Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why I’'m a Christian 2: I want to believe

http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-19272-Seattle-Faith--Agnosticism-Examiner~y2009m10d21-Why-Im-a-Christian-2-I-want-to-believe


Before you laugh at me and call me a fool, read my reasoning, and then laugh at me and call me a fool. In the last installment I laid out what I believe to be a rational reason for rejecting materialism. A fundamental scientific precept is that one should not reject a claim based on a philosophical bias, which materialism clearly is. Of course rejecting materialism is not the same as Christianity. It’s not even necessarily religious. But I think that’s as far as a purely rational analysis can get us. In order to move from a position that is at least open to the idea of a God, over to a specific claim about that God, requires a leap of faith. Now, the direction of that leap can be determined with rational, logical examination of claims, (such as leaping away from Zeus and a Flying Spaghetti Monster.) but since all these claims are founded on supposed revelation, one is forced to eventually buy into the circularity of the claim. That is to say that one must put faith in the medium for that revelation, whether it be a human oracle, prophet, or collected writings of some group. And that medium’s position as a true carrier of revelation can only be confirmed by their own word. Miracles are often proffered as proof for the medium’s message, but that doesn’t accomplish much since those miracles are usually recorded in the same text or tradition that is making the claims of revelation. So specific claims of revelation are by definition circular arguments.


Now you could say that one should reject all circular arguments. But that is not logical. For instance, if we are doing a trust exercise and I tell you that I will catch you if you fall backwards into my arms, the only evidence to back up my claim is my own assurance. I’m self-validating, and that is a circular argument. But the fact that it’s circular has absolutely no bearing on the Truth of my claim. I will catch you because that’s just my nature. I’m too empathetic to let someone fall no matter how much I dislike them.


Therefore one cannot use the excuse that religious claims are circular to summarily dismiss them. But one CAN use internal logical fallacies to dismiss them. The problem that I’ve seen in this endeavor is that the critics almost always misinterpret the doctrines they deconstruct. Or they find the most literalistic interpretation possible, creating semi-straw-men. But so much of a religion is lived beyond written doctrine. It lives in community, and until one has spent time within that community it is all too easy to misinterpret the dogma.


All this to say that the step from rejecting materialism for its close-minded unscientific attitude, to accepting Christianity is one that is multi-dimensional, incorporating emotional desires along with rational assessment. But I’m not going to get into Christianity in this installment. I want to be clear about the emotional aspects of religion, and try to show that desire is actually at the base of all of our beliefs, religious and secular alike.


We all like to believe that our world view is the right one. That if any person just spent enough time examining all the facts with an open mind they would agree with us. I think this is a very foolish and naive belief. Here are two reasons why.


No one can examine all the facts that reality has to offer in order to make a rational decision about their world view. There are just too many facts in the universe and no one has the time to investigate them all fully. Someone may know all the ins and outs about making peanut butter, launching rockets, or building kites, but no one can thoroughly research every philosophic claim and vet every authority that dispenses data. (Authority is another circular problem.) To put it simply: YOU have not studied the world enough to justify your world view. Neither have I. I don’t care how smart, wise, or old you are; no human can say they have what it takes to apprehend reality and form a consistent theory about it. We are all working with bits and pieces. It’s like there’s a hundred trillion-piece puzzle, and we all have managed to get a dozen or so pieces together and then start making pronouncements about what the picture is. Maybe if you’re super brilliant and mature you’ve managed to get a hundred, or a thousand pieces together. But given the magnitude of the task, isn’t it ridiculous to assume that your little portion is an accurate representation of the whole?No one can experience every event necessary to be able to form valid opinions that build their world view. We make sweeping assumptions and generalize things for the sake of brevity. We build analogies and make interpolative guesses. Someone who has never given birth or killed a man in war can never really view reality with the perspective of one who has. If you’ve have children you can agree with me that your view of the world changed. You’re perspective broadened. You started to care about things you never did before and stopped caring about other things. This change of view opens new possibilities in your mind, and closes others. Who’s to say who has the better perspective for understanding reality? People specialize, find comfortable niches and cling to philosophies that reinforce their comfort zone. The experiences of others are discounted as unimportant to developing the correct world view that we assume we have. Yet the obvious fact is that our world view is in large part derived from our experiences. And one human can only experience an infinitesimal fraction of all possible experiences. Maybe one that you or I missed is a key to opening our minds to Truth.

