• FLUX23
    39
    I often find that almost all of the people arguing for theism or atheism seems to think that if we ever figure everything out about the universe, it is going to be either or. It is either that God does exist or it doesn't. This is supposed to effectively end the discussion.

    I was wondering if we are forgetting a possibility that theism and atheism may converge into the same conclusion after figuring everything out about the universe. I wonder if people here may have thought about that. This is somewhat similar to the thesis-antithesis-synthesis argument, except we are not forming a new argument that takes account for both thesis and antithesis, but one that converges thesis and antithesis.

    I know this sounds strange because "God exists" and "God doesn't exist" converging makes no sense intuitively. However, if we continue figuring things out about the universe, people will continue to improve upon their beliefs. Historically, that is how religion developed, and more and more "smarter" interpretation is born from time to time that is compatible with currently available knowledge. Perhaps, same thing with atheism. So then maybe one day, the interpretation is revised to the degree that there is no longer a clear distinction between the two opposite argument, so much that it converges to a new argument that is both atheistic and theistic.

    One of the possibility I am thinking that may converge to, is that one day (if possible) we will find a being/object/energy/whatever that we can consider it to be the source of everything. We can interpret this as God, but we can also interpret this as not God but of some another materialistic thing. So then we can reinterpret this as some new "something" that is both God but not God.
    (Of course, we can easily have another possibility here that people will start arguing whether we can actually call this God or not, and theists will continue to call it God while atheists will disagree.)
  • apokrisis
    1.4k
    I was wondering if we are forgetting a possibility that theism and atheism may converge into the same conclusion after figuring everything out about the universe.FLUX23

    The argument is over causality - what could cause existence? And both conventional theism and conventional atheism flounder in the same way. They think about causality from the point of view of a reduction to material and efficient cause. They both want to put formal and final cause in "the mind of the maker" - the only difference being atheists see that maker as a human person, theists see it as a supernatural person.

    Where theism and atheism could then start to converge is by starting to understand formal and final cause in terms of metaphysical naturalism. Design and purpose would become immanent features of nature - the machinery of self-organisation.

    That "full four causes" approach to metaphysics has a long tradition - starting with Aristotle. And it has flickered along in the background of thought ever since - showing up for instance in the organicism of Needham and the systems science of von Bertalanffy. Also of course, Peircean semiotics.

    And you do indeed find both theist and atheist scholars having a lot in common once they start talking at this level.

    But still, I think theists have much more to lose in this four causes resolution. It is much easier for atheists to give up their conventionalised notion of materiality than it is for theists to give up their conventional notion of the divine or spiritual.

    Or at least, for the scientist, it is expected that their fundamental ontic conceptions will change in the light of better evidence. For the religious, the game is based on faith and being "other" to that very practice of methodological reasoning.
  • darthbarracuda
    2k
    I wonder why you said that Aristotelian four cause causation "flickered in the background" - on the contrary, it was perhaps at its height during the medieval Scholastic period. Aquinas was a hardcore Aristotelian and his Five Ways reflects this. It wasn't until Hume's time that we saw the reduction of causality to mere efficient and material.
  • apokrisis
    1.4k
    Personally, I discount Aquinas as he latched on to what was most wrong about Aristotelean metaphysics - the idea of the need for the further thing of an unmoved mover.

    Self-organising organicism officially starts with Anaximander's story of the differentiating and integrating Apeiron. So in the beginning was vagueness, not a divine first cause.

    The dichotomy is thus between those who believe existence is change created against a static, eternal, backdrop and those who take the process view that existence is enduring regularity emerging out of chaotic variety.

    In the beginning for one is stasis. For the other, flux.

    So Aristotle got the emergent story right - how existence looks once it has developed a mature causality. But his story on causal origination was confused (or rather his writings were cherry-picked for what fitted the needs of Christian belief best).
  • darthbarracuda
    2k
    Yes, indeed, we might actually agree on something here. I'm skeptical of cosmological arguments since they attempt to superimpose a metaphysics of the here-and-now on the then-and-there. There's no telling what was actually going on way back in time.

    However Apeiron doesn't seem to answer anything either, since it doesn't exactly explain why anything started at all. And thus we come to Heidegger with his question of Being: why does anything exist? And, surprisingly enough, we see the same sort of thinking in Aquinas that Heidegger later refined.
  • apokrisis
    1.4k
    However Apeiron doesn't seem to answer anything either, since it doesn't exactly explain why anything started at all.darthbarracuda

    But Apeiron - when understood as primal chaos - says that everything is already happening. It doesn't need starting, because it is already an infinitely rowdy state of dynamism. What it needs is taming. It needs settling by the emergence of stabilising regularities.

