Reason / Science / Religion

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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#241  Postby Cito di Pense » Jul 02, 2010 1:38 pm

archibald wrote:Let's not go there. :]

As Will S has said before, and indeed as Grahbudd has commented on very recently, religion is not really so much about belief, as hope, which is to say crossing one's fingers as one walks that plank.


What we're doing here is "excusing" them. We're not explaining anything.

I'm all for calling it "superstitious nonsense", but I can still crank it up a notch, and call it "fuckwittery", if you like.

Then we start talking about the way the tops of people's heads may or may not peel off. Some people don't want to risk making a mess for other people to clean up. Their toilet training appears to have been exemplary, if perhaps a bit severe, but you'll just say:

archibald wrote:Let's not go there.


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Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#242  Postby archibald » Jul 02, 2010 1:50 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:the way the tops of people's heads may or may not peel off.


I've been meaning to ask you to explain this phrase. :]

What would cause the top of someone's head to peel off?
"It seems rather obvious that plants have free will. Don't know why that would be controversial."
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#243  Postby Cito di Pense » Jul 02, 2010 2:16 pm

archibald wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:the way the tops of people's heads may or may not peel off.


I've been meaning to ask you to explain this phrase. :]

What would cause the top of someone's head to peel off?


Losing hope? Having everyone in their faith community lower their expectations? The problem of making new friends? It could be anything. Once you give up being tolerant of one stupid idea, the sky's the limit. Most people don't know and have an irrational fear of the unknown. It's a lethal combination, as far as testing the waters is concerned. The middle ground between tolerance and intolerance of dumb ideas is a deep agnosticism; we all know what lamers those folks are. They're trying to re-brand "hope" as "doubt" or extol the virtues of maintaining a certain sort of studied ignorance.

Who knows whether or not they're "faking it"? Yes, one can be agnostic about that, as well.
Хлопнут без некролога. -- Серге́й Па́влович Королёв

Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#244  Postby Sophie T » Jul 03, 2010 5:53 am

Belief in belief. This interests me. I do like Will’s example of the plank across the abyss and how persuading someone to believe that the abyss is not really deep or dangerous could actually assist that person in safely crossing the plank. I think this is an excellent metaphor which illustrates very nicely the power of belief, the power of perspective. I do, at times, see some value, perhaps even a lot of value, in religious belief (depending, of course, on the kind of religious belief.) However, I fear that the trade-off in terms of what religious belief may do to critical thinking skills, which are necessary for sheer survival, is perhaps too high.

I was amused by Will’s story about the man who tells his son that God does not exist but that the claim that God exists is one that is “comforting to the women.” Indeed! I must say, though, that this particular woman would, in fact, “be comforted” by such knowledge, assuming of course that when we are talking about God, we are talking about a being that is loving and kind and good and that exists outside of my own imagination. On the other hand, the implication of this story—that it is “womanly” to believe in God is perhaps not very flattering to men who do not wish to think of themselves as womanly. I realize that Will was not in any way saying that men who believe in God are “womanly,” but I just thought I would make this observation about the story. :P

Anyway . . . about Kant. Thank you to grahhbud for the clarification, re: transcendental vs. phenomena. However, it has been noted that, AFAICT, grahhbud has yet to provide us with his own definition of the word “God.” This makes communication difficult. Perhaps a definition will still be forthcoming. It might be said, though, that if one has no working definition for the word “God,” it would make sense that one finds the question of, “Do you believe that God actually exists?” to be nonsensical. With this frame of mind, however, one might infer that the person who finds such a question to be nonsensical might also find the question of “Do you believe that you actually exist?” to be equally nonsensical.

I have easy, ongoing access to a university with an impressive collection of theological/philosophical works, and I am currently in possession of a book called Kant and the Problem of God, by Gordon E. Michalson, Jr. In his book, Michalson attempts to show that Kant’s philosophy was actually much more of a precursor to atheism than it was to Protestant theology. There are many interesting and illuminating observations about Kant’s philosophy contained in this book, and I will bring some of those up, perhaps at a later time. For now, though, I would just like to offer up the following excerpt from the book which seems to indicate that Kant did not, at least at the end of his life, believe that God was a being that existed outside of one’s mind. And I would propose that if Kant did not believe that God was a being that existed outside of one’s mind, Kant was, in fact, an atheist. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

