises from matter, or more precisely in Aristotelian terms, the material and efficient causes of an entity. A quality of the physical is that it is identifiable by measurement – i.e., it has extension – and so is knowable through sensory perception either directly or by its effects. Therefore, I think it should be uncontroversial here that we do know through experience (and a little reasoning) that which is physical is finite and deterministic. If not, please let me know if I need to make further argument for the validity of my first two areas of evidence for God.

Meanwhile, let me proceed to the third area: Not everything is physical. By that I mean there exists that which is not composed of matter, has no extension, and is unidentifiable by measurement. Examples of these things are life, consciousness, knowledge, and volition. To say that these are not physical is not to say that do not exist in an essential relationship with the physical. Rather it is to say there are not reducible to physical components and so are neither finite nor deterministic. To the extent that the operation of these non-physical things is finite and deterministic that is a consequence of their functioning through a physical entity and the inherent limitations of such. For example, I can exercise my volition to intend anything I want. The mechanics of matter, such as that expressed by the laws of physics, have no bearing on that choice. My volition is libertarian. Yet, if I intend to do that which requires physical action, then that action will be limited by what the mechanics of matter will allow my body to do.

For the sake of convenience, let’s call that which I have classified as non-physical the “mental”. Again, is any of this controversial here about the mental? For instance, the existence of volition is axiomatic in Objectivism, and nothing that I know of in Rand’s philosophy suggests that she thought free will was anything other than free (at least in terms of what a human being can intend if not in what he does). So, it would seem that Objectivists do acknowledge that at least one element of the mental, volition, operates without the constraints of the physical and so cannot be physical in its nature. I do understand that Objectivists resist classifying the mental as having a mode of existence distinct from that of the physical for fear that this would make them dualists. However, it appears that the dualism that Objectivists reject is Cartesian. Rightly so. But it is not at all clear that Objectivists reject a dualism that would be akin to hylomorphism, for if they otherwise plump for a metaphysical monism that acknowledges only a physical mode of existence, then that is materialism – an unhappy metaphysic which Objectivists do reject.

Perhaps the lack of clarity here lies in the fact that Objectivist ontology (especially that of the mind) is undeveloped. But we need not nail down all of that to proceed. At this point I would like to know, Linz, is how much common ground exists on three areas of evidence I will rely upon as evidence of God. It doesn’t appear to me that there would be much controversy as to the validity of my evidence: [1] The physical finite, [2] the physical is deterministic, and [3] not everything is physical. But I shall not presume. Knowing where if any common ground lies here will let me continue as concisely as possible.

Regards, Bill

Burden of Proof

Submitted by Bill Tingley on Tue, 2007-07-10 18:23.

Hi, Nick.

Assuming by “proof” you mean evidentiary proof that leads to certainty of knowledge as opposed to a logical proof that is only as good as its premises, you are correct. None of what I have argued proves that God exists. What you describe as the “weak atheist” position is an intellectually respectable conclusion to draw from the available evidence.

But now let’s look at where you have taken a wrong step. No burden of proof lies upon me. Unlike a trial, for example, where if I were the prosecutor I must persuade a jury to accept the truth of a proposition – namely, the defendant is guilty – I have no such burden. It’s not up to me to provide you that certainty of knowledge of God’s existence. Indeed, I cannot do it.

What I can do is make the case the God’s existence is not just logically possible but also a reasonable conclusion to draw from the evidence. However, as with almost all things dependent upon evidence, reason permits doubt. Sometimes almost none. Sometimes a great deal. Thus, in such instances, the only means of being certain is by faith. Faith, at least for Catholics, is the intellectual assent one gives to a reasonable conclusion. So it is not an abandonment of reason or contrary to it. It is predicated upon it. Faith sets aside the doubt that reason permits of a conclusion after fact and logic have led to it. That is why Christian faith is a virtue. It is akin to having the courage of own’s conviction.

Therefore, only you can provide the certainty of knowledge via faith that God exists. (Similarly many atheists rely upon faith to deny God's existence.) It's up to you how much doubt you entertain about something. That is why I have no – indeed, cannot have – any burden of proof in the matter (which, of couse, is not an excuse for not making a good argument for the reasonableness of God's existence).

Regards, Bill

Regarding Spacetime, Linz ...

Submitted by Bill Tingley on Fri, 2007-07-13 19:34.

... I'll take the time now to comment on that instead of waiting to first establish common ground on the validity of my evidence for the existence of God.

You wrote:

But space and time are not metaphysical. They are concepts of relationship and measurement, among and of existents.

I would say that whether spacetime metaphysically exists as a "fabric" of the universe or is merely a relationship between existents is an empirical matter. However, I would not argue that space and time cannot be such relationships. Clearly they are. For me, it is question of whether or not that's all they are.

However, for the sake of argument, let's agree that space and time are as you say. This has no bearing on whether every existent must in some manner be composed of matter or directly related to it. Indeed, if spacetime isn't the fabric of the universe and only relational as you say, that leaves even more room (pun intended, and most sincere apologies for it) for the existence of a purely spiritual being like God.

Therefore, the metaphysical denial of God must rest elsewhere. As I wrote to Claudia, in Objectivism this denial is derived from the primacy of existence. Yet the logic of that works only if in Objectivism existence means only the existence of matter -- hence, materialism. Because consciousness is axiomatic in Objectivism, this suggests that Objectivists recognize more than one irreducible mode of existence. This coupled with the unacknowledged moderate realism of Rand's supposed resolution of the problem of universals, this would suggest that Objectivism subscribes to something like hylomorphic dualism.

Now it is certainly logically consistent to be a hylomorphist and an atheist, but to deny God under such a philosophy one would have to concede that a belief in God is reasonable although in error. Rand would have no truck with that, nor do those who subscribe to her philosophy. Unfortunately, that leaves the metaphysical foundation for Objectivist atheism in something of a muddle.

In fact, this muddle was the source of my ultimate dissatisfaction with the philosophy that put me on the road toward Thomism. However, if the muddle doesn't lie with Rand's philosophy but rather myself, I would be happy to be sorted out on this.

Regards, Bill

Argument 101

Submitted by Bill Tingley on Tue, 2007-07-17 18:45.

Let’s go to school, everyone. Luke’s response to my article will provide us with plenty of material about how NOT to make an argument.

GOD IS THE CREATOR

I wrote that this is what Christians believe about God as the creator of the universe: God is the person Who created the universe and everything within it. God’s relationship to the universe is analogous to that of a contractor to a house he has built. Just as the contractor is not a part of the house he has built, God is not a part of the universe He has created. Like the contractor, God is external to, superior to, and independent of His work. So, like the contractor, God is unconstrained by what He has fashioned. That lack of constraint means that, like the contractor, God can carry on without regard to His creation or return to alter it as He pleases.

Luke answered: This is a rehash of the old ‘first cause’ argument that presumes that the universe needs such a first cause.

Well, no. It is not an argument. It is a definition. It is a statement of fact as to what Christians believe. The purpose of this statement is to make clear that any argument against the existence of God that is predicated upon a definition of God that makes Him a part of, limited by, or subject to the universe knocks down a straw man. To argue against the Christian belief that God is the Creator, the atheist must argue that the universe is eternal, encompasses all that exists, and has no cause.

Luke then asserts: Infinite Regress demands that we ask who created the Creator, who created that Creator, and so forth backwards into infinity. Since we only know that existence exists, we need to start with that as an irreducible axiom.

No, it doesn’t. Christian believe God is eternal, therefore requires no cause. Objectivists, according to Peikoff, subscribe to the same principle: That which is eternal has no cause, all that is “non-eternal” does. Therefore, the Objectivist Law of Causality does not demand that question. Consequently the argument hangs on what is eternal and so the uncaused cause of all.

Objectivists argue that this is the universe. However, that conclusion stems from an equivocation regarding the word “existence”. The common meaning of existence is “the state of being or existing”. To the extent that Objectivists declare “existence exists” to mean “only that which exists is real” is uncontroversial. No Christian believes in God because He does NOT exist. But that says nothing about what exists. So to beef up the axiom of “existence exists” to use it as Luke does to preclude the possibility of a creator of the universe, “existence” shifts to meaning “all that exists” or “reality”. That in itself is agreeable to the Christian as a metaphysical axiom, because whatever existed first, whether God or the universe, necessarily existed. It is self-evident.