    Of course we then also modify the rather substantial understanding we would have of this ferment of fluctuation. We have to see that time itself is part of the emergent order. So the chaos is a chaos of possibility rather than actuality. A chaos of form and direction as much as matter or reaction.

    So the whole notion of "starting" becomes vague when talking about vague beginnings. There is no "before" before before itself becomes an actuality in being a meaningful distinction in terms of talking about "after".
  • darthbarracuda
    2k
    If this is the case, then what was the cause of this dynamism stabilizing? It couldn't have started itself, otherwise there's obviously a chain of being within this dynamism that isn't accounted for.
  • apokrisis
    1.4k
    Haven't I explained this to you before? If everything tries to happen at once, most of it will be contradictory and so will self-suppress its own existence, cancel itself away to nothing.

    You are familiar with Feynman's path integral approach to quantum mechanics, and the least action principle of physics generally? You understand what cosmologists mean when they talk of the Universe as the result of collapsing the universal wavefunction?

    Emergent order is basic to modern physical thought. As is the idea of things starting in a state of "maximum indeterminism".

    Physics still hasn't managed to crack the quantum gravity issue to general satisfaction - explain spacetime via a wavefunction collapse of pure quantum possibility. But it sure is widely accepted that being able to explain time as an emergent regularity has to be part of any real unifying Theory of Everything.
  • TheMadFool
    556
    We can interpret this as God, but we can also interpret this as not God but of some another materialistic thing.FLUX23

    But isn't this a perfect description of our current situation? E.g. the ''design'' seen in the universe is taken as a product of chance on one hand and god on the other.
  • aletheist
    708


    What do you make of Peirce's theism? It was unconventional, to be sure, but he still explicitly affirmed the reality (not existence) of God as Ens necessarium and Creator, most famously in his article about "A Neglected Argument."
  • apokrisis
    1.4k
    What do you make of Peirce's theism? It was unconventional, to be sure, but he still explicitly affirmed the reality (not existence) of God as Ens necessarium and Creator, most famously in his article about "A Neglected Argument."aletheist

    Difficult one. I see his theism as firstly a product of his environment. His family and the Massachusetts of that time was intensely religious. US academia was notorious in resisting Darwinism, atheism wasn't tolerated in John Hopkins faculty, etc, etc.

    Also - as his career and state of mind disintegrated in later life - there was financial incentive to sound more theist as that was his last hope of publishing income.

    And then his neglected argument was a very poor paper - quite un-Peircean in its lack of rigour. I don't want to blame the drugs and the mania, but his moment of ecstatic transport on entering a church at a particular low point may be both an important personal phemenological sign for him, yet clearly the weakest kind of evidence for the kind of scientific pragmatism he espoused.

    So I discount the neglected argument as an argument.

    For sure, if you contemplate the very fact of existence - both personal and cosmological - it does have to evoke some strong state of response. To exist is ... such a surprise ... once you also have a scientific point of view in which you know pretty much how complicated and arbitrary it all is, yet also full of direction and organisation.

    But to then cash out that abductive sense of generalised awe as "God" seems such a cop-out. Calling existence divine or mindful - the much vaguer hypothesis of immanent pantheism - you could get away with. And that was more what Peirce, in his religious unorthodoxy, was really going for.

    But in my view, if he had been less culturally influenced, and more faithful to his own metaphysical insights, he would have stuck with a strictly atheistic and anti-Cartesean pansemiosis. Even the mind and the divine would have dropped out of the equation so that existence would be understood to arise directly out of the generalised sign relation - formal constraint on material possibility that is the evolutionary "growth of Universal reasonableness", and nothing else.

    So Peirce's actual metaphysics is holistic. He stood against the mechanicalism represented principally by Descartes (and the dualism of mind and matter this then forced an old school theist like Descartes into). Peirce was adamant that reality involved finality - a mind-like organising drive that emerged from material chance to produce an existence of stable habit.

    And he argued this from science - as in his Monist articles. He already saw where thermodynamics was going in terms of self-organising complexity.