The nearly half-century-long trajectory of Kant’s writings about God and theistic proofs finally concludes on a vexing and ambiguous note, for these final comments are in the unpublished form eventually edited and published as the Opus Postumum. In a series of extended notes and outlines involving trains of thought of varying degrees of completeness, the aging Kant is obviously rethinking the interconnections among self, world, and God, often leaving it unclear if he is developing his own position or entertaining views that he will dispute. Whether or not Kant was still in complete control of his faculties as he grappled with these enormously complex issues remains an open and debated question. What we do know is that Kant originally intended this work to be a major culminating statement, dealing primarily with what he characterized as the “transition from the metaphysical foundations of natural science to physics,” thus filling a “gap that now stands open” in the critical philosophy. The potential importance of this project for consideration of Kant’s philosophical theology is rather dramatically conveyed by his suggestion at several points in the work that God is not “a being” that exists “outside me,” but is somehow coincident with my own experience of moral obligation. “There is a God in moral-practical reason, that is, in the idea of the relation of man to right and duty,” Kant writes. “But not as a being outside man.”

Anyone who has struggled to grasp Kant’s understanding of the exact relationship between God and the moral law will find such remarks richly suggestive and, no doubt, more than a little frustrating. In his commentary on Kant, Father Copleston has suggested that in the Opus Postumum Kant “appears to be concerned with finding a more immediate transition from consciousness of the moral law to belief in God,” but this may be a polite way of saying that Kant is here blurring the line between the two altogether. Moreoever, the fact that the Opus Postumum Kant “appears to be concerned with finding a more immediate transition from consciousness of the moral law to belief in God,” but this may be a polite way of saying that Kant is here blurring the line between the two altogether. Moreover, the fact that the Opus Postumum includes numerous references to Spinoza, in an era when Spinozism was virtually synonymous with atheism, simply underscores the provocative, if inconclusive, nature of this piece of writing.”

Kant and the Problem of God
by Gordon E. Michalson, Jr.
Chapter Two: Kant’s Moral Argument (pp. 32-33)
Blackwell Publishers, 1999


I also have another book, What’s So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D’Souza. In Chapter 15 of this book (The World Beyond Our Senses: Kant and the Limits of Reason), the author seems to be claiming that, according to Kant, there are basically two kinds of reality. There is the reality we experience through our senses and then there is the reality that we are unable to experience through our senses.

Here are a few excerpts from this chapter:

The atheist or “bright” approach to reality must be measured against a rival approach. Through the centuries the great religions of the world have held that there are two levels of reality. There is the human perspective on reality, which is the experiential perspective—reality as it is experienced by us. Then there is the transcendent view of reality, what may be called the God’s-eye view of reality, which is reality itself. Being the kind of creatures that humans are, we see thing in a limited and distorted way, “through a glass darkly,” as Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians 13:12. Indeed we can never, as long as we are alive, acquire the God’s eye view and see things as they really are. Rather, we live in a fleeting and superficial world of appearances, where the best we can do is discern how things seem to be. We can, however, hope that there is a life after death in which we will see everything—including God—as it really is.

In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant . . . argued that there is a much greater limit to what human beings can know. In other words, human reason raises questions that—such is the nature of our reason—it is incapable of answering. And it is of the highest importance that we turn reason on itself and discover what those limits are. It is foolishly dogmatic to go around asserting claims based on reason without examining what kinds of claims reason is capable of adjudicating. Reason, in order to be reasonable, must investigate its own parameters.

. . Now Kant asks a startling question: how do you we know that our human perception of reality corresponds to reality itself? Most philosophers before Kant had simpy taken for granted that it does, and this belief persists today. So powerful is this “common sense” that many people become impatient, even indignant, when Kant’s question is put to them. They act as if the question is a kind of skeptical ploy, like asking people to prove that they really exist.

. . . Kant conceded Berkeley’s and Hume’s point that it is simply irrational to presume that our experience of reality corresponds to reality itself. There are things in themselves—what Kant called noumenon—and of them we can know nothing. If you have a dog at home, you know what it is like to see, hear, smell, and pet it. This is your phenomenal experience of the dog. But what is it like to be a dog? We human beings will never know. The dog as a thing in itself is hermetically concealed from us. Thus from Kant we have the astounding realization that human knowledge is limited not merely by how much reality there is out there, but also by the limited sensory apparatus of perception we bring to that reality.

