Monday, November 07, 2011

On the meaning of the term "God"

Is "God" a proper name, or a definite description? If "God" is a definite description, then that definite description is "a being omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good," then whatever God does is right, but it also means that we aren't in a position to pick out God unless we are able to identify what good is, and recognize that God possesses that quality. Or, God could be picked out by his exercise of creative power, and then we could define "good" in terms of something being in accordance with whoever possesses maximal creative power. But, if we do that, then don't we end up saying that might makes right?

15 comments:

rad said...

I'd say that God is pure being and from this follows everything else (given the doctrine of the convertibility of the transcendentals), including that he is the standard of goodness.

Mike Darus said...

Victor:
You explore the implications of omnipotence and omni-benevolence separate from each other. Omnipotence by itself leads to the question of the good or evil God. Benevolence by itself leads to the question of whether God has the power to be as good as he "should" be. These two traits should not be considered separate from one another, and certainly not separate from omniscience. This is the same error people fall into when they consider whether God is loving or just. If God is not all of these at the same time, we are not thinking correctly about God at all.

I am confused by your term "pick out" God. Is that picking from the available alternatives?

Victor Reppert said...

The idea of God seems to have omnipotence, omniscience and perfect goodness built into them. Something lacking all three of these qualities would fail to be God.

Mike Darus said...

My point is: you shouldn't examine each trait separately. If you consider that God is both good and creator, you can't end up with a "might makes right" conclusion.

Anonymous said...

You tag this post Euthyphro, but Euthyphro dealt with gods that were not omnipotent, omniscient or perfectly good.

I think you'd be better off noting that there are various kinds of gods and Gods.

Anonymous said...

I think God is a comination of all this things. But very important is he is the omnipotent. Because if he did not poses this quality. How would he be able to pass on his word and teaching. Would people listen if he were not omnipotent. Maybe believeing in something else that is as powerful.

Edward T. Babinski said...

HOW DO YOU KNOW GOD IS GOOD?...by His "creative power?"

What does creation really tell us?

God created a cosmos in which half of all fertilized human eggs are naturally aborted by the first month of pregnancy. That's a helluva slaughter when you think about it, and its still going on now. Most women don't even know they have "lost a zygote or early embryo" during the first month of pregnancy.

And speaking of slaughter, Buffon noted in the 1700s that even of the children who were born, half of them died before reaching the age of eight. Again, that's a helluva lot of slaughter.

So how exactly are we to prove the "Goodness" of "God" knowing the fact that "God" allegedly designed nature to work on the basis of unbelievable slaughter?

I haven't even mentioned the unbelievable slaughter due to predation, parasitism and deadly diseases, and even "mass extinction" events in the geological record.

Looking at the evidence from nature the most one can conclude is that life may arise and evolve in tiny regions of a vast cosmos, but only at the expense of vast death as well--life and death being in equilibrium (though all organism's die, new one's are also born, which may be true of stars and planets as well, at least until the GREAT RIP), and living organisms exist only in miniscule portions of a cosmos filled with deadly radiation.

Such evidence is not exactly "comforting" nor proof of God's "Goodness."

Edward T. Babinski said...

Of course the absolute proof of God's Goodness comes later, when "da Bible sez" God will cast people into hell, "fear him who can cast both body and soul into hell."

Unfortunately, we're already living in a world that is hell for some; purgatory for most (with hellish and paradisical days from time to time); and paradise only to a befuddled or ignorant few.

We are also living in a world where time for study and for seeking both scholarly and experiential knowledge of "God" remains limited. And even after reading biblical scholars one discovers they are not in agreement, neither do people have the same religious experiences.

Moreover the brain's default setting is simply to "believe" stories and anecdotes. The brain is not a naturally skeptical device geared toward expelling time and energy asking a lot of questions and pursuing investigations. The default brain setting from birth is "beleive, believe, believe."

That's the instrument we have to work with, that "God" gave us. No wonder so many people believe so many different things.

The brain is also built to respond positively to people who appear the most positive, the most sure of themselves. So we often go with the idea presented by the person who speaks up first and most confidently. Unfortunately the MOST confident people are often the one's most likely to be blind to how incompetent they are. Confidence does not equal competence, in fact practically the opposite is true. And they keep gaining positive reinforcement throughout their lives whenever they speak up first and most confidently until they get pretty good at getting people to nod with them in agreement.

So, actually looking at how the cosmos naturally works and how the brain-mind naturally works, where is the evidence that "God is Good?"

And if God damns people for their beliefs, what a pitiful brain-mind system He's given us for determining "the truth" about what's behind the metaphysical curtain.

Anonymous said...

"HOW DO YOU KNOW GOD IS GOOD?...by His "creative power?""

By a variety of arguments, some metaphysical, some inferential. It doesn't matter if God is good or not. If any god or God exists, atheism is kaput.

Do all of your comments have to be long-winded non-sequiturs? Is that your trademark in lieu of a cowboy hat?

"And if God damns people for their beliefs, what a pitiful brain-mind system He's given us for determining "the truth" about what's behind the metaphysical curtain."

You mean a pitiful mind he's given you, if those conditions are right. After all, plenty of people are getting saved if we accept that system.

So what you really meant here is that if God exists, He made you very dim.

Ilíon said...

VR: "Is "God" a proper name, or a definite description?"

Neither. It is a title, which has come to be used in English (*) as a proper name.

(*) as the corresponding word in other languages does in all cultures predominated by a monotheism.

Ilíon said...

"... But, if we do that, then don't we end up saying that might makes right?"

God is not simply one more entity or being enumerable with the entities or beings "in the universe". The false dilemma of the OP is the natural result of not understanding what God is not.

Ilíon said...

"HOW DO YOU KNOW GOD IS GOOD?...by His "creative power?""

Because, unlike you and all your tribe, we reason.

Among other things, modern-day (so-called) atheism is not merely a revolt against the moral strictures of Christianity, it is, rather, a deliberate revolt against reason itself.

Anonymous said...

Ilion, you are a broken record, incessantly harping about "intellectual dishonesty" and whatnot. And the specimens of your "reasoning," which you love to fancy as immaculate, would get absolutely and systematically trashed in a professional journal of philosophy.

You really ought to adopt a more humble manner in matters of philosophy and in your general approach to reality, or others will continue to dismiss your views as quickly as you (out-of-hand) dismiss theirs.

Ilíon said...

Aonymouse,
May your fate fall into the hands of some petty government functionary who cares as deeply about the truth as you so obviously do.

Ilíon said...

... and, may that petty functionary be fully a "humble" as you are.