Monday, December 29, 2008

"Metaphorical" vs. "Final" Language

I’d like to make a quick point here for the validity of religious language by appealing to a distinction Rorty makes about language, then in short pointing out where and why I feel he goes wrong.

In Rorty’s book, “Contingency, Irony and Solidarity”, he distinguishes (not directly) between two types of vocabularies or languages; First, what he calls a “Final Vocabulary” he defines as follows:

“All human beings carry about a set of words which they employ to justify their actions, their beliefs, and their lives. These are the words in which we formulate praise of our friends and contempt for our enemies, our long-term projects, our deepest sefl-doubts and our highest hopes. They are the words in which we tell, sometimes prospectively and sometimes retrospectively, the story of our lives. I shall call these words a person’s “Final Vocabulary”.

It is “final” in the sense that if doubt is cast on the worth of these words, the user has no noncircular argumentative recourse. Those words are as far as he can go with language; beyond them there is only helpless passivity or a resort to force. A small part of a final vocabulary is made up of thin, flexible, and ubiquitous terms such as, “true”, “good”, “right”, and “beautiful”. The larger part contains thicker, more rigid, and more parochial terms, for example, “Christ”, “England”, “Professional Standards”, “decency”, “kindness”, “the revolution”, “the Church”, “Progressive”, “rigorous”, “creative”. The more parochial terms do most of the work.”

On the other hand, Rorty defines Metaphorical Language as follows:

Although first, it should be understood the claim Rorty makes in my post just below, “Systemic Truth / Rorty”.

Rorty points out Nietzsche’s definition of “truth” as “a mobile army of metaphors”…
"...but in order to accept this picture, we need to see the distinction between the literal and the metaphorical in the way Davidson see’s it; not as a distinction between two sorts of meaning, nor as a distinction between two sorts of interpretation, but as a distinction between familiar and unfamiliar uses of noises and marks. The literal uses of noises and marks are the uses we can handle by our old theories about what people will say under various conditions. Their metaphorical use is the sort which makes us get busy developing a new theory… One should not think of metaphorical expression as having meaning distinct from their literal ones. To have meaning is to have a language game. Metaphors, by definition, do not…"

The issue I have here is simple, and of course (again) centers around my defense of religious language; Rorty would quickly reduce the whole enterprise of Christianity to a “Final Vocabulary”, and thus as such is bound to be justified only by reference to circular argumentation. Whereas in a general sense, Christians certainly do tend to hold to a static/final vocabulary relative to they’re beliefs, it does not stand (while looking at Christianity from a historical perspective) that it is not at the same time “a mobile army of metaphors”. Only when one takes the view that our current belief is not metaphoric can we reduce it to notions such as final vocabulary; I would suspect that the intellectual theologian, as well as myself, don’t have such static patterns of thought with regard to God, or Christianity. There may be certain principles that underlie Christian thinking, however the way in which we define those things, the way we talk about them, is certainly metaphorical (or so I'd suggest). Furthermore, the way we bring into the fray of our beliefs that which wasn’t there before constantly changes along side the evolution of our metaphors.

To put it another way, Rorty would reject Christianity not just on the grounds of being a so called final vocabulary, but as it implies an ultimate Truth or a means of getting in touch with a reality that exists “out there”. i.e. it is a means of certainty (the two are really the same). Rorty’s view of science (for example) is one that merely suggests, we’re not discovering truths which lead us closer and closer to the nature of the way the world is in itself, but merely developing new languages, through the formation of new metaphors, that are better suited to an ever changing world. However, this would be the same argument that I would employ for what religious language does.

So it seems to me a bit short sighted of Rorty to reduce Christian thinking in such a manner; although at the bottom I understand that his suggestion would be that God is akin to the sort of thinking which says there is a truth outside ourselves to be know, and thus rejects it also on those grounds. However I’ll come back with his same language and simply state that that is mere metaphor as well, that there is no reason that Christianity, in that sense, cannot fit into the framework of a neo-pragmatist world view…

There is no necessary need (as Christians), while in the process of redefining and changing our metaphores, to loose sight of where we began, in this case with Christ. And there is likewise no necessary need to continue to view God as some ultimate outside reality, or some fire burning within us, as neither of these views will change the principle target that Chritianity would aim for, e.g. freedom, love, so on. In this way, I'll let Rorty have his stance of Christian dogma and God as a means of certainty as something we can do better without (I completely agree), but again, there's no reason we need to ditch Christianity in the process of adopting a more pragmatic worldview.

(on a side note)
Rorty goes on to describe the “Ironist”, the sort of person that should replace the metaphysician (and once again, I find myself in agreement), he says:

The Ironist is someone who fulfills three conditions: 1.) he has radical and continuing doubts about the final vocabulary he currently uses, because he has been impressed with other vocabularies, vocabularies taken as final by people or books he has encountered; 2.) he realized that argument phrased in his current vocabulary can neither underwrite not dissolve these doubts; 3.) Insofar as he philosophizes about his situation, he does not think that his vocabulary is closer to reality then others, that it is in touch with a power not himself. Ironists who are inclined to philosophize see the choice between vocabularies as made neither within a neutral and universal metavocabulary nor by an attempt to fight one’s way past appearance to the real, but simply by playing the new off against the old…”

The obvious question that comes to mind for me then, is how a Christian cannot at the same time be an ironist after Rorty? Is it not in the Christians best interest to be skeptical? To continually take new views of his beliefs in light of others? To redefine his/her metaphors; in affect assimilate ideas such as, acceptance of the homosexual community and they’re language practices? Isn’t it in the Christians best interest to constantly keep in mind “2”? And finally, isn’t part of Christianity not to judge others, not to consider them right or wrong, but rather to reflect upon one’s self? Is there any reason why the Chrsitian cannot be progressive in his metaphorical content?

I don’t know? I shall have to think about this some more.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Systemic Truth / Rorty

Since I’m sufficiently a nerd, upon Matt’s insistence I went right out and picked up a copy of Rorty’s “Contingency Irony and Solidarity”. Right off, pg. 5, was the following – which is what I’ve been trying to get at with my notion of systemic truth: (I don't want to comment on this just yet, I merely throw it out there as it gives me a certain feeling of satisfaction - for now anyway.)

We need to make a distinction between the claim that the world is out there and the claim that truth is out there. To say that the world is out there, that it is not our creation, is to say, with common sense, that most things in space and time are the effects of causes which do not include human mental states. To say that truth is not out there is simply to say that where there are no sentences there is no truth, that sentences are elements of human languages, and that human languages are human creations.

Truth cannot be out there – cannot exist independently of the human mind – because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there. The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not. Only descriptions of the world can be true of false. The world on it’s own – unaided by the describing activities of human beings – cannot.

The suggestion that truth, as well as the world, is out there is a legacy of an age in which the world was seen as the creation of a being who had a language of his own.
(So in effect we anthropomorphized objective creation)

Cold Beverage

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Victory of Reason

Sam at Elizaphanian suggested going through a read of “The Victory of Reason” in January, so I had my old man pick it up for me for Jesus’ birthday and I skimmed through the first few pages (although I am in the process of finishing another book at the moment). At any rate I’d like to start piecing my thoughts together on it for comment at Sam’s..

Again, I skimmed through the first few pages, which was really an introduction, and surprisingly I already find myself at odds (I was hoping to really like this book). However, upon quick reflection I’m not certain I’m at odds in a good way or a bad way; I’ll move on.

In the first section Mr. Stark seems to be suggesting that the existence of Theologians in the west has led to ‘reason’ due to the continual and dynamic search for God’s nature. By contrast we did not see this sort of proliferation in the east as i.) there wasn’t any theologians, because ii.) the east denies God’s existence and relies on rhetoric like, the Tao is “always non-existent” yet “always existent”, “unnamable” and the “name that cannot be named”, “both soundless and formless,” it is “always without desires.” Stark goes on to say, “one might meditate forever on such an essence, but it offers little to reason about.” Which is really the point good sir.

This offers to me a key to an inference about the rest of this book that I’m really worried about. Is he suggesting that, since the west doesn’t refuse to place definitions on God that this leads to reason – i.e. because the Bible and the manner by which it defines God is seemingly irrational, it leads one to taking up the mantle of reason to make rational what is not? But he doesn’t make that contrast, (as a result he seems to be being a bit dishonest here) rather, instead of characterizing God from a western perspective as he did for the eastern perspective, he simply says, “In contrast, Christian theologians have devoted centuries to reasoning about what God may have really meant by various passages in scripture…”

Wait, how is this a contrast? On the one hand he’s talking about eastern definitions for God, and on the other hand he’s talking about western interpretations of scripture. There are ‘scriptures’ in the east just as there is the west, why didn’t he make the accurate contrast? This seems a bit of a dishonesty…

So what I gather is simply this (as I’ve already stated), the bible is irrational, or in the least does not conform to the rational thoughts of the day and as a result this leads to a rationalization of the scripture in attempt to gain conformity between the issues of the day and what is said in the Bible.