Given these massive limitations, how should we go about finding Truth? I’m not speaking about facts. Facts are abundant. Truth is composed of all facts and organizes them according to a logical system. Since we only know some facts and not all of them, and since we only have one lifetime of experiences against which to falsify the validity of those facts, we are working with woefully incomplete data, and are forced to come to our conclusions about Truth by another means. I believe that means is the topsy-turvy world of emotions. I’m not saying I like this fact, or that I want to admit it, but I can’t see a way around it. To put it simply: we believe what we want to believe. Then we backfill our belief with whatever facts and authorities reinforce our desired world view. (See the circularity there?)


I was quite pleasantly surprised to hear a famous atheist honestly and humbly admitting this fact. In a round table discussion on the T.V. special called The Question of God, which compared and contrasted the lives and ideas of Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, the figurehead of Skeptic Magazine, Michael Shermer said the following:


Michael Shermer: “Socially, when I moved from theism to atheism and science as a world view, I guess to be honest: I just liked the people in science and scientists and their books and just… the lifestyle, the way of living. I liked that better than the religious books, the religious people I was hanging out with. Just socially, it just felt more comfortable for me.”


Moderator: “So it was a relationship-driven decision?”


Michael Shermer: “Not solely… but the intellectual stuff and all that is part of it but if you’re going to be honest: it’s not just reasoning your way into a position. In reality I think most of us arrive at most of our beliefs for non-rational reasons. And then we justify them with these reasons after the fact.”





I thought that was beautiful. As empowering as it may seem to claim that your world view is Truth because you logically assessed all the data and came to the only rational conclusion… such a notion is simply bullshit. We are not perfect machines for parsing data. Even if we were, we don’t have all the data, or even a significant fraction of it. Our experience with affirming or falsifying our ideas and interpretive processes are pathetically limited by our finite bodies, senses, and time. What we really do is use our gut. We follow our heart. Our beliefs are organized around what makes us feel good about ourselves. Some of us feel better if there’s a God who’s in control of everything. Other’s want a God who lets us do our own thing. Some want a God who will torture those who disagree with them for eternity. And some of us are just more comfortable if there is no God at all.


Since desire plays such a crucial role in our beliefs I had to ask myself: “Do I desire Truth more than the idea of a God?” (An atheist would have to ask: “Do I desire Truth more than the idea of no God?”) To put it another way: would I be able to handle the cold void of life without a God if a God did not exist? Or would I just stick to arguments that placated my felt need for a God? These are highly theoretical and speculative questions that are impossible to answer with certainty. And as I’ve shown, no one can claim that they believe the Truth of an idea without some emotional impetus that inclines them to that idea. So to put it bluntly: I believe in God because I want there to be a God. I’m fairly certain that theists and atheists alike believe what makes them comfortable. I don’t think there are any Christians who became believers despite a uniformly emotionally cold posture towards the evidence. And I don’t think there are any atheists who continually really, really wish there was a God. Mind follows heart. There are conflicted hearts, but the mind will always argue for the dominant desire. At least that’s a theory I have.


The point is that I found that I do emotionally desire Truth more than I emotionally desire the idea of a God. If God is disproven I will be sad. But I would move on, happy that another question of the Universe had been answered. Now, I’ve read a LOT of atheist rebuttals to arguments for God, and read many of their “logical” proofs against God, and I just can’t get behind much of their thought process. Too many presuppositions, (Just like the “proofs” for God they are rebutting.) and too much reliance on semantics dealing with things we can’t possibly understand. (Things like time.) But since I am biased, I can’t claim to judge these arguments fairly. I can only attempt to override my biases by compensating in a way I think most fair. There is one thing I am absolutely convinced of: that is that one can never prove or disprove the existence of God. One can disprove various theories about what God may or may not be like, by attacking faulty logic; but as long as the possibility exists that there is a reality unseen by us or our tools, there can be a God that defies our expectations, descriptions and guesses. And you can’t wiggle out of that by saying, “Ok fine, but the chances are SO LOW that it’s not even worth considering.” Because there is no way to even approach the possibility numerically, any more than you could state the chances that there’s another 11 dimensions or that there’s intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. I think there is an important lesson to be learned in the fact that God can’t be proven or disproven. But both sides are too busy arguing at each other to learn it.


