The believer’s despair


Our friend AJ has tried a few times to respond to my post, though without much success, and has now begun resorting to just posting links to blog posts (authored by himself) that repeat the things he wants to hear. Since they’re largely tangential if not completely irrelevant, I’ve had to warn him that the comments aren’t for spam, link farms or other types of free publicity for Christian propaganda. But the first link he posted was rather inadvertently poignant, and I thought it might be worth a look just to see how much despair there is in conservative Christian denialism these days.

The despair starts from the very first sentence.

Spiritually, our nation is dying. In response, conservative Christians are caught between righteous judgements and somber humility.

We’re dying! Oh my god, this is the end for us! Conservative Christians are genuinely afraid, which is rather odd considering that they also believe God is in control and that everything is going according to some mysterious but invincibly wise and loving plan. This is what’s so poignant. According to their faith, they are required to believe that everything is happening just the way God wants it to happen, and yet when they lift their eyes from the Bible and look at the real world, it looks like God is totally screwing up His end of the deal. And they’re not allowed to even think of complaining about it. God has to be perfect, so you can’t acknowledge, even to your self, that He’s failing to perform as expected.

And so conservative Christians are, as AJ puts it, “caught between righteous judgements and somber humility.” Or at least, they’re caught. I don’t know about “righteous” judgements, and “humility” seems a bit of a stretch, considering. But they’re definitely stuck here. Reality is badly out of sync with what you’d expect if their beliefs were true. What are they going to do about it?

A good answer would be, “Nothing.” The problem they’re concerned about is godlessness. Just as hairlessness means the absence of hair and hopelessness means the absence of hope, godlessness means the absence of God. And the solution to God’s absence would be for God to start showing up in real life. No human-initiated efforts are needed or helpful. Only God can solve the problem of godlessness, and the only way He can solve it is to stop being absent and start showing up in real life.

But there’s a catch. God is a fictional character who exists only in the minds of His believers. He’s a virtual puppet. He can’t speak unless his believer-operators pull the strings to move His lips and do the voices that are supposed to be His divine revelation. He cannot show up in real life, and therefore it’s up to His believers to create the appearance of God in God’s absence. It’s up to men to do God’s work on God’s behalf so that they can then give God the credit for having done it. And it is precisely this “godly” work that AJ exhorts his fellow believers to do, in God’s absence.

Our humanity enables us to relate to our fellow man on a natural level, but the good-will offer enables us to share God’s mercy and grace – enabling us to relate on a spiritual level. If we are rejected, we should not grow bitter or indignant. There is no shame in representing our faith to the best of our God-given ability. (We need not be a theologian or hold a doctorate in divinity, but we should do our homework).

Share and Defend is what I propose. Share the Gospel and Defend Christian Values. Charitably share the message of salvation, and defend the veracity of the message.

So basically, believers are supposed to have divine help as they do “God’s work,” but they also need to be prepared to fail. That way, whether they succeed or fail, they can claim that God was somehow present—those who reject you aren’t rejecting you, they’re rejecting God. So when you fail to convince people that God is real, that means God is real, right?

I do kind of like AJ’s all or nothing approach. There’s a kind of perverse integrity in sticking to your convictions no matter what.

If we fail to present the one part, the other is often rejected. If we fail to present the Gospel as truth, we will suffer rejection. If we fail to present the Gospel as saving, we will suffer rejection.

Share and defend with charity and faithfulness. The power is not in us, but a half-hearted messenger will be exposed as a poor witness of the faith.

The Gospel is self-revealing, although we like to make the message more palatable by sugarcoating the more offensive parts. A faithful witness must Share a complete Gospel.

AJ is trying to rationalize Christianity’s failure by blaming believers (not God!) for “sugar-coating” the ugly parts of the Gospel. When you’re preaching things that sound intolerant and hateful, don’t compromise, emphasize! It’s all well and good to promise people they can live forever and be eternally happy, but you mustn’t forget to tell them that they have to oppress and persecute the gays, and that it’s ok for God to send most of His own beloved children to be tortured eternally in Hell. Either you believe it all, or you don’t believe it. The lifeboats are just for decoration; the Titanic cannot sink! If you’re going to say you believe something, you need to act like you believe it, even if it ends in disaster.

Like I said, poignant. They’re trying to create their own God in His absence, and in the process they’re sowing the seeds of their own calamity by refusing to acknowledge how far their beliefs have strayed from the real world. And the results are driving them to despair.

AJ’s plan for sharing and defending the gospel (or at least Part One of that plan) focuses on two main points: attacking science and revising history.

Here’s just a few considerations that should be considered in an effort to preserve and advance a Judeo-Christian worldview.

1. The inadequacy of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution as a replacement for Biblical Creation…

2. The historical reliability of the Bible account…

To support each of those two points, he relies on the Argument From Gullibility: “they say” that evolution is inadequate, and “they say” that the Bible is reliable, and therefore we have incontrovertible proof for each of those two conclusions. Whatever he has heard that supports his desired conclusions, he accepts naively and uncritically (and sometimes includes in posts complaining about “The ignorance of blind faith”—meaning anyone who disagrees with him!). We’ve already looked at his creationist arguments, so let’s check out some of his arguments for the historical reliability of the Bible account.

A. The discovery of the original manuscript (Dead Sea Scrolls) detailing the unaltered accounts of the Old Testament.

Contrast this with the summary of the Dead Sea Scrolls from The Oxford Companion to Archeology.

In their astonishing range of textual variants, the Qumran biblical discoveries have prompted scholars to reconsider the once-accepted theories of the development of the modern biblical text from only three manuscript families: of the Masoretic text, of the Hebrew original of the Septuagint, and of the Samaritan Pentateuch. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Old Testament scripture was extremely fluid until its canonization around A.D. 100.

Scholars who have studied the actual Dead Sea Scrolls conclude that the Old Testament scripture was “extremely fluid,” but in conservative Christian folklore the scrolls prove that the Old Testament is “unaltered.”

AJ continues:

B. Numerous archeological finds that support the validity of events recorded in the Bible, and just as important, the fact that none of these finds have contradicted the explanations and descriptions referenced in Biblical accounts (people, places, events, etc.). The notable and highly respected Jewish archeologist, [Rabbi] Nelson Glueck, declared that “no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible.

Unfortunately, this citation provides no specifics, so we have no way to verify which “historical statements” are supposed to have been verified. Egyptian history, for example, is significantly devoid of any incidents where the economy of the ancient kingdom collapsed due to the overnight loss of its entire slave population, not to mention the absence of any pharoahs who led the entire Egyptian army to their deaths by drowning in the Red Sea. Sumerian archeology is likewise mysteriously unaware that their entire culture is supposed to have drowned in Noah’s flood, shortly after the building of the pyramids and the Sphinx in Egypt.

One wonders, too, why Rabbi Glueck’s boldest claim is merely that archeology fails to disprove the Bible. That seems like a fairly weak claim to make, as well as an inconclusive one. We might say, with equal validity, that archeology fails to disprove the charge that Jesus was a pedophile, but what would that tell us about Jesus’ sexual habits? There’s not much significance to the fact that archeology “fails to disprove” the story that Cain slew Abel, or that Prometheus stole fire from Olympus, or that Romulus and Remus were raised by wolves. That’s why archeologists don’t make such weak claims when talking about events that are well-supported by the evidence. You don’t hear anyone saying, “Well, archeology does not disprove the story that the pharoahs did build pyramids.” Things that really happened usually leave much better evidence.

What’s more, the historical details that archeology does confirm are precisely those details that do not require any supernatural intervention to account for them. Yes, there was an ancient city in Jerusalem, and yes, there were tribal and national wars in ancient times. The fact that the Bible mentions such mundane details has as much to do with “proving the Bible” as the existence of 221B Baker Street has to do with proving that Sherlock Holmes was a real person. It’s really a bad sign that Rabbi Glueck could find no stronger claim for the Bible than that “archeology hasn’t disproved it”—especially considering the inevitable implicit “yet.”

AJ fares no better with New Testament archeology.

C. Surviving outside (or secondary) sources that corroborate certain actualities of Biblical Christianity (as noted in the written works of the following authors: Josephus AD 93, Pliny the Younger AD 112, Tacitus AD 116, Suetonius AD 120, Lucian AD 170, The Talmud 70-200 AD). To merely write off these individuals and events as part of mythical folklore is an exercise in willful, biased subjectivity.

Nobody “writes off” the mundane, non-supernatural details documented in the above citations. It’s just that they’re irrelevant. Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft is located in England Scotland, according to the Harry Potter stories, and nobody “writes off” England Scotland just because an author mentioned it in a fictional series of books. But the fact that real places exist means only that real places exist. It does not mean that we have to believe every fanciful and incredible story that is said to take place in these locations. Nauvoo was a real place in the 1800’s too, but that doesn’t prove that Joseph Smith was a real prophet.

D. The fact that the New Testament accounts from the different primary sources (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, Jude, James) verify each other on all the central points of the Christian faith (these writings were pooled together as part of the canon of scriptures – collectively making up the New Testament).

This depends on a highly subjective interpretation of what it means for the “primary sources” to “verify each other,” not to mention a certain arbitrary definition of what “all the central points” are in the Christian faith. It’s worth noting, too, that there were a lot of early sources, and that the early Church had a habit of burning every and any documents that conflicted with their understanding of the “central points” of the Christian faith. That this body would eventually (centuries later) produce a canon that largely fit their definition of sound doctrine, is hardly a remarkable development. Indeed, it would be rather surprising to find any one religion whose holy books did not exhibit a similar conformity of doctrines.