What is not self-evident is when the Objectivist equivocation continues and “existence” further shifts its meaning to “the universe”. Thus, “existence exists” becomes “the universe is the eternal uncaused cause of all”. By means of this equivocation on “existence”, the Objectivist moves from stating a trite axiom to begging the question with the Christian as to what is the uncaused cause. The Objectivist offers no argument that the universe is eternal and uncaused, other than perhaps an argument from ignorance – to wit, the universe must be eternal and uncaused because there is no evidence (by his lights) that anything else is (a proposition which he often further debilitate by confusing what is actual with what is necessary).

Instead the Objectivist declares the eternal uncaused universe as axiomatic. Whether or not the evidence, such as scientific observation, permits that conclusion (and it does not appears so), this is a curious stand for the Objectivist to take. This is because Peikoff states in not uncertain terms in refuting the existence of God that there are no infinities in either expanse or quantities. Indeed, he states that this applies even to the universe. Yet, an eternal universe is one that is infinite in expanse, that of time. So in addition to the Objectivist equivocating on the meaning of “existence” to beg the question of what is the eternal uncaused cause, he contradicts his own axiom of “existence exists” by claiming that infinities are impossible.

To the Christian this appears to be a mess of ad hoc argumentation calculated to reach the predetermined end of making the existence of God a metaphysical impossibility.

Luke concludes his “refutation” of the Christian belief that God is the Creator with: Begging the Question is a variant of the previously mentioned fallacy, e.g. ‘Who created the Creator?’ or ‘Why does existence need a Creator?’

I have already dispensed with “Who created the Creator?” Objectivists agree to the principle that not all entities must have a cause – i.e., that which is eternal. As to “Why does existence need a Creator?”, it doesn’t. It is a nonsensical question if “existence” carries nothing more than its plain meaning. The Creator exists. He has existence. Existence is the necessary state of reality. However, if we follow the Objectivist equivocation on “existence” to give it the meaning of “the universe”, there are of course cosmological, design, and teleological arguments to answer that question. Whether or not Objectivists find those arguments compelling, the Objectivist cannot, as I have outlined above, dismiss them by means of “existence exists” to declare they are pointless because the existence of God is a metaphysical impossibility.

GOD IS PURE SPIRIT

In my article I stated: Objectivists often cite the impossibility of the primacy of consciousness to deny the existence of God as a spiritual being. They argue that consciousness can only exist once there exists something to be conscious of. Implicit in this argument is that first ‘something’ must be physical and not mental. If asked why a consciousness cannot be conscious of itself, the Objectivist response is that consciousness cannot exist independent of a physical entity. Again, as above, this argument rests upon a definition of the universe that Christians do not accept and begs the question so long as Objectivists fail to address what Christians do mean by the universe as God’s creation.

Luke’s “argument” in response:

1. The Appeal to Reverence replaces relevant evidence for a conclusion with a bid for respect for traditions, e.g. Christian traditions.

2. The Bandwagon Fallacy appeals to an interest in following the crowd and doing as they do rather than to adequate evidence justifying a conclusion, e.g. masses of Christians.

Objectivists have no need to accept Christian metaphysics based on their traditions, etc. Moreover, Objectivists can point to overwhelming evidence corroborating their metaphysics while Christians cannot.

It should apparent to even the most biased Objectivist here that I make no appeal to reverence or the bandwagon. Again Luke misses the point. I am stating what Christians belief about God and how the Objectivist argument against the primacy of consciousness fails to address that belief. Therefore, it is silly for Luke to stomp his feet that he does not have to accept Christian metaphysics – who says he does? – when the point of the article is that if an Objectivist wants to refute the Christian belief in God, they can only succeed if they understand what that belief is.

Hence, any effective argument on this point must account for what Christians mean by “consciousness” and the “universe”. Luke simply did not do that. Instead, he threw out red herrings. Moreover, if he pressed his arguments too far that what I have said about God is invalid because that belief has its origin in Christian tradition, he would commit a genetic fallacy.

Finally, Luke’s last comment, “Moreover, Objectivists can point to overwhelming evidence corroborating their metaphysics while Christians cannot.” Well, of course, Christians can. For example, Big Bang cosmology is well-attested by scientific observation and is consistent with Christian belief of God as the Creator rather than the Objectivist belief that the universe is eternal. So Luke’s hand-waving doesn’t even have the benefit of being plausible.

[N.B. I should point out that in my article I used “consciousness” broadly to mean “a mind”, as opposed to the restricted meaning of “the faculty of awareness”.]

GOD IS OMNIPOTENT

I wrote in my article regarding God’s omnipotence: Christians know God as all-powerful. Atheists, including Objectivists, frequently counter that is impossible because omnipotence creates logical contradictions as demonstrated by the trite question: ‘Can God create a rock so heavy He cannot lift it?’ Yes, of course, that poses a contradiction, but then omnipotence is the power to do anything that is logically possible. God’s being defines what is logically possible. This is because He is a fully and perfectly realized being and so is pure act. As such He encompasses the Truth in its entirety, which brooks no contradiction. Therefore, for God to do what is logically impossible is to violate His own identity.

Luke wrote: This is just getting silly. You have so far said absolutely nothing. You have postulated from thin air a supreme being with fantastic properties that defy all human comprehension and then say that He -- as if such a being could even have a gender -- possesses properties that must logically cohere by your own say so.

Of course, I said quite a bit. And, of course, Luke made no argument in response, unless you think sneering Keating-like ridicule counts.

GOD IS OMNISCIENT

I wrote in my article: Christians also know God as all-knowing. Objectivists and other atheists often object that God’s omniscience violates human free will, but this would be true only if knowledge of an event is synonymous with the cause of an event. … Your knowledge that I will take a particular action simply does not entail that you are the cause of that action. … Knowledge is not causation.

Luke’s response: So now that you have fabricated God and endowed Him with whatever properties you so desire, you include among those properties a form of omniscience that is both omniscient and not omniscient at the same time, i.e. a foreknowledge of human actions that for God is actually a present knowledge.

You have quite an imagination, Bill. Perhaps you should earn a doctorate in physics and start getting paid for making up stuff that sounds convincing. Advanced physicists engage in this all the time.

Again, where’s the argument? Ad hominem? Perhaps, but what is interesting is the implicit concession Luke made that my article “sounds convincing”. Well, if that is so, why is it so? It can’t be because the refutation of the Christian belief in God is self-evident or obvious. If so, then my article would not sound convincing. And if the refutation is not self-evident or obvious, then that refutation needs to be argued, folks!

GOD IS OMNIBENEVOLENT

I concluded my article with an explanation of God’s omnibenevolence: Finally Christians know God as all-good. He neither embodies nor causes any evil. Evil is entirely the product of human will. Objectivists and other atheists almost always object that omnibenevolence is contradictory to omnipotence, and so God cannot be both. They argue that if God is all-powerful then He cannot be all-good, because He allows evil to occur despite His power to prevent it; or conversely if He is all-good then He is not all-powerful because He cannot prevent evil despite His desire to do so. What this argument fails to do is account for God’s omniscience.

Luke replied: So now God, in the great scheme of things, maximizes goodness by permitting people of free will to do evil because he knows via his ever present omniscience that such will happen. My, my, Bill, I hope you consider writing fantasy books as this one stretches the limits of human imagination. I do find it humorous that the Christians basically stole the ancient Greek concepts of love yet conveniently omitted the most important of all, philautos or love of self.

Once again, no argument. Or maybe there is an argument – from intimidation. Otherwise, just diatribe and ignorance. Well, at least we can be thankful that Luke's mention of philautos did not conclude with his delight for that "noble act of sexual independence".
Lesson concluded.

Regards, Bill

Laure ...

Submitted by Bill Tingley on Thu, 2007-07-19 20:54.

And while I'm it, let me respond to your remarks because I found them interesting.

Bill, I don't think we have any basis for discussion. You are trying to get us to all agree that there is non-physical stuff that exists, and I can't even agree to that.

