• Amalac
    489
    The argument I'm going to put here and then criticise is not mine. I'll just call the author of this argument “Mr.S” for convenience.

    His argument goes as follows:
    Let us admit (something Wittgenstein would not admit) that there is indeed an "ethical value in itself", as Objectivists say. But if that ethical value exists, that value could not be strictly in this physical or material world, because if it were in the purely physical or material world it could not give transcendental meaning to the physical or material world, because it is precisely an empirical phenomenon. That is, the sense of the world has to be outside the world. In the world everything is as it is and happens as it does happen ("Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist"), in such a way that the meaning of the world has to be outside it, and if it is outside the world it implies that it is transcendental : “All value is transcendental. It is clear that ethics cannot be expressed ”. "Ethics is transcendental" says Wittgenstein.

    "God does not reveal himself" (Wittgenstein)

    Why doesn't he reveal himself? Because he can't reveal himself. How could the transcendent be revealed in the immanent physical world?
    Nothing that is physical and material can produce something that is not physical and material, such as an immutable value (an absolute duty).

    It is like expecting an apple tree to produce pears or to get wine out of a large barrel of water. A logical impossibility.

    A two-way problem arises in this relationship of God with the empirical world:

    (1) Upwards: the possibility of language to grasp the transcendental.

    (2) Downwards: the possibility of the transcendental to infiltrate, to penetrate the world.

    A problem, I repeat, that has two courses of action, being double in nature: first, the possibility that a physical language, that a factual thought, that a thought that is matter captures the transcendental; second, that from a thought or better still from a transcendental idea there is room for the possibility of penetrating the physical world, and then, look what Wittgenstein concludes: “A single proposition of ethics, that is, a single absolute proposition that were really an ethical proposition [or to put it another way, a single speck of God, of the transcendental] that penetrated the empirical world would make it burst into a thousand pieces ”. What a horrible thing, this is!

    That is to say: If God existed (which in itself remains to be seen), there would also be an unfathomable gulf between his greatness, his omnipotence, his spirituality and his ability to access the material world. It is assumed here, of course, that God is not matter (he is immaterial), since if he were subject to physical laws he would be a decadent God, an absolutely powerless God, a hoax of a God. In other words, despite his omnipotence, he cannot infiltrate matter, into the physical world in which we live, so he remains an alien God, from another plane. This leads me to a devastating conclusion on the theological-metaphysical plane:

    If God existed, the physical world would not exist. The physical world is ontologically incompatible with the nature of God. A single particle of the transcendental (of ethics, for example) would serve to crumble the entire universe. But, the physical world exists. Ergo: God does not exist.
    — Mr.S

    Criticism:

    1. The main problem, in my opinion, is the premiss: “If God exists, the physical world would not exist”. To see why this premiss is problematic, we can see how creation would have occured according to the argument: In order for God to create the world, God had to mix the metaphysical (himself) with the physical.

    But that seems plainly false, it assumes that:

    a) The world (the physical) already exists before it is created, which is clearly absurd.

    b) That there was a place where the world was not, that God interacted with that physical place by permeating it with his divine/ metaphysical essence (so to speak) in order to give rise to a world where divine revelation occured. Those who oppose this view can argue against this through the philosophy of Saint Augustine: There was no place where the world was not, before the creation: since God created the world out of nothing, space, like time, was created when the world was created.

    Another possible interpretation of this premiss is: first God created the world, then some time after the creation he impregnated the physical with his divine essence (this could be seen as the first time God spoke directly to human beings).

    The problem with that interpretation is that according to most accepted theological conceptions of God, God is outside time, and therefore he couldn't have first created the world, and then permeated it with his metaphysical essence, rather he must have done that all at once in his eternal present.

    It must be granted, however, that it is very difficult, if not impossible, for one to represent oneself, If God exists, how he created the world so as to make revelation possible (if indeed he could).

    At first, one naturally imagines that God would have separated a part of himself, then have this “speck” of himself interact with “nothingness” to give birth to the universe. But this is dubious since we are told by theologians that God is perfectly simple and therefore has no parts, and even if he did, he couldn't have separated one of his divine parts without changing, which contradicts his being immutable.

    Also because it's not even clear that this notion of absolute “nothingness” even has a meaning, since it's unimaginable.

    Rudolf Carnap gave good arguments in favor of the claim that the concept of “nothingness” is merely the product of bad syntax, and therefore meaningless (this of course is also an argument against the idea that God created the world out of “nothing”).