That lesson is: the most important concept in the universe cannot be known. If God were proven to all people to exist, the ramifications would be so huge that everything we humans think we know would have to be reworked. And the same if God were proven not to exist. Without universal prima facie proof, we are forced to cobble together a coherent worldview without assurance concerning this vital component. That should make us recognize the contingency of all our truth-claims. The fundamentalist religionist and atheist “solve” this problem by pretending that the question is not in dispute. I think they are all being silly. They just want the comfort of thinking that the rug can’t be pulled out from under them. As for myself, I try to remind myself of that fact constantly. That’s why I love talking to atheists. They remind me that my arguments are not obvious or settled. And my whole thought world is constantly threatened by some alarming revelation, data, or logic string that I’ve simply been too dense (or unwilling) to see. My world view could come crashing down like a house of cards, and I’m ok with that.


So to summarize my points so far… Last article I rambled on about why I don’t accept materialism due to its inability to adequately satisfy my curious nature about origins and purpose. And while “purpose” can be couched in existential self-defined terms I just don’t find that satisfying. And origins cannot, by definition, be “discovered” by science since science can only operate on material properties. My point in this article is simply to say that since I can’t find a purely logical basis for choosing a world view I have to accept the fact that my beliefs are motivated by emotion first and foremost. Can you accept that, or is it too threatening to your comfortable paradigm?Addendum:


I swear I am not making this up. I’ve been borrowing seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation from my friend and watching them in the evenings to unwind. I’m about halfway through season 3 on an episode called The Defector. I have not seen any of these episodes in my life. After writing the preceding article today, I come home, pop in the DVD and this episode comes on with a plot about a mysterious Romulan (bad guy alien) who seems to be defecting to warn the good guys about an imminent threat. The good guys don’t know if they should believe him or not. At one point the mild-mannered engineer, Geordi, is attempting to explain something to the constantly bewildered android, Data. The way this dialog sums up the point of the article I just wrote this afternoon is stunning, even using many of the key words. See for yourself…

_________________


Geordi: I don’t know Data, my gut tells me we ought to be listening to what this guy’s trying to tell us.

Data: Your “gut”?

Geordi: It’s just a… a feeling, you know… an instinct, intuition.

Data: But those qualities would interfere with rational judgment, would they not?

Geordi: You’re right, sometimes they do.

Data: Then why not rely strictly on the facts?

Geordi: Because you just can’t rely on the plain and simple facts. Sometimes they lie.

Data: They can lead to the wrong conclusions but they cannot lie.

Geordi: Yeah? Well, what do you think? Is he a defector or not?

Data: The facts to date would lead to the objective conclusion that he is not.

Geordi: Yeah… well, somehow I think we’re going to catch the Romulans with their pants down on Nelvana III, just like he says.

Data: “With their pants”…?

Geordi: A metaphor… Catching them in the act.

Data: Because your gut tells you so.

Geordi: Exactly. But you can’t always go with your gut, either. It’s… Well, it’s a combination, Data. All right, I’ll put it to you this way. All these feelings that get in the way of human judgment, that confuse the hell out of us, that make us second-guess ourselves… well, we need them. We need them to… help us fill in the missing pieces because we almost never have all the facts.

Data: So a person fills in the missing pieces of the puzzle with his own personality, resulting in a conclusion based as much on instinct and intuition as on fact.

Geordi: Now you’re getting it.

_______________________

Having been so amazed by the similarities I had to see who wrote the dialog. Low and behold it was none other than Ronald D. Moore executive producer and writer for the modern Battlestar Galactica series. I’ve been working on an article about the philosophical explorations on that show for the past couple years as I’ve been listening to the commentary tracks and reading various interviews with him. I really, really love the way Moore handles complex issues without being didactic or preachy. Battlestar is the ultimate agnostic’s picnic and I’m seeing that his sensibilities still resonate with me in his work from 1989.


