Monday, August 26, 2013

Another version of the AFR

1. If there is no God, then all causation in the universe is blind, physical causation. 
2. If that is true, then what everyone believes is the result of blind, physical causation. 
3. But science exists. And if science exists, then scientists also exist. And those scientists do form beliefs because of the evidence for those beliefs. Otherwise, we would not take scientists any more seriously than tea leaf readers. 
4. But if science exists, then it is not the case that what everyone believes is the result of blind, physical causation. 
5. But if it is not true that what everyone believes is the result of blind, physical causation, then it is not the case that all causation in the universe is blind physical causation. 
6. If it is not true that all causation in the universe is blind physical causation, then God does exist. 

166 comments:

John Moore said...

Does blind mean without a conscious agent causing it, or does blind mean without material evidence?

I must admit I don't understand this argument at all. Step 4 in particular.

Mark Frank said...

Absolutely - I don't get step 4 or 6.

mattghg said...

Premise 4 is indeed the one that needs defending.

Line 6 is simply the contrapositive of line 1.

im-skeptical said...

Like all versions of AFR, this argument inserts an unstated or unsupported assumption. If all beliefs are the result of "blind physical causation", then statement 4 certainly does not follow. Victor is assuming that scientific beliefs are somehow different from other beliefs (perhaps because he's making an appeal to scientism, that's supposed to lure atheists into buying his logic). But a non sequitur is still false logic.

ingx24 said...

Premise (1) is false. It is not the case that God must exist in order for agent causation to exist. The argument begs the question against non-materialist versions of atheism from the very start.

mattghg said...

The unstated assumption is that the state s of person p holding belief b 'because of the evidence' is incompatible with s having arisen due to 'blind physical causation'. There is something (a lot) to be said in defence of this assumption, but the case is not made in this blog post.

The argument does not assume that scientific beliefs are different from other beliefs AFAICT.

im-skeptical said...

"... the state s of person p holding belief b 'because of the evidence' is incompatible with s having arisen due to 'blind physical causation'. There is something (a lot) to be said in defence of this assumption ..."

OK. How about if we take out the word 'blind', since it only serves to confuse the issue?

Think of the creationists, who assert that evolution can't result from 'purely random' mutations. The process is no more 'purely random' than mental processes are due to 'blind physical causation'. Yes, there is physical causation, but mental processes are directed toward goals, and as such, they are not 'blind', in a similar sense that evolution is anything but 'purely random'.

Then the statement "beliefs because of evidence are incompatible with beliefs due to physical causation" is nothing more than a bald assertion that contradicts observed evidence.

Crude said...

I'd have to agree with ingx24 that 1 seems iffy here. I recall Victor himself has said in the past that the AFR as he understands it isn't meant to prove theism, but knock down naturalism. You can deny naturalism without getting to theism. Granted, that's not exactly a popular version of 'atheism' nowadays, but it's a real one all the same.

Crude said...

That said, I think whoever's coming up with this AFR (You, Victor? Someone else?) is trying to sharpen the impact of it. The normal AFR deals with 'reasoning' in general, and then comments about science are extrapolated from it.

An AFR that called attention specifically to the science/scientist impact could probably be formulated, but I think it's better to alter 1 to take aim at "naturalism", not atheism.

Papalinton said...

A couple of points about Victor's rather inventive use of a couple of conceptual ploys that appear to have a semblance of assumed logic and plausibility.

(1) "But science exists. And if science exists, then scientists also exist."

Here Victor casts science as some form of existential corporeal[?] body :) . '..science exists' implies it to have a life of its own, separate and distinct from simply being a field of knowledge. Science does not in itself or of itself intentionally exist in any teleological sense. It is simply an agglomeration, albeit structured, of humanity's corporate knowledge base.

(2) By sleight of some artful word-smithing Victor equates a belief in science as qualitatively on par to a belief in supernaturalism. But we know this is not the case despite the tanks of ink drained over the last couple centuries trying to make it so. This is little more than an emotive appeal, a ploy attempting to legitimate or shore up that a belief in supernaturalism is little different to a belief in science, and to indeed posit it on a par with scientific rationalism. Theists have been trying really hard to win over the on the argument since the Enlightenment when science rightfully severed the apron strings of theology, as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy recounts :

"The dramatic success of the new science in explaining the natural world, in accounting for a wide variety of phenomena by appeal to a relatively small number of elegant mathematical formulae, promotes philosophy (in the broad sense of the time, which includes natural science) from a handmaiden of theology, constrained by its purposes and methods, to an independent force with the power and authority to challenge the old and construct the new, in the realms both of theory and practice, on the basis of its own principles."