Yes, you have correctly identified the crux of the matter, although I wasn’t seeking agreement on that. My goal was more modest. I was seeking agreement that it is logically possible that “non-physical stuff” exists, although in light of the general confusion Objectivists make between the necessary and the actual, I understand getting only that agreement is like pulling eyeteeth.

There is matter and energy; consciousness is the functioning of a physical brain. I believe in free will, because through introspection it certainly seems like I have it. If we don't have free will, then whatever it is we do have is indistinguishable from it. If there is any non-physical stuff that exists, we will never be able to know anything about it, and since it is undetectable by any physical means, it can have no effect on us and is irrelevant to us.

If you believe free will exists, then you believe that at least one aspect of your mind functions unconstrained by the laws of physics. That is, with your free will you can intend anything you want without regard to any prior state of your mind or relationship it has with another entity. (Of course, whether or not you can act upon what you intend, given that your body is constrained by the laws of physics, is another matter.) Whatever is not constrained by the laws of physics is not physical. Therefore, your free will is not physical. Yet, free will surely has an effect upon your physical body. Thus, the non-physical, though undetectable by physical means (like the senses), can have an effect upon the physical.

Indeed, all of the functions of the mind – free will, consciousness, reason – are non-physical. When you say that the mind is the work of the brain you are confusing cause with effect. Perhaps an analogy will help. A radio receives a radio signal and converts an electronic phenomenon into a mechanical one. It converts the signal into sound. The radio signal causes the radio to do this, and we do not take the pulsating of the radio’s speaker to be the cause of the signal, let alone the source of the signal. Similarly, the brain receives a state of the mind and converts a (non-physical) mental phenomenon into a biochemical one. Likewise, the biochemical activity we observe in the brain is an effect and not a cause of the mind, just as pulsating speaker is an effect and not a cause of the radio signal.

At the very least, the relationship of the brain’s activity with that of the mind’s does not logically establish that the brain causes the mind. Correlation is not causation. In other words, the physical evidence of brain function does not permit the conclusion that the mind is a physical effect of the brain. In fact, each of us has evidence to the contrary. By introspection you know that your free will (and indeed, the rest of your mind) operates free of the physical laws that constrain matter. And so you have sound reason for believing that your mind is a non-physical entity that can have effect upon a physical entity, your brain.

What you don’t have is any physical evidence that this is true of anyone else. What you cannot know by any means of sensory perception is that any other person possesses that non-physical entity called a mind. Yet you do not doubt that everyone does in fact have a mind. You know that this is so from observing the physical effects of their minds, even if you cannot directly observe their minds. So you can have a rational belief that non-physical entities exist that you are incapable of perceiving through your senses. Therefore, the fact that your senses can only collect data that is physical in origin does not allow for the conclusion that only physical entities exist.

Regards, Bill

What is Physical?

Submitted by Bill Tingley on Fri, 2007-07-20 01:35.

Hi, Laure.

I said that the physical is deterministic. You said you aren't convinced of that. If so, then what is physical must have two different natures. One that is deterministic and governed by the laws of physics, and one that isn't and if not, can't be said to be governed by any law of nature.

If such non-deterministic physical entities existed, I'm not sure how they would in effect be any different from what I've been calling the non-physical. Perhaps because they would also be composed of matter, so detectable through the senses? Surely not any matter we know of, and if that matter is non-deterministic in nature, would it have any reliably detectable signature?

How could I do otherwise... after all, if I don't have free will, I have no choice in the matter. How's that for a fun paradox?

I'll grant you this, Laure. If there were no God, then the universe would be purely matter and mechanics, and as you say we would have no choice. We would be doing precisely what the laws of physics direct us to do. We would be nothing more than arbitrary assemblages of matter entangled with other matter in a series of utterly purposeless processes.

I'm certain that this not so. It looks like you're not so sure, but I do like your fearless in the face of such a prospect.

Regards, Bill

Equivocation on Existence

Submitted by Bill Tingley on Fri, 2007-07-20 02:26.

Hi, Greg.

Thanks for the thoughtful commentary.

Of course, God is a logical impossibility and everything I put forth is nothing but arbitrary assertion if "existence" is defined as only that which is physical. If you have not done so, then what to make of this statement of yours:

For example, *I* as a human possessing consciousness am potent in various ways, while my consciousness has no existence and of course no efficacy whatever apart from my body.

Well, of course, your consciousness exists. It is your faculty of awareness. It did not exist, you would have no awareness. You'd be at best a zombie. I doubt you think this, unless by "existence" you mean "matter" or "physicality". That's OK, but it represents a serious equivocation on the meaning of "existence" when go from "existence exists" as an axiom to then restricting what can exist by changing the meaning of "existence" to the physical.

Here again, reviewing Chapter 1 of OPAR may help you.

Yes, let's review Chapter 1 of OPAR. In it we will find that Peikoff makes clear the axiom "existence exists" does not make any statement about what exists. (P4) Axiomatically "existence" only means the sum of all existents. As such it does not preclude God, which Christians surely say exists. Indeed, the axiom doesn't say much at all, and so Objectivism does not axiomatically deny the existence of non-physical entities.

The first chapter of OPAR also says a couple of other things that hardly makes the case that God is a logical impossibility. For example, Peikoff clearly states that law of causality does not mandate that every entity has a cause. Only those entities which have a beginning have a cause. An entity that is eternal needs no, and has no, cause. (P16)

Of course, this is precisely the Christian cosmological argument for God as the Creator of the universe. Peikoff instead proposes that the universe is eternal and so needs no cause. (P16) He states that this is an implication of the axiom "existence exists", but he does not make any argument for it.

Furthermore, to make the universe the uncaused cause of all else, Peikoff declares it to be eternal -- i.e., temporarily infinite. However, this is squarely at odds with his statement:
"An infinite quantity would be a quantity without identity. But A is A. Every entity, accordingly, is finite; it is limited in the number of its qualities and in their extent; this applies to the universe as well." (P31, my emphasis)

Curiously, this is very argument Peikoff uses to conclude that God as an infinite being cannot exist. Therefore, by his own reckoning, Objectivist universe cannot exist. And this is a hole an Objectivist cannot get out of. No matter how the eternity of the universe is construed, it requires infinities to be actualized within it.

Finally, a review of Chapter 1 of OPAR will not show the reasoning by which Peikoff precludes the existence of non-physical entities so that he can declare the primacy of consciousness (which involves another equivocation) a fallacy.

Regards, Bill

God's Consciousness

Submitted by Bill Tingley on Fri, 2007-07-20 12:36.

Hi, Michael.

If God is both pure consciousness and the Creator of the universe, what *exactly* was God conscious of before he created the universe?

First we need to define "consciousness". If we take it to mean the faculty of awareness instead of a looser sense of a mind, then God is not pure consciousness. His faculty of awareness is only one aspect of His mind, and before His creation He was aware of Himself.

Secondly, as Greg and James mentioned, you are mistaken about the Objectivist position on the universe. The universe is everything that exists and it is finite, so to speak of another existence outside of existence is logically incoherent. There is no there, there.

You are putting together two things here, and one of them is not self-evident. The first thing: If you want to use the word "universe" to mean everything that exists -- i.e., reality -- fine. It's a tautology and tells us nothing about the nature of what does exist. It's certainly not contrary to the Christian belief that reality consists of God and the cosmos we inhabit.

The second thing: You then do make a claim about the nature of what does exist. You say that the "universe" -- i.e., the set of all entities -- is finite. That is not self-evident and must be argued.

How can you claim knowledge when the being is "unknowable to our senses"? Certainly not by rational means as the base of our knowledge lies with the evidence of the senses.

Another person's mind is unknowable to your senses. Yet you do not doubt that it exists. How do you know this ...

Note that your arguments up to this point, such as your contractor analogy, rely on the evidence of the senses by necessity. So what is this other means (i.e. "experience") that you speak of?

There is introspection by which I can obtain knowledge of my own mind, if not others, and its lack of physicality. I can use sensory perception for indirect evidence of other minds -- i.e., their physical effects -- and then use reason to determine whether or not I am unique or are other human beings like me.