    2. Another problem has to to with the way Mr. S interprets Wittgenstein (what Mr.S says “Wittgenstein concludes” is really what he concludes), the passage he refers to seems to be this one, from his Lecture on Ethics:

    I can only describe my feeling by the metaphor, that, if a man could write a book on Ethics which really was a book on Ethics, this book would, with an explosion, destroy all the other books in the world. Our words used as we use them in science, are vessels capable only of containing and conveying meaning and sense, natural meaning and sense. Ethics, if it is anything, is supernatural and our words will only express facts; as a teacup will only hold a teacup full of water even if I were to pour out a gallon over it.

    It is important to highlight that Wittgenstein clearly states that what he said is merely a metaphor of a feeling, meaning he is not asserting that this would literally happen.

    Mr.S' assertion also strikes me as quite arbitrary, for how could the metaphysical destroy the physical world without interacting, and therefore blending, with it?

    3. Mr.S seems to be mistaken with regards logical impossibility, since there is no logical impossibility about a state of affairs in which an apple tree produce another fruit. David Hume, with his formulation of the problem of induction, made this clear. So his analogy is a bad one.

    Unless, of course, we define an apple tree as one that can only produce apples.

    In that case, his point would be that, by definition, something metaphysical cannot happen in the physical world, but only in the metaphysical realm (since if it happened in the physical, it would be physical). On this ground, he rejects revelation and miracles.

    But those who do believe in revelation and miracles would reply that his argument is question begging, since they feel no logical compulsion to accept the definition of physical which implies that what they call miracles and revelation are physical by definition (since otherwise they would not occur in the physical world).

    Though I suppose his retort would be to say that without this definition, the very distinction between the physical and the non-physical/metaphysical becomes blurred.

    As for the question whether God, if he exists, created the world and revealed himself in it: If he did do both those things, it seems one must admit that one cannot comprehend how he did them, and if he couldn't (again, assuming for sake of argument that he exists, and is transcendent) then that would effectively refute all the claims of all the religions in the world which claimed to have a supernatural basis.

    My personal criterion is that we should suspend judgement about this matter.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    I see transendence and immanence as different but the same, and God as us and not us. The physical and spiritual are two sides of a coin
  • Amalac
    489
    That sounds a lot like Cusanus' doctrine that God is the unity of all contradictions. Though I suppose that you have rather Hegel in mind, right?

    The problem with that view, which was pointed out by Aristotle, is that if we don't accept the Law of Contradiction (at least tentatively), discourse and knowledge are impossible.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    I do read Hegel but a contradiction is not resolved by forcing it into place. The puzzle finds its way together on its own accord by the laws of the world. The distinction between spirit and matter is normative, not metaphysical. It's how we treat them in logic. Hegel says "For us, spirit has nature as its presupposition, and it is thereby its truth and it's absolute antecedent." Yet he also said " We have therefore to conceive nature as itself bearing the absolute Idea within itself, but nature is the Idea in the form of having been posited by absolute spirit as the opposite of spirit. In this sense we call nature a creation. " He called materialism "a naturalism such that matter is what is true and spirit its by-product" , but rejected just as strongly "that spiritualism that in utter foolishness denies nature's reality". If the spaces between thoughts is wide enough, what appears as a contradiction will latter dissolve into something new and the difference between objective and subjective will radically change
  • Amalac
    489


    I do read Hegel but a contradiction is not resolved by forcing it into place.Gregory

    Isn't that what you were trying to do here?:

    I see transendence and immanence as different but the same, and God as us and not us. The physical and spiritual are two sides of a coinGregory

    If the spaces between thoughts is wide enough, what appears as a contradiction will latter dissolve into something new and the difference between objective and subjective will radically changeGregory

    So, I'm not very knowledgeable about Hegel's philosophy, but I do know about his doctrine of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, which seems to be what you are setting forth here.

    Following Hegel's idea, if we define the transcendental as something that cannot be apprehended by the senses or the physical sciences, then it cannot also occur in the world.

    Is Hegel suggesting that if we apprehended the absolute whole, we would see that there is no impossibility or contradiction about a thing being both transcendental and immanent? How on earth does he know such a thing?

    Not to mention that would imply that we have no reason to reject any claim as impossible, if we allow contradictions (even if they are only “apparent” ones).
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    We don't allow all contradictions all at once but let them flow as thought handles them organically. Nothing in thought is ever left behind. Preserve, cancel, transcend.

    Also you seem to hold the position that there are contradictions in how you view God, morality, and matter. If this leads you unsatisfied, you need move forward to something new. Monistic phenomenology seems to have started not with Hegel but with Jainism. I'll try to find the source of this for you, but I too still reject things as false but they absorb into the wider ocean at the end of the day
  • Amalac
    489


    but I too still reject things as false but they absorb into the wider ocean at the end of the dayGregory

    If you mean that contradictions can be true (dialetheism) or you claim that they are not actually contradictions, but seem that way due to our limited understanding, then you are making quite the extraordinary claim.