As well, didn’t Cardinal Bellarmine reject Galileo’s claims? Surely Galileo wasn’t a theologian? On the other hand, surely we can say he had a Christian upbringing, so perhaps the argument was that he was merely exercising his force of reason as a result of inconsistencies and incongruence’s he found in the bible. So he said to himself, “This Ptolemaic idea the Theologians are offering simply doesn’t make sense, so I’ll have a look see for myself.”

At best we can say that Bellarmine admitted that perhaps Copernican theory was really just an ingenious heuristic device for, say, navigational purposes and other sorts of practically oriented celestial reckoning, he was admitting that the theory was, within it’s proper limits, accurate, consistent, simple, and perhaps even fruitful. Which is more then we can say for those Christians today who reject the claims made by evolutionary theorists; why not at least take the leap and say of evolution that, evolution is a theory that is, within it’s proper limits, accurate… on”

On the other hand, perhaps the Bible from it’s beginnings represent the first such case (and/or the beginning) of the “hermeneutic-circle”? Where hermaneutics is the hope against the commensurable, i.e. an epistemology who’s goal is to define a set of rules to tell how rational agreement can be reached and an end to inquiry may be seen. Further, it see’s subjective view points as those which do not bring in considerations which are relevant, where on the other hand, the hermeneutic approach is one that leads to the continual question and see’s subjectivism not as personal opinion, but a relevant belief that lacks mere justification at best. Now I rather like that approach, it essentiall says, we know our forefathers were talking about something, what was it and how does it apply to us? In this sense I can see how eastern culture avoids this dialogue as it continually avoids the dogma’s that arise from it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Correspondence Theory and TAG

I'm going to beat this thing to death for sure.

It occurs to me now that Goobers transcendental argument for God (TAG) assumes that the nature of Truth follows the belief that it is a Correspondence with reality - which of course is a philosophy I dismiss. Now I often talk about correspondence, however not with reality, but within a paradigm of thought, a language game, a community.

If one makes the statement, then, that the laws of logic are absolute (as absolutism in this sense implies correspondence), it would have to then pre-suppose that the system we're using to mirror that reality is adequate to do so. In other words, prior to certainty, one must have a sense of 'a priori' certainty regarding the nature of the language and rules for logic that one’s using to reach that reality.

Goober (The Creationist and TAG’ist) was asked:
How do you know your senses or your extrasensory perception were[was] reliable prior to and at the time of your revelation?
(NOTE: Goober believes that without God, one cannot have certainty, however with God, one has certainty)

So I’d like to rephrase just what this question is getting at in by restating the above thoughts:
Again, If we say that we have reached [T]ruth, and for that matter certainty, when our perceptions (and how we reflect them in language using logic and reason) , have successfully mirrored those perceptions with reality; then the question above is trying to flesh out the following from Goober – How can one be certain that the pre-existing language game (system of logic and reason) was adequate to the task of mirroring reality? Part of Goober’s premise on the “proof that God exists” is the axiom that logic and reason are absolute, with no basis for this other then the statement, “Does absolute Truth exist?” Not only is this not a proof of anything (as has been already pointed put in previous posts), but it’s a mere pre-supposition in itself. In other words the first premise helps itself to assuming its own existence and begs the question – yet again, this is given as part of the premise; which is merely to call out something supposedly given.

Goober’s response was as follows (and is quite laughable):
"It’s a package deal :-D God reveals some things to us, such that we can know them for certain...”

It’s a package deal?!? Is he serious? Not only does one have to pre-suppose God in this argument (which is fine, don’t we all) but it pre-supposes the vary thing it uses as proof, BUT WAIT, it’s a PACKAGE DEAL.

Let me quote Rorty again: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Pg. 318, 319:
“…The notion of knowledge as accurate representation lends itself naturally to the notion that certain sorts of representations, certain expressions, certain processes are “basic, “privileged”, and “foundational”. The criticisms of this notion which I have canvassed in the previous chapters are backed up with holistic arguments of the form: We will not be able to isolate basic elements except on the basis of a prior knowledge of the whole fabric within which these elements occur. Thus we will not be able to substitute the notion of “accurate representation” (element-by-element) for that of successful accomplishment of a practice. Our choice of elements will be dictated by our understanding of the practice, rather then the practice’s being “legitimated” by a “rational reconstruction” out of elements. This holist line of argument says that we shall never be able to avoid the “hermeneutic circle”…”

Here Goober will respond, “A prior knowledge of the whole fabric within which these elements occur is a certainty granted by God; we don’t need this prior knowledge, God allows us to be certain of them.” (It’s a package deal, remember)

However this simply won’t do as the TAG argument goes from having premises which lead to a conclusion (God), to now beginning with and pre-supposing the conclusion as a means of validating the premise – and of course this horribly begs the question, it’s nonsense...

So the argument according to TAG becomes:
1.) God exists

(so what)

There’s another contradiction in the TAG line of reasoning which seems to arise out of the mixing and mingling of [T]ruth as correspondence with certainty as the result of a transcendental pre-supposition. In other words, by invoking a transcendental being as a means of certainty in one’s representations, it begs the further question as to how the transcendental being corresponds to reality beyond a mere subjective claim. This has the effect of blowing any evidence that we have adequate truths which correspond to reality completely out of the water along with the whole notion that we have certainty.

Fly Trapped in a Jar

God as a means of Certainty

Consider the following from Malcolm (found in Richard Rorty’s Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Pg. 230):

If we say that the way in which a person knows that something in front of him is a dog is by seeing that the creature “fits” his idea of a dog, then we need to ask “How does he know that this is an example of fitting?” What guides his judgment here? Does he not need a second-order Idea which shows him what it is like for something to fit an Idea? That is, will he not need a model of “fitting”… An infinite regress has been generated and nothing has been explained.

I bring this up because not only am I skeptical on the idea of the need for certainty (I generally slough it off entirely), but I’ve had this debate going on with Mr. Goober who would make the rash suggestion that, “If you’re not certain that what you say is true, then why should I listen to you?”

Of course if you’re Goober and you hold true to the TAG argument then you merely play God of the Gaps by inserting God as the cause of the Idea and the cause of one’s certainty. Obviously though, this argument doesn’t hold water as anyone can call into being they’re own transcendental entity and claim that it’s the source of they’re certainty; then, of course, we get into the argument over doctrines and soon enough, we go to war…

My argument is simply, what need is there of certainty? I gave the anecdote, suppose Goober and I were standing next to a stove, suddenly the Goober begins to put his hand down over the burner and I say, “STOP, the burner is HOT!” If Goober was holding true to his beliefs, then why listen to me, how can I be certain that the stove is actually hot, how can I account for that knowledge? If I can’t account for that knowledge, then surely there’s no reason to take my word for it?

Now this is where Goober the TAG believer proclaims, “I’m not suggesting that the atheist cannot know anything, I’m suggesting that he cannot account for that knowledge.” But who cares whether one can account for knowledge or not, we understand each other quite well and get along in the world well enough, right.

The real issue at hand here (or so it seems) is that Goober suffers from an old form of Cartesian dualism that says epistemological certainty and justification of ones beliefs is somehow the end of inquiry; but this notion is outdated, not useful, and if Goober really believed it there would be no reason for him to listen to anything anyone said who couldn’t proclaim to have justifications for their beliefs.

The fact remains, however, that Goober does in fact listen to me, justification or not. There is no need for me to justify my claim as we (people) naturally attribute to others mostly correct beliefs about the world, again, justified or not. Goober himself is the test to the accuracy of the claims I make, Goober himself can set them up, along with anyone else I may be speaking to.

In the same way, there’s no need for me or anyone to justify their use of logic; you, me, and everyone else stands as introspective observers and are the test of accuracy and cohesiveness of a given claim completely outside of individual certainty.

Ultimately Goobers actions relative to his speech make him seem hypocritical – as such, if he followed what he believed he wouldn’t participate in a conversation full of individuals who have no certainty; his continued conversation and dialogue pre-supposes in one manner or another that he attributes to them (the uncertain) a certain degree of certainty without them even needing to proclaim it.

