• Mariner
    316
    How do we know that what you're calling God is not a being among other beings of the same kind?praxis

    Not through experience. There are reasonings that take us from the experience of a God (or, to be more precise, the experience of Being -- or, to be even more precise, the experience of Be! -- which is the best translation of the central term in the Parmenidean poem, which is probably the best and earliest philosophical expression of that experience) to the conclusion that there is only one God (or, Being, etc. Use "X" if the word "God" hampers the argument). But these are reasonings, not experiences. And, being reasonings, they hinge upon certain axioms of faith (non-contradiction, validity of deduction, etc.) which are already "once removed" from the immediacy of experience and which are therefore already risking error.

    But regardless of the possibility of error when specifying only one Being, that's the answer to your question.

    It’s necessary to use language to talk about things regardless if we’ve experienced them ourselves.praxis

    That is either a tautology or a confusion. The tautology results if we focus on the word "talk", which clearly requires language. But if we look at the core of your statement (replacing "talk" with, say, "communicate" -- animals can communicate without language, at least without "formal language as we usually refer to by that name"), then it is not quite correct and depends on a confusion. Communication is from A to B: A communicates something to B. If there is an intermediary (say, A gives a note to C and asks him to take the note to B), the intermediary is not really communicating anything. He is an instrument. And he/it can be an object (e.g. phones) without any awareness of what is being communicated.

    There is a similar process at hand when someone simply repeats words that he read in a book without a reenactment of the experience underlying those words. Anyone can look at John 4:8 and say "God is Love". But no one can communicate that God is Love if he did not experience the relationship of identity between God and Love that is the core of the passage of John's letter. This is not restricted to religion, obviously. "We the people hold these truths to be self-evident", "Property is theft", "the greatest generation", etc., are all examples of symbols that can (and very frequently do) easily become vacuous if the underlying experience is not present in the speaker.

    In this more precise sense, it is impossible to communicate something which you have not experienced.

    And, to circle back to your statement, our experience is always inarticulate before it is articulate. The struggle of finding the right words to express what you are experience is familiar to anyone (probably on a daily basis). The articulation of our experiences always go through the use of similes, metaphors, analogies, etc., proceeding from the known in an attempt to indicate the (to the listener -- or to ourselves in an internal dialogue) unknown.

    God and other supernatural experiences are a special case, by definition, since the word "supernatural" means precisely something beyond the objects of empirical cognition. And so any language describing the supernatural (or even the unnatural -- e.g. ghosts) will, necessarily, be tentative and require an enormous amount of charity and active participation on the part of the listener, or the communication will simply fail.

    We can have knowledge of things beyond our experience with language...praxis

    No, not really. Language is not magical. The word "God" does not convey the experience of God, just as the word "dog" does not convey the experience of dogness. (Remember there are many languages). The role of language is not the transmission of knowledge; knowledge is always subjective and must be recreated by the listener. Language is more like a map or a recipe. It describes a path which, in the speaker, led to an experience of type X. The listener, if willing, can attempt to follow that path, reenacting the steps, and -- perhaps -- recreating the experience. But he can also refuse. Or misunderstand. Or lack the willpower. Or lack the training to follow the path. Etc. The important thing to observe is that language, by itself, does not convey knowledge -- words are not bottled meaning.

    but unless there’s some other realm that we may somehow have access to, everything, including numbers, which you say do not exist as ordinary objects do, is derived from worldly experience.praxis

    I would agree completely if you took out the word "worldly", which seems to be superfluous at best, or erroneous at worst. What is its role in this sentence? What is "worldly" about, for instance, the efforts that 4-6 year old kids to to grasp the nature of the natural numbers?
  • Jake
    906
    That's not really what I'm saying. What impressed me when I was given the Eastern books that I mentioned - Watts, Suzuki, etc, very popular in the 1960s and 70s - was that there was something in them that simply *wasn't* found in religion, as such.Wayfarer

    "Die to be reborn", a key Christian teaching, seems very similar to the Eastern books you are referencing. I would agree that when "die to be reborn" is just a chanted memorized ideological concept it's not so similar. But not every Christian relates to it in that way. Some people actually focus on experiencing "die to be reborn" in service to others etc. What is "enlightenment" if not "dying to be reborn"?

    But I still believe there is a fundamental distinction between the 'believe-and-be-saved' attitude (which is especially characteristic in Protestantism) and the 'experiential realisation' approach which you find in both Eastern and also 'new age' movements.Wayfarer

    I agree, but there's more to Christianity in general and Protestantism in particular than "believe and be saved", at least in some cases. Some people believe specifically because they have personally experienced the power of love.