Similarly I can obtain indirect of evidence of God through the physical effects of his actions. One example: The order that nature (that which is physical) possesses, which we mathematically codify with the laws of physics. Nature cannot account for its order (that would assume the very order to be accounted for), so the cause of order must lie outside nature.

I must say, I do give you a lot of credit for walking into the lion's den with your arguments.

Thanks, Michael. It's really not so much of a lion's den. Most SOLOists are pussycats and enjoyable to talk to.

Regards, Bill

Greg ...

Submitted by Bill Tingley on Fri, 2007-07-20 22:15.

My objective throughout this thread has been to address the existence of the Christian God in terms both Objectivists and Christians agree upon. That is why I wanted to nail down your assumption of metaphysical naturalism before proceeding further so that we could move on using common terms. But let’s skip that. I will proceed with defending those characteristics of God that you deny on my terms.

God the Creator. You objected to this as follows:

Why do you think the universe (of the physicists, not all-of-existence per-se) was brought about by a person? I have never heard of any rational basis for suspecting this, much less thinking it true. This seems utterly arbitrary. It certainly isn’t “logically possible” given our reality-based concept of ‘person.’

From my experience, via sensory perception and introspection, I am aware of two fundamental constituents of existence: Matter and mind. That which is matter is extended in spacetime, finite, deterministic, and subject to the law of causality – in a word, physical. I have no experience of anything physical to the contrary. As for mind, I know my own and it is not physical. Though finite it has no extension, as that which is composed of matter must necessarily have. Nor is it deterministic. I have libertarian free will to intend anything I desire without regard to any prior state of matter my mind is related to. In short, because of my free will, my mind is not subject to the law of causality. So when I act upon an intention to put my body into motion, that intention has non-deterministically altered the disposition of matter.

Thus, I have direct knowledge of a mental phenomenon as the uncaused cause of an alteration of the physical. With this knowledge of two fundamental modes of existence, the physical (matter and its effects) and the mental (mind and its effects), I look at the cosmos, that astronomical structure of expanding spacetime we inhabit. That structure is physical, and so finite, deterministic, and subject to the law of causality. Scientific observation affirms this. Moreover, it is objective evidence outside my own experience confirming what I have directly observed to be true of physical entities.

This gives me reason to trust my experience as reliable regarding my observation of my own mind. Therefore, if the cosmos is physical in nature, then it has a cause. That cause is not likely to be another physical phenomenon, because there is no evidence of that and logically would lead to an infinite regression of causes. However, I do know from experience that mental phenomena can be the uncaused cause of physical phenomena. So I conclude that the uncaused cause of the cosmos is a mind and not matter. I call that mind God.

God is pure spirit. You objected to this as follows:

Why do you think mind can exist without body in any sense or realm? The concept of mind arose from identifying consciousness as an attribute/action of living organisms; its purpose and basis are found in the biological world. I have never heard of any rational basis for even suspecting this, much less thinking it is true. This also seems utterly arbitrary. It certainly isn’t “logically possible” given our reality-based concept of consciousness.

If there are two modes of existence, the physical and the mental, what is primary: Matter or mind? I have explained above why I believe mind is primary. As further explanation, if matter were primary, then the mind is ultimately subject to the same constraints of matter; either as a product of matter or subject to matter in its operation. The law of causality would impose the same determinism upon the mind and it does matter. Free will would not exist. But that contradicts my own experience of free will, so in this way I also have knowledge that matter is not primary.

If mind is primary, and a mind is the cause of the cosmos, what should I make of that mind? Because that mind exists outside the cosmos, it exists outside of spacetime. Only that which exists within spacetime requires extension, either directly as matter or indirectly through an affiliation with matter (e.g., my mind’s relationship with my body). So a mind external to the cosmos has no need of matter. It would be pure spirit. That is why God is pure spirit.

God is omnipotent. You objected to this as follows:

Why do you think mind apart from body has any efficacy at all, much less omnipotence? For example, *I* as a human possessing consciousness am potent in various ways, while my consciousness has no existence and of course no efficacy whatever apart from my body. Aside from the above issue of mind without body, I have never heard of any rational basis for even suspecting this idea, much less thinking it is true. This also seems utterly arbitrary. It certainly isn’t “logically possible” given our reality-based concepts of efficacy and consciousness.

Because I have experienced that efficacy internally. While I do need my body to act upon entities external to me, my mind acts upon my body (specifically my brain) directly. I have introspective evidence of mental-physical interaction in which the purely mental (my mind) causes an effect upon the purely physical (my brain). Now if my mind can be the cause of effects upon my brain, why cannot God as pure spirit be the cause of effects upon His creation, the cosmos?

Now to God’s omnipotence. As the creator of the cosmos He has power over all that He has created. So “all-powerful” over a finite creation does not entail any physical infinities that would contradict the law of identity by Objectivist lights.

God is omniscient. You objected to this as follows:

Why do you think mind apart from body has any possibility of knowledge, much less omniscience? The concept of knowledge arose from seeing certain biological entities in contact with reality via their senses. All knowledge is limited, finite, sense-based and obtained by a specific process – not infinite, not gained by no specific process, from no particular means of contact with reality. Likewise aside from the above issue of mind without body, I have never heard of any rational basis for even suspecting such a notion, much less thinking it is true. This seems utterly arbitrary. It certainly isn’t “logically possible” given our reality-based concept of knowledge.

You are making an unsubstantiated claim that all knowledge is sense-based. You assume the mind is tabula rasa, but if it were knowledge would not be possible. The basic laws of logic must be innate to the mind, because there is no data we can obtain from sensory perception that would give us knowledge of logic. That is because such knowledge requires the formation of concepts, but the mind cannot form concepts without logic. If the mind were tabula rasa, it would be incorrigibly non-conceptual, and so our apprehension of the world would be radically nominalistic.

Regarding God’s omniscience, because He is external to the cosmos and perceives its past, present, and future in an eternal present He is all-knowing of His finite creation. Again this does not entail physical infinities.

God is omnibenevolent. You objected to this as follows:

Why do you think an eternal mind apart from body would have any possibility of pursuing values, or for acting as a moral agent in helping/hindering others' pursuit of values? The concept of value arises in the context of living entities pursuing life and maintaining their (conditional) existence – ‘value’ doesn’t apply to the eternal. And (see above) mind without body cannot act to help or hinder those of us who can and must pursue values. Once again, I have never heard of any rational basis for even suspecting such a notion, much less thinking it is true. This seems utterly arbitrary. It certainly isn’t “logically possible” given our reality-based concepts of values, good, evil, and moral agency.

I take it your argument for “value” comes directly from Rand. The problem with “value” in Rand’s ethical egoism is two-fold: [1] It is premised on a whopper of an equivocation on the definition of “life”, which shifts from survival to eudemonia; and [2] it is subjective in that what is valued is determined by the goal desired – i.e., if X is desired, then Y is of value. So you objection isn’t impressive. But given your understanding of value, there is absolutely no reason why an eternal being cannot desire something and so value what fulfills that desire.

Regards, Bill

Form and Matter

Submitted by Bill Tingley on Mon, 2007-07-23 15:48.

Hi, Linz & Laure.

I wrote that my mind came into being when my body was ensouled. You both wondered if that meant I believe my mind continues to exist after my body dies. The short answer is yes.

Now the long answer. Let’s start with Aristotle. Each entity that exists within spacetime, down to every subatomic particle, is a substance composed of form and matter. Form is the principle upon which a substance is organized for whatever purpose it has. Matter gives form extension so that a substance can operate within spacetime to fulfill its purpose. Within spacetime, form and matter can only existence in union. Form absent matter has no means by which to operate. Matter absent form lacks order thus function. Thus, for either to have effect within spacetime, one requires the other in an inseparable union as a substance.

Before going further, let me make a short aside about the necessity of form. For a person with a naturalist view of things, form may seem superfluous – especially if what makes it necessary is purpose. Haven’t we dispensed with teleological explanations for entities in this age of science? Sure, if the material and efficient causes of things are sufficient to explain reality and so we candispense with the formal and final causes, but I suggest the existence of the mind says otherwise. But without delving into the validity of teleology, I would ask the naturalist to consider this: If form is not fundamental, how is it that the matter of entities exhibits any organization at all? The laws of nature are not the answer to this question. They tell us what that organization is, not what ultimately causes it. I submit that it is the infusion of (prime) matter with form that transforms the chaos of the quantum foam into the orderly substances of subatomic particles, and that the only possible source of that form is a mind with a purpose – i.e., God.