Goober’s own proclamation of internal certainty (on the other hand) is itself suspect as a result of the same Cartesian philosophy alluded to in the beginning. The only proof in the matter of his own certainty lies in privileged access, and since I don’t know what’s in his mind and he don’t know what’s in my mind, then his statement of certainty is meaningless by itself and is furthermore lost on his audience – that is, we simply don’t care, it doesn’t pertain. How then, can Goober’s empty proclamation contain any evidence whatsoever as to the existence of God?

(Let's recall Rorty's post HERE)

God as Placebo

This is going to be short and sweet as this was simply an idea that fell on my plate over the weekend, I chewed on it, and now I want to spit it out.

Really what’s being talked about here is a definition for God, and the problem with that is, once one defines God he gives himself the burden of accounting for that definition. So if I say that God is some transcendental all powerful being (whereas there’s a certain sense in that), so what, one can’t prove that. All one is saying by appealing to transcendentalism is appealing to a definition that is beyond our ability to know and comprehend, which is fine enough I suppose, but again, who cares? It’s a meaningless definition. We all know well enough what transcendental means, we know how to use it as a piece of rhetoric just as we do the word “absolute”, however our simple rhetorical use of a word doesn’t grant it’s existence, it simply grants that we don’t know something; and if we don’t know something, why not just leave it at that?

So then, God as placebo; at first that has a certain ring to it, but then on the other hand it seems a bit reductionist and/or something an atheist would say as in, “You just believe in fairies.” Not only that, but if the theist takes this stance then he’s forfeited the purpose of his belief. In other words, suppose you’re sick with something requiring antibiotics so you head off to the doctors. When you arrive the doctor diagnosis you and he writes you up a prescription, however as your leaving he states, “Oh and by the way, this really isn’t medicine, it’s a placebo, a sugar pill.” Now, we all know that in many cases placebo’s work, but they only work if the person taking them doesn’t know it’s a placebo; as a result, for a Christian to make the argument that God is mere placebo is to make a self refuting statement that essentially renders his belief not just meaningless, but useless.

If God is a placebo, you may as well become an atheist

Again, I find no real sense in defining God, it’s the principles which are described under that name which are important in so far as they’re application in life.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

On Discourse and no Discourse

For those who noticed, I've deleted this post - there was something vary unsatisfactory about it.... Not sure, perhaps I'll repost it at a later date.....

Bottom Line:
It repeated things I've already stated in my Religious Language posts (although it had some further spins) and I didn't like the way it hung together...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Randy Newman, "Political Science"

Courage & Faith

John Wayne said of courage:“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway”

Life itself, the vary act of waking up daily and facing it is a courageous act; if one is not scared to death, his actions are not guided by courage, but filled with stupidity. If one acts without fear of the uncertainties in life, then his actions are dubious and inconsiderate.

There are two sorts of courageous and faithful men that face the world daily, and those are theists and atheists.

The atheist, whereas he has a witty, tactful character, places his faith in his assumptions; his courage is drawn, if drawn at all, from the bowels of his existential character. i.e. He acts out of the shear will and power of his own character, and whereas this has a certain nobility to it, the will of his own actions can be seen as suspicious. What are the intentions of this loan soul on the battle field of life? What is the dialogue for which he struggles? Could it be that he’s just trying to survive, at what cost?

The theist, on the other hand, places his faith in God; his courage is drawn not from the fear of life or the uncertainty of his existential character, but from the fear of the Lord. His nobility lies in the certainty of his cause, the fruitfulness of his actions, and his courage in the face of all that life can throw at him. His dialogue is that of Christ’s, and he no less speaks it then that he lives by it. When he lives, his lives to the Lord, when he eats, he eats to the Lord, and when seeking courage, he lives through faith and fear in the Lord.

A man with faith in the Lord has more courage, wisdom and power of intention then a thousand men without. This man does not fear death, he only fears the Lord; if not that you would proclaim the Lord you savior, then this man will become your master…

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Creationism vs. Evolution

It was never intended that I’d bring up such an issue on my blog as I’ve never had any real interest in the topic; as such it pains me to bring it up now and I’m almost embarrassed and ashamed to do it.

I’m more interested in philosophy for philosophy’s sake, I’m interested in language and how we use it, I’m interested in religious language and how it pertains to human life, I’m interested in a pragmatic approach to life in general with religion [GOD] at the forefront.

Anyway, some recent blog conversations have led me to do some thinking on the subject and I’d like to flesh out my own thinking on it; get it etched in silicone.
One of the first questions at hand that I have in dealing with this subject is, “just what is creationism anyway?” What does it entail, what does it assume, what’s it mean, etc. I’ve come to grasp that in one sense creationism simply means that God created everything; but how did God create everything? Well, we can look to our bibles for that (I say our, as most everyone, atheist and theist alike, own a bible).

Let me take a step back though, and go with some direct comments from a creationist who we’ll call, “Goober the Creationist”, as who he his doesn’t really matter.

Goober says:
i.) (of evolution) “It’s largely misguided. Arguing evolution with an evolutionist is granting that which evolution cannot give, namely truth, knowledge and reason.”

ii.) “God created everything ex-nihilo.”

iii.) “God created everything ‘good’.” (At some point I’d like to talk about this as I’m a Pirsig fan – right off God creates Quality, nice.)

iv.) “man was not created as a man (as we see him today) ex-nihilo, he was created good.

v.) “The above statements are not scientific.”

vi.) “Man himself was not created ex-nihilo, he was created from the dust of the ground.”

vii.) “Man was not born of anything, i.e. he did not have parents.”

Ok then, what I gather from Goober is that evolution is meaningless as a form of truth, as a position to hold with regard to creation; I have no problem with this. However, Goober may go on to maintain that as a theory, evolution is by and large false, unproven, un-useful, and we shouldn’t teach it to our children. For some reason I get the feeling the real issue at hand is that evolution is looked at as a scary refutation of the existence of God as apposed to a handy tool of inquiry regarding the nature of our experience.

My position on this issue is no different then my position on the juxtaposition of scientific language vs. religious language (refer to my posts with the “Religious Language” tag), and that is, they simply have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. Creationism, so I surmise, seems to deal with first causes whereas Evolution deals with things as they already exist. i.e. evolution isn’t the scientific search for the face of God, rather it’s the search for the mechanism (if you will) that led to mans current existence from the dust of the earth.

Let me note a couple things (as to Goober) from the Bible:1.) The bible does not state explicitly that man was created “DIRECTLY” from the dust of the earth. Only that he was formed of it.2.) After the earth and the heavens were made, there were no shrubs plants or trees as God had not caused it to rain – in other words there was no water. 3.) Then of course, he “caused” the trees and the shrubs to grow; in other words it’s explicit that he didn’t create the plants and the shrubs, but that he caused them to grow – NOT DIRECTLY.

This is all well and good from the theistic point of view, however it’s lacking in scientific appeal. Suppose the following scenario:

There is a car that I’m building in my garage from the ground up, and one asks, “How did you do it?” That’s a big question, so I answer, “I formed it of the dust of the earth.” Which is not by itself an incorrect answer, however it does avoid all the transitional forms that took place in between, and really avoids answering the question – in other words that wasn’t what one was really after. Or suppose I rather said, “I caused the car to be built.” This would also be an adequate response, however you’re not 6.

My point is this, have your God and have what is stated in points i – vii above; there is nothing necessarily wrong with it. In the case of evolution however, we’re not talking about God, we’re talking about what happened between “The Dust” and “The Man” – we’re talking about what happened between “The earth being formed”, and “things being caused to grow”. Whether or not we say that it’s caused or not is beside the point, that’s not the answer evolution is trying to solve; it’s trying to solve and reveal the process by which life is “FORMED” and “CAUSED TO GROW”. It’s trying to solve these problems not to reveal the face of God so to speak, or to disprove theistic belief, but to solve problems in life in the here and now – how does evolutionary biology lead to better medicines? How does it lead to understanding the gene structure so that we can improve quality of life? Etc.

What’s important is that evolutionary theory, as a mode of thought, is a useful tool in working out problems that pertain to our world today:

The example is often given that motor vehicles have a creator and that they did not evolve over time, further that this is somehow evidence of a creator, however this really a misdirection. Let’s suppose I’m an engineer for an auto maker and I have a problem with a car in that, the seat belt doesn’t stay latched. If I go with the assumption that the car was created with no previous variation, then I’m going to take the static approach to solving whatever the problem is; in which case I may take out my tool kit, begin poking around and perhaps cause bigger problems. Or, as the car was created out of thin air, I may not assume that there is a design history with parts lists, schematics and troubleshooting guides, i.e. I may never come to the understanding that perhaps variation in assembly processes led to the defect.