The problem with Victor's AFR is that it does not recognise that natural explanations through the sciences not only best fit the mountain of evidence available but time and again refutes, rebuts or simply counters supernatural beliefs wherever their explanatory paths intersect. It has been singularly a one-way street with theology and religiously-informed philosophy having no alternative to performing a U-turn.

ingx24 said...

Here we go again.

Victor Reppert said...

Yes, I actually do think that premise 1 can certainly be questioned, in that there are certainly possible positions out there which are mentalistic but not theistic, the mental is ultimiate explanation, the "no skyhook" rule has to be set aside, but it doesn't invovle God per se.

im-skeptical said...

ingx24 believes that statement 1 is false. I agree, but not for the same reason, I think. There can be agency without god, and there can be agency without resorting to any immaterial explanation at all. The evidence is undeniable, no matter how hard people try not to believe it. From the lowliest creature looking for a meal, to a pack of wolves cooperating together to enhance the effectiveness of their hunt, to humans building soaring structures, there is agency with varying degrees of intelligence. It's physical cau8sation, but it's not blind.

ingx24 said...

im-skeptical,

If you think that physical causation can be goal-directed, you are on your way to accepting an Aristotelian metaphysics that, when fully worked out, implies the existence of God, the immateriality and immortality of the human intellect, and a Catholic-style natural law morality that condemns homosexual acts, sex before marriage, masturbation, and abortion. I'd be careful if I were you.

im-skeptical said...

"If you think that physical causation can be goal-directed, you are on your way to accepting an Aristotelian metaphysics ..."

No, thanks. Keep your pre-scientific woo. I'll stick to belief based on evidence.

ingx24 said...

im-skeptical,

Perhaps you have misunderstood. My claim is that, if you think that physical causation is intrinsically goal-directed, you have by definition accepted something like Aristotle's final cause. And if you think this goal-directedness reaches above the level of basic physics, you have implicitly accepted his formal cause as well.

Formal and final causes form the backbone of Aristotle's metaphysics, and once you accept them, the rest - the natural theology, the natural law ethics - falls out pretty much automatically as a result. I am not an Aristotelian - I have spent many a blog post attempting to argue against Aristotelianism myself - I'm just trying to warn you that you're implicitly denying your own worldview (and, in your words, accepting "pre-scientific woo") by affirming that physical causation is intrinsically goal-directed.

im-skeptical said...

ingx24,

Thanks for clarifying. I don't accept Aristotle's concepts of causation. And I don't believe that physical causation is intrinsically goal-directed. It seems that biological creatures are goal directed to the extent that they seek to sustain their biological function. (That's what we call life.) This is a special case of physical causality.

Even a plant that has no nervous system seeks water and nourishment to the extent that it can. Nervous systems enhance the ability of creatures to sustain life by extending their capabilities get nourishment and avoid danger. An insect has no more than a few neurons, but that simple nervous system gives it the ability to see and go after food, and fly away from predators. That is goal-directed behavior. It is a property of living things. No final causes - just the need to live.

mattghg said...

None of that is comparable to holding beliefs because of evidence.

B. Prokop said...

"That is goal-directed behavior. It is a property of living things. No final causes - just the need to live."

Wow. Do you realize what a mass of self-contradiction the above statement is?

Papalinton said...

Victor
" .. that there are certainly possible positions out there which are mentalistic but not theistic, the mental is ultimiate [sic] explanation, the "no skyhook" rule has to be set aside, but it doesn't invovle God per se."

Apart from theology no explanation requires involvement of the god memeplex per se. That is the crux of the totality of this debate. And the suggestion that the mentalistic position is the ultimate explanation is both reasonably and logically unfounded. No, the ultimate explanation will be realised when the mentalistic is defined sufficiently within a naturalistic framework. As has been demonstrated time after time over the centuries, all and any supernaturalistic account is simply a placeholder, no more no less, until such time that our knowledge and experience catches up and provides a properly basic explanation for things once deemed inexplicable. Conventional 'wisdom' of theism and theology sought to corral the philosophically inexplicable into the explanatory holding pen of mystery, otherworldliness, or have it categorized as the the goings-on of an even more inexplicable placemarker, such as the anthropomorphised god-head of the Christians, or the elephant-headed persona of Hindu cultural folklore. None of these merit further consideration as bona fide explanations.