________________

Feedback:

SavageSoto:

I always find it hard to read your articles/blogs without stepping back and asking myself uncomfortable (or just plain sensible) questions.

its so easy for us as humans to think we have the best grasp on "truth"(even if we admit to not knowing it all) when in reality we may have no idea about the "truth" at all.

I find that fact to be kindof daunting and makes me just want to throw my hands in the air sometimes, but I dont think it should eradicate our hopes and personal conclusions.


insllvn:

Why I am a Jedi: Telekinesis is Fucking Sweat or How I Learned Wishing for Something Doesn't Make it True


JF:

I'm not arguing that wishing for something makes it true. I'm not arguing for the Truth of Christianity either.


insllvn:

Are you really a christian?


JF:

I suppose it depends on how you define "a Christian". I consider myself one. But like all Christians, there are numerous factions within Christianity that would consider me heretical. Why do you ask?


insllvn:

I hadn't read the article before I made my little joke, after you took objection to it, I did. I was confused as to whether you considered yourself a christian or merely had a degree of respect for some of their principles, eg the rejection of materialism. How do you define your christianity? If I had to guess, I would say you are an adherent to the moral teachings of christ, but not a believer in the dogma. The real root of my curiosity is that I wonder if you believe in the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth.


JF:

"I hadn't read the article before I made my little joke"

Oh, I figured that much. As a Star Wars fan, I appreciated it. ;P

"How do you define your christianity?"

I'm a Christian for several reasons. First because it is the trajectory of my upbringing so I'm very comfortable and familiar with its social forms and practices. (Well, the ones in MY branch, which is Protestant evangelical.) I could care less about the social aspects of belonging to a particular group of people, so I don't believe that plays much of a role. And I live in the least-churched city in the U.S. and work in an industry where Christian beliefs are openly mocked. So it's definitely not about being accepted.

As an agnostic I recognize that all religious truth claims are inherently flawed as they are attempting to describe with metaphor what is not able to be described due to the limitations of human language and thought. So I'm not really bothered by worshiping with those who believe some very different things about God than I. (Such as His future action of torturing the majority of mankind for not believing in a particular doctrine.) But I do find the central narrative of a creator God who redeems mankind to be a valid theory that has explanatory power and does not contradict observed phenomena or our perceived existential state in which we order values. In other words, I think that with some study, one can find a series of doctrines throughout the history of the Christian tradition which coalesce into a workable theory for life.

"do you believe in the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth."

Once "divinity" can be accurately, objectively and definitively described I'll see if I can answer that. In the mean time I'll settle with Jesus as Lord of my life and "The Way, the Truth, and the Life." I believe this is poetic language for a reason and dogmatizing or literalizing it is the wrong way to go.


Sledge420:

"Once "divinity" can be accurately, objectively, and definitively described..."

...and you reject materialism? I'm hard pressed to find a way to justify the importance of objectivity without materialism.


JF:

Yes, I reject the assertion that we can make claims of certainty based on the theory that there cannot be another dimension of existence that we cannot perceive or beings with minds that don't operate via electrical/chemical processes.

My point in using "materialist" phraseology there is not to implicitly condone materialism, but to acknowledge that material processes are the basis for symbolic language. This is a vitally important point that most religious fundamentalists gloss over or sweep under the rug. (See this previous article for more detail on that: http://www.examiner.com/x-19272-Seattle-Faith--Agnosticism-Examiner~y2009m9d2-Out-on-a-limb )

In other words, language is necessarily symbolic, but falls along a continuum of consensus. Proper nouns have the most consensus. A man named Obama is the current president of the U.S. Few people argue this because there is very little room for interpretation. It can be falsified via processes that are universally agreed upon. But when one gets to concepts like politics, art, and religion, the symbolic nature of the words become increasingly loose and open to vastly different interpretive structures that belie consensus. The "looser" these signifier words become the more the materialist wants to pretend the signified doesn't exist because you can't peg them into a rigid, quantified grid of "knowledge". I reject that impulse and instead appreciate the attempt at understanding what cannot be truly apprehended. If any religious theory is correct than the subject matter is outside of categories (material) that we humans can form consensus about. Thus language breaks down when forced to conform to a material grid. That is why I can't tell you if Jesus is divine. You (and the doctrine builders) are asking for language to do what it cannot do. This is illogical and I believe at the root of much of the evil that has been committed in the name of religion. To be fair, it's also at the root of much of the good.