It may vary well be the case that I discover what the problem is, but if I consider that the car was formed in a static nature, whereas I may come to a conclusion as to what led to the problem in the first place I may never get the problem fixed on other vehicles; this will be due to the fact that (as my thinking is static) it wont occur to me to even look, and even if I did, I’ll find myself fixing the issue without implementing a long term solution to the problem. In other words, I won’t vary the process accordingly and/or implement the necessary design change.

However if I take a more dynamic approach and consider variation and change over time, I may tend to think that, perhaps this is an issue that exists in this particular model year. Perhaps there was a revision change or two, or perhaps a modified process which led to an inherent defect; in this way I research the issue a bit differently and discover that a recent change to the process (a mutation) led to a flaw in the latching assembly. In effect what I’m doing is researching the evolution (or process change) of the vehicle to not just find the defect itself, but find what led to the defect and in turn implement the necessary process changes (mutations) to fix the problem.

The point is this, where as we can say a car was created, it is also a mutation (a variation / improvement) on earlier design ideas. First there was the horse, then there was the wheel, then the horse pulled one on the wheel, then we put peddles on the wheels, then a steam engine, then a gas engine. Would Goober mean to tell me that this isn’t a form of evolution? If you go to a garbage dump where old cars reside, you can see evolution in the same way you can see it in old fossils. Thinking dynamically then (in terms of evolution) is useful in solving problems. This alone doesn’t make it right or wrong, as a matter of fact, it doesn’t even matter if it’s right or wrong; what’s important is it’s usefulness as a tool of inquiry.

Myself personally, I don't view evolution as being true in any absolute sense (as I don't believe in absolute truth of course); I generally accept things based on they're usefulness as a mode of thinking. In this sense, evolution is a useful tool, nothing more.The same goes for creationism.

My question of creationism would not be, is it true or is it false, but in what way is it useful as a mode of thought? In other words, aside from supporting ones interpretation of the Bible, what does adhering to creationism (relative to interpreting life as we experience it and/or life relative to scientific inquiry) do for one and/or humanity?

At this point, Goober may appeal to the belief in God as a mode of thought to avoid hell fire; however, beyond that, what good is it to the world of scientific inquiry? If we all believed the world and universe at large to be static and absolute (created and not constantly changing), there would be no reason to re-interpret old laws of science; we may all still be living in mud huts. There would be no automobiles, no penicillin, no telephone, no lights, no computers – If we all adopted Goober the Creationists world view, then there’s no need to go searching around for answers that would in tern lead to a better life for all.

As a bottom line then, my open question to Goober is:

“What use does thinking in terms of Creationism serve if any? As a form of truth, what use is there in it to scientific inquiry? How can it improve life in the objective ways we think of scientific discovery as doing?”

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Sye TenB P.3

So I'm sad to say, here is yet another debate I've had with Sye, (which will make three). Not sure why I waste my time with it so I'm fairly certain this will be it... My comments in BLUE, Sye in GREEN. - this is technically still ongoing, but as you'll see it isn't going to go anywhere; I'll update it accordingly.

Some important references/links:

A: Sye,
You said:”The laws of logic are universal (despite your objection), abstract, and invariant.” That is to say, as you always maintain, they are absolute.

So then, lets first recall that for something to be absolute it must :
1.) Exist Independently
2.) Exist not in relation to other things
3.) Exist not relative to other things
4.) Be true for every possible circumstance

You’ve made quite the lofty assertion, Sye, and of course you have yet to prove it. Perhaps you could:
A.) State a Law of Logic – perhaps you could start with the law of non-contradiction.
B.) Demonstrate for us how that law of logic satisfies 1 – 4 above
C.) Show how that law is not “Systemic”

Also, you are not allowed to borrow from my world view to do so.
Recall that Systemic Truth says the following: (CLICK HERE)

S: Andrew Louis said: The same things he's been saying for far too long :-D
Andrew, is it absolutely true, that there is no absolute truth?

A: Sye,
perhaps you'd like me to repeat the question (understanding that you must first establish that absolute truth is even a valid proposition): I of course have already answered your question, you seem to not be able to offer proof of your world view.

So then, lets first recall that for something to be absolute it must :
1.) Exist Independently
2.) Exist not in relation to other things
3.) Exist not relative to other things
4.) Be true for every possible circumstance

You’ve made quite the lofty assertion, Sye, and of course you have yet to prove it. Perhaps you could:
A.) State a Law of Logic – perhaps you could start with the law of non-contradiction.
B.) Demonstrate for us how that law of logic satisfies 1 – 4 above
C.) Show how that law is not “Systemic”

S: Andrew Louis said:
"Sye,perhaps you'd like me to repeat the question"
Nope, I'd like you to answer mine: Is it absolutely true, that there is no absolute truth?"(understanding that you must first extablish that absolute truth is even a valid proposition)"Is it absolutely true that I must establish this Andrew?(I'll try to get to the serious arguments tomorrow).G'night all (again).

A: Sye,once again you seem to have reading issues. Not only have I answered your question, but I've refuted it as a valid proposition. So because I'm a good guy, I'll repost (AGAIN) the question, along with the premise that debunks your worldview:

Sye,You said:”The laws of logic are universal (despite your objection), abstract, and invariant.” That is to say, as you always maintain, they are absolute.So then, lets first recall that for something to be absolute it must :
1.) Exist Independently
2.) Exist not in relation to other things
3.) Exist not relative to other things
4.) Be true for every possible circumstance

You’ve made quite the lofty assertion, Sye, and of course you have yet to prove it. Perhaps you could:
A.) State a Law of Logic – perhaps you could start with the law of non-contradiction.
B.) Demonstrate for us how that law of logic satisfies 1 – 4 above
C.) Show how that law is not “Systemic”A

lso, you are not allowed to borrow from my world view to do so.Recall that Systemic Truth says the following: (REFER TO SYSTEMIC TRUTH)

S: Andrew Louis said: A whole lot of stuff again, but he did not answer my question – again. Andrew, is it absolutely true that there is no absolute truth?I could go through your entire post, and point each time you have made an absolute truth claim, but really, that would be pointless.

Here are but a few:So then, lets first recall that for something to be absolute it must :… yada yada yadaSounds like an absolute truth claim to me Andrew. It MUST?” Also, you are not allowed to borrow from my world view to do so.”Is that absolutely true Andrew?” Truth itself is systemic,”Is it absolutely true that truth is systemic?” Anyway, truth is objective, but truth is not absolute.”Is it absolutely true that truth is objective, and not absolute Andrew?Well, I doubt that you will get the point, but hopefully those reading along will. Denying absolute truth is self-refuting.

A: Denying absolute truth is not sefl refuting as I shown it's not even a valid proposition. So here it is again as Sye is having trouble:

So then, lets first recall that for something to be absolute it must :
1.) Exist Independently
2.) Exist not in relation to other things
3.) Exist not relative to other things
4.) Be true for every possible circumstance

You’ve made quite the lofty assertion, Sye, and of course you have yet to prove it. Perhaps you could:
A.) State a Law of Logic – perhaps you could start with the law of non-contradiction.
B.) Demonstrate for us how that law of logic satisfies 1 – 4 above
C.) Show how that law is not “Systemic”

Let me break this down in another way to show the flaw in your question, “Does Absolute Truth exist”, and further demonstrate for you how truth is systemic. I’d like to do this be looking at meanings and sentence structure. (I’ll take this slow)

(CLICK HERE FOR THE "Invalidity of Absolute Truth Argument")

S: Andrew, Look I appreciate how much effort you must put into your long posts, but I have to confess, I don't even read them. Quite simply, if it IS NOT absolutley true, that there is no absolute truth, then there can be absolute truth, and if it IS absolutely true that there is no absolute truth, then also, there must be, absolute truth.Denying absolute truth (as you are doing) is self-refuting.

A: Sye, you will realize the absurdity of your statement once you take the time to read my latest post. You're repeating absurdity in the face of it, and anyone who chooses to read it will see as such.

How can you launch an honest argument it you won't even take the time to read? People have been calling you dishonest, and you're proving them right.

S: Andrew Louis said: "How can you launch an honest argument it you won't even take the time to read? People have been calling you dishonest, and you're proving them right."

Tell you what Andrew, answer my question ONCE and I will read your post: Is it absolutely true that absolute truth does not exist?

A: Sye, you just said a funny:"Tell you what Andrew, answer my question ONCE and I will read your post: Is it absolutely true that absolute truth does not exist?"