    Love is an act of surrender.

    Meditation is an act of surrender.

    Whatever ones calls it, however one gets there, an act of surrender, a dying to be reborn. East and West, largely the same thing underneath the surface cultural differences.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    What is "enlightenment" if not "dying to be reborn"?Jake

    :pray:
  • Modern Conviviality
    34
    I expect so, but do you expect it to ever convince anybody to change their view, other than the occasional rare exception?

    You sound, from the rest of your post, like a deeply religious person. Are you that way because you were convinced by dry philosophical arguments such as this, or because of personal experience and feelings, or that you were brought up to believe what you do?
    andrewk

    Please forgive the delay in correspondence.

    1) Yes, emphatically so! So very many have been convinced or had their minds changed. The history of the world points to thousands of examples. Perhaps not many professional academic philosophers of religion, but college students, working men and women, and others who listen to hortatory or lay versions of the argument from design, compatibility, contingency, etc. do change their minds. Two dear friends of mine became practicing Muslims this year. Another two have ceased becoming ardent atheists and are now sincere agnostics.

    But that is not to say people don't change their minds in the other direction. I have seen a few believers doubt or leave their faith when hearing arguments from evolution or evil.

    2) I didn't mention it until now, as it seemed cheap, but I myself became religious as I studied the arguments! Of course it was not long after that I began actually practicing prayer and religious morality. And only after I experienced glimpses and glimmers of God's friendship through solitary reflection was I convinced. As Mortimer Adler so beautifully mentions, arguments are only a bridge, your soul must walk across.
  • praxis
    881
    God and other supernatural experiences are a special case, by definition, since the word "supernatural" means precisely something beyond the objects of empirical cognition.Mariner

    The Parmenidean poem that you mentioned talked about two realities, which to me sounded similar if not identical to the ‘two truth’ in Eastern philosophy. Maybe @Wayfarer can offer his opinion on that.

    I’m curious if it makes sense to you to distinguish something supernatural or beyond objects of empirical cognition as being in one or the other of these realities. It doesn’t appear reasonable to believe that “something” exists in the Parmenidean One.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    The Parmenidean poem that you mentioned talked about two realities, which to me sounded similar if not identical to the ‘two truth’ in Eastern philosophy. Maybe Wayfarer can offer his opinion on that.praxis

    From a Chinese Buddhist scripture:
    Being does not arise, since it exists. Non-being does not arise, since it does not exist. Being and non-being [together] do not arise, due to [their] dissimilarity. Consequently they neither endure or vanish.

    From the Parmenides:

    How could what is perish? How could it have come to be? For if it came into being, it is not; nor is it, if ever it is going to be. Thus coming into being is extinguished, and destruction unknown. (B 8.20–22)


    They're both 'axial age' sources, hence the parallels.
  • Blue Lux
    588
    @Mariner
    but existence does not exhaust being, and facts do not exhaust truth.Mariner
    What do you mean?
  • Blue Lux
    588
    I want to believe in God, but boy is it hard?
    I am not even sure what I would believe in.
  • All sight
    326
    "God is being" is vague and unreachable in my view as well. People say that they see God everywhere, because they see order, and significance which isn't imaginary or accidental. Because of the universal principles that underlay all of reality, and one is capable of getting a greater and greater acquaintance with based on particular practices and methods. Because there is truth in the first place. Though what God is specifically, exactly, in all of his grand features is entirely inferred from the apprehension of these universal principles that one can become in greater and greater alignment with. It is ultimately a place holder, and allegorical in representation. A contrast between everything that makes up existence in the singular, or particular. Chaotic, indeterminant, finite, bounded, limited, incomparable, separate, to harmonious, determined, infinite, unbounded, limitless, uniform, togetherness.

    Though I would never suggest just "believing" in God, as I believe that this requires a certain level of perceptual prowess. What is ultimately being apprehended is the truth, or underlying principle which connects vast swathes of information.

    It is further in this unifying direction which implies that there is one god, just as there is one meaning, one language, one food. The greeks identified many of the egyptian gods with their own, as just being different names for the same gods. Emanationism just goes further, suggesting that all of these gods ultimately derive from, or are forms, manifestations of a greater single god. So that rather than subtracting, or contesting other gods to get the one god, they are unified under a greater, deeper principle which encapsulates them all. This is ultimately the drive to understand, to conceptualize, to abstract. Those that ultimately deny that there are these unifying principles just lack sense and/or experience. So that it is far from an empty intellectual exercise, the principles are literally perceived.