    So the philosophy which argues rigorously is all to do with semiosis and providing a scientific view of teleology as immanently self-organising habit - existence as matter and sign.

    Yet Peirce then does weaken - through both cultural constraints and personal needs - to pen some bad stuff about traditional transcendent creators.

    If you read his objective idealism as a metaphorical pantheism - because. after all, actual full-strength pansemiosis is a really tough proposition to wrap your head around - then you can focus on his strong writing and ignore his weaker "crowd pleasing" efforts. Semiotics just doesn't lead to any conventional notion of a creating God.

    But on the other hand, if you were the theistic scholars searching for pantheistic arguments by clearly the smartest philosopher of modern times, then Peirce could seem a god-send. Theists don't see the science that grounds pragmatism/semiotics - the fact that Peirce was arguing for a scientific organicism against the prevailing scientific mechanicalism. They hear some sympathetic ramblings that "put the scientific atheists in their place".

    Of course, anyone would say I read my own biases into Peirce. But I can't find a strong logical argument in his writings for jumping from semiosis as an atheistic explanation for how existence can develop finality, to any normal notion of a divine creator, or even some kind of luminous, panpsychic, immanently divine, universal mind (as that kind of psychism falls straight back into the trap of treating "mind" as a dualistic Cartesean substance, and not a sign relation - a structuring process - at all).
  • FLUX23
    39

    I don't have any general disagreement/agreement in what you've said. But just to clear things up.

    Well the god-like thing I was talking about is more like an example. There are still some arguments out there that does not consider god as a being but in a form of something else, that is theist and atheist alike. So when I say "one of the possibility", it is just "one" of the several possibility I had in my mind when I think about cases like convergence of ideas. I just chose the one that many people may be familiar with. I would like the discussion to be more general and inclusive of many theories out there.

    I agree that religious theists may have more difficulty in adjusting their views in light of new evidence. If the more logical ones of the theists (meaning those who thought themselves out to think that god exist, instead of just blindly believing it) were to see this new evidence, I am quite sure they will adjust their views. That is of course if they are honest, but that goes for atheists too.


    Just to note, I actually don't believe that it is necessary that there is a cause to everything. Precisely, I am not saying there doesn't have to be a cause to everything. My view on this "cause and effect" metaphysics thing is more agnostic than anything else. I, myself is an atheist, but I don't necessarily completely reject theism (as long as they are logical).

    So the OP is purely based on what I see, as a third-person, of the situation regarding people arguing whether God exist or not. So what I actually think about of the situation regarding God exist or not is irrelevant for now.
  • FLUX23
    39
    That is surely one of the possible interpretation of the current situation. But what is important is what I've said after that part.
  • darthbarracuda
    2k
    Haven't I explained this to you before? If everything tries to happen at once, most of it will be contradictory and so will self-suppress its own existence, cancel itself away to nothing.apokrisis

    Okay, but apo you still have to explain why these things are happening all the time. Why this outcome? Was it inevitable? Is there only one universe that can emerge from the cancelling action? And why was this foamy apeiron stuff there? Where did it come from?

    You're still implicitly avoiding the question of Being: why does anything exist? Why something, rather than nothing? We can always ask "why"?
  • apokrisis
    1.4k
    I find myself tediously re-explaining the same things to you. Good job I enjoy rehashing the same story in various ways. :)

    Firstly - at this level of metaphysics - the question of how could something come from nothing already faces the problem of being nonsensical and incoherent given that there is in fact something.

    Nothingness could never be the actual state of affairs. It is bad enough that, logically, nothing can come from nothing. But also, it is a brute empirical fact for would-be nihilists that existence exists. And so talk about nothingness as something "actually possible" is redundant.

    So that leaves metaphysics having to move on to more coherent lines of questioning.

    Perhaps existence is just a brute something - accidental and eternal. There is no logic to it all - even though that is in utter conflict with the fact that the Universe is so strongly intelligible. Intelligible to the point that it conforms to the simplest mathematical forms we can imagine as being self-evidently true - such as the lie group symmetries which exactly explain by force of necessity why the strong, weak and electromagnetic forces have their particular observed character.

    So it could all be brute eternal somethingness. Yet even that is in strong contradiction to the tightly mathematically constrained Cosmos we observe. And of course, a Cosmos that was also born as a "Big Bang" symmetry breaking or phase transition some 14 billion years ago.