Sledge420:

A few points I need to make here.

"I reject the assertion that we can make claims of certainty based on the theory that there cannot be another dimension of existence that we cannot perceive..."

If the dimension exists as you describe, then it has no influence on us whatsoever. If we cannot perceive it, it cannot be known even in the slightest, and any claims to knowledge about such a realm are all equally lacking in evidence. If you can accept one, to be intellectually honest you must accept them all, even if they are contradictory. After all, this is "another dimension which we cannot perceive". So any person claiming insight to it is either lying or deluded. That's part 1.

Part 2 deals with intellectual honesty. If instead you mean to say that this extra-physical (metaphysical? immaterial? which words do you think describe it best?) realm indeed can interact with ours in some fashion, then a whole cascading shit-ton of other possibilities are opened up. Are you aware that it's entirely possible, when postulating that not all things can be made consensual, that nothing at all need be consensual for such a complex and mind-dependent system to operate?

We could indeed all be islands, center stage in our own fantastically large universe...and there's good evidence in subjective experience to believe that we are. All of this "matter" and "energy" could really just be a soup of total chaos that our brains desperately grasp at straws to understand, every one of us coming up with a completely different picture, that ends up producing the illusion of consensus due to the complex structure inherent in one mind interacting with another. In this kind of system, what the hell is the point of striving for objectivity?

"My point in using "materialist" phraseology there is not to implicitly condone materialism, but to acknowledge that material processes are the basis for symbolic language...The "looser" these signifier words become the more the materialist wants to pretend the signified doesn't exist because you can't peg them into a rigid, quantified grid of "knowledge"."

I feel like you're obfuscating here. The rest of your post is a defense of your choice of words and what appears to be a jibe about how materialists are denying concepts because they can't be categorized easily. I beg to differ with you here, because semantics (by which I mean the process of establishing common definitions for use in the remainder of the discussion) is by my reckoning more than half of any philosophical discussion. We have to make the definition objective (at least between the two of us) rather than subjective in order to be sure we are communicating properly.

Now onto your actual article.

  1. No one can examine all the facts that reality has to offer in order to make a rational decision about their world view.

Of course not, so why are you trying to convince us rationally of yours? Again, what's the point of consensus building?

  1. No one can experience every event necessary to be able to form valid opinions that build their world view. We make sweeping assumptions and generalize things for the sake of brevity. We build analogies and make interpolative guesses. Someone who has never given birth or killed a man in war can never really view reality with the perspective of one who has.

This is pretty correct, but you're building a pretty bleak picture when it comes to justifying your own worldview choices here. Since you are not a materialist, how can you know we are mistaken? I have been a dualist and an idealist each in turn, and I have found materialism after much frustration with the inconsistencies and the inability to justify any knowledge claim in either of these systems. Proposing that there are things which cannot possibly be known, indeed proposing that the very nature of underlying reality cannot possibly be known is not conducive to a working self-consistent system.

By the way, your Michael Shermer quote does little to convince me. I arrived at materialism because it makes the most sense, doesn't shrink away from criticism, understands the value of the burden of proof, and actually rejoices when it has been shown to be totally wrong. I'll admit, your thoughts do give me pause about these subjects, but in the end, friend, having been there myself, I can say with certainty that it's just not where it's at.

And yes, frankly, I do value the idea of truth over the idea that no god or no immaterial dimensions exist. In fact, I'd be downright thrilled if all those other worlds did exist because there would be so much more to learn. I take issue with the fact that you are so sure such worlds are there, but admit that we can never know for sure that they're there or what they are or how they operate. A thing either is or it is not, or it is for a very short time and then is not again. Any thing which is ought to be able for everyone to see.

I'd like to close with a quote from a Bad Religion song which I really enjoy.

"I'm Materialist/A full-blown realist./It's there for all to see/So don't talk of hidden mystery/with me."

What is real is real, regardless of what someone thinks about it...and if it's real then it ought to be there for the searching, and when two people find it, they ought to be able to compare notes and find them similar. Otherwise, how can one be sure it's real?