Then too, the early Christian manuscripts are not all that harmonious, and certainly are not uniform enough to support the claim that they were divinely inspired to the point of being rendered infallible. Parts of the story are clearly fabrications, such as when the guards allegedly tell the Pharisees that Jesus is alive and roaming around Jerusalem, and the Pharisees’ only worry is whether they can get away with lying about why the tomb is now empty. (If I’d just murdered somebody, and he came back from the dead, the condition of grave would be the last thing I’d worry about!)

Or look at I Corinthians 15, where Paul argues extensively that the body that rises from the dead is not the physical body that gets buried. Later Christians were just as emphatic that resurrection did raise the exact physical body of Jesus, to the point that he could show them the still-unhealed wounds in his hands and feet and side. Modern believers munge the two ideas together by claiming that Jesus’ resurrected body was both spiritual and physical, but this is clearly not how the original story went, since the modern story would never produce the theological difficulties Paul was trying to address in I Cor. 15.

But that’s the story AJ has to work with. Like his antecedents, it’s his job to do God’s work in God’s absence so that he can then pretend it was God that did the work, in order to persuade people to believe. Belief is all they’ve got, and so they prove it by sharing stories that they accept uncritically just because they believe the conclusions.

And belief does not work when the object of one’s belief is not real. That’s the crux of the believer’s despair. All they have to confront the world with is their belief, and reality does not believe the same things they do. Then, when reality fails to behave the way faith says it should, all the believer can do is believe harder in the same beliefs that caused the crisis in the first place.

My advice, to AJ and others, is to quit trying to be God in God’s absence. To blame godlessness on men is to admit that men are responsible for creating God. Otherwise, it would not be their fault when God failed to exist. If you really want a good reason to believe in God, you’re going to need a God who shows up in real life without human effort. Thus far, He does not show up, and Christians have been unable to resist the temptation to do His work for Him, so that they can commit the spiritual idolatry of worshipping the things they do on His behalf, as though it were Him doing them. And that’s why Christianity is in such bad shape today.

Comments

  1. zekehoskin says

    And it doesn’t weaken your argument a bit to point out that Ms Rowling located her imaginary school one country north of England.

  2. raven says

    Spiritually, our nation is dying.

    No its not.

    US xianity is dying however, losing around 2 million members a year. Killed by the fundies like Al. When xian became synonymous with hater, liar, moron, crazy, and sometimes killer, a lot of people didn’t want to be one any more.

    Including myself. I was a xian for 5 decades until I ran into the fundies.

    In response, conservative Christians are caught between righteous judgements and somber humility.

    Naw. They are just getting uglier and more hate filled as their power and influence, never all that much, declines. Doing more of what wasn’t working is pretty dumb for them.

    And a huge advantage for all normal people. The best allies the atheists have are…fundie xians. They, in fact, created the New Atheists.

    AJ, keep on babbling and being ugly. Fundie xians create more atheists in a day than Dawkins, Dennett, and PZ Myers do in a year.

  3. raven says

    If you really want a good reason to believe in God, you’re going to need a God who shows up in real life without human effort.

    LOL. I say something similar often.

    1. Xianity fails on many levels. They claim that god is all powerful and everywhere. What we see is a god who is no where and does nothing, and requires humans to do anything.

    2. If god was real, his existence would be as obvious as trees and water. He would have his own cable TV show, radio show, Youtube channel, and blog, tasks within the grasp of an intelligent grade schooler.

    If god isn’t as powerful as a school kid or cat, then why call him god?

    • sqlrob says

      Xianity fails on many levels. They claim that god is all powerful and everywhere. What we see is a god who is no where and does nothing, and requires humans to do anything.

      Thing is, you don’t even need to look to reality to debunk their claim. It’s debunked in their own book, several times over (iron chariots, needing to mark the faithful’s doors…)

      Comparing it to reality is just the icing on the cake.

    • rapiddominance says

      2. If god was real, his existence would be as obvious as trees and water. He would have his own cable TV show, radio show, Youtube channel, and blog, tasks within the grasp of an intelligent grade schooler.

      Where does one go school to earn a degree in “Deity Psychology”?

      • raven says

        Where does one go school to earn a degree in “Deity Psychology”?

        You don’t need a degree.

        Most competent grade schools will work. Try for a grade school diploma.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        Actually, I think a degreee in human psychology would tell you more about God than any specifically theological course of study. Just go straight to the source of His nature.

      • rapiddominance says

        Notice I said “deity”–I didn’t specify a certain god or gods. Just as we can’t “think like a pig”, how would we be able to “think like a god” either?

      • raven says

        Where does one go school to earn a degree in “Deity Psychology”?

        1. In point of fact, there have been schools for that for millennia. Whole universities. They are called these days, Seminaries, Schools of Divinity, Schools of Theology, etc.. IIRC, Harvard and Princeton were founded as these. Must be hundreds in the USA, at least.

        All these schools are dedicated to understanding the mind of the xian god.

        2. Without much success. There are now 42,000 xian sects with more being made up every year. There is no agreement on who the xian god is, what he wants, where he is, and when is he coming back. This is the common pattern of religion. It doesn’t converge on the truth, it diverges continually.

        3. Which means that any school of deity psychology is going to have problems. Deity psychology makes as much sense as Elf biology, Fairy literature, Orc physics, or Leprechaun growth and development. It’s just hard when your subject matter doesn’t exist.

        4. In theory, we could just ask the deity what he is about. The xian deity is all powerful and should be able to do anything, including explain himself. That hasn’t worked either for the same reason as above.

        how would we be able to “think like a god” either?

        That is what church, Sunday school, and the bible is for. We should be able to deduce something about the mind of the xian god by…what he says, what he does, and what he writes down. Same as anyone. We even do something similar with our pets. The most common thought of the xian god according to his self appointed prophets, is that we are supposed to send money to them. And oh yeah, he loves them and hates everyone else.

        Or I suppose you could just read Marvel comic books. Thor is doing much better than Yahweh these days in the communication department. He has his own comic book series and several popular movies. Plus he said he would get rid of the Frost Giants. And no one has seen a Frost Giant in centuries.

      • rapiddominance says

        That is what church, Sunday school, and the bible is for. We should be able to deduce something about the mind of the xian god by…what he says, what he does, and what he writes down.

        Fair enough. But based on his selectivity in who he talks to, who he shows himself to, and who he chooses to show mercy to (as portrayed in the bible–considered by many to be fiction), I just don’t see him blogging or having his own TV show. That doesn’t seem to be his “mojo”.

        Other potential deities might do something like that, but I don’t think the christian God would. Perhaps many theologians would disagree.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        God’s failure to show up, even in Bible times, is one of the internal inconsistencies in the story. He’s supposed to be this great, wise, unchangeable deity, yet His attitude towards us, taken at face value, is erratic at best. Look at all the terrible consequences that result from His failure to show up in real life, starting with His absence in the Garden of Eden, when the whole story of sin might have been prevented if He had just been there with Eve while she was talking with the serpent. Surely an omnipotent and omnipresent God would not find it too hard to be with His “beloved” children just when they need His guidance the most! Yet time and again this pattern is repeated: God is absent from the lives and experiences of His children, and bad things happen as a direct result. How intelligent does a father need to be before he realizes that it’s not good to abandon his children so much? How moral does he have to be before he wants to do what’s good?

        The only context in which the narratives of Scripture make any sense at all is if we take them as stories invented by men at particular points in cultural history in order to influence or manipulate their fellow countrymen. God in the Pentateuch is just fine with buying and selling slaves, and even selling your own daughters for sexual purposes to men who already have other wives. Why? Because at that time and in that culture, the men who were inventing the stories were in favor of slavery and polygamy and owning women as sexual playthings. God in I and II Samuel is just fine with Israel committing genocide against rival nations. Why? Because the men at that time were concerned with using God to inspire patriotism and military extremism against their enemies (deja vu!), and not with loftier principles of justice or morality. Taken as a consistent, rational account of a wise and loving Person, the Biblical record fails rather miserably, but seen in the light of the sociopolitical agendas that inspired the stories, they make a lot more sense. You wouldn’t expect a deity, manufactured on demand to suit the need of the moment, to exhibit the sanity and coherence a real, transcendent person would have had. That’s why you end up with a God who is supposedly so kind and loving that He’d sacrifice Himself so we could be together forever, and yet even in the stories that try to flatter Him, He ends up being distant, aloof, and absent most of the time.

      • raven says

        But based on his selectivity in who he talks to, who he shows himself to, and who he chooses to show mercy to (as portrayed in the bible–considered by many to be fiction), I just don’t see him blogging or having his own TV show. That doesn’t seem to be his “mojo”.

        Why not? God is all powerful and can do anything. That would be trivial for him. He supposedly loves us and the stakes are high here, eternal torture in hell for guessing wrong. And god can’t be bothered to even show up once in a while.

        How do you know who god talks to? You don’t have any way of knowing that. It’s all claims wihout proof. Billions claim to know Allah, Brahma or any other deity in play is the real god.

        Millions claim to talk to god. In the last presidential election, three GOP candidates, Bachmann, Cain, and Satanorum all claimed to have been tasked by god to run for president. This god at least has a wacky sense of humor and all three lost anyway.

        All those millions who claim to talk to god all say god says different things. That is why we have 42,000 and growing xian sects that all disagree with each other. That is why despite thousands of schools about god over 2 millennia, there is no agreement on anthing. The most common reported sayings of god lately, are send the prophets money, vote for the Tea Party, and kill the witches and gays. Which oddly is what a socketpuppet god created in someone’s mind would say.