    So we move on - if we are logical - to the further, and most ancient, of metaphysical tales. It was possibility itself that was the symmetry that got broken by actualisation. A state of vague everythingness had "no choice" but to produce the regularities that would actively suppress the wild chaos - the undirected dynamism which made it a vagueness - and leave behind the orderly state of dichotomy (constraints and degrees of freedom) which we observe all about as scientists.

    And why was this foamy apeiron stuff there? Where did it come from?darthbarracuda

    Stuck record. The fact that you still have to talk about Apeiron or vagueness as "a stuff" shows you are presuming a substance ontology and just don't get hylomorphism. You need to keep thinking harder.

    Why this outcome? Was it inevitable?darthbarracuda

    Yes. The argument is that the Comos is the product of mathematical strength necessity. If you are going to break a symmetry, you wind up with only a single simplest way of doing that - like the circular U1 of EM I cited.

    But another great advantage of a Peircean, or emergent constraints-based view of actuality, is that it explains chance too. The contingent, spontaneous or accidental is all the kinds of possibility which escape constraint. If a possibility is not being actively suppressed (through self-cancellation, as described) then it not only can happen, it must happen.

    And again, this is exactly why quantum mechanics turns classical notions of the causal machinery of the Cosmos on their head. If a particle can self-interact, it must self-interact in every way possible. And using QM, we can sum those contributions to account for physical phenomena - like the magnetic moment of an electron - to a ridiculous number of decimal places.

    So the idea that existence involves the suppression of possibility - and what can't be suppressed like that, is then exactly what exists - couldn't be more certain according to our best experiments.

    That's the story at the fundamental quantum level. But the same logic applies to the development of Cosmic complexity - dissipative structure like life and mind in particular.

    The general constraints in this case are encoded in the (still classical and mechanical) laws of thermodynamics. So no material system can exist that is not entropy producing on the whole. It is absolutely forbidden. The possibility is utterly suppressed.

    And yet "on the whole" is a constraint that doesn't care if you gain a little negentropy for yourself by wasting a suitable extra amount of heat. You can do what you like within that limit.

    And if something is possible, it must happen. Biological complexity doesn't just do the least amount of dissipation it can get away with. It just grows - like bacteria in a petrie dish - at headlong exponential rate until it bashes it head up against the limits of the possible under the second law.

    You're still implicitly avoiding the question of Being: why does anything exist? Why something, rather than nothing? We can always ask "why"?darthbarracuda

    In fact I am explicitly demonstrating the logical hollowness of the question you keep insisting on asking.

    You can always keep asking "why?". You certainly do that. But you are just asking the same old incoherent and nonsensical question based on bad metaphysics.
  • jkop
    402
    Science could converge with theism in the case of a true discovery of the existence of god. Theism, however, cannot converge with science, because theism is not on a path towards better knowledge where it could converge with science (ie "scientific" ways of rephrasing that "god did it" does not qualify as being on a path towards better knowledge). So, a possible convergence could only go in one direction: from science to theism. It is this openness which makes science great, and the argument against theism so much more convincing.
  • Chany
    182


    I don't get your post. Science and theism are not mutually exclusive categories; the former is an epistemological system and the latter is a position within a broader metaphysical system. One can follow science and be a theist.
  • aletheist
    708
    And then his neglected argument was a very poor paper - quite un-Peircean in its lack of rigour.apokrisis

    I find it fascinating what a startling diversity of opinions there are about that article, even among Peirce scholars who have written at length about it. It seems to be quite polarizing. Personally, I think that anyone who expects it to provide a rigorous argumentation for theism completely misunderstands the purpose of the piece. I submitted an essay of my own about it to a journal about a month ago, and am still waiting to hear back.

    I don't want to blame the drugs and the mania, but his moment of ecstatic transport on entering a church at a particular low point may be both an important personal phemenological sign for him, yet clearly the weakest kind of evidence for the kind of scientific pragmatism he espoused.apokrisis

    That experience happened in 1892; he wrote "A Neglected Argument" in 1908. Peirce did a lot of his best philosophical work in between, including the end of the Monist metaphysical series, the 1898 Cambridge Conferences lectures, the 1902 Minute Logic, the 1903 Harvard and Lowell Lectures, the Monist pragmaticism series, and most of the development of his mature semeiotic (key letters to Lady Welby came shortly afterwards). I do not find it plausible that he suddenly lost his marbles when he composed this particular article, especially after reading through the fairly extensive and consistent manuscript drafts (R 841-844).