JF:

Let me start off by clarifying something: I have no desire to convince you or anyone else of anything. I write and compare ideas because it’s just plain fun. I don’t Know that I’m right and I don’t even claim that my theories are Truth. Only that I personally find them compelling.

"If the dimension exists as you describe, then it has no influence on us whatsoever."

Actually if it exists as I describe it has complete control over us. As in: every single atomic movement and human thought and action had been determined before the big bang. I’m a theistic determinist.

"If we cannot perceive it, it cannot be known even in the slightest,"

It is possible that some people do perceive it. It is possible that it can be known to some extent. If there is a God and that God is blue, and my belief is that He is blue, then I can be said to Know something about Him. But epistemologically, I cannot know that I Know that. I can only trust that whatever delivered and interpreted the data was accurate. Please remember I define “know” as a technical impossibility, but still use it as common parlance because conversation would be too cumbersome otherwise.

"and any claims to knowledge about such a realm are all equally lacking in evidence."

This is true if your claim that no one can perceive or know about it in the slightest is true. But again, there is no way to confirm or deny that assertion. There are sounds that humans cannot hear but dogs can. It’s completely possible that there are signals from the “other” that some can pick up and other’s can’t. Those who make claims can be examined, their “evidence” will not be things like chemical quantities or mathematical proofs. If a God interacts with our world through nature, history, or revelation, one must look for the evidences there. Internal logic and explanatory power. To say that a great dragon ripping apart a giant god and dropping the body parts around to create the regions of India, has less evidence than a dude named Jesus starting a movement 2,000 years ago and was martyred. The earth being cobbled together from clay has less evidence than the Genesis myth that matches up with our current scientific theories of how life on earth came to be. (Young Earth Creationists not withstanding.) So I disagree that all claims of God or a spiritual realm are equally lacking in evidence. But I do agree that none of them breach any sort of threshold for garnering large consensus in the way we can for many scientific propositions.

"If you can accept one, to be intellectually honest you must accept them all, even if they are contradictory."

Nonsense. Some make more sense than others, and most are full of internal conflicts.

"After all, this is "another dimension which we cannot perceive". So any person claiming insight to it is either lying or deluded."

Again, there is no way to conclude that no one can perceive another dimension. And even if no one could, it’s still possible to compose theories about it based on observed nature and human reasoning. And some of those theories will have internal logic and some won’t. Some will explain our condition and desires and our world better than others.

"If instead you mean to say that this extra-physical (metaphysical? immaterial? which words do you think describe it best?) realm indeed can interact with ours in some fashion, then a whole cascading shit-ton of other possibilities are opened up."

I purposely avoid putting a consistent word on the “other” world since every word available is loaded with religious or philosophical baggage. I’m sure you’ve seen Sagan’s cute explanation of the 4th dimension: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9KT4M7kiSw As little 3-D beings putting our symbolic words on another dimension is fairly futile and subject to massive revision.

As to the cascading possibilities: yeah, why not? Who’s to say the universe is only so complex and no more?

"Are you aware that it's entirely possible, when postulating that not all things can be made consensual, that nothing at all need be consensual for such a complex and mind-dependent system to operate?"

Yeah. I’m aware. We don’t even have a system for logically tying our “consciousness” to our perceived bodies. That doesn’t bother me. We work with what we have, ya know?

"In this kind of system, what the hell is the point of striving for objectivity?"

The point is completely emotional. A conclusion I’ve been working on lately. As creatures in a very mysterious system without any Truly objective Knowledge the only guidance we have is emotional. We seek the community of others who will confirm and propagate our desires and together we build abstract systems of values to order our existence. Objectivity is an ideal that certain types of people cherish, and it’s simply in their nature to strive for it. But like the ideals of the perfect marriage or perfect ski run, objectivity is not possible for creatures with imperfect senses and interpretive faculties. I think materialists are simply too uncomfortable with ideas that fall below their subjective threshold for determining what “objective” is.

"I feel like you're obfuscating here."

Well I’m dealing with competing goals. First, I’m trying to share details about my theory if life, the universe, and everything. Second, I’m trying not to be overly bold in guesses where language will not suffice. If I’m obfuscating it’s because language is obfuscating ideas that have little consensus. (Or because I’m not smart enough to articulate my thoughts properly.) I certainly don’t have any desire to hide my thoughts or be sneaky, or wiggle out of anything. I wouldn’t come onto an atheist forum if I didn’t want my ideas to be heavily challenged.