        I saw below that you are a Presupposionalist xian so nothing can change your mind. Really, I don’t care as long as you and your coreligionists don’t try to impose your superstition on me and my country, free country and all that.

        Which you have no legal, moral, or ethical right to do anyway. When the fundies started doing that is when I looked at xianity, was horrified, and dropped it.

        The fact is, the universe looks exactly like it would if the gods didn’t exist.

      • mikespeir says

        Notice I said “deity”–I didn’t specify a certain god or gods. Just as we can’t “think like a pig”, how would we be able to “think like a god” either?

        And yet we’re expected to agree with him?

      • rapiddominance says

        mikespeir,
        I see your point. How, for example, can I agree with a deity any more than a dog can agree with me?

        Raven,
        I guess you’re right that nothing is going to change my mind, but then how many atheists had thought the same thing to themselves before discarding religion? As for the part about not imposing my beliefs on you, that’s fair for you to ask. Personally, I’m for separation of church and state–I don’t want our doctrines posted in courthouses, I don’t want schools to have a designated prayer, things of that nature. I kinda like the church governing itself rather than controlling the rest of the world.

        Deacon,
        I can’t think of anything else to say in this particular line of conversation. Thanks to you and your readers for engaging me.

  4. raven says

    AJ continues:

    B. Numerous archeological finds that support the validity of events recorded in the Bible, and just as important, the fact that none of these finds have contradicted the explanations and descriptions referenced in Biblical accounts (people, places, events, etc.). The notable and highly respected Jewish archeologist, [Rabbi] Nelson Glueck, declared that “no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible.

    None of this true. Exodus never happened, nor did the Jewish genocide of the Canaanites. In fact, the Jews were just a tribe of Canaanites. There is no such thing as the Canaanite language. It’s a collection of closely related languages, one of which is…Hebrew. Of course, god’s invention of genocide with the Big Boat incident is fantasy stolen from the Babylonians who got it from the Sumerians.

    AJ shows another way xianity fails. If their religion was true, they wouldn’t have to lie all the time.

  5. Nightshade says

    I’m not sure what the truth/falsity of Christianity has to do with the truth/falsity of God’s existence.

  6. raven says

    I’m not sure what the truth/falsity of Christianity has to do with the truth/falsity of God’s existence.

    Which god? There are thousands of gods and goddesses at least.

    There is nothing to say that there can’t be whole herds of gods and goddesses. It was the norm for most of history and still a popular belief today.

    Even xianity, which pretends to monotheism has multiple gods; god, jesus, the holy ghost, satan, demons, angels, saints, TV evangelists, megachurch ministers, the Pope, Sarah Palin, Rick Satanorum, etc. In another few centuries it will be as crowded as Hinduism..

  7. Al Dente says

    The Egyptians and Chinese kept pretty good records for thousands of years. Somehow nether group mentioned how they had all been killed in the Noachian flood. Their records kept on being written in the same languages before, during and after the flood. It’s almost like it didn’t happen.

  8. Nightshade says

    Christianity might be false and it’s precursor Judaism as well.Indeed all of the gods/goddesses of human religions might be false and there still be a God(s) (i.e a non-contingent Mind(s) upon whom the universe is contingent) as in Deism.The truth of the statement: “There is a God.” is not dependent upon the truth of the statement: “Christianity(or Judaism etc.) is true.”
    I believe the major difference between Metaphysical Materialism and Metaphysical Idealism is the ontological status of Mind.The world of phenomena which we know from personal experience through our senses exist in our minds(or if you prefer brains) the origin of these experiences, their cause is unknown. For those like myself who cannot accept solipsism,we have to postulate an external world as the source of most of our experiences except for those which occur privately in our own minds/brains.A belief in the existence of this external world, which includes other people like me. A world of shared,common experiences and which exist independently of all human minds, is I believe the best explanation of my (our) experiences. The question of whether that world exist independently of all minds, as well as its ultimate nature, is impossible to answer.

  9. had3 says

    Nightshade: The truth of the statement, “there is a god,” is dependent upon a definition of a god. If we define god as the deist type who gets the ball rolling and then is involved no more, then it probably isn’t relevant to us if that god existed (whether knowable or not). I’m guessing most people think of a being that is knowable on some level and involved in human affairs when they think of the truth of the statement “there is a god.”

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Fair enough, but then we can point out that the existence of a real contemporary London is not evidence for the address Conan Doyle said it contained.

  10. Iain Walker says

    Nightshade (#8):

    Indeed all of the gods/goddesses of human religions might be false and there still be a God(s) (i.e a non-contingent Mind(s) upon whom the universe is contingent) as in Deism.

    Well, there might – if the idea of a disembodied “mind” actually made any sense (let alone a “non-contingent” one). Substance dualism and idealistic monism really haven’t weathered well in the philosophy of mind.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      The phrase “disembodied mind” does seem to have something in common with the phrase “unmarried spouse.” It sounds like it means something, but what?

  11. Nightshade says

    The facts I am most certain of are that I exist,I think, feel,experience sensations.I have little doubt that is true for all of us.The facts we are most certain of are mental.I am more certain of the existence of my own mind than I am of the existence of matter.Since I am not the cause of myself nor am I able to, at will, change the world of my experience simply by thinking it,I am forced to the conclusion there is a cause of my experiences that isn’t dependent on my mind.To postulate the existence of a non-mental substance (matter) as the cause seems to give ontological priority to our sensations rather than to our awareness of these sensations.I see no reason to do that.

    • CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

      @Nightshade #11:

      Since I am not the cause of myself nor am I able to, at will, change the [external] world of my experience simply by thinking it, I am forced to the conclusion there is a cause of my experiences that isn’t dependent on my mind. [I see no reason to] postulate the existence of a non-mental substance (matter)

       
      Article: Wikipedia – Subjective Idealism

      Responding to the theory, Dr. Johnson exclaimed “I refute it thus!” while kicking a rock.

      teehee

      • Nightshade says

        Seeing the rock,feeling the rock when it’s kicked,hearing and seeing my foot touch it all occur in my mind. So this is no refutation of subjective idealism That I, a subjective awareness(a mind)have experiences is the most certain of my beliefs,more certain than the existence of an external world which is the cause of those experiences.
        However ,I am not a subjective idealist. I believe there is a cause of my sensations that is completely independent of my mind (an external world).I infer this as the best explanation of my experiences.It is the nature of this world that I question.
        Since I know as surely as I know anything that I exist and have experiences, some of which I control and most of which I don’t.The existence of a mind and its’ ideas and sensations(still ideas but ones I seem to have less or no control over) is what is most real to me and I believe everybody else.So postulating a Mind as the cause of my sensations (those ideas I have no control over) and to hold that they are immaterial (mental) ie. the product of a Mind, is as rational and consistent with our experiences as postulating the existence of a non-mental substance. ( so Mr. Deacon I might ask you the same question only with the words “a rejection of the former” substituted at the end). However when we begin to add attributes to this Mind, such as loving us, caring for us,wanting a relationship with us, as most religions do, I believe there is CONSIDERABLY LESS evidence to support these claims about the Mind (that is/might be the cause of our sensations) than there is that the Mind itself exist.

      • CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

        @Nightshade:

        I believe there is a cause of my sensations that is completely independent of my mind (an external world). […] a Mind as the cause of my sensations (those ideas I have no control over) and to hold that they are immaterial (mental) ie. the product of a Mind

        By repeating “mind”, you’re equivocating your awareness of immediate sensations you can’t control, with a global thing synchronizing phenomena in everyone’s environment (with respect to every possible perspective, see: thing-in-itself), including all minds like yours with their own brains. Even positing that’s all part of the global thing’s internal control, to be consistent, you’re positing that minds – such as your own – can also contain self-aware figments within their imagination.

        Comic: XKCD – Nightmares

        If the global thing you suggest isn’t a “mind” like yours, its nature is not among your ontological priorities, and you lose the parsimony you’re trying to achieve by appealing to them.

      • CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

        Seeing the rock, feeling the rock when it’s kicked, hearing and seeing my foot touch it all occur in my mind. So this is no refutation

        That also denies one’s responsibility for causing the kick by thinking (a change to the external world, which includes the leg muscles). You’re free to do that, of course…

        Article: Wikipedia – Occasionalism

    • Deacon Duncan says

      How do you know the difference between a mental substance and a non-mental substance in order to be able to articulate a rejection of the latter?

  12. brucegee1962 says

    Once I was speaking to a fundie who offhandedly referred to the spiritual and moral degradation of our times. I told him I rejected his premise — that I would argue that western culture as a whole, at least as reflected by its public institutions, was more moral than at any time in history, and then gave examples of the many areas that are improving. I think he was a bit stunned, and didn’t put up a very strong opposition. I was left to conclude that he had been so steeped in this kind of pessimism for so long, that this was literally an idea he had never been exposed to before. He simply didn’t know how to process it.

    I think there is a widespread feeling among Christians that they are supposed to be the positive, upbeat ones, and unbelievers are always down on everything. When confronted with evidence that actually the opposite is true, the cognitive dissonance can be severe.

    • hoary puccoon says

      Well, there are bits and pieces that look like they refer to real events. Jerico, for instance, is built on a fault line and its walls do periodically come tumbling down. The same is true, of course, of the Iliad and the Greek myths in general. There’s plenty of archaeological evidence for a lost Greek Golden Age –which archaeologists call the Minoan and Mycenean civilizations.

