• I like sushi
    1.7k
    You’d have to start off by defining ‘god’. It certain ways I’m willing to accept a broad definition of ‘god’ as legitimate - if say you mean some all pervading non-conscious force.

    As an example of a common human notion I am also willing to accept the existence of ‘god’ as a representation of some capacity of the human psyche and/or as a fundamental symbolic form of ‘humanity’ as a whole and some unknown yet explicit sense of ‘betterment’ for humanity.

    Then there is panpsychism, which I personally find to be a mostly faulty concept because it is mostly referring to some ‘other’ sense of consciousness - which would mean it is a ‘consciousness’ we cannot be conscious of (thus why call it ‘consciousness’?)
  • Coben
    1k
    I have made that exact same arguments with certain agnostics, but it does not hold for all agnostics only for those who say that no one can know. The one who uses possibility in sense number two in my post above. Someone who says they cannot rule something out. And I think they would be correctly estimating their ability to rule out.

    There are a variety of agnosticisms, some being simply factual descriptions of the person's beliefs/lack of beliefs, some epistemological and these latter in a variety of forms.

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/#DefiAgno

    I think some of these need not in any way be coupled with smugness. In fact, if anything, some strike me as the opposite.
  • Gnomon
    237
    Then there is panpsychism, which I personally find to be a mostly faulty concept because it is mostly referring to some ‘other’ sense of consciousness - which would mean it is a ‘consciousness’ we cannot be conscious of (thus why call it ‘consciousness’?)I like sushi
    I agree. That's why I call my Universal Mind theory : Enformationism. Panpsychism was a reasonable hypothesis centuries ago. But we now know more about how human consciousness differs from the minimal awareness-of-the-environment that allows single-cell organisms to survive.

    Nevertheless, physicists sometimes speak of sub-atomic particles "feeling" the strong or weak forces. But they use the term "feel" metaphorically to describe inputs & outputs of energy (which is a form of Information). However, some New Agers take them literally, and imagine atoms having conversations about the goings-on in their neighborhood, and working together to give humans psychic powers -- as in "The Force" of Star Wars. For which, I see no non-fiction evidence.

    Enformationism is based on the ubiquity of Information in the universe, including its role in Human Consciousness. https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/352187
  • Gnomon
    237
    But by the same token the agnostic should also remain agnostic about his agnosticism. Given that I am a limited being with limited knowledge I cannot rule out that we cannot know whether X happened or exists. Perhaps we can know.NOS4A2
    Yes, we can know some things that we can't detect with our senses, but that are reasonable.

    I call myself an Agnostic, because I don't know G*D directly --- via the physical senses, or by scientific measurements. But I can and do know something about the First Cause by rational inference. Gnosticism is basically Knowledge of non-sense by Faith. So I am not a Gnostic. G*D is not a matter of faith to me --- no need to worship --- it's a matter of inferred fact, not observed fact. Therefore, I am an Agnostic Deist.


    The English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley coined the word agnostic in 1869, and said "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." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnosticism
  • EricH
    72
    Theists believe in at least one god
    Weak atheists don't believe in any gods
    Strong atheists believe there are no gods
    Pfhorrest
    I’m jumping in here with a little trepidation as I’m likely in way over my head in this conversation - so please indulge my amateur efforts.

    We briefly discussed this in another thread, so continuing that conversation. I don’t see myself as fitting into any of these categories. When I use the word “God”, I am referring to a character who appears in various works of mythology. Like many fictional characters, God has supernatural powers; more specifically, while God somehow (in a manner that is never explained) resides in an imaginary non-physical spiritual realm, God has the ultimate super power ability to (among other things) create and have complete control of the physical universe that we live in.

    So to ask “ Does God exist” is no different than asking “Does Harry Potter exist”. My response to these questions is “Why are you asking me if fictional characters exist?” The very definitions of the words make the question incoherent. It’s somewhat analogous to asking (to use well known examples) “Does quadruplicity drink procrastination” or “Do colorless green dreams sleep furiously?”