Simply read my previous post, Sye, and you'll see I've clearly answered your question (oh wait that's right, you dont read them - you're dishonest).

Here, I'll post it again for you again:

S: Andrew, you examined my question, but you have not answered it (as I determined by sifting through that mess you like to repeat). Again I ask, is it absolutely true that absolute truth does not exist?I won't even skim your next post past the first sentence if it does not include an answer to my question.


A: Sye, you just said a funny:"Tell you what Andrew, answer my question ONCE and I will read your post: Is it absolutely true that absolute truth does not exist?"

Simply read my previous post, Sye, and you'll see I've clearly answered your question (oh wait that's right, you dont read them - you're dishonest).Here, I'll post it again for you again:

Sye,your question doesn't make sense until you can establish the validity of absolute. So lets have it...

Now this is where you ask, "Is that absolutely true", in which case you can read my post to shed light on your inability to read, comprehend and be honest....g-night

S: Andrew Louis said: "your question doesn't make sense until you can establish the validity of absolute."Andrew, is it absolutely true that my question does not make sense until I can establish the validity of absolute?

If you do not answer my question, I will no longer respond to you. It is up to Dan if he wants to let your repeated posts clog up his blog.Blog clogger :-D Hey that's funny!(Verification word - "splog" Now THAT'S even funnier! I think we may have your new nickname!)

A: Sye, Because I’m such a great guy I’m going to try to simplify my LONG post that you can’t seem to read and create an elementary school version of it.

Once again, all sentences contain a SUBJECT which I’ll denote with (x) and a PREDICATE which I’ll denote with [z]. So your sentence could be, “Is (x) [z]?”

Now here’s the crucial part:
If the SUBJECT of your sentence is itself internally predicated, as in (xy), then it assumes (pre-supposes if you will) that the PREDICATE we’re applying to it is true of both SUBJECTS by themselves.

In other words if your sentence is:
“Is/Does (xy) [z]?”
then what we really have is:
“Is/Does (x[z]) (y[z]) = TRUE {together}?”
As you can see, this sentence structure assumes that the predicate applies to both elements of the subject by themselves. The real question then, isn’t to the existence of either of them, but to the existence of both of them together.

So we can simplify that by asking:
“Is (x)[y]?”

So, the question is:
“Does Absolute Truth Exist?”
What we really have is:
“Does (Absolute[exist]) (Truth[exist]) = exist {together}?”
So the first question one should ask is, does the PREDICATE “exist” apply to both Truth and Absolute by themselves? If it doesn’t and/or one cannot show it, then one has merely created an invalid subject for predication.

On the other hand, if one can establish the existence of at least one absolute, than our question becomes (as we can now factor out exist):
“Is Truth Absolute?”

Notice that in this sentence a “NO” response does not yield the option of responding, “Is that absolutely true?” as by answering no we’ve invalidated Absolute as being an applicable predicate to truth; so in effect the question doesn’t make sense.

However, in order to even get to that point one needs to establish the validity of the word ABSOLUTE, or one is merely spewing rhetorical bullsht. One's use of it (in context) PRE-SUPPOSES it’s reality – in other words one only has a self refuting statement when you pre-suppose absolute to be something real and proven. My position is, of course, the question is nonsense.

So to the question:
“Does absolute truth exist?”
I will respond:
“You have created an invalid subject for predication.”
And one can ask:
“Is that absolutely true?”
And I will respond:
“You’ve created an invalid subject for predication.”
Ad-infinitum if you like.

S: Andrew Louis said: ” So to your question:“Does absolute truth exist?” I will respond: “You have created an invalid subject for predication.”Andrew, where is true that I have “created an invalid subject for predication?” Only in your system of truth, or universally?

A: Sye, you said:
"Andrew, where is true that I have “created an invalid subject for predication?”

In parenthesis,
Does (Absolute Truth) exist?

Sye, you also said:
Is it true..."Only in your system of truth, or universally?

This seems to demonstrate your inability to understand what I'm saying. To make this easier, perhaps you could shed some light on what in my statement you don't understand.

Your question seems to have the analog that follows this way:
YOU SAY: "The capitol of New York is the Bronx."
AND I SAY: "No, the capitol of New York is New York."
THEN YOU RESPOND:"What language are you speaking, is it universal?"

S: It's a simple question Andrew:"Where is it true that I have “created an invalid subject for predication?”

I'm not assuming anything about absolute truth in that question. It's like asking: "Where is the capitol of New York?"

A: Sye, GREAT!
It's a simple answer then. You've created it in the following way; as I've already stated:

(If you find that this simply doesn't follow, then of course you will point that out and show the validity of "Absolute".)


S: Look Andrew, I have asked a question where absolutes are not assumed, and you have resorted to cutting and pasting your old argument. Please answer my question, or I will return to ignoring you.Cheers

A: Sye, perhaps you don't understand where the burdon of proof lies. Your contention is that absolute truth exists by the question, "Does absolute truth exist?" being self refuting.

My argument is that your contention for absolute truth doesn't make sense for reasons already stated in 3 different premises on 3 different posts (none of which you have been able to address)

NOW: If you'd like to tell me where I'm wrong then I'm all ears, or in this case, eyes.

S: Andrew, forget that for now. We will get back to it, just please answer my question. I have been extremely patient with you:

Q: Where is it true that I have “created an invalid subject for predication?”

A: Sye, (you can't flesh off the burden of proof by taking the Socratic rout)

There is no reason to “forget it for now” as the burdon of proof is not on me. I have a refutation against your mere contention; if you do not feel that I have pointed out WHERE you have created an invalid subject for predication, then surely you can show that. Otherwise, refer to my 3 premises.

Let me put this in simpler terms.

A.) You contend self refuting statement “X”.

B.) I argue that NOT”X” (or “X” is invalid) due to the existence of condition“Y” in statement “X”.

1.) Then you ask, “where is it true that condition “Y” ?”- However, I have already shown condition “Y” in “B.)” as defined within the premise. If you feel I have not shown condition “Y”, then surely you can point to NOTcondition”Y”.

Otherwise, as it stands, I have a successful argument against “X”.

What we’re after here, Sye, is your argument for “X” that shows condition “Y” is invalid.

S: Andrew said: "I have a refutation against your mere contention"

I realize that this is your claim, but since you only believe in what you call 'systemic truth,' I want to know how far that 'truth' reaches so I know whether or not I need to worry about it. You see, if for example, it's only 'true' in your head, I really don't give a rip.Cheers

A: Sye,
I SAID: "I have a refutation against your mere contention"
YOU SAID: "I realize that this is your claim, but since you only believe in what you call 'systemic truth,' I want to know how far that 'truth' reaches so I know whether or not I need to worry about it. You see, if for example, it's only 'true' in your head, I really don't give a rip."


How does this pertain to my argument?

1.) Once again then, if you do not feel that I have pointed out WHERE you have created an invalid subject for predication, then surely you can show that.

2.) Furthermore, you have made the bold assertion that I didn’t even make an argument, rather I just made a claim; perhaps you can also back that up.

3.) In what way is my argument that “You have created an invalid subject for predication” (along with the post that backs it up), not an argument?

4.) If it would be your contention that it’s not valid based on it “just being in my head”, then perhaps you can back THAT up as well.

S: @ AndrewYawn

A: @ Sye'burp'

When children can't answer questions they do stuff like this. Way to go Sye, you big dumb head.

S: Andrew Louis said: ”When children can't answer questions they do stuff like this. Way to go Sye, you big dumb head.”More like: When you can’t answer my questions, you cut and paste your same non-answer, in a vain attempt to hide that fact.

A: Sye, you said:"When you can’t answer my questions, you cut and paste your same non-answer, in a vain attempt to hide that fact."

Great! Your question was:
Q: Where is it true that I have “created an invalid subject for predication?”

In what way did my argument not answer this question?

S: Oh, and in case you forgot the question you keep ducking: Where is it true that I have “created an invalid subject for predication?Cheers

A: Oh and Sye, to your question, we alraedy covered that and you thought it would be cute to YAWN, but here it is again:

1.) Once again then, if you do not feel that I have pointed out WHERE you have created an invalid subject for predication, then surely you can show that.

2.) Furthermore, you have made the bold assertion that I didn’t even make an argument, rather I just made a claim; perhaps you can also back that up.

3.) In what way is my argument that “You have created an invalid subject for predication” (along with the post that backs it up), not an argument?

4.) If it would be your contention that it’s not valid based on it “just being in my head”, then perhaps you can back THAT up as well.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Belief-O-Matic Quiz

I came accross this quiz over at "Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths" and thought it was fun and interesting.