      It’s pretty interesting for people who enjoy trying to piece together ancient history. But to think that offers a prescription for living 2100 years later, let alone evidence of a deity, seems at best a stretch.

  13. Nightshade says

    When I use the word “mind” I mean a self-aware consciousness,which can act purposely.It’s not necessary to believe that all consciousnesses are equal in their power to act, or can effect equal results. We humans can imagine,create, shape our reality to a greater degree than can other animals even though animals have a certain level of consciousness. There is no reason to believe that a mind with an even greater degree of power to shape it’s reality exist. So,I can hold, with consistency, that we might be self-aware figments of the imagination of a mind ,whether our minds are capable of producing self-aware figments are not.
    In Dr. Johnson’s kicking of the rock, from the point of view of Berkeley, the rock and the DR.’s leg are ideas products of a mind (his and other observers ,the interaction between them and his mind(through his willing to kick it with his foot) is as easily explicable in Idealism as in Materialism.
    Do you think I’m saying we have no more freedom than fictional characters in a novel do?
    P.S I liked the cartoon.

  14. rapiddominance says

    Deacon Duncan,
    Back when you were involved with christianity, did you ever feel like you “knew Jesus and loved him” or was it more about “being saved” and living forever?
    Having read some of your blog posts, I kinda have an idea why you left religion and I sympathize. My guess is that it was a hard mental battle. After all, religion seems to be about “survival” and quiting on the belief of an afterlife must have seemed like a sort of suicide at the time. (I’m not projecting atheists as sad people–I’m refering more to the conflict a theist has when they see their beliefs don’t match reality and they have to make life decisions).
    So I have this idea of some of the reasons you left christianity, I see your arguments why christianity if false, but what I’m curious about is who you were as a christian. What did christianity mean for you?
    Does my inquiry make any sense?

    • Deacon Duncan says

      I actually “accepted Jesus” three times over the course of about a week—the first two times just didn’t feel right somehow, and I thought I’d screwed up the prayer. I ended up adopting a kind of “name-it-and-claim-it” view of my salvation, i.e. I’d said all the right words and had the right attitudes in my heart, and therefore I must now be saved, even though my actual experience had what I now recognize as a distinct lack of any participation on Jesus’ part. I became a born-again, Bible believing, conservative Christian with a “personal relationship with Jesus” and what I felt was a rich spiritual life filled with prayer and Bible study and well, yes, sin and confession. It was always a struggle to keep that going in the absence of any actual, perceptible God holding up His end of the deal, but I always blamed the difficulty on the wiles of the devil and my own sin nature. I changed denominations several times, looking for the spiritual environment where people actually acted like God was a real God and where God Himself would finally be real, before finally allowing myself to seriously consider the possibility that people might not be telling me the truth about God. The final straw was realizing that believers were perfectly capable of manufacturing “resurrection” experiences out of the same kind of personal, subjective fudging of the facts that underlies all of God’s supposed interactions with mankind. Prior to that point, I was always able to answer my doubts by telling myself that the Gospel had to be true, because the resurrection couldn’t be a lie. But it could and was, so I left the faith, thirty years later than I should have. Part of my reason for starting this blog is the hope that perhaps I might help younger believers escape the wasted life that I suffered.

      • rapiddominance says

        Thank you very much for a thorough response to my question!

        I’ve read a few of your posts in the past (and a few recently) and I remember one in particular where you mentioned attending anit-abortion rallies. You said, if I recall correctly, that it seemed to you that most of the christians involved appeared more interested in enforcing biblical doctrine rather than demonstrating a true love for the unborn or the women involved and that disturbed you. Even though I’m a christian, I’m afraid that’s an attitude I’ve seen far too often for my comfort. So, I definitely understand how it must have felt looking for a real christian community and finding very little.

        I can’t prove factually that the resurrection occurred (though I have reasons to feel confident in it), but I suppose I could make a reasonable argument that there was a real Jesus and that the gospels reflect what he taught–but even if I did that, it would be a far cry from “proving God”. Thomas Jefferson, as I understand, believed there was a Jesus and actually admired his teachings–but from what I’ve heard he took scissors and cut away all the miracle/deity content.

        Goinig back to “christian community” I’ve been fortunate to find people who actually display the attitudes suggested by Jesus and the Pauline letters. For example, humility, love, a genuinely charitable personality, confession of sin with one another, etc. I have to admit that it helps my faith.

        As for my personal experience, I was what you might call “poor in spirit” when I came to study the gospels. Though I “made the walk up the aisle” at age 15, there’s been a certain shallowness to my faith for most of the last 24 years. Knowing full well that I’m not proving anything to you and your audience, I saw in Jesus a personality like no other, a “way” of living a life of love that I wanted for myself, and I couldn’t help but keep pursuing him. I have to admit that I didn’t frequently think about the after-life (though I had confidence in it); I just saw Jesus as “the answer”. This was a little over year ago.

        Anyway, I’ve behaved like a troll in other blogs in the past (though frequently I was “nice”–I was a little erratic) so if you’re aware of that fact–as news travels around these parts–I appreciate you sharing yourself with me anyway.

        Thank you again.

        Scott Morgan

      • Deacon Duncan says

        Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also found communities with people who were humble and loving and generally uplifting folk to be around. I just didn’t find many who behaved as though God really existed and really intended to keep all the promises that the Bible portrays Him as making to us. Even the most “spiritual” of people had this attitude of “Absolutely, God is real but…” or “God will never fail you, but…” or “We should trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding, but…” To me, if God is real, then we should behave as though He is real, and expect Him to really be there and to really do the things He has (allegedly) promised. But whenever I would speak or act as though this were true, some good Christian would caution me with one of the “buts.” And then I’d believe in God rather than in men, and would expect God to act like He believed what the Bible said, and things just wouldn’t work out that way, and all the good Christians would say, “I told you so.”

        It was very clear to me that even the most faithful of Christians had learned to build a fence around their faith. They had utmost, unshakeable faith in God and in His love and in His power and in His sovereignty—but only within certain bounds. And beyond those bounds, you had to be “practical,” which turned out to mean being prepared for God to fail (though never expressed in those terms, of course), and having some means of doing God’s work for Him, in the absence of any tangible contribution on His part.

        Worse still, those boundaries coincided with the limits of what an imaginary friend could do. Sure, we can give God credit for creating the universe, or for finding us a job or a spouse, or for bringing us through a narrow escape. We could give the same credit to Spiderman, or Mr. Smap, the invisible bear who lives in our left big toe. That doesn’t require any action or existence on the part of the character we’re giving credit to, because it’s us actually doing the action—we’re giving credit to our imaginary friend. We can talk to our imaginary friend, we can “hear” his responses (if we truly listen hard enough), we can even follow his advice. His advice is going to be distressingly murky and unable to provide us with more information than we know or can guess, because it’s up to us to imagine him knowing things, and we can’t supply more information than we possess. But we can chalk that up to “mysterious ways” and some ultra-wise plan that we ourselves are too dim and slow to fully grasp.

        And that’s exactly where the limits of our real-world experience of God happen to fall. We give Him credit for things He makes no tangible, verifiable contribution to, we talk to Him and “feel as though He is saying” things in return (things we end up second-guessing and retracting whenever they turn out to be wrong), and we blame ourselves for any outcome that fails to live up to expectations. All the things, and only the things, that lie within the reach of an imaginary friend. And that’s precisely where mature, spiritual Christians draw the lines of what they truly expect from God, in real life, because they’ve all learned that as soon as you need something from God that requires actual existence on His part, independently of your imagination, then it ain’t gonna happen. If you do a trust fall, expecting God to catch you, you fall flat. He is no more likely to physically catch you than any other imaginary friend, and He won’t apologize for it. It’s entirely up to you to think up some plausible sounding excuse for why His behavior is “coincidentally” no different from what an imaginary friend’s would be.

        God is simply a mythical character in the stories men tell. Inside of those stories, He can do all of the wonderful things that make the ancient myths epic, but outside of those stories He’s no different than any other mythical character. Inside the stories, He is wise and loving and powerful, and His desire to be with us forever is so strong that he’ll gladly become a man Himself, and suffer and die and then conquer death, just to make it possible for some of us to spend eternity in His presence. Outside of those stories, though, He’s not even willing and able to show up in real life and say, “Hello.” And that doesn’t require any particular power or extraordinary love. We say “good morning” to strangers we pass in the street, and nobody calls us heroic or self-sacrificing. But that’s more than God is willing and able to do in real life, in the experience of any of us. The stories are nice, and maybe even inspiring, but they have nothing to do with reality.

      • rapiddominance says

        You said earlier that though you did your part, God didn’t handle His end of the bargain. What did you mean by that? In other words, what was God’s “end of the bargain” supposed to be?

        I also recall you saying that you ended up with a “name-it-and-claim-it” view of salvation. I don’t quiet understand what you meant by that.

        Are the two things I’m pointing out related to eachother?

        (It seems to me that you’ve spent ample time addressing my issues on this post, so if you want to move on to other things I think that’s more than fair. I’m one of those people who gets to talking and I wonder if I’m not bugging the person that I’m talking to.)

      • Deacon Duncan says

        You said earlier that though you did your part, God didn’t handle His end of the bargain. What did you mean by that? In other words, what was God’s “end of the bargain” supposed to be?