What’s So Great About Christianity?
Dinesh D’Souza
Chapter 15: The World Beyond Our Senses: Kant and the Limits of Reason (pp. 172-174)
Tyndale, 2007


D’Souza writes that “there is one subject on which the atheist requires no evidence: the issue of whether human reason is the best—indeed the only—way to comprehend reality."

Is this true? Do atheists really make this assumption? I don’t think that this atheist makes that assumption. Rather, I would say that human reason is the best method we currently know of to comprehend reality. If there is a different way, a better way, then I would think it would be up to someone like D’Souza or Kant to demonstrate that this is so.

In another part of the chapter, D’Souza/Kant seems to be saying that human beings suffer from a distorted or possibly completely incorrect view of reality. I would tend to agree with D’Souza’s/Kant's view that it is possible that we as, human beings, have a completely distorted and very limited view of reality. However, this is very different than saying that we DO in fact have a distorted or possibly completely incorrect view of reality.

I think it is important to note that D’Souza/Kant seems to be assuming that human beings suffer from a distorted or possibly completely incorrect view of reality and for that reason, human beings should behave as if God exists. To this I would say that, first of all, D’Souza/Kant has not in fact demonstrated that human beings suffer from a distorted or possibly completely incorrect view of reality. Rather, he/they have pointed out that it is possible that we do. Even if we accept that we DO in fact have a distorted or possibly completely incorrect view of reality (and again, I don’t see any reason to accept that this is the case), then I would not see why we would assume or behave as if a being called God exists. If we believed that we, as human beings, suffer from a distorted or possibly a completely incorrect view of reality, there could be all kinds of things we could imagine to be the “real reality.” If we want to imagine such scenarios, certainly we could consider the possibility of God. However, I don’t see why such a consideration would be given any more consideration than any other possible scenario.

I would suggest that while it is possible that, as human beings, we suffer from a distorted or possibly completely incorrect view of reality, we do not know that this is—or even probably is--the case. Therefore, the only sane and reasonable thing for human beings to do (until and if such a time comes that they are presented with additional or new knowledge) is to do exactly the opposite of what D’Souza/Kant recommend, which is to behave as if our senses do in fact provide us with an accurate (though incomplete) view of reality. And if our senses and our reasoning tell us that God does not in fact exist, then I would suggest that we reject the recommendation of Kant (a man who seemed to me to only be playing at being a theist) in favor of the recommendation of C. S. Lewis, a man who had perhaps a great deal more integrity than Kant, a man who (though he was a Christian theist) would advise those of us whose best reasoning brings us to the honest conclusion that God does not exist to not pretend to believe (or to behave) as if he does.
It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
~ Excerpt from William Ernest Henley's Invictus
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#245  Postby Will S » Jul 03, 2010 7:48 am

I'm in a great rush, but re. Sophie's last message: that's very much how I see it.

As I was trying to argue in the OP, it's perfectly reasonable to harp on about the weakness of the human intellect, and the limitations of human understanding.

But, if you do that, then you must be content just to DO it! There's no way in which you can follow up by plonking down a 'Therefore ...' and lead on to some new revelation or insight.

I confess that I've never read any book of Wittgenstein's from beginning to end, but isn't that what he's saying in his famous dictum: 'What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence'? (If so, it strikes me are being pretty obvious - once you set wishful thinking aside, that is. :angel: )
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#246  Postby katja z » Jul 03, 2010 9:47 am

Sophie T wrote:
I would suggest that while it is possible that, as human beings, we suffer from a distorted or possibly completely incorrect view of reality, we do not know that this is—or even probably is--the case. Therefore, the only sane and reasonable thing for human beings to do (until and if such a time comes that they are presented with additional or new knowledge) is to do exactly the opposite of what D’Souza/Kant recommend, which is to behave as if our senses do in fact provide us with an accurate (though incomplete) view of reality.

:this:

In fact, our view of reality must correspond reasonably well to reality, as the history of science and technology since Kant has shown. None of this could work if our perception of reality did not model "reality itself" to a considerable extent. After all, it isn't my perception of my computer that I'm just using to write and post this, it is my computer in itself ;)
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#247  Postby archibald » Jul 03, 2010 10:18 am

Interesting post Sophie.

