• nr2004
    1
    Disclaimer: What I'm asking in this post assumes that you're non-theistic also I'm pretty uneducated

    I believe that there is no reason to be "agnostic" because saying that you would become theistic if presented with evidence or saying that you are open to the idea of god is non-practical. While it's true that there is no way of knowing if god is real or not or if anything is real, claiming to be agnostic or saying something like "I don't know if there's a magical weightless monkey standing on my head or not" has on practicality or other reason, and additionally claiming to be agnostic carries with it the idea that it is reasonable to believe in a supernatural god. If you disagree with this in any way or if you're "agnostic" and you disagree with this, why?
  • Wayfarer
    8.8k
    From the inventor of the term ‘agnostic’:

    Agnosticism is of the essence of science, whether ancient or modern. It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe. Consequently, agnosticism puts aside not only the greater part of popular theology, but also the greater part of anti-theology. On the whole, the "bosh" of heterodoxy is more offensive to me than that of orthodoxy, because heterodoxy professes to be guided by reason and science, and orthodoxy does not. — Thomas Henry Huxley

    What I think the question is, is how is agnosticism in this definition, any different from positivism?
  • 180 Proof
    382
    :point:

    Excerpt from here:

    [ ... ] given that g/G is so underdetermined as to be objectively indistinguishable from a fantasy or hallucination or rorschach blob, how can the question of finding explaining or justifying - modes of knowledge - even be raised without begging the question? To say "I don't know whether or not g/G exists" says nothing but "I don't know whether or not z$&[email protected] exists" - just an evasively articulate grunt, or babytalk. — 180 Proof
  • Tim Martin
    7
    Personally I find it fun to imagine the possible theories and follow the connections to how we would logically get to the point of understanding how this theory could be true, and I do it for the entertainment and to learn from it. But as far as what I believe to be true, I just haven't had the desire to truly grasp onto an idea that makes more sense than anything else, because everything seems make it's own form of sense in certain ways. I like to say that there is no need to explain any of it, and we can discover a new kind of beauty if we didn't even attempt to explain it, but then again there's it's own kind of beauty when trying to explain it as well that I also enjoy, so to each their own I suppose. However when I tell people something along these lines I usually get asked the question "Then your agnostic?", and I go "Sure, whatever." But I'm not looking for a label and I don't really know how else to respond.
  • iolo
    150


    I'm agnostic about everything myself, and can't see why that implies that one accepts anything as particularly 'reasonable'. All things are possible, I'd suggest, but anything a great number of humans 'believe' is especially dubious, always, because 'reason' is a very specialised game indeed.
  • TheMadFool
    4.1k
    I thought "I don't know" was/is a perfectly acceptable answer to questions of any kind.

    Have you never used the words "I don't know"?

    If "no" then you would be omniscient which would be quite an awkward claim in a philosophy forum.

    If "yes" then just see the similarity in the situation that required you to utter "I don't know" with the God debate.

    By equating g/G with z$&[email protected] you're implying that g/G is meaningless which is incorrect. Of course if you use an operational definition to g/G your point holds.

    What is notable is we could consider the whole g/G issue as possibly similar to demons-disease. 5 centuries ago demons were the cause of illnesses but now we know microbes are the culprit. Is it not possible then that we may locate g/G in a similar fashion?

    Also microbes seem to suggest what I will call hidden worlds. If the discovery of such hidden worlds teaches anything it is to be cautious about assigning 100% certainty to knowledge.

    And what about consciousness? Yes, it probably has a physical explanation but we can't deny the obvious difference between thoughts and the physical world.
  • 180 Proof
    382
    180 Proof By equating g/G with z$&[email protected] you're implying that g/G is meaningless which is incorrect.TheMadFool

    You're mistaken or have misread me. 'Meaning is use', as Witty shows, so words, however nonsensical, derive or convey meaning from the context in which one uses them. Like Abracadabra ... Awop-bop-a-loo-mop alop-bam-boom ... Goo goo g'joob ... etc. Any utterance or expression can be meaningful even if it lacks informational content (e.g. I AM, I AM) or there are no facts of the matter to which it can be used to refer (e.g. round square). Like g/G. Thus, isn't it incoherent to claim whether or not one knows that "g/G exists"?
  • tim wood
    3.3k
    Like g/G. Thus, isn't it incoherent to claim whether or not to know that "g/G exists"?180 Proof

    You're the lion who ranges up and down raging against the pointy-headed ones on these topics, and I among those who cringe in awe at the sheer fire-power of your arguments and the invective in which they're clothed. 17-inch, triple-barreled battle-ship salvos against which little can stand.