        We could go down the road of me giving specific examples, and then questioning whether or not I was “doing it right” or having unreasonable expectations, so as to raise doubts about whether I was somehow to blame for God’s failure to behave like anything more than a mythical, imaginary friend. But that would be very time consuming and inconclusive, since it’s always possible to blame real people in some way whenever the Gospel fails to match up to reality. Instead, I’d like you to help me narrow my focus. In what way should I expect the behavior of a loving, almighty Heavenly Father to be different from the behaviors one could arbitrarily attribute to any imaginary friend with supposedly divine powers? Or is there any difference?

        My experience suggests that the various versions of God are all fundamentally indistinguishable from an imaginary friend, insofar as their tangible and verifiable effect on the real world are concerned. In other words, I believe that God is an imaginary friend, whose nature differs according to the preferences and personalities of those who imagine Him, but who cannot in any case produce any behavior that an imaginary friend could not. We might, perhaps, select various real-world events, and attribute those events to Him, since He would be completely passive in such cases—there’s nothing God needs to do (and He does not even need to exist) in order to be the object of arbitrary attributions.

        But there are certain phenomena which we know an imaginary God will never be able to manifest in our real-world experience. If I drop a pencil, an imaginary God cannot pick it up and hand it to me. Nor can He tell me anything that I cannot know or guess on my own. For example, he cannot relay a message from one believer, in one soundproof room, to a different believer in a different soundproof room, such that the second believer could take down in dictation what was being said to the first. We could make up excuses why He might not (presumably) be willing to do so, however that would be irrelevant, since the real limiting factor would not be His will, but His lack of genuine independent existence apart from the imaginations of the individual believers involved.

        When I was a believer, all I expected from God was for Him to behave like a being possessed of genuine independent existence, a being who would not be limited by the same constraints as a fictitious being created and sustained by human imagination, superstition, and rationalization. Unfortunately, I was never successful in finding anything, in the real world, in which God was both willing and able to transcend the boundaries inherent in the nature of mythical and fictitious characters. That, in turn, cast grave doubts on the veracity of stories, such as the stories recorded in the Bible, which portrayed God as both willing and able to behave like an objectively real being, a being, moreover, who greatly loved us and desired our fellowship and companionship.

        So perhaps you can offer some suggestions, some area I might have overlooked, in which people could reasonably expect a genuine, loving, almighty Heavenly Father to behave in a way that transcends what an imaginary friend could be credited with. Or perhaps you agree with me that the nature of God is such that we can never reasonably expect any more from Him than we could from any other mythical being.

        I also recall you saying that you ended up with a “name-it-and-claim-it” view of salvation. I don’t quiet understand what you meant by that.

        Quite simply I decided to stop depending on my own subjective feelings as the primary guide to whether or not I had been genuinely saved, and to accept by faith that having repented of my sins and having humbly accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior, I was indeed saved in accordance with the promises of the Gospel, as recorded in the New Testament. In other words, I decided to take the Word of God, rather than myself, as the final, ultimate authority for my salvation.

        Perhaps it’s misleading for me to call that a “name-it-and-claim-it” view of salvation, since that term has other connotations in commercial Christianity, but all I really meant was that I decided to believe that I was saved, according to the promise of Scripture, even though I didn’t feel particularly different after accepting Jesus. I’d been led to believe that salvation was supposed to be this powerful, soul-shaking experience like I’d heard about in so many dramatic testimonies, and the fact that no such thing happened to me caused me to feel like I must have somehow failed to accept Jesus correctly. But I decided not to let that bother me, and to just trust in the Lord.

        Later on I added baptism to my experience—again, three times. My first baptism was symbolic only, as befit a believer in the Protestant church I was attending at the time. Years later, I was baptized for the forgiveness of my sins, in the Church of Christ, on the grounds that my first baptism didn’t count, since it wasn’t done for the explicit purpose of washing away my sins. Then years after that, I was baptized again in the Orthodox Church, on the grounds that my first two baptisms hadn’t been performed by legitimate authorities under the apostolic chain of succession and consecration. (I think you could add a Spirit baptism somewhere in my Protestant years, since I did practice some speaking in tongues, at least in private.)

        In other words, I was willing to do anything (and, where needed, to not do anything, relying on God’s grace alone), if it would bring me closer to the Lord I loved. And I thought I had a pretty close relationship with the Lord. Unfortunately, it never became anything more than the kind of relationship that would be the best you could expect to have with a purely imaginary friend. He never showed up in real life, outside of my head and my heart and my superstitions about why things happened the way they happened. He never spoke audibly, in the hearing of others. I never saw His hands or His feet. I gave Him credit when things turned out the way I had prayed that they would, and I took the blame myself whenever they didn’t, but of course that’s just “heads-I-win-tails-you-lose” ploy and would work just as well for any other imaginary friend too. No matter what I did, or what I refrained from doing, or what I let go of and trusted Him to do for me, my experience of Him never went beyond the boundaries that mark the end of what mythical beings can do in the presence of profound and uncritical belief.

        Are the two things I’m pointing out related to eachother?

        If you mean to ask whether I can fairly be blamed for the constraints that seem to limit God’s interactions with reality, I have to say no, in all honesty, I cannot. The only way I’m responsible for God’s behavior is if God is my own creation, and His thoughts, words, and deeds the product of human efforts (my own, and those of believers before me). But even then, the ultimate limits come from God’s nature as an imagined character, and those of us who may have imagined Him have no ability to give Him any more than He has. Our limited minds may be the source of the constraints on the Gods we imagine, but since we can do no better, it would not be fair to blame us for those limits.

        And on the other hand, if God is independent, and is responsible for His own actions (or lack of them), then again, I and my efforts are not to blame for what God is willing and able to do on His own. If He is only an imaginary friend, then it’s not my fault He fails to behave like anything more, since I have no control over that. And if He’s not imaginary, and is merely choosing to limit Himself to the words and deeds of a false god, then again, that’s not anything I have any control over. If God is deliberately trying to deceive me into believing Him to be a myth, then He’s the one who is to blame, and not me, since I could never hope to overcome such a perfectly wise and infinitely intelligent deception. But in that case, shame on Him for deliberately deceiving me about something so important.

      • rapiddominance says

        Deacon, I misplaced my last response in our discussion. Its down at #20, but as you’re attentive and responsive on your blog, you probably noticed. Sorry about the confusion if there was any.

  15. John Morales says

    Nightshade @15:

    There is no reason to believe that a mind with an even greater degree of power to shape it’s reality exist. So,I can hold, with consistency, that we might be self-aware figments of the imagination of a mind ,whether our minds are capable of producing self-aware figments are not.

    I think you left out a negation in that first sentence, because your second doesn’t follow; even if it did, your appeal to solipsism is kinda funny, because it’s such a futile supposition to invoke.

    You seriously hold that you (and the external reality you perceive) are figments of someone’s imagination?

  16. Nightshade says

    JOHN MORALES “I think you left out a negation in that first sentence, because your second doesn’t follow”
    Yes I did. Thanks.The first sentence should read: There is no reason not to believe that a mind with an even greater degree of power to shape it’s reality exist.
    JOHN MORALES:You seriously hold that you (and the external reality you perceive) are figments of someone’s imagination?
    No I don’t believe we are figments of another minds imagination nor am I a solipsist.
    The argument I am making is that metaphysical Idealism,specifically idealistic monism, provides as rational an explanation of our experiences as materialistic monism and one that is more parsimonious.
    We have immediate and direct knowledge of our own existence.We are conscious of thoughts, feelings, sensations and other mental states and we are aware that we are conscious of them. we are self -aware.We are minds. I know of the existence of at least one mind,my own, with as much certainty as is possible to know anything.As Descartes argued I can doubt all my beliefs but one, the belief that I exist.For I must exist to doubt.
    I have ideas some of which I consider to be caused by my mind; because I can control them. I can change these ideas at will. These I consider private existing only in my mind
    Other ideas (sensations) are not under my voluntary control.I cannot change these ideas at will. I cannot have the idea ( sensation) of being in my living room one moment and will to be on a beach in Tahiti and have living room ideas (sensations) replaced with Tahiti beach ideas ( sensations)So these ideas don’t appear to be a product of my mind at least not in the same way as the former.If my mind doesn’t cause these ideas what does?
    Since what I know with most certainty is that at least one mind and it’s ideas exist.Postulating that these ideas(sensations) are minds or are caused by a mind( ie. are ideas) seems to me more rational than assuming the existence of a non-mind dependent substance, matter.We can’t know if such a substance can exist much less that it does exist.Belief in a such a substance is the ultimate leap of faith.
    Why is it more rational to believe physical properties can give rise to mental properties, but not believe mental properties can give rise to physical properties.Perhaps the properties of “matter” are the way ideas present themselves to a mind. The more the physicist of the last 100 years have learned about ‘matter’ the less ‘material’ it has become.

    • John Morales says

      Nightshade,

      @15: So,I can hold, with consistency, that we might be self-aware figments of the imagination of a mind ,whether our minds are capable of producing self-aware figments are not.

      […]

      @18: No I don’t believe we are figments of another minds imagination nor am I a solipsist.

      So you think you could hold that, but you don’t actually hold that. Right.

      Why is it more rational to believe physical properties can give rise to mental properties, but not believe mental properties can give rise to physical properties.

      You can take the mind out of matter and it remains matter, but you cannot take the matter out of a mind; or: we know matter can exist without mind, but the reverse is purely wishful thinking on present evidence.

      Perhaps the properties of “matter” are the way ideas present themselves to a mind.

      You might as well suppose that the tail wags the dog.