"…because semantics (by which I mean the process of establishing common definitions for use in the remainder of the discussion) is by my reckoning more than half of any philosophical discussion."

As one gets further and further into philosophic and metaphysical concepts, establishing common definitions becomes almost the entire discussion.

"We have to make the definition objective (at least between the two of us) rather than subjective in order to be sure we are communicating properly."

Yeah, objective is the ideal. Let’s strive for that whether or not we can attain it.

"so why are you trying to convince us rationally of yours?”

I’m not. I’m comparing world views and ideas. I’d like feedback, that’s all.

"you're building a pretty bleak picture when it comes to justifying your own worldview choices here. Since you are not a materialist, how can you know we are mistaken?"

I don’t think there is anything bleak about keeping an open mind to possibilities of God, purpose, revelation, etc. And quite simply: I don’t know that materialists are mistaken. I’m very comfortable with the fact that I could be wrong.

"I have been a dualist and an idealist each in turn, and I have found materialism after much frustration with the inconsistencies and the inability to justify any knowledge claim in either of these systems."

I understand that frustration, but don’t see how materialism solves it. How do you justify any particular knowledge claim as a materialist. (Remember, I’m out of this game as I’ve given up on attaining certainty, and I’m ok with that.)

"Proposing that there are things which cannot possibly be known, indeed proposing that the very nature of underlying reality cannot possibly be known is not conducive to a working self-consistent system."

Why not? When everything is declared contingent, and one is organizing possibilities along a continuum rather than in a binary True/False paradigm, I can’t think of anything inherently contradictory about propositions as long as one isn’t attaching claims of absolute Truth.

"I arrived at materialism because it makes the most sense, doesn't shrink away from criticism, understands the value of the burden of proof, and actually rejoices when it has been shown to be totally wrong."

Most of those descriptions seem more about personality than systematic necessities. I value the burden of proof, don’t shrink from criticism, and rejoice when proven wrong, yet am not a materialist. It sounds like we have similar personalities and would inject those attributes into whatever philosophical context we found ourselves.

"I'll admit, your thoughts do give me pause about these subjects, but in the end, friend, having been there myself, I can say with certainty that it's just not where it's at."

That’s cool. I certainly can’t claim to know otherwise, can I? And thanks for being friendly, it’s nice to not be called a “fucking retard” in every thread here. I got good vibes from you since you’re user name has my birthday: 4/20 in it. On a complete side note, there’s an interesting irony with that birth date. Besides Hitler who was a teetotaler, I share this birthday with two others I know, and none of us have ever smoked weed. Strange, huh? I’m all for legalizing it, but I’ve just never cared to try it.

"I'd be downright thrilled if all those other worlds did exist because there would be so much more to learn."

Well, as we discussed, that’s not necessarily the case. Maybe we can learn about that stuff, maybe not. I simply hope that we can.

"I take issue with the fact that you are so sure such worlds are there, but admit that we can never know for sure that they're there or what they are or how they operate."

See, I’m not sure at all. I simply find theories about life, the universe and everything that includes them to be more compelling.

"Any thing which is ought to be able for everyone to see."

How do you arrive at that “ought”? I see no logical necessity for that. There are blind people who will never see the stars at night and deaf people who will never hear Mozart. Life’s clearly unfair.

"What is real is real, regardless of what someone thinks about it"

I completely agree.

"and if it's real then it ought to be there for the searching"

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe there is a reason for it’s hiddeness. Maybe there is a reason that only certain people can “see” it. (For the record, I don’t claim to be one of those people.)

"and when two people find it, they ought to be able to compare notes and find them similar."

That’s how religions are formed. Two or more people thought that they saw a resurrected Christ.

"Otherwise, how can one be sure it's real?"

I propose becoming comfortable with never knowing anything is real and instead ordering ideas along a continuum of certainty.


christpuncher 281:

Up voted both of you for treating each other like human beings and not devolving into the usual divisive bullshit argument that usually happens between believer and skeptic lately. I tip my hat to you both.

thank you


JF:

"divisive bullshit"

Says the guy calling himself "Christpuncher". Heh.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home