Having mentioned God, now it’s time to move onto Aquinas. A living organism is a substance, as such it is a composition of matter and form. In other words, a body and a soul. The soul organizes the matter of the body into a self-directed entity. It is the life principle, which matter alone cannot bring about and without which no substance lives. On the other hand, the soul requires the matter it organizes into a body to operate within spacetime. The soul is critically dependent upon the body. Because the body is physical, it is subject to entropy and so degrades. Eventually the body becomes incapable of sustaining the operation of the soul. At this point an organism dies. The soul, which cannot exist without the body, then ceases. And so the substance that once was an organism becomes a corpse.

This is true of all living creatures – except man. Why is man different? Unlike all other organisms, the soul of a man is a rational soul. Man is made in the image of God. The rational soul gives a man a mind, and the operation of the mind is not dependent upon matter. This is not to say that mind does not require matter, a body, to give physical effect to its intentions; but it is to say that matter is irrelevant to the mind’s intentions. Therefore, the human soul is partially dependent upon the body to operate, but not entirely. Indeed, the most important aspect of the human soul, the mind, is not. And so, the mind, as a component of the human soul, survives the death of the body.

Regards, Bill

Understanding the Tingley Position

Luke Setzer's picture

Even though Bill misspelled my name as Seltzer rather than Setzer -- a common mistake -- I will let that go in favor of attempting to restate his theology in the hopes of his agreement that I at least understand it.

Bill's position seems to depend upon several broad assumptions:

  • Acceptance of the text of the Bible as a basically accurate account of the history of the world with certain parts necessarily treated as "allegorical" due to the discoveries made via our God-given reason
  • Acceptance of the possibility of a region beyond our normal abstract concept of existence outside our normal experience of space and time
  • Acceptance of the Law of Identity manifested in ways fused ultimately with "pure spirit" rather than with the existents we normally experience as "existence"
  • Acceptance of the idea that our normal experience of time does not apply to that which falls outside our normal concept of existence

I could list more but I should probably stop here because I may have already misunderstood Bill's notions.

I suspect that Bill's concept of "logically possible" divorces so fundamentally from the Objectivist concept of "logically possible" that we will never have a meeting of the minds.

Of course if I accepted all the assertions Bill made in his initial post then I would have to concede God as "logically possible" because I would have to concede to Bill's definition of "logically possible."

Bill, do you consider the Law of Identity -- A is A -- ultimately arising from God, i.e. that God manifests the Law of Identity and can thus achieve anything "logically possible" which really means ... anything?

No, I do not concede to that source of logic, but I think that really represents the crux of the disagreement.

Luke Setzer -- Global Organizer -- PROPEL(TM)
http://www.PropelObjectivism.com

Bill

James S. Valliant's picture

I will let all of those good people speak for themselves, but, as is obvious to any reader of this thread, you have uniformly refused to answer the substance raised in objection to your floating definitions. Luke, Laure, Linz, and, especially, Greg, all raised excellent questions and points.

I am curious if you had a response.

James ...

Bill Tingley's picture

Let me know when you are willing to discuss the substance of Christianity...

(Sigh.) I have been -- by starting right at the beginning with God. I defined the Christian God. There was a lot of huffing and puffing about that, as though as a Christian I had no business defining that belief.

So I compromised. Instead of arguing for the God I know to exist, I explained how the equivocations in Objectivist metaphysics creates holes that do not support the Objectivist denial of God as Objectivists typically define Him. That was in my post to Luke Seltzer, and you didn't have anything to say about that.

Then in response to Greg Perkins, again after impatience with my attempt to establish some common ground from which to proceed, I argued the metaphysical foundation for the God I know to exist. I explained in detail how my belief is grounded in my direct experience of both mind and matter. For all his urgency that I answer him precisely as he demanded, I note that Perkins hasn't had any counter-argument. Nor have you, James, come to think of it.

Linz and Laure did have some questions though. I answered them, in which I laid out my hylomorphic dualism, which is the metaphysical framework for the beliefs I had previously explained to Perkins. Again I note you have had nothing to say about that. Instead you have squawked about being insulted.

Now you piss about the "substance of Christianity" not being discussed. But you don't want to do any of the legwork to get there. Again, it shows me that you really don't want to understand the subject.

Regards, Bill

Bill

James S. Valliant's picture

How could it "open my eyes"? What substance have you offered? I see only more empty accusations.

You repeatedly assert that my interpretations are wrong, controversial, or unorthodox, but you still haven't pointed to a single example -- despite the inquiries of Linz and others on this topic -- much less an argument for your position about it.

What I oppose are the ACCEPTED doctrines about sex, to take a real example. For example, the one that has -- in fact -- motivated monks, nuns, and others to take VOWS of celibacy for many centuries now. It is not MY interpretation of Christianity's take on sex that I find so appalling, it is the way so many (Catholic) Christians have understood the matter themselves.

Let me know when you are willing to discuss the substance of Christianity...

The Reason-Driven Life

Luke Setzer's picture

Just as an aside, I recommend The Reason-Driven Life by Robert Price for insight into the historical meanings of Biblical text.  Price spent many years as a Biblical scholar before turning to freethought.  His book aims to expose the foibles of Rick Warren and his screed The Purpose-Driven Life.  I recommend it highly as Price explores the Bible in its original language to challenge the fundamentalism of Warren.

I am not saying that Bill Tingley agrees with Rick Warren but since the issue of Scriptural meaning keeps arising in this thread I considered Price worth mentioning.

Luke Setzer -- Global Organizer -- PROPEL(TM)
http://www.PropelObjectivism.com

James ...

Bill Tingley's picture

It is the "self-professed purposes" of Christianity which I regard as evil -- and these are the only ones anyone can consider.

This is where your problem starts.

You claim to find this evil in the Scriptures, but you accomplish this by assigning meanings to those texts that are contrary to Christian doctrine. When I have pointed out to you what Christian doctrine actually is, you are astonished and deny it. Of course, you could readily check what I have had to say against an official source, like the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but you won't.

So, with deliberate ignorance, you carry on about this great evil that Christianity promotes, which only you and a few others "get" and the general public doesn't. Like all conspiracy theorists your methodology ensures that you go down the desired blind ally, and your irrational attachment to the conspiracy theory ensures that you stay there.

I know none of this will open your eyes, so I write this last word to you on this subject for the benefit of others. I'll trouble you no further with it.

Regards, Bill

Bill

James S. Valliant's picture

Wow. You accuse me of being a conspiracy nut, even as you yourself fly into an excess of paranoid invention.

You write: "You believe that this enemy does not exist for its self-professed purposes, but nefarious ones... You believe society is institutionally organized to conceal its evil from the general public. You believe no truth about this enemy is to be learned from official sources, its proponents, or even uncommitted scholars who are under the unknowing influence of the enemy."

Literally NONE of this is true. It is the "self-professed purposes" of Christianity which I regard as evil -- and these are the only ones anyone can consider. While the public does not recognize the evil of Christianity, this is not because they are ignorant of its fundamental message, however ignorant of its history most are. Society is by no means "institutionally organized to conceal" any secrets about Christianity or its evil. As I say, most of the important facts about its truly evil ethical doctrine are widely known. Much truth about Christianity is to be learned from "official sources" -- even the ones you ignore -- but all sources must be treated with equal skepticism.

You speak of fact, but evidence and logic are singularly absent from any of your posts, which are full of nothing but childish and empty name-calling and weird imaginings. It is you who are breathtakingly ignorant of the work of the "uncommitted scholars" in the field.

Better luck next time.

James ...

Bill Tingley's picture

Glad you caught the post about history, but you are wrong: I do not deny that a historical figure named "Jesus" may have started the whole thing.

OK, but that doesn't help your case. You are still a conspiracy theorist.

You believe there exists a great enemy, Christianity. You believe that this enemy does not exist for its self-professed purposes, but nefarious ones. You believe that public generally does not recognize or understand the evil of this enemy. You believe society is institutionally organized to conceal its evil from the general public. You believe no truth about this enemy is to be learned from official sources, its proponents, or even uncommitted scholars who are under the unknowing influence of the enemy.