    I'd just like to know how you (or Hegel) know this (that they will absorb into the wider ocean at the end of the day).
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    Many statements we make have many meanings. Contradictions are not good unless brought ("sublated") to another level. If I am in a doorway, I am both in the door way and in the room I'm stepping into. The sublation is in where you're intending to move. I hope I didn't get your thread off from where you wanted it to go and readers: feel free to post new solutions to Amalac's dilemma in the OP

    I would just suggest reading about Jains's seven values logic if you are interested in Hegel's style of argument. That's a good place to start
  • Banno
    23.8k
    "God does not reveal himself" — Mr.S

    That's a bit selective. Isn't it "God does not reveal himself in the world"?

    I'd also question the notion hat Witti had an "ethical Doctrine"; pretty much the opposite, such things being shown rather than said.
  • Amalac
    489


    That's a bit selective. Isn't it "God does not reveal himself in the world"?Banno

    That's what I originally wrote before editing the OP, but I thought it was redundant.
    Where else would he reveal himself?

    I'd also question the notion hat Witti had an "ethical Doctrine"; pretty much the opposite, such things being shown rather than saidBanno

    Right, perhaps I didn't state that clearly, I meant Wittgenstein's doctrine about ethics, as appears in the Tractatus and in his “Lecture on Ethics”.
  • Banno
    23.8k
    ...doctrine...Amalac

    That's just a very poor choice of word. A Doctrine, creed, dogma... the implication of explicit rules. It's pretty much exactly wrong to suggest that Wittgenstein thought ethics consists in a set of explicit proscriptions.

    Don't look to meaning, look to use; it's the doing that counts, and in this case, what there is to ethics is only what one does, and not what one says.

    So - going back to the archaic language of the OP - god does not reveals himself in what we say about the world. Rather we use words such as immanent or intrinsic to set out the relationship between god and world.

    It's not that he does not reveal himself, but that if he exists he must be obvious.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    A two-way problem arises in this relationship of God with the empirical world: — Mr.S

    You neglect consideration of an existential relationship.

    If God existed (which in itself remains to be seen), there would also be an unfathomable gulf between his greatness, his omnipotence, his spirituality and his ability to access the material world. — Mr.S

    Is this a concept of God that Wittgenstein endorsed?

    The problem with that interpretation is that according to most accepted theological conceptions of God,Amalac

    I suggest that if your concern is with Wittgenstein then stick with what he said rather than concepts he does not explicitly ascribe to. Wittgenstein does not have a lot to say about God but he does say somethings. If your interest is, as the title suggests, Wittgenstein then check the early Notebooks.
  • Amalac
    489
    That's just a very poor choice of word. A Doctrine, creed, dogma... the implication of explicit rules.Banno

    Right, english is not my mother tongue, so you'll have to forgive me about this one. I thought “doctrine” could mean something similar to “theory”. But surely you must have realized that that is what I wanted to say. Let's not make this a discussion about words.

    It's not that he does not reveal himself, but that if he exists he must be obvious.Banno

    How could the existence of a transcendental God be obvious though? Through some argument perhaps, but then how can language, which is the product of physical processes, apprehend the metaphysical?:

    A two-way problem arises in this relationship of God with the empirical world:

    (1) Upwards: the possibility of language to grasp the transcendental.

    (2) Downwards: the possibility of the transcendental to infiltrate, to penetrate the world.

    A problem, I repeat, that has two courses of action, being double in nature: first, the possibility that a physical language, that a factual thought, that a thought that is matter captures the transcendental; second, that from a thought or better still from a transcendental idea there is room for the possibility of penetrating the physical world
    — Mr.S
  • Amalac
    489


    You neglect consideration of an existential relationship.Fooloso4

    Could you elaborate?

    Is this a concept of God that Wittgenstein endorsed?Fooloso4

    I don't know, he did say that God does not reveal himself in the world. But Mr.S doesn't want to defend the whole of Wittgenstein's philosophy, he only borrowed some of his ideas (as he interprets them) to make his argument. So see it more as Mr.S' conception of a trascendental God.

    I suggest that if your concern is with Wittgenstein then stick with what he said rather than concepts he does not explicitly ascribe to.Fooloso4

    Well, that's how Mr.S interprets him. Let's not focus on who said what and who didn't, and more on the ideas themselves (like the validity of Mr. S' argument).
  • Amalac
    489


    Many statements we make have many meanings.Gregory

    Right, and to use a word with two different meanings without clarifying them is to commit the fallacy of equivocation, just as you have done here (if you think the following is a contradiction):

    If I am in a doorway, I am both in the door way and in the room I'm stepping into.Gregory

    Aristotle was clear in his formulation of the Law of Contradiction: contradictory propositions cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time.