    Problem I find though, or think, particularly in modern times, with the insensitivity of stimulation overload, and decadence, the numbing, and dumbing... is that people look to the top of the mountain from the bottom, and say that they can't see it, or it makes no sense. Gotta look to what is just ahead, or similar in height to get a measure...

    Though, recall that the top of the mountain is disappointing, all that's up there is a mop and pail.
  • praxis
    881
    I'm wary of this "Being" malarky. Can't say I've ever had any need of this obscure concept.S

    I’m wary as well, particularly after pondering the notion and coming to the conclusion that 1 requires 2 (duality) in order to Be. Contrary to what Three Dog Night might believe, one is not the loneliest number because there is always other numbers.
  • Pattern-chaser
    655
    Whatever happened to objectivity?VagabondSpectre

    Humans did. Humans without the means or equipment to access Objective Reality directly. For humans there is no objectivity, in practical terms. There never has been. So whatever happened to objectivity? It remains what it has always been: an intellectual speculation pursued for entertainment purposes by humans. So nothing has happened to objectivity. It's still there, somewhere, somehow, but we know no more than that. :wink:

    There is no certainty for us.

    Hail Eris! :wink:
  • Pattern-chaser
    655
    the perceived conflict between faith (church) and reason (science) [...] the 'conflict thesis' (conflict between science and religion)Wayfarer

    Personally, I have never seen a problem or a conflict between the two. To me, they are complementary. I know that others, who look at things differently, do have issues, but I don't.

    Seek out a way of looking at things - a perspective - that embraces both. It makes things much easier. :smile:
  • All sight
    326
    There is no certainty for us.Pattern-chaser

    Are you certain? You'll certainly behave as if you're certain of many things, when the pressure is on, your body will be certain. Everything is dubious while in my recliner though.
  • Pattern-chaser
    655
    when the pressure is on, your body will be certainAll sight

    No, it won't. But it will be able to act nonetheless. :up: :smile:
  • All sight
    326


    How certain are you of that? Just guessing?

    Isn't this eschewing of certainty just a form of virtue signaling? Assuring each other that we aren't those dogmatic ideological types, we're the open minded ones.
  • Pattern-chaser
    655
    Isn't this eschewing of certainty just a form of virtue signaling?All sight

    No, just a fact of real-world, human, life. It's just honesty to/with ourselves. Nothing more than that. :up:
  • All sight
    326


    No, it is of this "not one of them" sort of signals, and lack of self knowledge.
  • All sight
    326


    I gave clear rebuke, of its self-defeating nature, and also reasons why it isn't true. Don't want to have true believer syndrome, so that all I know for certain is that I'd best not know anything.
  • Pattern-chaser
    655
    all I know for certain is that I'd best not know anythingAll sight

    All I know is that, for me*, there is no certainty (worthy of the name) in the real world. So I don't pretend, to myself or to others, that I know anything. But there are many things (assumptions, necessarily) that seem to work. Since I have nothing better, I'll go with that. It's not ideal, but it works. :up:

    * - and (as far as I know) for all other humans too.
  • Pattern-chaser
    655
    I gave clear rebuke...All sight

    :scream: :rofl:

    ...of its self-defeating nature, and also reasons why it isn't true.All sight

    I saw no reasons, only assertions and questions. I cannot prove what I'm saying. That sort of goes with the whole uncertainty thing. But I offer human life-experience in the real world to justify what I say. What are these "reasons" you refer to? :chin:
  • All sight
    326


    The thing is, that this is what is good to believe, or supposed to be true. It's ethical in nature, or based in comparative value judgments. It's imposed.
  • Pattern-chaser
    655
    What is "imposed"? :chin:
  • All sight
    326


    Ironic dogmatism. Or anti-dogmatism dogmatism. It's a virtue.
  • Pattern-chaser
    655
    I'm sorry, but I just can't see the point you're trying to make. :confused:
  • All sight
    326


    Point ultimately reducible to a mode of being, or perceiving. One exclusionary, divisive, hate, doubt, fear based. Identity by what something is not. Not like them, not doing that. It's indicative of constitution. The reverse is inclusion, binding, love, faith, passion based. It's to put one's stake in the ground, to commit. To die on that hill.