Contrary to the generally-held beliefs of supernaturalists, the mentalistic is not the product or outcome of some parallel magical/mystical realm permeating and suffusing ordinary everyday life. Rather the mentalistic is, as indeed is our very consciousness, firmly anchored in the temporal. They obtain, temporarily, and as with all the vicissitudes of life eventually peter out, consistent with and inseparably bound to our very own time-prescribed mortality. The spiritual, spirituality, spiritualism, 'at one with the cosmos', transcendence, however one wishes to describe it, is merely the experiential effect of emotion and feeling, both of which cease at point of quietus.

It has taken a long time for the more learned of us to come to grips with the conscious realization of our own mortality and the tenuous and fleeting nature of life. It will take still further time for the more rusted-on supernaturalists to finally understand and appreciate there is little value in continuing to desperately cling to some presumptive notion that we can somehow, even vicariously cheat death, the ultimate reality, by imagining we are entitled to some kind of postmortem eternal existence, so long as we supplicate to the right god.

This reworked version of the AFR does not in any sense substantiate the existence of a god, let alone validate the claim in Point 6. Indeed the substance of Point 6 is a non-sequitur.

This conceptual naivety underscores the long and arduous journey still ahead of us as humanity strives for maturity and adulthood.

mattghg said...

tl; dr

B. Prokop said...

Linton,

Why are you always so down on Ganesha? What's he ever done to you, that you hold such animus toward him?

(Glad to see you safely back from your trip.)

im-skeptical said...

"None of that is comparable to holding beliefs because of evidence."

True, but it is the beginning of belief based on evidence. At some point in the continuum of increasing cognitive capability and intelligence, animals can be said to have beliefs. An animal believes it will survive if it runs from the predator, or if it can catch that food. Such beliefs are based, at least partly on experience. That's evidence. The greater a creature's cognitive abilities, the more its actions can be attributed to beliefs. And those beliefs are certainly influenced by experience.

It seems to be a peculiarity of mankind that we acquire beliefs based on nothing but imagination or flight of fancy. Such is the case with our spirits and gods. That's belief that isn't based on evidence. It's superstition. Sometimes we wrap those beliefs in a mantle of 'rationality' (that is to say, rationalization), and that's what we call 'theology'.

B. Prokop said...

"It seems to be a peculiarity of mankind that we acquire beliefs based on..."

Perhaps that's because human beings are the only creatures (at least on planet Earth) endowed with a rational soul, capable of responding on an intellectual (as opposed to instinctual) level to Divine Revelation and Grace.

But unfortunately, the materialist closes his eyes as tightly as he can, and jams his fingers in his ears while shouting "Yaaaaah", lest anything break through his defenses.

Liberation can be uncomfortable, Skep, and yes, they do feed you in prison. But the air's better out here in Freedom.

im-skeptical said...

"Perhaps that's because human beings are the only creatures (at least on planet Earth) endowed with a rational soul"

So you agree that this supposed 'soul' does not base its beliefs on evidence.

"Liberation can be uncomfortable, Skep, and yes, they do feed you in prison."

So much for tolerance of people who don't share your beliefs.

mattghg said...

The argument can be run just as easily for other animals that (putatively*) form beliefs based on evidence. In which case the crucial assumption is that the state s of animal a holding belief b 'because of the evidence' is incompatible with s having arisen due to 'blind physical causation'. The argument in no way requires that all (or even any) non-human animals are purely material creatures (pace Descartes).

* I'm not convinced that this is actually the case for any non-human animals, but I'm willing to concede it for the sake of argument.

It seems to be a peculiarity of mankind that we acquire beliefs based on nothing but imagination or flight of fancy. Such is the case with our spirits and gods. That's belief that isn't based on evidence. It's superstition. Sometimes we wrap those beliefs in a mantle of 'rationality' (that is to say, rationalization), and that's what we call 'theology'.

It is a pecularity of mankind that we are able not only to form beliefs, but also to form beliefs about beliefs and even beliefs about beliefs etc. Unlike non-human animals, we are able to attribute mental states to other creatures, or even to attribute mental states about mental states etc.