Much of what you know of this enemy comes from authors whose works are only marginally more respectable than that classic of conspiracy theories, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Meanwhile, you invent your own history of the enemy to sustain your prejudices while suspecting of it lurking behind every development you fear. The facts just don't matter, at least not those that would hobble your hobbyhorse.

Believe in any goofball ideas you want, James. But your diatribes here against Christians and their beliefs are going beyond that of the crank to that of the bigot. You need a reality check, and I've done all I'm going to provide you one.

Regards, Bill

Form and Matter

Bill Tingley's picture

Hi, Linz & Laure.

I wrote that my mind came into being when my body was ensouled. You both wondered if that meant I believe my mind continues to exist after my body dies. The short answer is yes.

Now the long answer. Let’s start with Aristotle. Each entity that exists within spacetime, down to every subatomic particle, is a substance composed of form and matter. Form is the principle upon which a substance is organized for whatever purpose it has. Matter gives form extension so that a substance can operate within spacetime to fulfill its purpose. Within spacetime, form and matter can only existence in union. Form absent matter has no means by which to operate. Matter absent form lacks order thus function. Thus, for either to have effect within spacetime, one requires the other in an inseparable union as a substance.

Before going further, let me make a short aside about the necessity of form. For a person with a naturalist view of things, form may seem superfluous – especially if what makes it necessary is purpose. Haven’t we dispensed with teleological explanations for entities in this age of science? Sure, if the material and efficient causes of things are sufficient to explain reality and so we candispense with the formal and final causes, but I suggest the existence of the mind says otherwise. But without delving into the validity of teleology, I would ask the naturalist to consider this: If form is not fundamental, how is it that the matter of entities exhibits any organization at all? The laws of nature are not the answer to this question. They tell us what that organization is, not what ultimately causes it. I submit that it is the infusion of (prime) matter with form that transforms the chaos of the quantum foam into the orderly substances of subatomic particles, and that the only possible source of that form is a mind with a purpose – i.e., God.

Having mentioned God, now it’s time to move onto Aquinas. A living organism is a substance, as such it is a composition of matter and form. In other words, a body and a soul. The soul organizes the matter of the body into a self-directed entity. It is the life principle, which matter alone cannot bring about and without which no substance lives. On the other hand, the soul requires the matter it organizes into a body to operate within spacetime. The soul is critically dependent upon the body. Because the body is physical, it is subject to entropy and so degrades. Eventually the body becomes incapable of sustaining the operation of the soul. At this point an organism dies. The soul, which cannot exist without the body, then ceases. And so the substance that once was an organism becomes a corpse.

This is true of all living creatures – except man. Why is man different? Unlike all other organisms, the soul of a man is a rational soul. Man is made in the image of God. The rational soul gives a man a mind, and the operation of the mind is not dependent upon matter. This is not to say that mind does not require matter, a body, to give physical effect to its intentions; but it is to say that matter is irrelevant to the mind’s intentions. Therefore, the human soul is partially dependent upon the body to operate, but not entirely. Indeed, the most important aspect of the human soul, the mind, is not. And so, the mind, as a component of the human soul, survives the death of the body.

Regards, Bill

Young Father Bill

Lindsay Perigo's picture

My mind came into being when my body was ensouled. So it didn't exist before my body.

Now you've really got me confused. It didn't precede your body but lives on after it? It had a beginning but has no end? What's the answer to Laure's question?

Ensouled?

Laure Chipman's picture

So Bill, wouldn't your mind cease to be when your body gets "de-souled"? (at death?)

Linz, Ol' Boy ...

Bill Tingley's picture

Nothing like a bit of Cartesian dualism to start one's day with, eh Father Bill? Problem is, old chap, when your body dies your mind will die with it. Damnable thing is you won't be able to hear me when I exult, "I told you so!"

I'm a bit surprised that a knowledgeable fellow like you would make this mistake. As I explicitly wrote of mental-physical interactions, my dualism is not Cartesian parallelism. Furthermore, you know that as an indoctrinated Catholic I have second-handed all my thinking to the Vatican. (Recall that I am a member in good-standing of Theocracy Now!) Eye So I subscribe to the official philosophy of the Church, Thomism.

Thus, I am a hylomorphic dualist and not a Cartesian.

Or perhaps you remember what your mind was thinking before your body came into being?

My mind came into being when my body was ensouled. So it didn't exist before my body.

Regards, Bill

Mind is not physical

KevinOwen's picture

Hi Barry. You got a lot of questions there.
I can only try to answer them the best I can. Cheers

"Then why can't Alzheimer's victims remember even this life?'

Some would say they can't access the information or memory from their brain. I would suggest they can't acess it from their mind. That doesnt mean it is gone, it just means they have lost the ability to access the mind [past thought]

"Why do brain injuries sometimes wipe out whole parts of our memories, our personalities, etc.?"

A person can be injured and unable to recall that period. That period could be an hour, day or as in full amnesia a whole lifetime.
That doesn't mean the information isn't still recorded in the memory, it just means the person [soul] can't access it at that time. We have all heard of people getting there memory back not only from brain injuries.

"Why do we start as goo-gooing babies"

It would be tricky starting again fully educated in a new body, especially when you hadn't yet learn't how to drive it.
That doesn't mean the memories of the earlier existence couldn't be again located once you could be communicated to again

"Why are memories themselves sensory"

Memories do have recorded perceptions in them.
They are an exact recording of past moments right down to the last wave link
Something like 52 plus perceptions.

"memories of sense perceptions perceived through eyes, ears, touch, smell? "

All the senses send information back to the mind via the brain [main part of the nervous system] One [the soul] can then close his/her eyes and recall or experience and look at that information recorded in the mind.

"Why do brain injuries cause comas"

Any injury can cause some unconsciousness but is it the soul [the individual] that is uncouscious or his brain? A person can go into a coma for many reasons not only brain injuries.

"chemical imbalances cause psychological conditions"

Do they?

The Hoax of "Chemical Imbalance"

Through massive promotion and
marketing campaigns, psychiatric drugs
are increasingly prescribed as the panacea
for life's inevitable crises and challenges.
Psychiatry's most recent campaign is the
much touted theory of the "chemical
imbalance" in the brain, or
"neurobiological disorder."

Psychiatrist David Kaiser is unequivocal
about the lie of neurobiological disorder.

In 1996, he stated:
... modern psychiatry has yet to
convincingly prove the
genetic/biological cause of
any single mental illness...

Patients [have] been diagnosed with
"chemical imbalances" despite the fact that
no test exists to support such a claim, and ...
there is no real conception of what a correct
chemical balance would look like.
When this pitch is successfully used to
secure the cooperation of unwitting
parents it establishes a dangerous
precedent.

mind is not physical...

Casey's picture

You claim memory, even of past lives, is not dependent on a brain. Then why can't Alzheimer's victims remember even this life? Why do drugs affect our consciousness? Why do brain injuries sometimes wipe out whole parts of our memories, our personalities, etc.? Why do we start as goo-gooing babies and require years of education before we can identify colors, and use language, etc. Why are memories themselves sensory, that is, memories of sense perceptions perceived through eyes, ears, touch, smell? Why do brain injuries cause comas and chemical imbalances cause psychological conditions?

No one is denying that what you perceive as yourself exists. Often, those who argue for a disembodied soul independent of a brain equate the alternative view with denial of consciousness. But that is the prejudice of those who split the universe in two. They reserve all the good bits, all the wonders of the conscious human mind, for the half they prefer and relegate to the other half only the cause without any of the effects, leaving it a cold, "physical" lump of "matter." Free will and the human mind are just as real a characteristic of the human organism as light is of a lightbulb. That it is more glorious and wonderful does not put it into a whole new supernatural universe. It depresses me to think of what kind of universe is left over after extracting so much wonder from it in order to give it to a completely separate universe. It leaves a macabre world of corpses on one side and a nebulous world of ghosts on the other side, and that horror movie view is offered up as more alive than one integrated world of cause and effect, of body and mind, of healthy, living, and conscious organisms that exist in a world without contradictions that is fully knowable to a rational mind.