    But I've never noted a comment (indeed, avoidance if called to characterize it) from you on the efficacy - the practical utility - (whether or not at all times well-used or employed) of ideas associated with so-called knowledge of g/G - even if the "knowledge" is just no knowledge at all and arguably cannot be.

    Perhaps you hold that whatever the virtues and benefits of believing - e.g., "We believe...". - are so much better got by other means that the baby of religion is not really distinguishable from its bathwater, and so out with it all. Yes? But what might those other methods be, especially granted that human kind, if it's reason you have in mind, does not work entirely, or entirely well, on that basis?
  • Gnomon
    224
    I believe that there is no reason to be "agnostic" because saying that you would become theistic if presented with evidence or saying that you are open to the idea of god is non-practical.nr2004
    Apparently you see the question of "God" in terms of "Yes or No", with no room for doubt. Yet, like Socrates, I tend to doubt the completeness and accuracy of my own knowledge. If you claim to have the final word on the ancient mystery of "God", then you must either have some direct knowledge of his existence or non-existence, or you have faith that makes knowledge unnecessary. But, how do you know non-existence?

    Theists and Atheists are Gnostics, in the sense that they claim to know for sure (by faith) that God is or isn't. But I'm not so sure; hence I'm Agnostic : A-Theistic, but Deistic, not due to black/white knowledge, but to shades-of-gray possibility.

    Gnostic : relating to knowledge, especially esoteric mystical knowledge.
  • Pfhorrest
    441
    Theism/atheism and gnosticisism/agnosticism are orthogonal issues.

    • Theists believe in at least one god
    • Weak atheists don't believe in any gods
    • Strong atheists believe there are no gods

    Orthogonaly:

    • Gnostics think their beliefs constitute knowledge
    • Weak agnostics don't think their beliefs constitute knowledge
    • Strong agnostics don't think there can be knowledge on the matter

    You can be any combination of those things.

    • Gnostic theists think they know that at least one god exists.
    • Weak-agnostic theists don't think they know whether any gods exist, but they believe at least one does
    • Strong-agnostic theists don't think it can be known whether any gods exists, but they believe at least one does.
    • Gnostic weak atheists... hmm actually I'm not sure this combination actually is coherent. They think they know that there is no reason to think any gods exist?
    • Weak agnostic weak atheists don't think they know whether any gods exists, but they don't believe in any
    • Strong agnostic weak atheists think it can't be known whether any gods exists, but they don't believe in any
    • Gnostic strong atheists think they know that no gods exist.
    • Weak agnostic strong atheists don't think they know that no gods exist, but they believe that no gods exists.
    • Strong agnostic strong atheists think it can't be known whether any gods exists, but they believe that no gods exist.
  • ssu
    1.7k
    , you are simply fixated on the idea of simple duality of existence and non-existence and think that something like the matter of religion / religious faith comes down to one basic question: Does God exist or not? And that's the ONLY issue here at stake and you hence can simply compartmentalize people into two and then as either God exists or doesn't, the agnostics are just confused and whatever.

    Do numbers exist? Does beauty/value/morals exist? Does inflation, money, value, countries exist? Physical existence is only one thing.
  • Pfhorrest
    441
    If you've seen anything I've commented in other threads, you know that I explicitly deny that religion is defined in terms of God. But theism and atheism are. There are atheistic religions. There are irreligious theists. Religion or irreligion is about why and how you believe whatever you do, not about what you believe. But "theism" just means "belief in God", and "atheism" just means "not theism". And I never said agnostics are confused or anything like that, so I think you must be projecting something from an argument with someone else.

    The rest of this is really off-topic, but sure I'll answer your questions:

    Do numbers exist?ssu

    Not concretely, but abstractly, where on my account concrete existence is an indexical subset of abstract existence: the things that concretely exist are the things that are part of the same abstract structure as we are, but other abstract structures besides that one (such as numbers) also exist in an abstract sense. (And number-like substructures are also part of the larger abstract structure that is our concrete universe).

    Does beauty/value/morals exist?ssu

    Things of beauty and value exist, and judgements of beauty and value can be objectively correct, so there exist things that are objectively beautiful or valuable, but beauty and value aren't things or even descriptive properties, so existence doesn't apply to them.

    Does inflation, money, value, countries exist?ssu

    Inflation is a process that occurs to money, which "exists" as a social construct, which is to say that talk about money is actually talk about people's opinions and behaviors, which definitely exist. People do in fact treat things as money, and the value of it to them does decrease as the supply of it increases.