  17. Nick Gotts says

    The argument I am making is that metaphysical Idealism,specifically idealistic monism, provides as rational an explanation of our experiences as materialistic monism and one that is more parsimonious. – Nightshade

    You’re simply wrong. Part of our experience – the evidence of geology, paleontology, evolutionary biology, neurophysiology, neuropsychology – indicates that mental phenomena have arisen on earth rather late, and arer wholly dependent on material ones.

    We have immediate and direct knowledge of our own existence.We are conscious of thoughts, feelings, sensations and other mental states and we are aware that we are conscious of them. we are self -aware.We are minds. I know of the existence of at least one mind,my own, with as much certainty as is possible to know anything.As Descartes argued I can doubt all my beliefs but one, the belief that I exist.

    This is all erroneous, because it is based on the fallacy that concepts such as “I”, “knowledge”, “existence”, “mind” etc. can be understood in isolation from the vast web of perceptions of and actions upon the external world. In fact, our sense of self, our self-awareness, is a rather fragile and in considerable part illusory phenomenon, as we can see from phenomena such as certain drug-induced states, some forms of mental illness and brain damage, experiences under sensory deprivbation, and most commonly, dreams.

    Why is it more rational to believe physical properties can give rise to mental properties, but not believe mental properties can give rise to physical properties.

    Because we can observe the reproducible effects of physically damaging particular parts of the brain, ingesting specific substances, etc. All the evidence we have suggests that physical phenomena are ontologicaly prior to mental ones. Of clurse, monistic idealism is irrefutable (as are solipsism and last-Thursdayism), but that’s a bug, not a feature. Because it is compatible with anything, it explains nothing.

    The more the physicist of the last 100 years have learned about ‘matter’ the less ‘material’ it has become.

    No, it hasn’t. Our ideas of what matter is like have changed as we have learned to investigate spatial scales further from those of everyday life. It’s true that initially, some of the interpretations of quantum mechanics were rather idealistic; but very few physicists now take these interpretations seriously.

  18. rapiddominance says

    So perhaps you can offer some suggestions, some area I might have overlooked, in which people could reasonably expect a genuine, loving, almighty Heavenly Father to behave in a way that transcends what an imaginary friend could be credited with.

    I’ve never seen a clear-cut miracle in person where I can say, “God really had his hand on that situation”. I think most of the christians I’ve known would say the same thing. All I have, and all I think most of them could say, is that I did experience a change in my heart where I loved him and felt his hands were on me. I found him irresistible and could hardly give myself any credit for having done anything at all (that sounds Calvinistic, but I’m not actually a Calvinist–at least not a “5-pointer”, if you’re familiar with that theology). All I can ask people to do is, “Look at Jesus” and if Jesus can’t get his own points across, how can I? My “spirituality” comes from having interacted with his word while trying to put aside the theologies and practices I was already familiar with. Having said that, you and some of your audience have demonstrated knowledge of the bible, so if you’ve given Christ a chance to speak then there’s nothing more I can suggest.

    As for “the change in my heart”, I think if I sat down with a psychologist and discussed it many secular, scientific explanations could be offered up that would sound intelligible. In other words, I wouldn’t fight them on the issue. What I know is that many of my “tastes” in things have changed and while I still have much growing to do, I feel like a new, reborn person. If an atheists were to ask me, perhaps in a derogatory way, “Do you need God to be a good person”, I would have to say “yes”–and even more embarrassingly, I STILL don’t consider myself genuinely good. Truth is, I’m still prone to making cheap, lazy decisions and am displeasing to myself.

    If you mean to ask whether I can fairly be blamed for the constraints that seem to limit God’s interactions with reality, I have to say no, in all honesty, I cannot.

    Its not a question of blame. Like you said, “name-it-claim-it” carries other connotations and I was more interested in what YOUR expectations out of God were and what YOU wanted out of the deal. You’ve provided a great deal of material to reflect on regarding my inquiry. Also, regarding my line of questioning, have you ever found yourself asking questions not knowing exactly what it was you wanted to know but realizing that you were looking for something? I think that’s sort of what I was doing–just trying to get a “feel” for your points of view and how you emerged as an atheist. You’ve met every expectation I could ask for.

    If I’ve said anything in particular you’d like to comment on further, I’ll give you the final word. Otherwise, I’ve had a satisfying visit to your blog.

    Scott

  19. Nightshade says

    John Morales @ 18.1:”So you think you could hold that, but you don’t actually hold that. Right”
    Right.It is logically possible that we are self -aware figments (ideas would be a more accurate and less derisive term ) of another minds imagination but unable to “create” self-aware ideas in our own mind.However it is not the only logical possibility and not the one, in my opinion, to best explain our experiences.Therefore I don’t hold it.
    John Morales @ 18.1 “You can take the mind out of matter and it remains matter, but you cannot take the matter out of a mind ; or: we know matter can exist without mind, but the reverse is purely wishful thinking on present evidence”
    . When you say “you can take the mind out of matter” I believe you are thinking of something like a rock, a chunk of “matter” that shows no evidence of being a mind ( a self -aware consciousness)An idealistic monist, one who believes nothing but minds and their ideas exist, would point out that the rock you perceive is an idea in your mind.The sensations you experience seeing it, touching it etc.are ideas in your mind. but that does not mean it’s a product only of your mind, it’s an idea in another mind as well. We all have experiences which can be described as one mind communicating with another mind, whether one accepts idealistic monism , dualism, or materialistic monism ( by the way these are not our only options).Whatever one believes,however one describes these experiences, we all have them.But to drive home the point let me say “Hippopotamus”
    I doubt anybody who reads this was having the experience of the idea of a hippo in their minds until they read the word which I, a mind, communicated to them.Minds can influence minds through ideas.So the belief that the rock you see is an idea not only in your mind but in another mind as well, communicated to you by that mind, just as the idea of a hippo in my mind was communicated to your mind,is logically possible and explains our experience without assuming the existence of a non-mind dependent reality. Now the idea of a hippo did not arise in my mind independently of experience and you already knew what a hippo was, before I said it,from your own experience of a reality which we all share that exist , at least in part, independently of our minds. To hold as idealist monist do that it (the shared world of experience) is an idea(s) of another mind acting on ours is a reasonable conclusion in accord with our experience of interacting with another mind.
    When you say, “you cannot take the matter out of the mind” if your saying matter cannot exist without a mind an idealistic monist would certainly agree. Ha! However that is not what you’re saying I’m sure.You clarify what you mean when you say,”we know matter can exist without mind, but the reverse is purely wishful thinking on present evidence.”
    How do we “know” matter can exist without a mind when we can only have the idea of matter in our minds!
    We have experiences of phenomenon that doesn’t seem to be a mind.Rocks, houses, water for instance.I agree these seem not to be minds (self-aware conscious agents)but that they are ideas of a mind interacting with our minds seems as reasonable an explanation based on our experience of minds interacting through ideas,as assuming the existence of a non-mind dependent substance.Which we have no evidence of.
    We also have experiences( ideas) of other minds, animals( to include humans) and presumably if we ever encounter alien intelligence we would recognize them as minds as well.
    How do we distinguish minds from ideas? From the nature of our experiences with them.Minds are self-aware, they have experiences and they act to achieve ends.Their self-awareness and experiences we can’t know first hand, we can know them through the communication of ideas from one mind to another though. Their actions we can observe in our own minds and infer the existence of a mind.If a house catches fire minds act. They attempt to stop the fire or they flee.The non-mind ideas, furniture,the house itself don’t act they are having no experience of heat or fear.
    Nick Gotts; “This is all erroneous, because it is based on the fallacy that concepts such as “I”, “knowledge”, “existence”, “mind” etc. can be understood in isolation from the vast web of perceptions of and actions upon the external world. In fact, our sense of self, our self-awareness, is a rather fragile and in considerable part illusory phenomenon, as we can see from phenomena such as certain drug-induced states, some forms of mental illness and brain damage, experiences under sensory deprivation, and most commonly, dreams”
    It is difficult to know what to say to someone who seems to be more certain of the existence of an external world than they are of the existence of their self, an example of what might be called “aipsism”( no-selfism) the reductio ad absurdum of materialistic monism.
    I am aware of thoughts,feelings, sensations and I am aware that I am aware of them. I, a mind, a conscious center, a unity that is aware of being the subject of experiences past,present and I hope future. We all experience this and everybody including you know what I”m talking about.That the existence of the “other-than- me” is, I agree, an important part of understanding myself. Whether it’s necessary for being a self is far from obvious. In a world where all that existed was a single mind, and nothing else, could an awareness of existing be possible for that mind?Would it have introspective experiences? Wonder what it was, how it was and why it was?Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps experiences are essential to the consciousness of selfhood on part of a mind.But only a mind can be a self and the source of the experiences another mind
    Nick Gott @19;Because we can observe the reproducible effects of physically damaging particular parts of the brain, ingesting specific substances, etc. All the evidence we have suggests that physical phenomena are ontologicaly prior to mental ones. Of clurse, monistic idealism is irrefutable (as are solipsism and last-Thursdayism), but that’s a bug, not a feature. Because it is compatible with anything, it explains nothing.
    To the idealistic monist the ingested substances are ideas. That they can affect minds isn’t at all surprising.We know ideas can affect minds.

    • John Morales says

      Nightshade:

      It is logically possible that we are self -aware figments (ideas would be a more accurate and less derisive term ) of another minds imagination but unable to “create” self-aware ideas in our own mind.However it is not the only logical possibility and not the one, in my opinion, to best explain our experiences.Therefore I don’t hold it.

      In other words, it’s a supposition much like the Matrix or the Omphalos hypotheses: unwarranted and non-explanatory.