    I'm not one of us, I'm one of them.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    The perceived conflict between faith (church) and reason (science) [...] the 'conflict thesis' (conflict between science and religion)
    — Wayfarer

    Personally, I have never seen a problem or a conflict between the two. To me, they are complementary. I know that others, who look at things differently, do have issues, but I don't.

    Seek out a way of looking at things - a perspective - that embraces both. It makes things much easier.
    Pattern-chaser

    Of course I agree with you, and that is the way I see things also. But in a great deal of modern philosophy, there is an assumed conflict between faith and reason, which you see expressed frequently in statements that the religious 'believe in things for which there is no evidence'. So even though you and I might not see it that way, many do.
  • Jake
    906
    But in a great deal of modern philosophy, there is an assumed conflict between faith and reason...Wayfarer

    Agreed of course.

    Doesn't it depend on how the job is defined? If we define the mission as developing facts about reality, there is a conflict between faith and reason. If on the other hand we define the mission as enhancing our relationship with reality then there is no conflict. Which brings us to...

    Seek out a way of looking at things - a perspective - that embraces both.Pattern-chaser

    Yes, because both are needed. We don't necessarily need religion, but we do need methods of enhancing our relationship with ourselves, each other and reality, because if we don't succeed at that then we'll inevitably destroy ourselves using the vast powers being developed by reason/science.

    We don't necessarily need religion, but as people of reason we should examine the evidence in a detached objective manner and realize that religion has been the operating system of many or most societies for a long time and we shouldn't just be casually tossing it over board until we can replace it with something better.

    Science culture is not the something better, in terms of enhancing our relationship with reality. Science culture is great at developing data, but data alone is going to get us all killed. We need some kind of effective governing mechanism that is wise enough to know when we should reach for some knowledge, and when we should not. We don't have that now, a problem that if unaddressed will likely make the whole debate between religion and science a moot point before too much longer.
  • EnPassant
    78
    Absence of evidence can be, and in some cases is, evidence of absence.S


    The argument hinges on the meaning of the word 'evidence'.

    What is evidence? In the simplest terms evidence is a body of facts and objects that are to be interpreted: what do they mean?

    The difference between evidence in this basic sense and 'evidence for' is that 'evidence for' exists in the mind. What the evidence supports is determined subjectively according to our mental machinations.

    Every dust mote, every star, planet or galaxy is evidence. Every living thing from a house fly to an oak tree is evidence: it is there.

    Evidence for what?

    Atheists continually use the expression 'evidence for' in terms of provable things. But not all truth is provable in these terms. Therefore 'evidence for' needs to be extended into the subjective realm. That is, when atheists say 'there is no evidence for' they are usually saying 'subjective evidence is not objective evidence'.

    But it should always be kept in mind that there is no 'evidence for' anything; evidence is mute. We must interpret it if it is to become 'evidence for' because what the evidence supports is determined in the mind, not out there, objectively. Without mind there is no 'evidence for'.
  • Mariner
    316
    The Parmenidean poem that you mentioned talked about two realities, which to me sounded similar if not identical to the ‘two truth’ in Eastern philosophypraxis

    While calling one of them "Being" and the other "Opinion". Or, "Truth" and "Lie". In any way, one of them is (quoted from http://philoctetes.free.fr/parmenidesunicode.htm) "a wholly untrustworthy path". They are not comparable, and they really should not be called, indistinctly, "realities" without putting into doubt Parmenides' entire argument.

    I’m curious if it makes sense to you to distinguish something supernatural or beyond objects of empirical cognition as being in one or the other of these realities. It doesn’t appear reasonable to believe that “something” exists in the Parmenidean One.praxis

    No, I don't think it makes sense to conceptualize the Parmenidean distinction as one between "natural" and "supernatural". I brought up Parmenides to help illustrate what Being is, in the classical philosophical tradition. (If you want my opinion about this subject -- which is not quite on-thread -- I think Aristotle basically nailed it with the act-potency distinction)

    .
    What do you mean?Blue Lux

    Nothing esoteric. What exists is a (quite small) subset of being. Consider: Napoleon does not exist. Star Trek does not exist. Tomorrow does not exist. Numbers do not exist. Yet, all of them "are" in very important senses, and they have actual, measurable effects in what exists.

    Same goes for facts/truth, although not in a direct relationship. Napoleon is (was) a fact -- or perhaps the best way to phrase it would be "Napoleon's existence, complete with birth and death, is a fact". The events depicted in Star Trek are not facts (yet?). Numbers will never be facts. But we can state truths about all of these entities, and these truths can generate new facts.
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