    I already covered value more generally above.

    And countries are physical places, which definitely exist.
  • NOS4A2
    1.5k


    Whether we can know whether god exists or not is something we should remain agnostic about.
  • Wayfarer
    8.8k
    Theists believe in at least one godPfhorrest

    Point of order - monotheism is not the belief in a numerically singular 'God' who is on the same plane as other 'Gods' however it has inevitably come to be understood this way.

    Generally, in modern thinking, 'God' is identified with religious thought and practice, as the object of worship for church-goers. Partially due to the historical origins of monotheism, which displaced but at the same time was bound up with ancient pantheistic cult religions, 'God' is often depicted in pantheistic terms, as this is a form which existed in the popular imagination and persists (i.e. as some version of 'Jupiter'), even though it is quite incredible from a modern perspective.

    However a philosophical conception of God is a different matter. Here 'God' is seen as the first principle, ground of being, or origin of all. And note that this 'origin of all' doesn't necessarily refer to something 'existing before' the so-called 'big bang', but the origin of all at this very moment in time. Due to being attached to, or identifying with, the sensory domain, beings 'fall' in to the so-called physical domain of the transient and the corruptible. Philosophical spirituality comprises the 'awakening' from this identification with the transient to the 'true nature' which is at once within and also beyond every compound particular.

    So a common mistake or misunderstanding is to equate 'God' with 'some existing phenomenon' or to depict 'God' as 'existing' in the sense that objects, forces and people do. In reality 'God' does not exist at all in that sense, but due to the dominance of naturalism, culture has lost the metaphorical vocabulary to understand the nature of the issue. Hence the proliferation of speculative threads on this and many other forums about this question.
  • Pfhorrest
    441
    I think you mean to say "polytheism" when you say "pantheism". Pantheism is the belief that the universe itself is identifiable with God. Polytheism is the belief in multiple gods.

    In any case, what you take your God or gods to be like is besides the point. "At least one god" was just meant to be inclusive of polytheists, who are also still theists.

    But beside that, if you want to characterize your conception of God as being so metaphysical that it's not accurate to say that he "exists"... then congratulations, you don't disagree with atheists. That's actually what made me stop calling myself a pantheist (in the accurate sense of thinking the universe itself is God). I realized that I was just slapping the label "God" onto something that even atheists believe in (the universe itself), and so not really asserting anything that differentiated me from an atheist, so I just decided to stop creating needless confusion and just admit to being one.

    If "the first principle, ground of being, or origin of all" is all you mean by God, without any particular claims about what that thing / those things are like, then you don't necessarily disagree with atheists about anything, who also have first principles, grounds of being, and origins of all in their various philosophies, they just don't say "...and that thing is God" at the end.
  • ssu
    1.7k
    The rest of this is really off-topicPfhorrest
    Not actually at all, because the examples just show how complex existence is.

    You even yourself mention the divide of 'abstract' and 'concrete' with numbers. Objective beauty? I would think that would be something subjective. Again a different, but important juxtaposition. Inflation isn't something that just refers to money, there can be for example asset inflation, which is a different phenomenon and of course in physics inflation has another meaning. How real are these phenomena? Yet here is again a new way of looking at these issue as being social constructs. And a 'country' isn't physical, because it isn't just a landmass as a continent, it's much more a social construct and an institution, something in our minds. Yet you say that they, countries, definitely exist. Hmm.

    In my view it's simply naive just to define existing to be something physical as it leads in philosophy to materialism/physicalism, which are quite shallow ways to model the World. They usually lead people down the reductionist rabbit hole which sidelines the abstract as just as our imagination. Yet we truly need the abstract, we need concepts, to understand the World around us.

    Hence the question is that if God doesn't exist as physical material object, does God then exist in the abstract, does it exist as an social construct, a concept, something subjective, a mindset or mentality? Now I don't know about any religion that wouldn't say that you have to believe in God and it's a matter of faith and believing. No religion says that God is found by a proof. That it's a matter of faith ought to ring a bell that this isn't a question of proving existence of something physical and concrete.
  • Wayfarer
    8.8k
    you’re right, I meant ‘polytheism’.

    Then you don't necessarily disagree with atheists about anything, who also have first principles, grounds of being, and origins of all in their various philosophies...Pfhorrest

    Can you provide some examples?
  • Pfhorrest
    441


    To say that God exists only abstractly and not concretely is only to say that you have some definition of a thing you've named "God" that you can logically infer things about from your definition, but that that thing is not instantiated in the universe we are a part of, or in any other way connected to it.