To give it a shot simply click HERE,
and answer 20 simple questions about your beliefs.

Mine came out in the following way:

1. Taoism (100%)
2. Neo-Pagan (96%)
3. Unitarian Universalism (88%)
4. Liberal Quakers (86%)
5. Sikhism (83%)
6. Mahayana Buddhism (79%)
7. Theravada Buddhism (79%)
8. Secular Humanism (77%)
9. New Age (75%)
10. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (71%)
11. Reform Judaism (63%)
12. Orthodox Quaker (58%)
13. Jainism (55%)
14. Scientology (52%)
15. Nontheist (50%)
16. New Thought (46%)
17. Hinduism (44%)
18. Baha'i Faith (43%)
19. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (43%)
20. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (38%)
21. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (29%)
22. Seventh Day Adventist (24%)
23. Eastern Orthodox (20%)
24. Islam (20%)
25. Orthodox Judaism (20%)
26. Roman Catholic (20%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (0%)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

On the Invalidity of Absolute Truth

Yes, I'm debating with Sye again, bashing my head against the wall and wondering why. So here is a response to the invalidity of absolute truth that I thought was worth saving for the blog:

Refer to my original statement on absolute truth here:

Let me break this down in another way to show the flaw in your question, “Does Absolute Truth exist”, and further demonstrate for you how truth is systemic. I’d like to do this be looking at meanings and sentence structure. (I’ll take this slow)

First, let’s consider sentence structure:
Every sentence contains (or implies) two parts; a subject and a predicate. The predicate, or course, is what is said about the subject

Consider this sentence,
“Do Hard Rocks exist?”
At first glance this seems like a reasonable question, and it is to a certain degree, however it can be easily simplified. As it stands, however, we have the subject, “Hard Rocks” and the predicate, “Exist”. The question then, is whether or not the predicate “exist” can be applied to the subject “Hard Rocks”.

But let’s simplify the question and rather ask:
“Are Rocks Hard?”
Let me take a step back though and explain why I’m simplifying the question. In the previous sentence, “Hard Rocks” was my subject, however we’d all agree before hand that “hardness” exists, and we’d all agree before hand that “rocks” exist, furthermore, proof (correspondingly) can be offered as to the reality of each. As a result, the question isn’t whether or not “Hard Rocks” exist, (or better put, whether or not “exist” is a valid predicate to “Hard Rocks”), rather the real question is whether or not the predicate “Hard” is valid when applied to the subject “Rocks”. Of course the obvious answer to the question (which we’d all give), is yes, the predicate “Hard” certainly does apply to subject “Rocks”. The key again being, that we understand before hand and can prove by itself the reality of both subject and predicate.

Now, let me take this even slower; what I’ve done here in reducing the question is what they refer to in mathematics as “Factoring”. In other words in the sentence, “Do Hard Rocks exist?” we’re actually calling into question this statement: “Do (Hard+exist)+(Rocks+exist)=exist Yes?” So, all I’ve done with the question “Are Rocks Hard?” is factor out the “exist” to come up with, “Are Rocks Hard? Yes.” as we all agree in the application of the predicate hard to the subject rock, and furthermore that they both exist on their own. .

EXAMPLE 2:Lets look at another question,
“Do Windy Rocks exist?”
Once again we can factor out exist from this question and simply say, “Are Rocks Windy?” and ask whether or not the predicate “Windy” applies to “Rocks”. Of course I don’t need to answer that question as we’d all correspondingly agree that rocks are in fact not windy.

Now, lets look at your question,
“Does Absolute Truth exist?”
I take it by now that you see your underlying flaw in logic, but if not, let’s proceed.

Asking the question in this way assumes that we can factor “exist” from both “Absolute” and “Truth” as if we all agreed to the reality and existence of both. But there are two huge problems here which lie in the questions, “What is absolute?” and “What is Truth?” and furthermore do either of them exist on their own in such a way that to ask the question, “Does Absolute Truth exist?” make sense?

So in order to predicate Truth with Absolute by asking the question, “Is Truth Absolute?”, we need to agree and establish before hand that both are A.) Valid as a subject and predicate – by - B.) Establishing that both have a reality by themselves.

I’ve already established in my original premise what truth is, so I won’t belabor the point except to say that, it’s only propositions that are true. In other words, things in and of themselves are not true as they do not by themselves carry the property truth; it’s only what we say about objects which are either true or false. In yet another way, truth exists in the instance we find that a proven predicate applies to a given/proven subject. Void of propositions then, there is no truth – at any rate you can see my original premise on Systemic Truth.

Let’s now look at Absolute then:
In order to establish the validity of your question/proposition, we must establish (outside of rhetorical space) the validity and existence of the word Absolute. Again, lets start by being simple. Absolute is of course a word we use (albeit rhetorically) in everyday speech; one might ask, “You wanna go to lunch?” and I may respond, “Absolutely!” and of course we can all see how this response is a rhetorical one, as, I may not even be able to go, I may not go, and maybe I will go. We can create an analog to this statement with the proclamation, “I’ve been here forever!”, again, this is a rhetorical statement.

Of course we all use phrases like, “Forever”, “Infinity”, and “Absolute”, and in our everyday speech these are no doubt rhetorical statements. In mathematics (for example) we have the theoretical notion of “Infinity”, however the reality of such a case could never be proven, likewise with the notion of “Forever” (unless one can prove otherwise). So it’s obvious then, that we need to substantiate the validity of the notion “Absolute” prior to being able to apply it as a valid predicate to a given subject; and this is why the statement/proposition/question, “Does absolute truth exist?” doesn’t make sense.

In light of this we know that (in the same way we can surmise about infinity) for something to be absolute if must fulfill the following criteria which I’ve already established in my original question, (which is):

Lets first recall that for something to be absolute it must :
1.) Exist Independently
2.) Exist not in relation to other things
3.) Exist not relative to other things
4.) Be true for every possible circumstance

The Question:
A.) State a truth/law that you consider absolute.
B.) Demonstrate for us how that truth/law satisfies 1 – 4 above.
C.) Show how that truth/law is not “Systemic”

Further more then, in order to ask in honest fashion the question, “Does absolute truth exist?” we must first establish the validity of “Absolute” by demonstrating it as asked above, otherwise what’s being stated is merely a rhetorical question that, where-as it may exist as a seemingly logical question, does not have existence in reality. In other words, (as it’s rhetorical) its existence is only conceptual (theoretical) until it’s shown that absolute has existence outside of that.

With that, Sye, I believe you have a proof to give; and whereas it may be tempting to merely defer to the question, “Is what you say absolutely true?” I believe I’ve clearly shown that the BURDON OF PROOF is clearly in your court.

So lets have it….

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Essences and Word Play

So I have two things on my mind, first this post from Sam HERE.
The basic premise is a stance of non-realism, where nothing exists apart from our knowledge and language about a particular thing; more importantly for the discussion, God doesn't exist outside of our faith and what it is we say about him. Now of course I agree with Sam where he states that this position ignors the mystical tradition.

Secondly there is this snippet from Richard Rorty's "Philosophy and Social Hope":
“To treat beliefs not as representation but has habits of action, and words not as representations but as tools, is to make it pointless to ask, ‘Am I discovering or inventing, making or finding?’ There is no point in dividing up the organisms’ interaction with the environment in this way. Consider an example:
We normally say that a bank account is a social construction rather than an object in the natural world, whereas a giraffe is an object in the natural world rather then a social construction. Bank accounts are made, giraffes are found. Now the truth in this view is simply that if there had been no human beings there would still have been giraffes, whereas there would have been no bank accounts. But this causal independence of giraffes from humans does not mean that giraffes are what they are apart from human needs and interests.

On the contrary, we describe giraffes in the way we do, as giraffes, because of our needs and interests. We speak a language which includes the word ‘giraffe’ because it suits our purposes to do so. The same goes for words like ‘organ’, ‘cell’, ‘atom’ and so on……”

I have then, one simple question in mind; what about the essence of a thing? In other words, to say that God is nothing more then what we say ignores the phenomenal component that lead to the language in the first place – where the phenomenal component may be said to be some pre-existent essence that we’re trying to communicate. I could say the same thing about the giraffe; sure, what we say about the giraffe to a certain extent is based on pragmatic intentions, what other way of speaking about it would make sense. Then I could say, well, certainly there is some essence of giraffe-ness which exists outside of our language and knowledge about it, and to reduce it to mere, let’s say utility, is to miss the point of something seemingly profound.