    I would just suggest reading about Jains's seven values logic if you are interested in Hegel's style of argument. That's a good place to startGregory

    Thanks for the advice, I'll read that when I have the time.
  • Banno
    23.8k
    How could the existence of a transcendental God be obvious though?Amalac

    How? You want reasons?You want to express the inexpressible. It's either obvious, or not. Either way, silence is the only reasonable response.
  • Amalac
    489


    Ok, but if you go back to the OP, you'll see that one of Mr.S' point is that the process through which God created the world (if he existed) is inconceivable, and that the existence of the world is ontologically incompatible with God's existence:


    If God existed (which in itself remains to be seen), there would also be an unfathomable gulf between his greatness, his omnipotence, his spirituality and his ability to access the material world. It is assumed here, of course, that God is not matter (he is immaterial), since if he were subject to physical laws he would be a decadent God, an absolutely powerless God, a hoax of a God. In other words, despite his omnipotence, he cannot infiltrate matter, into the physical world in which we live, so he remains an alien God, from another plane. This leads me to a devastating conclusion on the theological-metaphysical plane:

    If God existed, the physical world would not exist. The physical world is ontologically incompatible with the nature of God. A single particle of the transcendental (of ethics, for example) would serve to crumble the entire universe. But, the physical world exists. Ergo: God does not exist.
    — Mr.S

    And even if God did exist, Mr.S would continue, he might be unable (due to a logical impossibility) to reveal his divine commands and what he wishes us to do, in the world.

    And if that's the case, revelation through any sacred scriptures and miracles would be logically impossible.

    God would remain forever unknowable, even if he did exist. “Only something Supernatural can express the Supernatural”, I think Wittgenstein said.
  • Banno
    23.8k
    Of course god is unknowable. Nothing worthwhile can be said about the ineffable. Sorta goes with the territory.

    But if we are to follow this to it's conclusion, then one cannot say that god does not exist, any more than one can say that he does exist.
  • Amalac
    489
    Ok, so we are pretty much in agreement.

    However, what about the question: if God exists, how did he create the world? Would you say we should also just stay silent about that?

    It seems to me that Mr.S tries to argue: If creating the universe didn't involve mixing the physical with the metaphysical (which he holds is logically impossible), then creation is inconceivable/unimaginable. Therefore, creation is impossible.

    But if God couldn't create the world, it would not exist. That contradicts the fact that the world does exist. Therefore, God does not exist.

    Would you say that we can't argue: X is inconceivable/unimaginable, therefore X is impossible?
  • Banno
    23.8k
    Would you say we should also just stay silent about that?Amalac
    ...!
  • Amalac
    489
    ...fair enough
  • Banno
    23.8k
    ,,,and yet there it is.
  • Amalac
    489


    and yet there it is.Banno

    But that's precisely the point, he's saying that if his logic is correct and even God must obey the laws of logic (If God exists, the physical world must not exist, since it could only exist by being created by God, if God exists), then:

    If God existed, the physical world would not exist. The physical world is ontologically incompatible with the nature of God. A single particle of the transcendental (of ethics, for example) would serve to crumble the entire universe. But, the physical world exists. Ergo: God does not exist. — Mr.S

    And if we hold the view that God can do even what is inconceivable or unimaginable to us, then we should go back to mystical contemplation and stay silent.
  • Banno
    23.8k
    ...and yet there it is.
  • Amalac
    489


    ...and yet there it is.Banno
    I'm not denying that...

    Anyway, one last question: do you think it is possible for God and the universe to exist, but also that God didn't create the universe?
  • Banno
    23.8k
    That would be an odd sort of god, not quite worthy of the title.
  • Amalac
    489

    Right, but I'm asking if it's even logically possible.

    Also, sorry for lying but due to your answer I need to ask a few more questions:

    If a transcendental God exists but didn't create the universe, what would be the explanation of the existence of said universe?

    Would that universe be logically posterior or logically simultaneous to God? Are those options even possible?

    Because if that's not logically possible, the rest of Mr.S' argument seems to follow.
  • Banno
    23.8k
    Asking is indulging in a word game in a par with Scrabble. You can answer any way you like, and follow out the consequences in any direction, but since the questions do not ask anything, the answers can be of no consequence.
  • Amalac
    489


    but since the questions do not ask anything, the answers can be of no consequence.Banno

    Let's just agree to disagree about this point then.
  • Banno
    23.8k
    We can't even do that.
  • Amalac
    489
    I mean... the ”consequence”, if one adopts the view that God is bound by the laws of logic, could be that such a God does not exist. I think that's a pretty important consequence, but if you don't agree that's fine.
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