    Furthermore, unlike Harry Potter, the fictional God does not even physically exist in the fictional world - so the character is doubly incoherent (assuming that multiple nonsenses multiply and are not exponential :smile: )

    I’m aware of two schools of thought on this topic (there may be more but I’ll limit myself to the ones I sort of understand). One school of thought says, in essence, “Dammit Jim, quadruplicity does not drink procrastination”. If I'm following, this would be a strong atheist position. The other approach - which I agree with - says that you cannot assert truth values to or coherently discuss nonsense sentences. I’m not seeing where this fits into one of these categories. So here I'm adding one more bullet point to your list:

    • Theists believe in at least one god
    • Weak atheists don't believe in any gods
    • Strong atheists believe there are no gods
    • ??? says that there is nothing to believe or not believe. Give me a coherent definition of the word "god(s)", then I’ll think it over.

    I could be mistaken but I think this somewhat aligns with either Ignosticism or theological noncognitivism.
  • Pfhorrest
    470
    it's a matter of inferred fact, not observed factGnomon

    Inferential knowledge is still knowledge though, so would you not still say that you know that God exists? Like, if someone claimed that he did not, would you not have some argument, appealing to those inferences you've made, to try to convince them that in fact he does?

    I would say that fictional characters do not exist, at least not in the concrete sense of existence that we're implicitly talking about, the kind of existence that we apply to ordinary things in contexts outside of philosophy. (I hold that fictional characters are a kind of fuzzy abstract object, and that abstract objects "exist" only in a different sense than the ordinary concrete one).

    In any case though, the position you're describing does still fit into the category of weak atheism, which is simply the category of everything that is not theism. That's the point of distinguishing weak and strong atheism: weak atheism is the broad category of anything that isn't theism, while strong atheism is a narrower position within that range. It's a little like referring to locations as "terrestrial", "extra-terrestrial", and "martian". By definition everywhere that isn't terrestrial is extra-terrestrial, but being martian is only one subset of being extra-terrestrial. This analogy is imperfect because it's not like Mars is the anti-Earth or something, so maybe colors make a better analogy: every color is either white or non-white, but black is just one specific non-white color; despite being the opposite of white, not everything non-white is black.

    I would say that the position your describing fits the label of Ignosticism too, though. Theological noncognitivism is something a little different, the claim that religious language is not even trying to be descriptive but is merely emotive, as seen in expressions like "God is love".
  • EricH
    72

    Thanks for the reply. I may be mis-reading you, but there seems to be an inconsistency.
    weak atheism is the broad category of anything that isn't theismPfhorrest
    Weak atheists don't believe in any godsPfhorrest
    Ignosticism falls into that first definition, but not the second. I'm OK with saying that I'm not a theist. But I would not say that I don't believe in any gods. I consider that to be an incoherent position.

    Perhaps you could say that there are two broad categories - theism and non-theism? Then weak/strong atheism, ignosticism, agnosticism, etc would all fall under the broad category of non-theism?
  • Pfhorrest
    470
    Weak atheism just is non-theism, that's its definition. And "don't believe there are any" is distinguished from "believe there are none"; that's the main point here. It's clearer if we write it in functional notation, which I thought I already did earlier in this thread, but I'll try to do it more thoroughly this time. Let "G" be the proposition "God exists", whatever that means:

    Someone is a theist if and only if they believe(G).

    Thus someone is a non-theist if and only if they do not-believe(G): if it is not the case that they believe(G) like a theist would. This is also what "weak atheism" means: just non-theism. Ignostics, most agnostics (there are some agnostic theists, who believe but don't think they know), and so on all fall into this category.

    But that's a different thing from someone who does believe(not-G). That's what "strong atheism" means. Anyone who does believe(not-G) obviously also does not-believe(G), but the reverse isn't true; not everyone who does not-believe(G) also does believe(not-G).