Also, the vast majority of our experience is of a world where brain and mind have a cause and effect relationship. It's always some tiny exception, a glimpse of a past life, a coincidental hunch, etc. which suddenly tip the whole universe upside down, require a complete split right down the middle of causality and all of reality, even though we all know and have experienced thousands of times the fact that the human mind is fertile enough to play a myriad of tricks on us because most of the tricks it plays we instantaneously recognize as tricks. We imagine millions of things that might happen, and if only one of them comes true voila! ESP! Precognition! Premonition! A natural world and a supernatural world!

The fact is, we don't pay a second thought to all the worries that didn't materialize, all the guesses that were wrong, all the patterns that didn't keep repeating, all the luck that went bad, all the prayers that were not answered, etc. We skim only the remarkably uncommon experiences and use those to overturn everything else we know, instead of using everything we know to examine exceptions with that much more scrutiny and hold out for extraordinary confirmation before overturning the overwhelming sum of our knowledge.

If one is looking only for the exceptions, however, only the exceptions are noticed. "Every time I look at the clock, it's 1:11! How weird!" (Sure, because we look at the clock so many times and it's not particularly striking when it's 2:15.) "I was just thinking of you and you called!" (Sure, because we are constantly thinking, and often about people, and often near phones.) Coincidences are normal. Since the mind is so active, it is not surprising that sometimes events in the real world line up with something we're thinking. It would be surprising if that did not happen.

As for past lives, people only tend to remember what they have learned about an historical period in this life, and no more. Often, they make mistakes based on their imperfect education (in this life) about that time period. And the incidence of people remembering being only figures who have been passed down in history to us today is extremely high, as well. Lots of people were Cleopatra, for example. Since we have a phenomenon here of people fervently believing what simply can not be, we have to take that into account when examining ANY claim of a past life memory. On the one hand we have lots of people believing what we know is not true -- that's a fact about human beings. They do that. On the other hand we have another human being claiming a past life. Do we consider it more possible that the same self-delusion is going on, or do we throw all the rules out and redefine the entire universe and the vast bulk of our experience of it just to allow that this common error might not be an error in this one case?

As Sherlock Holmes said, extraordinary claims require EXTRAORDINARY evidence. Claims that require the universe to be split into a natural and a supernatural world are way beyond extraordinary, and require a mountain of evidence to counter the galaxy of evidence contradicting that notion. So far, NO evidence that can be duplicated, demonstrated or shown to be unexplainable by other far more common means has EVER been presented for a supernatural realm, a past life, ESP, telekinesis, premonitions, ghosts, or God. That's a heck of a poor record for those who want to make the extraordinary claim that there is a whole different universe that exists separately from the one we are daily familiar with.

Barry

JoeM's picture

Barry,
While I agree with you about the Chinese government being guilty of killing and torturing innocent people being wrong, I have to take issue with your first sentence: "Politicians, or police or military following the priciples of truth, and tolerance. This could only be good. These priciples keep people safe."

All well and good sounding...but without defining the context and principles, these are just floating abstractions. From what I've read, Falun Gong disapproves of homosexuality, admitting homosexuals only if they renounce such behavior. If true, that is not tolerance.

"We can be labeled, political, fruit cakes, a cult, or whatever else."
May I ask, are you a practitioner of Falun Gong?

************************************************

Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

Falun Gong

Barry Mills's picture

Hi JoeM,

Politicians, or police or military following the priciples of truth, and tolerance. This could only be good. These priciples keep people safe. Corruption and lies from a regime persecuting it own citizens endangers the lives of everyone, including other countries. Western society is seeing this as more and more shoddy products come out of China. It was 5 to 6 thousand pets in the US, but could easily be people. Ask the parents of children killed by Anti-freeze exported form China,( should have been glycerine) now turning up in toothpaste everywhere.
It's true the Chinese communist party sees Falun Gong as a threat to its power. Any free thinking person or organisation is a threat to it's ideaology and control.
We can be labeled, political, fruit cakes, a cult, or whatever else. This doesn't matter.
The real issue is getting this gang to stop killing and torturing innocent people.
Barry.

mind, is not physical

KevinOwen's picture

Hi Lindsay

I agree, The brain is physical and according to the so called experts is resposible for all thinking.

When I look into my mind at a past experience I don't see any gray matter etc only recordings or memories of the past.

When I physically locate and point to the memory I am looking at I find it is suspended in space outside the body in front of me.

I've done this exercise with hundreds of people ,getting them to locate the memory they are looking at by physically pointing to it, and all come up with the same response.

I then ask them whats looking at the memory and controlling it
Of course the answer is they are.

In the Mind one can only locate past thought but what is looking at and controling the Mind is Present Time Thought, being different than past thought.

Is that the Soul looking at the mind and controlling it. If it were it would indicate that two things [soul and body] could occupy the same space]

When I counsel people, sometimes they locate memories that go before this lifetime indicating that the Soul [present time thought]
and Mind [past thought or memory] did exist before this body.

One could say there is an amnesia of earlier existences in the memory that can be restored

Thats probably enough for this post. We'll see where it goes Cheers

Cool.

Casey's picture

Let's shoot for next weekend.

Casey

James S. Valliant's picture

I'll get the Starbucks...

James,

Casey's picture

They have 25 years to catch up. A little headstart won't hurt. Eye

I should have said, "The New Testament reads like" instead of "Christianity reads like a Roman handbook for Jews."

Christianity has at least two forms -- the Jewish messianic cults that were in rebellion against Rome and still awaiting their warrior messiah decades after Jesus's supposed existence, and the hijacked Romanized and pacified version of Christianity sponsored with Imperial backing in response to the Rebellion.

(BTW, James, I'm ready to get started on the novel based on all of this that we have been planning. Other stuff is done, so let's go.)

DON'T READ CASEY'S POST

James S. Valliant's picture

Ah, Jeeze, Case, your givin' it all away for free!

Damned Interesting

Luke Setzer's picture

I appreciate the latest two posts by Jim and Casey -- fascinating reading.  I look forward to reading Jim's book on the subject along with the fireball of controversy and protest that will ensue from religious zealots.

Luke Setzer -- Global Organizer -- PROPEL(TM)
http://www.PropelObjectivism.com

READ JIM'S POST

Casey's picture

And consider a few other historical coincidences:

The first person buried in a Christian catacomb in Rome is the niece of Flavius Vespasian, the Emperor of Rome who conquered Judea after the Jewish Rebellion along with his son, Titus. At the time, the Rabbi of Jerusalem hailed Vespasian as "the Jewish Messiah." Titus rent the curtain of the temple just as "Jesus" "predicted" would happen. Flavius Josephus makes the first recorded mention of Jesus Christ. Flavius Josephus was the court historian of the Flavian Dynasty -- he was a Jewish turncoat. Whatever sketchy details of Jesus's childhood we have read like a shorthand account of Flavius Josephus's own childhood as recorded in his autobiography. (Josephus probably wrote the first Gospels.) He recounts having amazed his teachers as he versed himself at a young age in all three Jewish sects, Sadducee, Pharisee and Essene. He journeyed into the wilderness with "Banus" (literally, "the bather") and ate locust and wild honey. Funny how Jesus did all that stuff, too. Titus, Vespasian's son who would become Emperor after his father's death, is referred to as "the Son of God" on Roman coins. The Arch of Titus, on the way to the Colisem his father built, depicts the sacking of the Jewish Temple and the carting off of all its holy relics by the Romans. We now know that over the main entrance to the Colisem were the words "PAID FOR BY THE SPOILS OF THE JEWISH WAR." Nearly all Roman coins of the era depict Titus holding the leash of an enslaved Jewess, symbolizing Judea.

Christianity reads like a Roman handbook for Jews, spelling out how to live life as conquered slaves. Slavery is the model for human relations in the New Testament as wives are told to obey their husbands as slaves would a master, children likewise should obey their parents as slaves would a master, and all are to obey God and Caesar as slaves would a master. Either that, or be fed to the lions in the Coliseum, the ultimate conversion and pacification machine.