    Calling existence divine or mindful - the much vaguer hypothesis of immanent pantheism - you could get away with. And that was more what Peirce, in his religious unorthodoxy, was really going for.apokrisis

    This is a popular claim in some circles, but it is refuted by Peirce's explicit and emphatic statement in three different drafts that he did not mean by God something "immanent in" nature or the three Universes of Experience, but the Creator of them and all their contents without exception. The only hedge was that God as pure mind (or spirit) might not be completely independent of the (third) Universe of Mind. You can argue that no such statement ended up in the published version, but we draw lots of other quite definitive conclusions about Peirce's thought from his voluminous unpublished writings.

    But in my view, if he had been less culturally influenced, and more faithful to his own metaphysical insights, he would have stuck with a strictly atheistic and anti-Cartesean pansemiosis.apokrisis

    With all due respect, this is nonsense. Peirce was no doctrinaire Christian, but he was quite clearly a theist, and there is no evidence to suggest that he was intellectually dissatisfied with that position. You seem to be projecting onto him your own (admittedly very impressive) adaptaton of his ideas and integration of them with modern scientific findings into a comprehensive atheistic framework.

    Of course, anyone would say I read my own biases into Peirce.apokrisis

    Sure, and so do I. I think that his greatness and complexity as a thinker are evident in the fact that his ideas defy easy categorization and can be adapted for many different purposes.
  • Chany
    182
    "Theism", "atheism", and "god" are just words that change depending on context. What matters are the meanings of the words. The gods of ancient Greece are much different than the modern philosophical Christian notion of god, and even within Christianity there is argument over what "god" means.

    If theism and atheism ever converge, the meanings of the words would be so different than they what they are today that they may as well have different words to represent them. I doubt any such thing will happen, though, considering that atheism is really the rejection of theism.
  • apokrisis
    1.4k
    That experience happened in 1892; he wrote "A Neglected Argument" in 1908.aletheist

    But he does rely on that kind of direct experience of the divine - that firstness - in making the neglected argument. Yet a "community of minds" approach to pragmatic inquiry would logically require everyone to have the same kind of experience in repeatable fashion under the same conditions. And I'm pretty sure no amount of musement is going to see me finding theism an idea too wonderful not to believe.

    So I do take the sceptical view here. I would look at Peirce's madcap business dealings and other evidence of his apparent unworldliness and poor social judgement. As a pragmatist, he could be very impractical - or just so brilliant that, like a lot of mathematical thinkers, he couldn't fit into the everyday.

    Of course the neglected argument needs to be considered on its own merits. I'm just rationalising why Peirce could also write something I find so weak.

    This is a popular claim in some circles, but it is refuted by Peirce's explicit and emphatic statement in three different drafts that he did not mean by God something "immanent in" nature or the three Universes of Experience, but the Creator of them and all their contents without exception.aletheist

    You may be right. You have made a particular study of this and I have skipped over it because life is too short.

    But I don't see how this argument can possibly be consistent with the actual pragmatic/semiotic philosophy that Peirce produced. A does not lead to B. And that is what always most impressed me about Peirce - the completeness of how his central scheme connected up.

    With all due respect, this is nonsense. Peirce was no doctrinaire Christian, but he was quite clearly a theist, and there is no evidence to suggest that he was intellectually dissatisfied with that position.aletheist

    But that is why I wish he had stuck with an atheist version and arrived at a through-going pansemiosis.

    Newton, Einstein and plenty of other intellectual heroes all believed in God. But that helps my own case. The logic of nature still can speak through even when blinkered by personal theism. The method of scientific reason is that powerful.

    So sure I wish Peirce was an atheist as the result of his style of reasoning. But also it doesn't matter. Peircean metaphysics is interesting to me primarily as it forsees the way modern science has to go.

    Sure, and so do I.aletheist

    If your essay gets published, send me a link. Its been a long time since I read the neglected argument and you may have ideas how it makes better sense in the context of a metaphysics of semiotic self-organisation.
  • TheMadFool
    556
    We can interpret this as God, but we can also interpret this as not God but of some another materialistic thing. So then we can reinterpret this as some new "something" that is both God but not God.FLUX23

    Do you have an easy-to-understand conception of this ''something'' you refer to. My imagination fails me.

    Also ''both God but not God'' is a contradiction provided that ''God'' refers to the same thing.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.