But, as the pragmatist might say, “Who cares?” To say that God exists, to say that giraffes have essences simply isn’t meaningful, and seemingly in no way useful, so why even consider it?

This gets back to my central question, “Is religious language valid?” And, “What’s it good for?”

I’m going to sleep on this for now……


Sye is back at it HERE.

I miss that guy.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Piss up a Rope"

The quintessential country song, performed by Ween (who of course isn’t a country music group). You must give it a listen, unless of course you have a problem with satire and vulgarity… I have to throw in a good laugh every once in a while to offset the dryness and seriousness of everything else I have going on here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Inspired Theist vs. Uninspired Atheist

Consider the following from Richard Rorty’s “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature” (pg. 88):

….the problem is that one side thinks there are too many meanings around and the other side too few. In this respect the closest analogy one can find is the conflict between inspired theists and uninspired atheists. An inspired theist, let us say, is one who “just knows” that there are supernatural beings which play certain explanatory roles in accounting for natural phenomenon. (They are not to be confused with natural theologians – who offer the supernatural as the best explanation of these phenomenon.) Inspired theists have inherited their picture of the universe as divided into two great ontological realms – the supernatural and the natural - along with their language. The way they talk about things is inextricably tied up with - or at least strikes them as inextricably tied up with – references to the divine. The notion of the supernatural does not strike then as a “theory” any more than the notion of the mental strikes us as a theory. When they encounter atheists they view then as people who don’t know what’s going on, although they admit that the atheists seem able to predict and control natural phenomena very nicely indeed. (“Thank heaven” they say, “that we are not as those natural theologians are, or we too might loose touch with the real.”) The atheists view these theists as having too many words in their language and too many meanings to bother about. Enthusiastic atheists explain to inspired theists that, “all there REALLY is is…,” and the theists reply that one should realize that there are more things in heaven and earth… And so it goes. The philosophers on both sides may analyze meanings until they are blue in the face, but al such analyses are either, “directional” and “reductive” (e.g., “noncognitive” analyses of religious discourse, which are the analogue of “expressive” theories of pain reports) or else simply describe alternative “forms of life”, culminating in nothing more helpful than the announcement: “This language-game is played.” The theists’ game is essential to their self image, just as the image of man’s Glassy Essence is essential to the Western intellectual’s, but neither has a larger context available in which to evaluate this image. Where, after all, would such a context come from?

Rorty brings up some interesting points here that I think need to be dealt with, at least from the perspective of my own thinking. When I read this I thought, “CRAP! He’s talking about theists like me, ones who reduce it to a ‘Language-game’.” The main point here (and I think Rorty supports it as he see’s no use for religious language) is that the inspired theists simply have too many words in their language.

In defense of myself then, I’m going to go after a couple things; first this statement:
“An inspired theist, let us say, is one who “just knows” that there are supernatural beings which play certain explanatory roles in accounting for natural phenomenon.”

This seems like a hasty generalization from Rorty, and somewhat reduces the nature of theistic belief to the belief in fairies; it reminds me of a typical Dawkins move. After all, what does he mean by supernatural beings, and what natural phenomenon would he suggest those beings account for – relative to what he believes the theist thinks of course? Sure it’s a handy explanation that on the outside seems to make perfect sense, but it’s obvious he assumes his own shallow meanings. Perhaps though, by supernatural he simply means “transcendental” and by beings he means something like, some undefined ontology (at least that seems somewhat honest), however the rest seems like talk about miracle work and renders my “perhaps though” as nothing more then wishful thinking. Next he describes the natural theologians as a comparison, but again he says “these phenomenon” which is packed full of all sorts of meanings and he never gets into what he means by it. Most of my suspicion centers around his saying “…certain explanatory roles…” From this I could infer that he’s reducing theistic belief to the “God of the Gaps” argument; in other words the natural phenomenon which he refers to is simply that which has no scientific explanation, yet.

I see this statement as saying something along the lines of the following: “An inspired theist, let us say, is one who “just knows” that there is a Pie in the Sky who created everything.” That would have been more to the point I think….

That being what it is, my attack of that statement from Rorty is fruitless and is really meant to overshadow my inability to currently deal with this statement:
“… but all such analyses are either, “directional” and “reductive” (e.g., “noncognitive” analyses of religious discourse, which are the analogue of “expressive” theories of pain reports) or else simply describe alternative “forms of life”, culminating in nothing more helpful than the announcement: “This language-game is played.”

My current mantra is most certainly that “A certain language-game is being played,” however, it’s not without validity or purpose. I think the key is here, what are those “alternative forms of life”, and do the too many words of religious language lead to an alternative form of life that would promote a better world for our great-great-great-great-grand children? One might suggest, “Why do we need the antiquated words of Christ and the belief in the divine in order to understand what those things are?” I would simply answer, “well, we don’t.” As someone who follows Buddhism, I may well agree that Christianity along with Buddhism has far too many words, however these languages do not stand as descriptions of an underlying reality per se’, but serve as a path to a particular state of mind which leads to the “alternative form of life”. Although, we can do without the word “alternative” in that statement and simply say something like, “Good”.

None of this rhetoric on my part will really do though, so I’d like to call attention to the post I put up earlier from Rorty and point out a few things.

Rorty said in this post:
“The idea that the aim of inquiry is correspondence to reality, or seeing the face of God, or substituting facts for interpretation is one that we just can’t make any use of.”
“The reaction against this Greek/Christian pursuit of blessedness through union with a natural order is to say, there isn’t any natural order, but there is a possibility of a better life for our great-great-great grandchildren. That’s enough to give you all the meaning and inspiration that you could use. "

This statement is true enough, but that assumes that the goal of theism (at least in modern society) is to “see the face of God”, or to “substitute facts for interpretation”. Theism, at least from my perspective, does not have within it the goal of escaping the world and seeing God, it does not substitute facts for interpretation in any way – unless of course we’re talking to a biblical literalist, but I’m defending myself here, not them. Again, the goal of theism is along the lines of a certain disposition to live, to behave, to interact, to come into contact with ones self thereby paving the way to come into contact with others. (Now don’t take me here as reducing theism to behaviorism, as I’m not talking necessarily about physical dispositions). No matter the medium you choose, the religion or governmental system, there is always a set of normative behaviors one should abide by; the question I would pose is, “is one going to follow blindly those normative laws, or is one going to come to an understanding of them?” What philosophy or system of law proliferates understanding? That’s a bit like asking what military spreads peace?

The bottom line is that it’s simply a mistake to assume that the theist is in the pursuit of the divine outside of life, or that he’s trying to get in touch with God, so on and so forth. I think it would be more accurate to suggest that one is trying to bring the divine into himself, whether that divine is the Buddha nature, or the Christ nature (I see no difference between the two). Religious language, where-as it is a form of creating understanding, is a personal journey that one takes; when he understands that journey, those too many words of religious language become no longer necessary. One must understand that (once again) religion is not a description of anything, any more then a road is a description of the ground, it is merely something we follow. Further more, (with regard to myself) these words are not something that I simply believe as they are, as there is nothing to believe in; when one has love, there is no belief in that love, you are merely consumed with it, and love is what we call it. Belief merely exists where an understanding isn’t self evident, so to follow Biblical words is to follow a belief in a dogma and this often takes on the appearance of one having too many words in his vocabulary. The key then, is to do exactly as the inspired atheist would suggest, “get rid of those too many words”, not by discarding them, but by following them to the end.

Let me try an example:
Let’s suppose that language, or rather a particular word in itself, represent a road somewhere. So the sentence, “I’m hungry”, represents two roads (“I’M” and “HUNGRY”), both of which a listener has to travel in order to gain an understanding of what you’re saying, or better put, in order to reach the destination of understanding. Every time one is reading from a page or listening to speech, one is taking a journey which is paved by all the individual roads made up by all the individual words. By itself, “I’m”, is a lone road that doesn’t necessarily lead to anywhere except perhaps the end of the block, which of course has many branching roads that lead to many other possible destinations; so you’re left stranded. Mate that word with hungry and suddenly you’ve arrived somewhere familiar.

To understand the roads of everyday speech, you must see them as traveling through yourself. In other words, when someone says “I’m hungry”, you immediately recognize these roads as existing in you, and it is through this understanding that you realize not just that this person has the same roads, but that he’s directing you towards a destination and realization of his disposition.