Some atheists contend that theists over-attribute mental states---that we see a mind behind the universe that isn't actually there. Now, it is possible to over-attribute mental states (e.g. some people thought/think that trees are conscious). But it is also possible to under-attribute mental states---according to one influential theory, that's what autism is in the extreme case---and that's what I think atheists are doing.

If the AFR succeeds then mental states must be a fundamental feature of reality. C.S. Lewis came to that conclusion a few years before he became a Christian.

im-skeptical said...

News update: further evidence of physical causality. Thoughts in a person's brain transferred to another person's brain to control his movement.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130827122713.htm

HT: Jonathan Pearce

B. Prokop said...

"So much for tolerance of people who don't share your beliefs."

Wha-a-a-a-t???? Where in the world did that come from? If I plead for the release of a political prisoner in North Korea, am I all of a sudden intolerant of him?

Try and make some sense, man!

ingx24 said...

You know, I've always thought it was interesting how hardcore atheists always seem to see the mental as something "supernatural" that needs to be explained away as really just mindless chemical reactions in our heads. If anything, the mental is less "supernatural" than anything else: it is what we know more intimately than anything else, even more so than the material world. Given how obvious it seems that the mental is real and not reducible to anything else, and clearly not something that can be physically observed or quantified (good luck reading someone's thoughts directly off a brain scan without prior knowledge of correlations), dualism would seem to be the default option: the burden of proof is on the materialist to somehow show that, contrary to very powerful intuitions, the mental isn't really real at all and is, in Jerry Fodor's words, "actually something else". And I would claim that this is something that cannot be done, regardless of how much neuroscientific data you throw in our faces. If anything, neuroscience is actively supporting dualism by revealing that thoughts, emotions, mental images, memories, and the like are not physically observable in the brain and can only be read off from brain activity if one already knows how they are correlated.

I keep stressing this over and over again, as it seems to be something that a lot of people don't get: Nothing about believing in the reality of an immaterial mind requires believing in God or any other supernatural beings or deities, nor does it require the belief that the mind survives the death of the body. Dualism is perfectly compatible with an otherwise "naturalistic" worldview: even substance dualism could be made to work without theism if one could plausibly explain where minds came from and how they got associated with physical bodies. What seems to be happening is that, since religion in general affirms the existence of immaterial entities, conceding the existence of anything immaterial is seen as a concession to religion and a step in the direction of the behemoth of Christian theism. This is a sign of a great amount of uncertainty in atheistic belief: a sign that at least some atheists are so insecure in their atheism that they feel that they need to deny that anything besides what can be observed and measured exists in order to avoid the risk of a divine foot stepping in the door. They feel that, if the immaterial is a valid category, then there's no telling what might exist in that category - including the God of Christian theism. The immaterial needs to be ruled out altogether: the assertion needs to be made that there is no evidence for the immaterial because it cannot be observed or measured, with the unstated assumption that only empirical, scientific evidence - evidence based on observation and measurement - counts as "evidence" at all. By ruling out the immaterial from the start in this way, the atheist can remain secure in his belief in the nonexistence of God, all the while avoiding having to defend any claims and placing an insurmountable burden of proof on the theist. Unfortunately, this also makes atheism unfalsifiable.

ingx24 said...


To use an analogy: The atheist who denies the existence of anything immaterial is like the protagonist in a slasher film who locks himself in a room and refuses to let anyone in, fearing that the next person knocking on the door might be the killer. It is a sign of fear and insecurity, and it has pernicious consequences for both personal and intellectual life. The insecure and fearful atheist ends up, implicitly or explicitly, denying the existence of his own thoughts and emotions, attempting to explain them away as mere chemical reactions - no different from and no more significant than those happening within a battery. He is so fearful of letting a divine foot in the door that he denies his own existence and worth as a person, as well as that of everyone around him. He becomes angry, cynical, and disenchanted: convinced that blind, mindless matter in motion is all there is and that even his own mind is just a series of mindless electrical impulses, he becomes angry and jealous of those who still live in "blissful ignorance", and seeks to destroy their "happy delusions" of immaterial things and "wake them up" to cold, bleak "reality".