    To say that that God exists only as a social construct is only to say that people behave as though something they call God exists.

    To say that God exists only subjectively is only to say that people think or feel that God exists.

    None of these things seem to be what your ordinary run-of-the-mill theists are talking about, the kind of people who think there is a God who created the universe/Earth/humans and intervened in various ways throughout history and has some other realm like heaven where it can transport some part of a human being like a soul after death, and interact meaningfully with that soul in heaven.

    None of that stuff makes any sense if by "God" you just mean one of the above things. All of those usual theistic trappings hinge on it being objectively true that some kind of God concretely exists, in a way that actually has effects on the universe. And even atheists won't deny that the above things "exist" in their respective senses -- obviously people think or feel that God exists, they behave as though there is such a thing, and some of them define what they take that thing to be and infer things about it from that definition -- so if that's all anyone meant by "God", there would be no distinction between theists and atheists at all.

    Which brings us to...

    For a trivial example, the big bang is the origin of all on a naturalistic atheistic view grounded in modern scientific models. Would you say that the big bang is such peoples’ god then?
  • Wayfarer
    8.8k
    Would you say that the big bang is such peoples’ god then?Pfhorrest

    No, it's a contingent fact.
  • Janus
    8.6k
    No, it's a contingent fact.Wayfarer

    What do you think it is contingent upon? I mean, insofar as it is thought as the origin of all things, what kind of thing do you think it could be contingent upon?
  • Wayfarer
    8.8k
    What do you think it is contingent upon? I mean, insofar as it is thought as the origin of all things, what kind of thing do you think it could be contingent upon?Janus

    Now that is a metaphysical question.
  • TheMadFool
    4.1k
    You're mistaken or have misread me.180 Proof

    That was my suspicion all along. :up:

    Meaning is use', as Witty shows, so words, however nonsensical, derive or convey meaning from the context in which one uses them. Like Abracadabra ... Awop-bop-a-loo-mop alop-bam-boom ... Goo goo g'joob ... etc. Any utterance or expression can be meaningful even if it lacks informational content (e.g. I AM, I AM) or there are no facts of the matter to which it can be used to refer (e.g. round square). Like g/G. Thus, isn't it incoherent to claim whether or not to know that "g/G exists"?180 Proof


    However if we're to put g/G in the context of a language game I believe it makes any and all claims about g/G immune to criticism. Am I right? If so then you really can't accuse anyone of incoherence.
  • ssu
    1.7k
    To say that God exists only abstractly and not concretely is only to say that you have some definition of a thing you've named "God"Pfhorrest
    So everything that is abstract are only words? That sounds like classic straightforward physicalism to me.

    None of these things seem to be what your ordinary run-of-the-mill theists are talking about,Pfhorrest
    Exactly. But I was talking about reasons for agnosticism, not about the overtly dogmatic reasoning of theists / atheists.
  • 180 Proof
    382
    However if we're to put g/G in the context of a language game I believe it makes any and all claims about g/G immune to criticism. Am I right? If so then you really can't accuse anyone of incoherence.TheMadFool

    I don't think so.

    Word usages are normatively regulated by language-games, and so much so that violating those contextual norms subjects such word (mis)usages to criticism (warrant?).

    e.g. "(My) g/G, (the) ultimate mystery, is [described by scripture, dogma, speculation, etc] ..."

    Using words in one language-game according to the norms of another, especially incommensurable, language-game is also subject to criticism (coherence?).

    e.g. "I do not, or cannot, know whether or not (the) ultimate mystery aka 'g/G' exists."

    Either g/G is '(the) ultimate mystery' and therefore nothing true, or warranted, can be said about it (re: apophatic theology) or g/G is not '(the) ultimate mystery' and whatever is said about it is subject to demands of warrant (i.e. onus probandi) which, to date, has never been satisfied anywhere by anyone. In both cases, there isn't any coherent there there to be agnostic about (that's rationally distinct from weak atheism).
  • Harry Hindu
    2.5k
    How can one be agnostic of the existence of some thing when that thing hasn't been adequately defined? It seems to me that "agnosticism", "theism" and "atheism" are only coherent terms when there is a consistent definition of the thing that one can be a theist, atheist, or agnostic about. This is why all discussions about g/G are pointless unless someone can provide a consistent and coherent definition of what it is that they are talking about.
  • TheMadFool
    4.1k
    :ok:

    What about family resemblance? Does it not afford an opportunity for export/import of words from one language game to another to allow meaningful interpretation of one game in terms of another?
  • Pfhorrest
    441
    So everything that is abstract are only words? That sounds like classic straightforward physicalism to me.ssu

    I never said I wasn’t a physicalist. And my view on abstract objects isn’t quite as simple as that (that would be nominalism, whereas my view is mathematicism) but in any case abstract objects don’t have any concrete effects on the world we’re a part of — that would make them concrete.