      (What do you think of the proposition that this sort of hypothesis is otiose so long as it remains unfalsifiable?)

      An idealistic monist, one who believes nothing but minds and their ideas exist, would point out that the rock you perceive is an idea in your mind.

      “After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, ‘I refute it thus.'”
      Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson (source: Wikipedia)

      What do you think of the fact that science (which is based on methodological physicalism) has hugely advanced in explanatory power and applied technology since those days, whilst idealism has advanced not at all?

      You clarify what you mean when you say,”we know matter can exist without mind, but the reverse is purely wishful thinking on present evidence.”

      I here comply with your imperative by referring you to Nick Gotts’ first paragraph @19; he has expressed the same idea as I.

      How do we distinguish minds from ideas?

      I hold a (philosophical) ontology where a ‘mind’ refers to an abstract entity: specifically, the emergent process of a functional ‘brain’ when it generates ‘consciousness’, where a ‘brain’ is a concrete entity (made of gross matter) and a ‘consciousness’ is… um… the hard problem of consciousness.

    • Nick Gotts says

      I think your position is born of mental laziness. You don’t even try to argue for it rationally, for the most part. For example, you say:

      It is logically possible that we are self -aware figments (ideas would be a more accurate and less derisive term ) of another minds imagination but unable to “create” self-aware ideas in our own mind.However it is not the only logical possibility and not the one, in my opinion, to best explain our experiences.Therefore I don’t hold it.

      Why do you hold that opinion? What does your own opinion explain that others fail to explain, if anything? Why should anyone be interested in your opinion? Why do you bother to express it? You can’t be bothered to tell us any of these things.

      When you say it’s “difficult to know what to say to someone who seems to be more certain of the existence of an external world than they are of the existence of their self” you reveal that you can’t be bothered to think about the flaws in monistic idealism, which I laid out in reasonable detail. You assume that it is obvious what “self” means, but it is not. There are many experiments and case histories which reveal that the kind of self Descartes assumed – and it seems that you do:

      I, a mind, a conscious center, a unity that is aware of being the subject of experiences past,present and I hope future.

      is indeed a very fragile and contingent thing. Look at some of the literature on split-brain subjects, on blindsight, on psychosis, on Korsakov syndrome and confabulation in general, which show that it’s by no means the case that everyone has that kind of experience. Or consider dreams: if yours are anything like mine, that unit,y and many features of my waking self-awareness, are often absent. Alternatively, try turning your hyper-scepticism about physical reality on your own position: you say you are “aware of being the subject of experiences past”, but of course you might have come into existence a microsecond ago, along with all your supposed “past experiences”. To use your own rhetoric:

      How do we “know” past experiences existed when we can only have the idea of past experiences in our minds!

      Then you say:

      To the idealistic monist the ingested substances are ideas. That they can affect minds isn’t at all surprising.We know ideas can affect minds.

      But these substances have effects even if neither you nor any other human being knows you have ingested them. So they certainly need not be ideas in any mind we know of. To say “Well, but they might be ideas in some other mind” is just flatulent nonsense. If everything is an “idea”, then the concept of “idea” is an empty one, completely useless.

  20. Nightshade says

    If the”knower” of knowledge, the perceiver of perceptions, is an “illusion” can we be sure of anything? How can we be sure of having knowledge?Knowledge implies a knower. Who/what knows? What can know or perceive but a mind?Knowing,thinking,believing,perceiving are mental properties And what can know that it knows,perceives, believes but a self-aware mind,a self?
    I start with what is the most certain thing I know or at least believe I know and that is I have experiences,and I know/believe I have them.For me to experience there must be something that experiences ,to know there must be something that knows,to believe etc..If this is doubted,shouldn’t we doubt everything?
    You both ,Nick and John,if I understand correctly,are saying I don’ t know that “I” know anything.Not even that an “I” exist.If there is no “I” that knows, then there is no good reason to believe there is any “you” or “we” (to include scientist and philosophers) that know.This seems the fastest road to complete skepticism.

    • John Morales says

      How can we be sure of having knowledge?

      Alas, there is no epistemological certainty outside of analytic truths.

      If this [the veridical nature of experience] is doubted,shouldn’t we doubt everything?

      That’s the position of philosophical scepticism, but that doesn’t mean one can’t hold provisional beliefs according to warrant.

      Thing is, ineffectual conceits such as Idealism really don’t help that situation (if anything, they confuse it even more!).

      You both ,Nick and John,if I understand correctly,are saying I don’ t know that “I” know anything.Not even that an “I” exist.

      I haven’t said that (nor do I think Nick has, either).

      (Have you read Blindsight by Peter Watts?)

  21. Nightshade says

    John Morales@22.1 Alas, there is no epistemological certainty outside of analytic truths
    Alas,something we can agree on.Because of the egocentric predicament we cannot know the nature of or even existence of an external world, a world existing independently of our minds, our consciousness. We have nothing but the sensations we call seeing, hearing, touching,etc.(which are mental contents) which we cannot separate ourselves from (except conceptually) to experience the world as it is-in-itself.
    John Morales@22.1 That’s the position of philosophical scepticism, but that doesn’t mean one can’t hold provisional beliefs according to warrant.
    In order for there to be a belief, warranted or not, there must be a believer.Believing is a mental state ,a property of mind.To believe and to be aware that one believes as you do,one must be a self-aware mind,a self.so belief in the existence of at least one self, in your case yourSELF, ought to be the most warranted of your beliefs.
    After all where does epistemological certainty of analytical truths exist but in a mind.
    If epistemological certainty exist in analytic truths,and this certainty ( of the truth of analytic truths) exist in a mind,then minds at least one must exist.

    • John Morales says

      What makes you imagine physicalists don’t believe minds exist?

      What we don’t believe is that mind is the substrate of reality, for (among others) the reasons stated above.

      (BTW, I find substance dualism untenable, but superior to idealistic monism in that it doesn’t deny the existence of the physical!)

  22. wills says

    Can’t/WON’T you ‘believers’ at least attempt to ‘get behind the spark’ on your narrative? We’re being judged – and sent to eternal punishment in HELL – For NOT believing an UNBELIEVABLE STORY??!?? A power/being who made a universe 13.6 BILLION years ago – something we can never fully comprehend – Decides the ONE TIME he ‘shows himself’ – is to desert nomadic tribes, in the middle east, on some tiny rock planet, on the outer edge of one of billions of galaxies, thousands of years BEFORE our ability to VERIFY?!? Right alongside all of the other saviour-gods wannabees who were part of everyday life in that part of the world at that period? WHAT A COINCIDENCE!..:-) Then, your perfect-god gives us a book laden w/ riddles, rape, genocide and contradictions which suffers through countless translations, explanations, political pressures (Ecumenical Council, etc)?!? Why-Oh-WHY can’t He – GOD – simply BE CLEAR? And (not so) FUNNY: All these religions have hair-raising similarities: BLOOD Sacrifice, VIRGINS & BS rules which cannot be applied to REALITY (see Leviticus!). As noteworthy: Whether Islam, Christianity, Mormonism, etc – Funny how god ONLY speaks to ONE SINGLE Dude – Joseph Smith/Paul/Moses (etc) Out there all by himself – No witnesses, no verification – “Just take me at my word, easy right?” Why can’t “GOD” just say what needs to be said – to ALL of us, so we’re ALL on the same page? Instead of hiding behind some opaque screen of hide and seek? And as modern times evolve (complete w/ video cameras, etc) and superstition recedes: SO HAVE ALL OF THOSE ‘miracles’ – Coincidence?!? Why can’t you people simply spell ‘god’ – WITH TWO “Os”? Easy/Peasy!
    Finally: If god knows what is/was/will be – WHY then did the very FIRST people he made SCREW EVERYTHING UP?!? He didn’t ‘see that coming’? Yes, we’re ‘imperfect’ – but according to YOUR fable, HE made us that way – Yet WE get the blame for his game of ‘Dare You’ over some fruit?

    Either you devolve into ‘We can’t understand HIS WAYS..” – OR – You believers indeed ‘get behind the spark’ and come to terms with this MAN-MADE FANTASY, just like all the others – and probe deeper into your being to find a means to manifest the GOODNESS you’d like to see in this world. Goodness – for a ticket to heaven? If your goodness is ‘for sale’ then it’s PROSTITUTION, so lose that ulterior motive! As for god and being good? Just CUT OUT THE MIDDLEMAN!

  23. Nightshade says

    John Morales@23.1 What makes you imagine physicalists don’t believe minds exist?
    I know that physicalist believe in the existence of minds,and I understand that they believe mind “emerges” from matter when the right set of physical conditions are met, as they believe they are in the brains of animals,particularly humans. Just as they believe life “emerges” from non-living matter under the right physical conditions. And contrary to what you may believe I find this a reasonable philosophical position.
    What I found Incredible was that you and Nick seemed to be as sure of the existence of matter (perhaps more sure in Nick’s case) than of the existence of your own minds.Whatever the truth might be concerning the issue of which is ontologically prior, Mind, Matter, or something else, it seems to me that the existence of our own minds is epistemologically prior.That is to say the most certain of our beliefs.Any philosophy most start from there
    I hinted at my own position on Metaphysics at Nightshade@8 when I said “The question of whether that world exist independently of all minds, as well as its ultimate nature, is impossible to answer.”
    My view is closer to Phenomenalism than to either Idealism or Materialism

  24. John Morales says

    Nightshade:

    What I found Incredible was that you and Nick seemed to be as sure of the existence of matter (perhaps more sure in Nick’s case) than of the existence of your own minds.