And, if you manage to briefly weave into your next one why there isn't any rational reason for not swopping 'god' for 'leprechaun', I'll be even more impressed. :]


I say ' briefly weave' because I don't want to detour the direction of the topic too much, since it's starting to focus on Will's original thoughts (just as he's going off on hols, ironically). But I've heard religious people trivialise the swop for various, often elaborate reasons, but I've yet to hear anything which makes any actual sense.
"It seems rather obvious that plants have free will. Don't know why that would be controversial."
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#248  Postby Cito di Pense » Jul 03, 2010 10:53 am

archibald wrote:
But I've heard religious people trivialise the swop for various, often elaborate reasons, but I've yet to hear anything which makes any actual sense.


Here's another critique of pure reason for you:

NineOneFour wrote:
It's like those stupid studies that show Christians are more happy. Really? In a country that's 70% Christian with zero expectation of discrimination? Who'd have thunk that?


Most of these philosophical ruminations can be traced back to something empirical. The rest are wibbling.

It brings to mind the old aphorism that the secret to great art is hiding your sources. The whole business about Kant is a misdirection of that kind, trying to get you to run off on a wild goose chase. Most people who follow up on that too seriously appear to me to be barking mad. Dinesh d'Souza strikes me as one of these. Very well-spoken chap, though.

Will S wrote:
As I was trying to argue in the OP, it's perfectly reasonable to harp on about the weakness of the human intellect, and the limitations of human understanding.

But, if you do that, then you must be content just to DO it! There's no way in which you can follow up by plonking down a 'Therefore ...' and lead on to some new revelation or insight.

I confess that I've never read any book of Wittgenstein's from beginning to end, but isn't that what he's saying in his famous dictum: 'What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence'? (If so, it strikes me are being pretty obvious - once you set wishful thinking aside, that is.)


What I always return to in this context is that the vast majority of believers are not online trying to recapitulate their faith rationally. They're either comfily liberal and private or trying to institute a theocracy via the ballot box. The ones who are here doing all the barking are obviously disturbed by the rational challenges to faith. They look to drive everyone else barking mad because they love congregation, and now their misery needs company.
Хлопнут без некролога. -- Серге́й Па́влович Королёв

Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#249  Postby grahbudd » Jul 03, 2010 11:16 am

[citation needed]
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#250  Postby Cito di Pense » Jul 03, 2010 11:27 am

grahbudd wrote:[citation needed]


What’s So Great About Christianity?
Dinesh D’Souza
Chapter 15: The World Beyond Our Senses: Kant and the Limits of Reason (pp. 172-174)
Tyndale, 2007




D'Souza asks the question as if no one has ever asked the question before. IOW, rhetorically. It's the best he can come up with for an unanswerable question.

Like I say, barking mad. Whatever it's like to be D'Souza, it's not like bending any spoons. What is it like, like, to be a Valley Girl?
Last edited by Cito di Pense on Jul 03, 2010 11:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#251  Postby grahbudd » Jul 03, 2010 11:52 am

thank you.

Hmm, I've been trying to work out what the rich source is that C d P obtains all his psychological insights from. And at last I think I've found it:

http://www.celebrities-galore.com/celeb ... ny-number/

"Love, romance, and money are within Graham Budd's reach. He is aided by his friends and admirers. Often people appear out of nowhere to help him in key situations. Graham has to learn to accept the involvement of others in his life. He is not a loner, nor is he particularly independent. Graham Budd is social - he needs an audience and the support of others to fully realize his abilities.


Love, romance and money, eh? *rubs hands together greedily*.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#252  Postby Cito di Pense » Jul 03, 2010 11:58 am

grahbudd wrote:thank you.



http://www.celebrities-galore.com/celeb ... ny-number/

Zak Atak has the power and potential to achieve great things. It is both his challenge and his birthright to gain dominion over a small part of the earth. Whatever his enterprise, Zak strives to be the best and most successful in his field. He is highly competitive and will not rest until he is satisfied that he has bypassed the opposition. Atak enjoys challenges and rivalry.