    All kinds of modal operations work like this; that's the main deal of modal logic. Just because it's not-necessary(P) doesn't mean it's necessary(not-P). Just because it's not-obligatory(Q) doesn't mean it's obligatory(not-Q). Just because one does not-desire(F) doesn't mean they desire(not-F). And just because one does not-believe(G) doesn't mean they believe(not-G).

    But for all of these, either you function(object) or you not-function(object), so in the case of believe(G), either you do or you do not. But just saying you do not-believe(G) doesn't mean you believe(not-G).
  • EricH
    72
    I understand what you're saying, but I disagree with the reasoning. From my perspective, you are limiting the range of possibilities.
    Let "G" be the proposition "God exists", whatever that means:Pfhorrest
    Firstly, this does not appear to be a proposition. If we were to say "G" is the proposition "Qwerty exists", it would be reasonable to ask for a definition of "Qwerty", and if no coherent definition is provided you would be justified in saying that there is nothing to believe or dis-believe.

    However, even if you are allowing these sort of statements into your system, then you have to go into some sort of tri-valued logic. So in addition to believe(G), not-believe(G), believe(~G), it is reasonable add believe(undefined-G) into your approach.
  • Pfhorrest
    470
    If you think a proposition P is meaningless, then you cannot believe(P), so you do not-believe(P). That's different from if you believe(not-P), which, yes, would require that P means something to you. If you believe(undefined-G), and that it's not possible to believe undefined things, then you still do not-believe(G).
  • EricH
    72
    Let me amend my previous post, On re-thinking it, it does not even make sense to assert believe(undefined-G). Instead of believe(undefined-G) it is simpler to say G=Undefined (or null) and that G cannot be the operand of any function.

    I'm OK with being labeled as non-theist (I have no theistic beliefs), but I feel like your category schema is forcing me to take a position that I do not agree with.

    That said, I think my other objection is more of a practical affair. This fine tuning of definitions works in a philosophical discussion, but it has little real life value. If you were at, say, a family gathering or in some casual social context - you are going to get blank stares if you try to explain this stuff - that and likely people will avoid you for the rest of the evening :razz: . The average person has basic notions of atheism (deny that God exists) and agnosticism (not sure) - so if it comes up in conversation I will stick with calling myself an Ignostic - it's pretty easy to explain.

    Also - instead of saying that religious language is emotive, I prefer to say that it is a type of poetry. I suppose there's a lot of overlap between the two.

    I'll give you the last word.
  • Gnomon
    237
    Inferential knowledge is still knowledge though, so would you not still say that you know that God exists? Like, if someone claimed that he did not, would you not have some argument, appealing to those inferences you've made, to try to convince them that in fact he does?Pfhorrest
    Unfortunately, "knowledge" has different meanings in different contexts. For example, Christian Gnostics believed that they had privileged access to God, that others didn't. It's such kind of "knowing by faith" that Huxley was reacting to. Since I have no objective scientific evidence to prove the existence of G*D, I must remain Agnostic, even though I believe that inference is reasonable. It's a fairly strong belief, but it could be changed by strong evidence to the contrary.

    Many astronomers and cosmologists "believe" in an infinite Multiverse, because it offers a "natural" explanation for the physics and initial conditions of our world. But I think if you challenged them, they would admit that their belief is more of a hope than a fact. They currently have no evidence to give substance to the hypothesis. So, like them, I am officially agnostic about my postulated "super-natural" entity, although I use that belief as an axiom in my personal worldview. That's because, unlike Multiverse, at least the G*D hypothesis offers an explanation for Qualia & Metaphysics, that Materialism & Physics must ignore as irrelevant.

    If you ask a sincere person "what matters to you", most would answer with qualitative feelings (Love) instead of quantifiable material objects (supermodel arm candy). :smile:
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