    Hm. I think that you are getting an impression that is neither suggested nor stated.

    Me @ 21.1: I hold a (philosophical) ontology where a ‘mind’ refers to an abstract entity: specifically, the emergent process of a functional ‘brain’ when it generates ‘consciousness’, where a ‘brain’ is a concrete entity (made of gross matter) and a ‘consciousness’ is… um… the hard problem of consciousness.

    Though my definition above entails that the existence of a mind implies the existence of matter, it does not entail that I hold different degrees of belief as to the existence of each.

     

    Nick @21.2: “There are many experiments and case histories which reveal that the kind of self Descartes assumed – and it seems that you do: “I, a mind, a conscious center, a unity that is aware of being the subject of experiences past,present and I hope future.” is indeed a very fragile and contingent thing.
    […]
    Alternatively, try turning your hyper-scepticism about physical reality on your own position: you say you are “aware of being the subject of experiences past”, but of course you might have come into existence a microsecond ago, along with all your supposed “past experiences”.”

    I don’t read him as disputing that minds exist, but rather noting that they are “fragile and contingent” and that they are a gestalt rather than “a unity that is aware of being the subject of experiences”.

    (Nick offered dreams as an example, I offered a reference to a work of fiction that explores the topic)

    • John Morales says

      PS Nightshade, I suppose I should add that I am a bit surprised by your stated surprise; it’s not what I would consider a controversial proposition that matter exists independently of its perception.

      Anyway.

      This discussion, vaguely interesting as it may be, doesn’t to me seem very relevant to the post topic, unless perhaps one imagines that to grant reality to some mental realm is tantamount to granting reality to a “spiritual” realm.

      Is that the case with you?

  25. Nightshade says

    John Morales@26:Hm. I think that you are getting an impression that is neither suggested nor stated.

    Me @ 21.1: I hold a (philosophical) ontology where a ‘mind’ refers to an abstract entity: specifically, the emergent process of a functional ‘brain’ when it generates ‘consciousness’, where a ‘brain’ is a concrete entity (made of gross matter) and a ‘consciousness’ is… um… the hard problem of consciousness.

    Though my definition above entails that the existence of a mind implies the existence of matter, it does not entail that I hold different degrees of belief as to the existence of each.

    I do hold different degrees of belief as to the existence of each.The existence of Matter, a non-mind dependent and non-mental (i.e.not a mind itself) substance is an inference from our experiences.
    It is an assumption to explain the fact that I am having experiences and I know I am having experiences. Since I am not causing these experiences something must be ;matter.
    For me the fact I am having experiences and am aware I am having them is more certain than what their cause is. I find it for easier to doubt the existence of matter than to doubt the existence of my mind.
    You don’t doubt the existence of either,are you equally sure of the existence of both?If so, how?

    Again @26: I don’t read him as disputing that minds exist, but rather noting that they are “fragile and contingent” and that they are a gestalt rather than “a unity that is aware of being the subject of experiences”.

    (Nick offered dreams as an example, I offered a reference to a work of fiction that explores the topic)

    When I dream I am aware of being a unity (one person or self) that is aware of being the subject of experiences. I may not be aware that I’m dreaming but I am aware of being an observer or participant of /in the dream.I don’t see how dreams constitute evidence against a self-aware mind(self).

    John Morales@26.1 PS Nightshade, I suppose I should add that I am a bit surprised by your stated surprise; it’s not what I would consider a controversial proposition that matter exists independently of its perception.
    Neither is Substance Dualism a controversial proposition to most people. It’s only when we start trying to explain why we believe in the existence of two substances or for the Materialist the existence of matter that it, becomes controversial. Does Matter exist independently of a Mind that perceives it ? I don’t know. How could I? How do you?
    John Morales@26.1 … that to grant reality to some mental realm is tantamount to granting reality to a “spiritual” realm. Is that the case with you?
    I confess I don’t know how to distinguish between what I would refer to as a mental realm and what I would refer to as a spiritual realm.

    • John Morales says

      Nightshade,

      I confess I don’t know how to distinguish between what I would refer to as a mental realm and what I would refer to as a spiritual realm.

      Then perhaps your ontology needs improvement; it may pay you to examine it a little more rigorously so that you don’t confuse categories.

      Note that, under my definition and my ontology, the concept of an immaterial mind is incoherent; there is no logical path from it to things like spirits or deities.

  26. Nightshade says

    John Morales@27. 1 Note that, under my definition and my ontology, the concept of an immaterial mind is incoherent; there is no logical path from it to things like spirits or deities.

    I understand that, “there is no logical path to spirits or deities” in your ontology because you reject the premise “Minds are immaterial entities” which are what I suspect most people would consider spirits to be.
    If you accept the premise that minds are “immaterial entities” then there is a logical path to the belief in spirits and/or deities.So I don’t see any confusion of categories.
    You’re a materialist.
    You’re also well enough educated it seems to me to know that the properties we attribute to matter in our everyday experience vanish at the microscopic level.
    A single molecule of water is not wet. A lead atom isn’t solid.So how do we know which appearance of matter, the macroscopic or the microscopic, is “real”( IN THIS INSTANCE “REAL” MEANS TO EXIST INDEPENDENTLY OF A MIND) . You believe both to be.
    You take the properties of “wetness” and “solidity” to be “emergent ” properties of matter. you view them as objective features of an external material world.
    However they could be “mental constructs” created by our minds and purely subjective even if there is an external non-mental reality. We don’t know which features of that reality, the “material world”, would exist independently of our minds.
    Once one accepts this, Metaphysical Idealism in some form seems less “strange” than it might at first.

    I am more than ready to concede that Metaphysical Idealism has it’s own problems.Most of which, I believe fall into the “Why” category. Why this particular world and not another of the many logically possible worlds we can imagine?Many of which would have less “evil” than this one?
    Why if, everything is an idea in a mind, would there be such things as flatulence and other “bodily” processes which seem to have no purpose in a purely mental world,except to bring embarrassment to one mind and amusement or disgust to others.
    Also I must concede the points made by both you and Nick are good ones. Some of which I don’t (as yet)have an explanation for within an framework of Idealism.
    I was to dismissive of Nick and his argument and must apologize.

    • John Morales says

      Nightshade,

      I understand that, “there is no logical path to spirits or deities” in your ontology because you reject the premise “Minds are immaterial entities” which are what I suspect most people would consider spirits to be.

      The motive you imputate of motive to me makes me imagine you’re conflating effect with basis: it is not that I reject the premise a priori, but that I consider it unsound on the basis of consilience.

      If you accept the premise that minds are “immaterial entities” then there is a logical path to the belief in spirits and/or deities.So I don’t see any confusion of categories.

      As I noted, it is no premise — rather a corollary.

      You’re a materialist.

      Obviously, but only provisionally in attitude. It suffices.

      You’re also well enough educated it seems to me to know that the properties we attribute to matter in our everyday experience vanish at the microscopic level.

      I find that an incoherent statement, though I think I get your intent: at different scales of perception, different predicates apply to perceived phenomena. It is a trite irrelevance.

      (The map is not the territory)

      A single molecule of water is not wet. A lead atom isn’t solid.So how do we know which appearance of matter, the macroscopic or the microscopic, is “real”( IN THIS INSTANCE “REAL” MEANS TO EXIST INDEPENDENTLY OF A MIND) . You believe both to be.

      The Sorites paradox is an artifact of interpretation; reality prevails. Properties are predicates, and not necessarily universal.

      You take the properties of “wetness” and “solidity” to be “emergent ” properties of matter. you view them as objective features of an external material world.

      Contingent, abstract concepts denoting physical phenomena, yes.

      (Again, the map is not the territory)

      However they could be “mental constructs” created by our minds and purely subjective even if there is an external non-mental reality. We don’t know which features of that reality, the “material world”, would exist independently of our minds.
      Once one accepts this, Metaphysical Idealism in some form seems less “strange” than it might at first.

      Am I not being clear enough?

      It is not that it is strange, it is that it is naive and unwarranted and (therefore worse) without utility.

      Why if, everything is an idea in a mind, would there be such things as flatulence and other “bodily” processes which seem to have no purpose in a purely mental world,except to bring embarrassment to one mind and amusement or disgust to others.

      Your question is vacuous and your yearning for telos is telling — an unwarranted rejection of the possibility of purposeless reality.

  27. Nightshade says

    John Morales,

    “Properties are predicates, and not necessarily universal”.
    If one accepts that then the basic properties of matter, mass and extension, need not be universal.Leaving room in your ontology for non-embodied mental properties.

    “Contingent, abstract concepts denoting physical phenomena, yes.”
    Contingent upon a mind.Abstract concepts exist only in minds.When you say ‘denoting physical objects’all that you mean is when you experience certain sensations like seeing a car you expect other sensations to follow if you will to touch it such as smoothness,solidity etc.Materialist attribute the cause to a non-mind dependent substance, which we can’t possibly know exist..

    Am I not being clear enough?

    It is not that it is strange, it is that it is naive and unwarranted and (therefore worse) without utility.

    If you accept that the properties by which you define,describe matter are contingent and abstract you admit the role played by our minds in constructing the world we KNOW! To argue that we can know anything about a non-mind dependent substance is incoherent,naive and unwarranted.

    It is not materialism that has utility but rather empiricism.An Idealist can function in this world as well as a materialist as long as he learns from experience.
    That existence might ultimately be meaningless I can accept. I just don’t see a good reason to do so.

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