:lol:
Хлопнут без некролога. -- Серге́й Па́влович Королёв

Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#253  Postby katja z » Jul 03, 2010 12:03 pm

grahbudd, I was looking forward to reading your thoughts on my response to your response to me - I spent some time addressing your points and I was interested in what you would have to say. Instead of this, I see you're spending your online time dabbling in numerology. :waah:
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#254  Postby grahbudd » Jul 03, 2010 12:18 pm

sorry sorry sorry it is coming!!
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#255  Postby Destroyer » Jul 03, 2010 2:00 pm

Sophie wrote

I think it is important to note that D’Souza/Kant seems to be assuming that human beings suffer from a distorted or possibly completely incorrect view of reality and for that reason, human beings should behave as if God exists. To this I would say that, first of all, D’Souza/Kant has not in fact demonstrated that human beings suffer from a distorted or possibly completely incorrect view of reality. Rather, he/they have pointed out that it is possible that we do. Even if we accept that we DO in fact have a distorted or possibly completely incorrect view of reality (and again, I don’t see any reason to accept that this is the case), then I would not see why we would assume or behave as if a being called God exists. If we believed that we, as human beings, suffer from a distorted or possibly a completely incorrect view of reality, there could be all kinds of things we could imagine to be the “real reality.” If we want to imagine such scenarios, certainly we could consider the possibility of God. However, I don’t see why such a consideration would be given any more consideration than any other possible scenario.



Thank you for the insight into Kant, Sophie. Very interesting stuff.

I am not familiar with Kant’s philosophy; but if part of his philosophy is as follows “human perception is limited to the senses, so one can never be sure that one is modelling reality precisely. The world as it really IS is distinct from the world as we perceive it to be through our senses …… therefore there is much that transcends our senses that limits us from ever been able to see reality as it really is.” Of course, all of this makes perfect sense; but if one then concludes that because there is a reality that transcends our senses, there is also a reality that is beyond our observation; then it is very easy to see why believers in God would embrace such a philosophy, since it protects God’s existence from accountability and the gaze of science.

However, such reasoning is fallacious: just because there is a reality that is beyond our senses, does not put that reality beyond our observation, it simply puts it beyond our ability to mirror and model that reality precisely as it is. IT DOES NOT PUT THAT REALITY BEYOND OUR OBSERVATION, only beyond our ability to observe it as it actually is: this is why when one’s views are supported by one’s peers one can have more confidence that the model they have constructed is a reliable approximation of reality.

PS: so whilst our senses can only have a limited view of reality, that reality is nevertheless always open to observation.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#256  Postby Sophie T » Jul 04, 2010 2:55 am

A general note before I respond to individual posts . . . This idea that the question of God’s existence is a meaningless question is an idea that Alvin Plantinga specifically addresses in some of his writings. This is what he writes:

Now many objections have been put forward to belief in God. First, there is the claim that as a matter of fact there is no such thing as belief in God, because the sentence “God exists” is, strictly speaking, nonsense. This is the positivists’ contention that such sentences as “God exists” are unverifiable and hence “cognitively meaningless” (to use their charming phrase), in which case they altogether fail to express propositions. On this view those who claim to believe in God are in the pitiable position of claiming to believe a proposition that as a matter of fact does not so much as exist. This objection, fortunately, has retreated into obscurity that it so richly deserves, and I shall say no more about it.

The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader
Edited by James F. Sennett
Chapter 5: Reason and Belief in God (pp. 106-107)
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998


Apparently Plantinga says more about this in his book, God and Other Minds, which I have not yet read. However, I hope to do so in the (hopefully) near future, and when I do, I may have additional comments to make about this.

Will S wrote:
I'm in a great rush, but re. Sophie's last message: that's very much how I see it.

As I was trying to argue in the OP, it's perfectly reasonable to harp on about the weakness of the human intellect, and the limitations of human understanding.

But, if you do that, then you must be content just to DO it! There's no way in which you can follow up by plonking down a 'Therefore ...' and lead on to some new revelation or insight.

I confess that I've never read any book of Wittgenstein's from beginning to end, but isn't that what he's saying in his famous dictum: 'What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence'? (If so, it strikes me are being pretty obvious - once you set wishful thinking aside, that is. :angel: )


Will—I think there are people who would say that they do not, in fact, feel compelled to be silent about that which they cannot speak. Just the opposite in fact! And I think those people are called Christian apologists. ;)

Destroyer wrote:
However, such reasoning is fallacious: just because there is a reality that is beyond our senses, does not put that reality beyond our observation . . .


How can one observe something that is beyond one's senses?

Can you provide an example of something that you can observe that does not employ the use of your senses? (Even if you want to talk about using a microscope or some other tool, you will still require your senses to observe, interpret, etc. what is seen through the microscope.)