The issue at hand is that the uninspired atheist likes to maintain that the theist has too many roads. However this assumes one of two things, either that; A.) The roads lead to similar destinations and thus can be discarded with more direct roads / routes. Or B.) The roads simply don’t lead anywhere.
Now again, in Rorty’s case he’s simply saying (I’m going to put words in his mouth here) “Look, there is a possibility for a better life right here and right now, there is no need to talk about this relative to a belief in some divine power.” And of course this assumes “A”. Rorty’s language, or the path his language takes, is of course a pragmatic one and always refers to humanity and the expansion of the liberal bourgeoisie; in other words it’s always directed outwards, the road is always leaving you without any return.

Religious language, where-as it certainly takes into account the betterment of society, is not directed in such ways, it doesn’t say we’re going to better society by paving roads out to it and building fancy houses on it. It betters society by paving roads which all lead back to the self; which gets me to assumption “B”, “the roads simply don’t lead anywhere”. Let me give an example, in contemporary society we may say that it is not the proper behavior to commit adultery, that you shouldn’t cheat with another man’s wife – and this of course is a statement whose roads point outside the self. In other words the reasons for not behaving in a certain way are not reasons which exist in you, but in society, as of course we ruin people’s lives, break up marriages and families, so on and so forth. Compare this to Matthew 5:27-30:
27"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.'[e] 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Notice that this sentiment has nothing at all to say about the woman or society, it points directly to the self, it is a language which doesn’t speak to humanity, is not some meaningless babble that points to the divine, but it points directly at YOU. All the roads of religious language (where-as they may lead out) always turn back in. The uninspired atheist, who says that the inspired theist has too many words, is simply making the mistake of not following the road to its’ destination, but rather leaving it out in objective space somewhere and thus mistaking it for talk about the world.

An after thought:
Religious language always points back to the self because the self is the source of the divine light. As a result the object of religious discourse, if it can be said that there is one, is always within the individual. The source of the divine is never in the world itself as what’s in the world can never be revealed through itself, but only through ones self. In this way when the uninspired atheist talks about the world, he talks about it in a way that seems to suggest that things in themselves poses a nature all their own, and that this nature is somehow uninspired by our own nature. However, there can never be an understanding of the world without first having an understanding of self as it is through the self that the world is revealed. As it was said, “I and the Father are one.”

Friday, November 28, 2008

What I Mean by God

Consider the following quote from Martin Heidegger's "Being and Time":

"Every question is a seeking. Every seeking takes it's directions beforehand from what is sought. Questioning is a knowing search for beings in their thatness and whatness. The knowing search can become an "investigation", as the revealing determination of what the question aims at. As questioning about.....questioning has what it asks about. All asking in some way an inquiring of...Besides what is asked, what is interrogated also belongs to questioning. What is questioned is to be defined and conceptualized in the investigating, that is, the specifically theoretical, question. As what is really intended, what is to be ascertained lies in what is questioned; here questioning arrives at it's goal. As an attitude adopted by a being, the questioner, questioning has it's own character of being. Questioning can come about as "just asking around" or as an explicitly formulated question. What is peculiar to the latter is the fact that questioning first becomes lucid in advance with regard to all the above named constituitive characteristics of the question."

I often spend a considerable amount of time contemplating a working definition for what I mean by God and this clip from Heidegger often comes to mind when I make that attempt. As a result I’m always stopped dead in my tracks; would I try to end the inquiry?

Questioning has a certain eternal character to it, and likewise so does God. Where there are questions, there are answers; it seems the answers to those questions always make the questions absurd, yet questions remain. God, in this sense, is THE eternal question, one which is pondered generation after generation as not simply a seeking after [T]ruth, but a seeking after the [G]ood, after [V]irtue, after [J]ustice. This pursuit and eternal questioning seems to me to be as good a definition of God as any, and I’m happy to keep it that way for now.

I can’t help but see this as applying (Matthew Chapter 7):
7 Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. 8 For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you, of whom if his son shall ask bread, will he reach him a stone? 10 Or if he shall ask him a fish, will he reach him a serpent? 11 If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more will your Father who is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him?

Are we asking the right questions? Are we asking questions at all? When we choose to live our lives within the limits of reason, are we not simply putting a limit to our questions? If an answer to a question is not rational, does it make the question absurd? How can a question really be absurd?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Either Way"

What I mean by "Dogma"

This is a response to another discussion I’m in, so it’s going to be me regurgitating many thoughts and ideas I’ve already laid down here, but in another way.

A couple things first:
- It’s always been my aim to expose the dogmatic nature of reason to show that the same level of faith people have towards religious language, people likewise have regarding reason.

The following statement was made to me regarding the above point, as if it's what I'm trying to suggest: (Which of course I’m not):
“In other words, the fact that you're writing about something means you've presupposed the validity of the definitions of the words you're using. And this is just as dogmatic as religious beliefs are.”
‘Of course, it's complete twaddle. Belief in the validity of the words in a dictionary presupposes only that empirical definitions are required in order to communicate. It certainly doesn't require faith in the unseen...”

The first task is; what is Dogma? Or in the very least, what do I mean by it?
Let me first quote two Buddhist sayings, as this will help set the stage:
- “You can use your finger to point at the moon, but don’t mistake the finger for the moon.”
- "The fish trap exists because of the fish; once you've gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit; once you've gotten the rabbit you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning; once you have the meaning you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a few words with him?"

What is Dogma:
Let me address directly the comment which was made above (in GREEN) by saying the following: There is no presupposing of the validity of definitions, but a presupposing that those definitions mirror a given phenomenon to an extent that they are somehow intertwined and/or inseparable from it; this is often looked at in an atemporal way, and as such becomes dogmatic…..
Dogma arises (I’ll argue) due to an ontological divide which exists between language and it’s referent, but where one refuses to recognize this divide; in other words, one mistakes the finger for the moon. I constantly use the example of gravity and ask the question, “Did gravity exist prior to Newton?” My answer is always a strict no; however the rational atheist always responds, “Of course it did.” This stance is an obvious dogmatic one, and arises because one is reluctant to separate the word gravity, and its underlying principles, from the phenomenon we attribute to it.

It must be seen that prior to Newton, the word gravity and it’s underlying principles did not exist, they were not in anybodies mind because there was no such thing yet; there simply wasn’t such a language. The rational atheist takes me as saying that apples didn’t fall from trees, which is hardly the case. What I’m suggesting is; no doubt apples did fall from trees, but it wasn’t because of gravity. Taking the dogmatic stance that it was, is not seeing the ontological gap between the word and the referent, it’s looking at the two as if they were somehow inseparable. Surely hundreds of years from now new science will evolve that not only makes Newtonian physics completely obsolete, but also makes it look quite silly at the same time – in much the same way we see the ancients description of the universe as silly. So what does that mean? Does it mean we were wrong? Of course it doesn’t, a pragmatic stance would see that gravity and its’ underlying principles were merely a mode of communicating about a particular phenomenon such that we could not only communicate about and understand the world, but more importantly understand ourselves. If we look at the past 2000 years of humanity we can see that (relative to what science says) the universe hasn’t changed all that much, however the way we talk about it has changed drastically and we’re constantly updating old forms of thought with new ones. So what’s happening here? Is the universe changing? Or is it simply that we’re talking about it in different ways?

Gravity, again, along with the underlying mathematics is nothing more then language, it is not a mirror to nature; the disembodied words of Newton were not just floating around in empty space since the beginning of time. As well, we cannot make the claim that it’s consistent with the way the universe operates in and of itself, because we can never know this; at best we can say that it’s consistent with a mode of thinking that we call rational. It’s consistent with an underlying mathematic, and we attribute that language of mathematic to a given referent and call it gravity, BUT THEY ARE NOT ONE IN THE SAME.

So, the bottom line:
One must learn to separate what he says from what it refers to. One must understand (refer to the second Buddhist quote above) that the words themselves are not the phenomenon itself, but a description of our experience which adds a certain meaning to it; once we have this, Newton can be discarded.

The next question that will be asked of me is, “So what, that doesn’t mean that God exists!” and I’ll respond with, “Well, not any more then gravity.” Then someone will further say that they can prove gravity by taking me to a bridge and dropping a rock and proclaim, “Look, gravity!” As if what I’m witness to at that moment is Newtonian physics, what could be more self evident? (I’m witness to words, hooray!) I don’t deny the validity of physics in talking about fallings rocks, but I also don’t deny the validity of religion in talking about the human spirit. Religion, whether Christianity or Buddhism, is a language and one should not mistake it for talking about stone or flash or old men in white robes; to understand it, one must not look to differentiate its words from an underlying reality, to connect it somehow by means of making it specific. One must dissolve the dogma into an experience of life that is not hindered by definitions. When one learns to separate words from referents, I truly believe (almost dogmatically so ; ) ) that a real experience of the divine is possible.