    Exactly. But I was talking about reasons for agnosticism, not about the overtly dogmatic reasoning of theists / atheists.ssu

    Theism/atheism and gnosticism/agnosticism purport to be views about the same thing though: God. If they’re talking about different conceptions of God, then someone could simultaneously be a theist and an atheist, a gnostic and an agnostic, all of them at the same time in different senses. Before one can say which of these positions one takes on the existence of “God”, one had to decide what “God” means. And if you take “God” to mean something different than what theists and atheists disagree about, then you’re just going to confuse everyone when you state your position on it.

    Theists generally mean something or another that actually has some effect on our world, and that’s what atheists disagree with them about, and what normal agnostics are unsure of, whether they lean theist or atheist. Atheists don’t deny that e.g. love exists, so if someone just means “God” as “love” then that‘s only a disagreement of words. Atheists don’t deny that the universe exists, so if a naturalistic pantheist like I used to be just means “God” as “the universe”, then that’s also just a disagreement of words, which is why I stopped doing that. Likewise with all the other senses (abstract, constructivist, subjective) of “God” we talked about above.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.5k
    How can one be agnostic of the existence of some thing when that thing hasn't been adequately defined? It seems to me that "agnosticism", "theism" and "atheism" are only coherent terms when there is a consistent definition of the thing that one can be a theist, atheist, or agnostic about. This is why all discussions about g/G are pointless unless someone can provide a consistent and coherent definition of what it is that they are talking about.Harry Hindu

    Theism/atheism and gnosticism/agnosticism purport to be views about the same thing though: God. If they’re talking about different conceptions of God, then someone could simultaneously be a theist and an atheist, a gnostic and an agnostic, all of them at the same time in different senses. Before one can say which of these positions one takes on the existence of “God”, one had to decide what “God” means. And if you take “God” to mean something different than what theists and atheists disagree about, then you’re just going to confuse everyone when you state your position on it.Pfhorrest
    Exactly what I said.

    Christian theists are atheists when it comes to the definition of g/G provided by the ancient Greeks and Romans, but theists when it comes to the definition provided by Christians - hence they are Christians. Atheists are atheists when it comes to both definitions. We need definitions of what it is we are taking about, or else we'd just be talking past each other, and never be able to make a coherent claim of our belief or disbelief of that thing. Any discussion about belief/disbelief of g/G, without a definition of g/G, is a pointless discussion.
  • ssu
    1.7k
    I never said I wasn’t a physicalist.Pfhorrest
    That tells a lot then.

    In any case abstract objects don’t have any concrete effects on the world we’re a part ofPfhorrest
    Really?

    You don't think our actions that are can be based on abstract ideas don't have any concrete effects?

    Theism/atheism and gnosticism/agnosticism purport to be views about the same thing though: God. If they’re talking about different conceptions of God, then someone could simultaneously be a theist and an atheist, a gnostic and an agnostic, all of them at the same time in different senses.Pfhorrest
    But they aren't talking about that. It's about the existence of God, not what God is. And as I've done now for a long time, I've tried to explain that existence isn't such a straightforward thing as it is to a physicalist / materialist.
  • Pfhorrest
    441
    You don't think our actions that are can be based on abstract ideas don't have any concrete effects?ssu

    Our actions do, the ideas by themselves don’t. You won’t find a number 3 somewhere out in the universe doing things on its own. You will find people doing things in various threefold ways. And even atheists agree that people do things in ways that employ their ideas of God, all they disagree with theists about is whether you’re going to find a God out there somewhere doing things on its own.

    But they aren't talking about that. It's about the existence of God, not what God is. And as I've done now for a long time, I've tried to explain that existence isn't such a straightforward thing as it is to a physicalist / materialist.ssu

    I’m not clear what you’re saying here. I’m saying that if by “God” you mean something that only “exists” in some non-concrete non-objective sense, abstractly or socially or subjectively, then you’re not even talking about the same thing that most theists and atheists are arguing about. You’re not taking a position on the same issue and saying you don’t know if that thing we’re talking about does or doesn’t exist; you’re apparently just affirming that some other thing entirely exists.
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