This is where something like Plato’s cave becomes relevant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2afuTvUzBQ

It is possible, for example, that you and I are just minds in a vat. We might think that we are capable, in those circumstances, of observing all of reality. We might think that the only limits we have in that regard would be the limits of reality itself. However, we would be wrong.

This is what D’Souza/Kant (and when I use D’Souza/Kant, I am referring to D’Souza’s claims about Kant's views) seem to be saying. Here’s another excerpt from the chapter on Kant in D’Souza’s book to show you what I mean:

Moreover, the reality we apprehend is not reality in itself. It is merely our experience or “take” on reality. Kant’s point has been widely misunderstood. Many people think that Kant is making the pedestrian claim that our senses give us an imperfect facsimile or a rough approximation of reality. Philosphical novelist Ayn Rand once attacked Kant for saying that man has eyes but cannot see, and ears but cannot hear—in short, that man’s senses are fundamentally deluded. But Kant’s point is not that our senses are unreliable. True, our senses can fool us, as when we see a straight twig as bent because it is partly submerged in water. Human beings have found ways to correct these sensory distortions. Kant is quite aware of this, and it is not what he is after.

Kant’s argument is that we have no basis to assume that our perception of reality ever resembles reality itself. Our experience of things can never penetrate to things as they really are. That reality remains permanently hidden to us. To see the force of Kant’s point, ask yourself this question: how can you know that your experience of reality is any way “like” reality itself? Normally we answer this question by considering the two things separately. I can tell if my daughter’s portrait of her teacher looks like her teacher by placing the portrait alongside the person and comparing the two. I establish verisimilitude by the degree to which the copy conforms to the original. Kant points out, however, that we can never compare our experience of reality to reality itself. All we have is the experience, and that’s all we can ever have. We only have the copies, but we never have the originals. Moreover, the copies come to us through the medium of our senses, while the originals exist independently of our means of perceiving them. So we have no basis for inferring that the two are even comparable, and when we presume that our experience corresponds to reality, we are making an unjustified leap. We have absolutely no way to know this.

What’s So Great About Christianity?
Dinesh D’Souza
Chapter 15: The World Beyond Our Senses: Kant and the Limits of Reason (pp. 176-177)
Tyndale, 2007


So –

You seem to be saying that we can observe all of reality (although—I don’t know what you mean when you say we could do this in some way apart from our senses) where D’Souza/Kant seems to be saying that we cannot observe all of reality. My position is one that disagrees with you and with D’Souza/Kant . . . we can’t know if we are able to observe all of reality. However, this “not knowing” does not in any way justify a leap to God.


katja z wrote:
In fact, our view of reality must correspond reasonably well to reality, as the history of science and technology since Kant has shown. None of this could work if our perception of reality did not model "reality itself" to a considerable extent. After all, it isn't my perception of my computer that I'm just using to write and post this, it is my computer in itself ;)


This is a good point. But D’Souza/Kant would not say that the “phenomenal world” does not exist only that it is not the only world that exists.

Here is what D’Souza writes about that:

It is essential, at this point, to recognize that Kant is not diminishing the importance of experience or of the phenomenal world. That world is very important, if only because it is all we have access to. It constitutes the entirety of our human experience and is, consequently, of vital significance for us. It is entirely rational for us to believe in this phenomenal world, and to use science and reason to discover its operating principles. A recognized scientist and mathematician, Kant did not degrade the value of science. But he believed science should be understood as applying to the world of phenomena rather than to the nominal or “other” world.

. . . Perhaps the best way to understand this is to see Kant as positing two kinds of reality: the reality that we experience and reality itself. The important thing is not to establish which is more real, but to recognize that human reason operates only in the phenomenal domain of experience. We can know that the phenomenal realm exists, but beyond that we can know nothing about it. Human reason can never grasp reality itself.


What’s So Great About Christianity?
Dinesh D’Souza
Chapter 15: The World Beyond Our Senses: Kant and the Limits of Reason (pp. 178-179)
Tyndale, 2007


archibald wrote:Interesting post Sophie.

And, if you manage to briefly weave into your next one why there isn't any rational reason for not swopping 'god' for 'leprechaun', I'll be even more impressed. :]


Alright then. Wouldn't want to disappoint anyone. :P

And thank for asking me to do so. I am convinced that it is only in taking seriously the arguments of certain theologians and Christian apologists that we can provide strong refutations of such arguments. For me, “being” (or attempting to be) various theologians and apologists is the best way I know of to better understand their perspectives so that I can, in turn, offer my best refutation of their claims and/or so that I can (when I choose to do so) satirize such arguments (or present caricatures of them) in order to offer, um--creative commentary.

