• Metaphysician Undercover
    4.1k
    As Popper showed us, this is how science in particular, and almost all knowledge, works. We can prove almost nothing true, but we can falsify it. We act as if the theories that are useful and have survived many attempts at falsification are true, and use them to cross roads, send rockets to Mars and cure plague. All while we know that they could be falsified one day.andrewk

    Right, so if your object, or intent, in relation to a particular idea (that something is inherently unintelligible) is to falsify this idea, then doesn't it seem contradictory, or at least hypocritical to adopt this idea as an opinion? To hold as an opinion implies that you believe the idea. To work towards falsifying it implies that you do not believe it, and are skeptical. If you hold it as an opinion you will not be skeptical of it, and you will not work toward falsifying it.

    To say that the universe is intelligible because it is intelligible only to God renders the word useless because the Christian definition of God includes that he knows everything, which entails that She knows the reason for everything, so it is by definition intelligible to Her. That definition renders a useful word useless and it would take a great deal of evidence to back up a claim that it is the standard use of 'intelligible' in theology.andrewk

    This is not true. The point is to allow that "intelligible" is related to all possible intellects, instead of just human intellects. So to say that the universe is intelligible to God does not render the word useless, it just denies that there is anything which is truly unintelligible, in an absolute sense. Therefore it renders "unintelligible" as useless, in a way. But this is what the principle of sufficient reason does as well. Now the point is that when we use the word "unintelligible", since nothing is unintelligible in an absolute way, we are using it to refer to how things appear to us as human beings, something appears to be unintelligible. It is only unintelligible in relation to whomever finds it to be unintelligible. And this is because that person has a deficient approach.

    Furthermore, if we say that the universe is intelligible to God, and unintelligible to human beings, there is no premise here to say that the universe is intelligible only to God. Aquinas and other Catholics refer to angels as intermediary between God and humans. Each angel has providence over some physical existence. So the universe, as a physical object, could be intelligible to an angel. Therefore the point remains, and that is that if the universe is unintelligible to human beings, this does not mean that it is unintelligible to every being. And because there is a point to it, it doesn't render the word "intelligible" useless, it just defines "intelligible" as an absolute, while "unintelligible", in order to account for its common use, is defined relative to the human intellect. The two are not opposed, they are categorically different.

    In short, to say that something is intelligible if it is intelligible to God is to say nothing at all.andrewk

    This is not the saying at all, it is a misrepresentation. The saying is that everything is intelligible, what the principle of sufficient reason says. However, some things appear to be unintelligible. Because everything is intelligible, then the reason why things appear to be unintelligible is due to deficiencies in the intellect which is trying to understand them. Or, we could turn the argument around and start with a premise derived from evidence and observations. Many things are intelligible. Different intellects have different capacities. When things appear as unintelligible to one intellect they are often intelligible to another intellect. So when something appears as unintelligible to an intellect, there is no reason to believe that it is unintelligible to every intellect. Therefore there is no reason to believe that anything is unintelligible to all intellects.
  • andrewk
    1.4k
    Right, so if your object, or intent, in relation to a particular idea (that something is inherently unintelligible) is to falsify this idea, then doesn't it seem contradictory, or at least hypocritical to adopt this idea as an opinion? To hold as an opinion implies that you believe the idea. To work towards falsifying it implies that you do not believe it, and are skeptical. If you hold it as an opinion you will not be skeptical of it, and you will not work toward falsifying it.Metaphysician Undercover
    Yes, I agree. That is why I do not try to falsify opinions that seem to work well for me. I am open to others' suggestions when they think they have found a falsification, and sometimes they convince me and I change the opinion. But I don't personally set out to try to falsify it.
    to say that the universe is intelligible to God does not render the word useless, it just denies that there is anything which is truly unintelligible, in an absolute sense.Metaphysician Undercover
    If there is nothing that is 'unintelligible' then the word has no use, because it cannot apply to anything. In everyday life the word 'intelligible' is useful because some things are and some are not, when we take it to mean 'capable of being understood by an intelligent human'. What would be the point of changing the meaning of the word to something that is different from how ordinary people use it, AND has no application?

    As for angels, if they are finite, non-omniscient beings then 'intelligible' can make sense if some things are intelligible to them but not to humans. We just change the definition slightly to 'capable of being understood by one of the most intelligent finite beings'. The same can apply to hyper-intelligent alien species in another galaxy. It's only when you change it to 'capable of being understood by an omniscient, omnipotent being' that it becomes meaningless.
    Therefore there is no reason to believe that anything is unintelligible to all intellects.Metaphysician Undercover
    It is my opinion that there is good reason to believe that the world is unintelligible to all finite intellects. And in the usual way 'intelligible' is used, that is the same as saying there's good reason to believe the world is unintelligible tout court.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.1k
    If there is nothing that is 'unintelligible' then the word has no use, because it cannot apply to anything. In everyday life the word 'intelligible' is useful because some things are and some are not, when we take it to mean 'capable of being understood by an intelligent human'. What would be the point of changing the meaning of the word to something that is different from how ordinary people use it, AND has no application?andrewk

    I don't believe that is the way that "intelligible" is normally used. It is a word in which its most common usage is in philosophical discussions like this. Though it is sometimes used in everyday parlance it's meaning is determined from philosophy. It means capable of being apprehended by the intellect, as distinct from being apprehended by the senses, so that we have a distinction between intelligible objects and sensible objects. It appears like it is you who is trying to change the meaning of the word from how it is normally used.

    This is a problem in modern philosophy, and it seems to be prevalent in materialist ontology. Individuals will see the usage of a word in a particular way, and want to restrict the word to that vernacular, producing a definition, as a proposition to be adhered to. So for example, you propose that "intelligible" be restricted to "capable of being understood by an intelligent human", rather than the more customary "capable of being apprehended by the intellect". Do you see the unnecessary limitation you are trying to impose? This has two possible bad effects which I apprehend right away.. One is that it may limit the capacity of understanding of anyone who adopts that definition, rendering the person as incapable of understanding usage beyond that limited scope. And the other is that it greatly increases the likelihood of equivocation when the forces of habitual usage cause the usage to exceed those unwarranted limitations.

    It is my opinion that there is good reason to believe that the world is unintelligible to all finite intellects. And in the usual way 'intelligible' is used, that is the same as saying there's good reason to believe the world is unintelligible tout court.andrewk

    What do you mean by "finite intellects"? On one hand you propose to limit "intelligible" to intelligent humans, and now you propose all "finite intellects". Consider the possibility a being which has not come into existence yet, which may or may not come into being following the evolution of human beings, and this being would have an intellectual capacity greater than any human intellect. This is not a finite intellect, because it has no physical existence, it is an intelligible proposal, a logical possibility. It has no physical existence, it is just a logical possibility, something which could occur. So it is impossible that it has finite limits, and it is nonsense to speak of such potential in terms of what is "finite", because the premise of "possible" negates "finite" right off the bat. Things which may or may not come into existence in the future do not have finite existence.

    See what happens to your restricted sense of "intelligible"? You must make exceptions to allow for beings other than human. Then, being atheist you need to add an exclusion to your exception, ("finite"), to disallow the possibility of God, and you end up with incomprehensible nonsense.
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