Add to all of this that Paul's access to Imperial Rome is so high level that he is allowed to convert the Praestorian Guard(!) under Nero to Christianity! Paul gives greetings to "Nero's house" in his epistles and to Epaphroditus, who was the (probably) Jewish freedman who was Nero's advisor and who would later advise Vespasian and Titus. Josephus also praises Epaphroditus. Paul might well have come to know Josephus through Epaphroditus.

When Domitian, the younger brother of Titus who was decidedly left out of all this Jewish conquest-related propaganda, became Emperor after his brother's untimely death, quite a few things suddenly happened. Joesphus disappears from history. Epaphroditus is executed. Vespasian's niece Domitilla is exiled and her husband Flavius Clemens is executed for "Jewish sympathies and atheism" (monotheism being considered atheism at the time); the Roman Forum is rebuilt and rededicated to the ancient Roman gods by Domitian, coinage again celebrates Roman dieties.

To this day, Catholic tradition claims that Titus Flavius Clemens was the third POPE -- his statue is on the Vatican grounds, along with the statues of the Emperor Vespasian and the Emperor Titus!

Oh yeah, and the Vatican is in ROME.

Bill

James S. Valliant's picture

The "neon sign" example was merely a reductio, of course, and an invitation to substantiate your claim that the "laws of nature" are evidence of conscious arrangement. What makes you think that F=ma reveals the hand of God?

Glad you caught the post about history, but you are wrong: I do not deny that a historical figure named "Jesus" may have started the whole thing.

But, as to who invented the Christ of the Gospels, this we do already know. The Romans.

Consider Jesus himself. Contrary to good monotheism, he is a semi-divine "other" god. The Hebrew scriptures have great heroes, Abraham, Moses, Joshua (cough, cough), and even "messiahs" -- literally "anointed" kings, like David -- but no Man-Gods. But the Greco-Roman world was loaded with these -- Heracles, Asclepius (that virgin-born, semi-divine resurrecting healer who enjoyed his own post-martyrdom apotheosis), etc., etc. Take even the Roman Julius Caesar -- a real person -- claimed to be of semi-divine lineage in his own lifetime, a "martyr," and the subject of a post-death apotheosis. A real "Man-God," just like Jesus. Very pagan. Very typical of the era. But, of course, this is the opposite of the entire Jewish tradition.

Indeed, Jesus seems to fit nicely a classic "Mystery Cult" formula, so common in the Hellenistic world... of pagans.

Consider, too, how Jesus spells the end of Jewish "exceptionalism." After Jesus, God has and no longer needs a "Chosen People." Israel served its historical function in God's Great Plan, says Paul, but this is over -- and Jesus invites the whole unwashed, uncircumcised goy crowd to "sit at Abraham's table."

And that table doesn't need to be kosher, either, as Jesus and Paul make clear. They also make clear the change in Sabbath observance, along with the aforementioned circumcision. According to Paul's central message, Christ's death has "freed us" from the constraints of the Mosaic law.

Yom Kippur is irrelevant after the permanent effect of the "atonement" of Jesus's death -- Passover is now utterly transformed into the Mass (or communion) -- and Hanukkah, just a celebration of Jewish identity, is left by the wayside.

Now when we consider how the Gospels give the blame for Jesus' execution squarely to the Jews AS A PEOPLE, how Pilate is vigorously exonerated of blame, how the disciples are portrayed as dolts, how "Judas" is the traitor, how Jesus praises a Roman centurion's faith above that of any Jew, how Jesus's debating foils are invariable the Jewish authorities, never pagan ones, a clear picture starts adding up in my book.

There is very little "Jewish" about the Jesus of the Gospels -- except the important veneer of messianic prophecy fulfillment -- something taken so literally that lives of Hebrew figures from the past are literal reworked into the life of Jesus. Otherwise, the "Jews" are the "bad guys" of the New Testament -- they killed Christ, persecuted Paul, etc.

Consider what "messiah" meant to a Jew of the First Century. In their religiously motivated and highly suicidal rebellions against Rome, known for mass suicides and terrorist activities, the leaders were all claiming to be "messiahs" of prophecy -- messiahs who would bring religious, political and cultural INDEPENDENCE to the Hebrews, just as the Maccabees successfully had against the Hellenistic Syrians two and half centuries earlier. "Messiah" was THE distinctly NATIONALISTIC and MARTIAL concept of the era for Jews -- the politically charged concept which Josephus himself reports was the biggest motivation for the rebellion of 66-71CE. As Jospehus also reports, these rebel leaders all claimed to be the "messiah." Some claimed they would perform the miracles of the Hebrew "Joshua"/Jesus (cough, cough.)

And, yet, the "messiah" of the Gospels, our "Jesus," is a peaceful, peace-loving, FOREIGNER-loving, Gentile-loving, anti-nationalist! Jesus turns the contemporary understanding and meaning of "messiah" precisely UPSIDE DOWN.

When we consider that linguists have come to a consensus on the proposition that the oldest of the Gospels was written in Rome and in Greek, I think we are left with an inescapable conclusion -- the Gospels are of ROMAN authorship.

How does the earliest reference to Jesus in the Talmud put it, ever so symbolically? Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman centurion.

In its way, the real truth.

Falun gong cult

JoeM's picture

Toffler takes on the Falun Gong issue as well, incidentally, in that same chapter:

"Falun Gong insists it is not a political movement at all. But when it brought as many as thirty thousand members from all over China to the very walls of Zhongnanhai...it called up still-fresh memories of the Tiananmen Square tragedy." He continues that "What rocked China's leaders may not have been the movement's religio-mystical ideology, replete with demons and aliens from other planets...but the mere fact that it was not restricted to a single locality or region. Falun Gong was big. And its reach was national. Even more worriesome, many of its followers were in the police and military."

An elequent illustration of a large established gang (Chinese government) being challenged for power by a supposedly peaceful gang of simple fruitcakes. It doesn't matter how peaceful they appear (grannies at Sunday church brunch), it's the ideas they hold that influence those in power. If cops and military buy into such ideas, it will affect their work. If politicians buy into it, it effects the nation. If the ideas involve irrational beliefs that require faith, you ultimately get Plato's philospher kings (dictators.) We have that happening NOW in the U.S. with the fight of the religious against stem cell research and homosexuality. Bush invoked that he was protecting America's morals by fighting stem cell. This is NOT acceptable, on so many levels, and it's enought to justify the claims of a Christian threat.

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Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

(Deleted)

Boaz the Boor's picture

(wrong thread)

Concept of God

Barry Mills's picture

To Bill,
People develop notions about life as they grow. These notions could be true or false. Religions have generally taught that God will keep us safe and if we believe we can go to heaven.
But when wars, disasters and diseases, plague the world man wonders why God doesn't protect us.
But do people really believe in God? Most don't. They put their faith and belief in science. Science is quite happily taking care of us. Doctors are trained by science, and schools teach science.

So what did Buddha and Jesus really teach when they were here? They didn't start a Christianity Religion or a Buddhism Religion. What they taught man, was how to behave. Be kind and compassionate. Tell the truth and be tolerant. If we cultivate truth, compassion and tolerance then won't the world be a better place?
But on earth good and evil co-exist. So here is where free will comes into play. Where do you stand? For example do you side with Hilter or the Allied Forces?

Distinguishing Good and Evil.

In 1992 Li Hongzhi brought out the teachings known as Falun Gong to Chinese people. Falun Gong embodies Truth, Compassion and Tolerance. Is he a modern day Jesus or Buddha?
Very simply the God, the Dao(way), or the Fa(law) are these three simple things. This is my understanding after six years of cultivating in this discipline. Falun gong is free to all people in the world. Again it is the individuals choice. No hard sell, or fear driven tactics to get people into church.No money being collected. No place of worship.

With reference to the last post regarding Mao, the communist regime is persecuting all religious beliefs including Falun Gong. The Chinese regime has accounted for 80 million un natural deaths in China since taking power there. Stalin did the same in Russia. Is communism a good thing? Unfortuneatley some Governemnts and people of the world are turning a blind eye to their killings and human rights abuses, in favour of business,and money. Forget the rest of the world's crisis, this is the real test for man.
Will the law allow this injustice to continue? Every-one must take a stance.
Kind Regards Barry.

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