I should emphasize that I am not, in any way, an expert on Plantinga. So—I will answer you the best I can, based on my current (limited) understanding of Plantinga's views.

With that in mind then, I think that the way Plantinga might respond to your question is as follows:

Belief in the existence of God (when God is defined as a being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good) is what Plantinga would consider to be “properly basic.” In other words, it is a belief that occurs in certain circumstances, i.e. when we are "functioning properly." It is a belief that is not contingent on any other beliefs, and it is a belief that does not require any sort of argument or evidence to be rationally held. To Plantinga, a belief in the existence of God would be “properly basic” in the same way that my belief that my mother exists or my belief that the world was not created five minutes ago are “properly basic” beliefs. In other words, these beliefs are beliefs that do not require argument or evidence in order to be rationally held nor are they beliefs that are contingent on other beliefs. In other words, these are beliefs that are self-evident.

Here’s how Plantinga worded it (exactly):

What the Reformers meant to hold is that it is entirely right, rational, reasonable, and proper to believe in God without any evidence or argument at all; in this respect belief in God resembles belief in the past, in the existence of other persons, and in the existence of material objects.

The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader
Edited by James F. Sennett
Chapter 5: Reason and Belief in God (p. 103)
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998


You bring up the case of leprechauns, and you would understandably ask how it is that Plantinga does not consider belief in the existence of leprechauns to be a belief that is "properly basic." Plantinga actually addresses this question, and he refers to it as "The Great Pumpkin Objection." To this question, Plantinga seems to claim, basically, that he does not not have any sort of criterion for determining what beliefs are “properly basic.” However, he asserts that not having any criterion for determining what beliefs are properly basic does not mean that he cannot reject certain beliefs as not being properly basic.

This is where Plantinga goes on to explain that while a belief in the existence of God (as I defined above) is “properly basic,” he does not believe that such a belief is groundless.

Here’s what he writes about it:

If I see someone displaying typical pain behavior, I take it that he or she is in pain. Again, I do not take the displayed behavior as evidence for that belief; I do not infer that belief from others I hold; I do not accept it on the basis of other beliefs. Still, my perceiving the pain behavior plays a unique role in the formation and justification of that belief in question.

The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader
Edited by James F. Sennett
Chapter 5: Reason and Belief in God (p. 152)
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998


Note that in the above quote, he refers to perceiving. I think, although I am not sure, that Plantinga would go on to say that a Christian’s experiences of God (for example, experiencing a sense of guilt before God or gratitude toward God) would provide justification for his belief in the existence of God. However, I think he would say that while these experiences provide justification for the one experiencing them, they obviously would not provide justification for someone not experiencing them. Here is what is written in the introduction to the section on Reformed Epistemology in the book The Analytic Theist:

He [Plantinga] is not claiming that these experiences can serve as the basis for arguments that God exists. He is not even claiming that these experiences can ever legitimately serve to ground belief for anyone other than the subject of the experiences. Plantinga’s claim is that such experiences can and do rationally ground theistic belief for the subject, even if they cannot provide rational grounds for theistic belief for anyone else.

The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader
Edited by James F. Sennett
(p. 99)
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998


Plantinga seems to believe that if human beings are "functioning properly," then they will know that God (as defined above) exists. And thus, their belief in the existence of God (in the right circumstances, i.e. that they are functioning properly) is properly basic. I think he would say, then, that belief in the existence of God cannot be ruled out as being properly basic unless it can be proven that God does not exist. By the same token, however, I would think that an atheist could respond to this by saying that belief in the existence of The Great Pumpkin (or leprechauns) cannot be ruled out as being properly basic unless it can be demonstrated that The Great Pumpkin (or leprechauns) do not actually exist. However, Plantinga might then respond to this response by saying that no (properly functioning, i.e. sane) person actually believes in the existence of either leprechauns or The Great Pumpkin, and so there is no reason to think that belief in the existence of The Great Pumpkin or in leprechauns is a belief that is properly basic. Of course, a skeptic could then respond to this response by saying that no (properly functioning, i.e. sane) person actually believes in the existence of God. To this, I think Plantinga might respond that the majority of mental health experts would disagree with this conclusion and would say that many sane people do, in fact, believe in the existence of God.

Anyway, the reason that Plantinga's argument that belief in the existence of God is "properly basic," is relevant to our discussion is this:

IF God (as defined above) exists, then theists are not being irrational when they believe in the existence of God, even if they have no arguments and/or evidence to support such a belief. This is what Plantinga seems to be saying anyway.

This was probably a much longer explanation than you wanted, but there you have it. :thumbup:
It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
~ Excerpt from William Ernest Henley's Invictus
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#257  Postby Destroyer » Jul 04, 2010 10:01 am

Sophie wrote

How can one observe something that is beyond one's senses?

Can you provide an example of something that you can observe that does not employ the use of your senses? (Even if you want to talk about using a microscope or some other tool, you will still require your senses to observe, interpret, etc. what is seen through the microscope.)



When the phrase “beyond our senses” is used, it conveys the limit to human perception as a result of only been able to see things from one vantage point. So the phrase itself is valid; however, the phrase leads to a misunderstanding: It does not mean that what is beyond our senses is beyond our perception completely; it actually means that what we are perceiving we can only do so from a limited vantage point. So, to avoid this confusion, the phrase should properly be “beyond our senses to be certain that our model is perfect”. Instead, it is used to mean that there is a reality that transcends our observation, altogether. Which is clearly not the case: The limit to the senses is only a limit to how the senses interpret what is already been observed; not a restriction upon our ability to observe.

Hopefully that will make things a bit clearer.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#258  Postby Cito di Pense » Jul 04, 2010 2:04 pm

One has to marvel at (if not going as far as actually to admire) the infantile cheek of adults who display a proprietary air with respect to that which they merely desire to have. In other words, "I have an invisible friend."

"I want that. Therefore, it belongs to me."
Хлопнут без некролога. -- Серге́й Па́влович Королёв

Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#259  Postby archibald » Jul 04, 2010 2:58 pm

Sophie T wrote:Plantinga seems to believe that if human beings are "functioning properly," then they will know that God (as defined above) exists. And thus, their belief in the existence of God (in the right circumstances, i.e. that they are functioning properly) is properly basic. I think he would say, then, that belief in the existence of God cannot be ruled out as being properly basic unless it can be proven that God does not exist. By the same token, however, I would think that an atheist could respond to this by saying that belief in the existence of The Great Pumpkin (or leprechauns) cannot be ruled out as being properly basic unless it can be demonstrated that The Great Pumpkin (or leprechauns) do not actually exist. However, Plantinga might then respond to this response by saying that no (properly functioning, i.e. sane) person actually believes in the existence of either leprechauns or The Great Pumpkin, and so there is no reason to think that belief in the existence of The Great Pumpkin or in leprechauns is a belief that is properly basic. Of course, a skeptic could then respond to this response by saying that no (properly functioning, i.e. sane) person actually believes in the existence of God. To this, I think Plantinga might respond that the majority of mental health experts would disagree with this conclusion and would say that many sane people do, in fact, believe in the existence of God.

Anyway, the reason that Plantinga's argument that belief in the existence of God is "properly basic," is relevant to our discussion is this:

IF God (as defined above) exists, then theists are not being irrational when they believe in the existence of God, even if they have no arguments and/or evidence to support such a belief. This is what Plantinga seems to be saying anyway.



Well, that was a game attempt, but I'm afraid it only confirmed my opinion that I haven't yet heard a good reason for not being able to interchange the two terms. To me, it's like when we substitute the word 'car' instead of 'being' into the Ontological argument to illustrate that the 'perfect car' does exist because we can conceive of there being such a thing.

Not that I'm blaming you for trying, obviously. :]

I just don't see anything in Plantinga's skyhook reasoning (as you describe it) that holds up. What's 'proper functionning'? Isn't it completely arbitrary?

How do you explain the 'proper', 'natural' occurence of mischief without leprechauns?

And most importantly of all, people did used to believe in them.


Anyhow, thanks again for your reply. :)
"It seems rather obvious that plants have free will. Don't know why that would be controversial."
(John Platko)
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Re: Reason / Science / Religion

#260  Postby katja z » Jul 04, 2010 3:12 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:One has to marvel at (if not going as far as actually to admire) the infantile cheek of adults who display a proprietary air with respect to that which they merely desire to have. In other words, "I have an invisible friend."

"I want that. Therefore, it belongs to me exists."

Fixed that for you! :grin:
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