This attitude - that allowing anything immaterial to count as real automatically opens the door to the threat of Christian theism - is not helped by the fact that many (but by no means all) defenses of dualism today are part of a cumulative argument for the existence of God and the truth of Christianity. By lumping dualism in with theism and Christianity, Christian apologists are helping to segregate philosophical opinion into a two-party faction system similar to that of American politics, where wide varieties of beliefs are grouped together into a a packaged deal under a single party label and there is very little common ground or gray area.

im-skeptical said...

"But it is also possible to under-attribute mental states---according to one influential theory, that's what autism is in the extreme case---and that's what I think atheists are doing."

I've never heard a materialist or atheist deny the existence of mental activity or mental states. Where we differ from theists (typically) is in how we attribute them to either physical phenomena or immaterial phenomena.

im-skeptical said...

"You know, I've always thought it was interesting how hardcore atheists always seem to see the mental as something "supernatural" that needs to be explained away as really just mindless chemical reactions in our heads."

Wow! You're claiming that because a materialist denies the immaterial, he denies cognitive function (which, according to you, can only be attributed to immaterial causes)? I'd say he only denies immaterial/supernatural cognitive function.

"Nothing about believing in the reality of an immaterial mind requires believing in God or any other supernatural beings or deities, nor does it require the belief that the mind survives the death of the body."

Take that up with the theists. Nothing about believing in the reality of cognitive function or mental activity requires believing in any kind of immaterial entities or causes. Now I know that's tough for you to accept, but it's just your own fear and insecurity. We don't deny the existence of our thoughts and emotions. We just have a better understanding of what causes them.

mattghg said...

I've never heard a materialist or atheist deny the existence of mental activity or mental states.

You misunderstand me. I didn't say that atheists 'deny the existence of mental activity or mental states', what I said was that they under-attribute mental states, i.e., fail to attribute them in some cases (well, one big case) where they are there, namely, behind the universe.

im-skeptical said...

"they under-attribute mental states, i.e., fail to attribute them in some cases (well, one big case) where they are there, namely, behind the universe."

OK. I see evidence of cognitive function in people and animals. I don't see any evidence of it in the universe itself (or some being who's behind it all). This is an emotional thing. You see the structure of the universe, you see the beauty of things in your experience, and you tell yourself that there must be an intelligence to it all. You conveniently block out the ugliness, the chaos, the suffering, and then when reminded of those things, you have to come up with some rationalization to explain them. The simpler explanation is that there is no intelligence making all this happen. And there is no evidence of it, either.

mattghg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
im-skeptical said...

ingx24,

"He becomes angry, cynical, and disenchanted: convinced that blind, mindless matter in motion is all there is and that even his own mind is just a series of mindless electrical impulses, he becomes angry and jealous of those who still live in "blissful ignorance", and seeks to destroy their "happy delusions" of immaterial things and "wake them up" to cold, bleak "reality". "

This is evidence of your own misunderstanding of what it means to be (at least relatively) free of superstition and woo. It's not the cold, dark bleakness of "mindless electrical impulses" that you make it out to be. I have thoughts and emotions, just like everyone else. Your failure to understand it, your deluded perception, does not change the reality. (I might add here that we all have deluded perceptions - reality is not what it appears.) You've convinced yourself (as have most theists) that "mindless electrical impulses" can't possibly result in cognition. As I said, there is "matter in motion" behind it, but it's anything but mindless. It is just how mental function works. Sorry to disappoint you, the materialist isn't angry and jealous because he doesn't share your happy delusions about mind. But he may well wish that you'd wake up, take a look at the evidence, and stop being so smug about your beliefs.

mattghg said...

@im-skeptical,

You...

No, I don't. You have me wrong. Why do you presume to repeatedly tell me what I think or how I've come to the beliefs I have?

there is no evidence of it

Like Bob said, the only way you can maintain this is by sticking your fingers in your ears and closing your eyes.

Is there no argument for the existence of God that is any good at all? Do you even understand the arguments? Are you even aware of them?

You seem to have this preconception that all theists fit into your identikit idea of irrational wishful thinkers. Where's the evidence for that? To maintain that claim, you have to think that there are people operating at the very highest level of science and philosophy who are very rational and thoughtful indeed except when it comes to this one massive blind-spot, but who nevertheless give the impression of thinking through their theological convictions with exactly the same high degree of rigour as their scientific/philosophical convictions. Is that a rational position to take?

B. Prokop said...

"Sorry to disappoint you, the materialist isn't angry and jealous because he doesn't share your happy delusions about mind. But he may well wish that you'd wake up, take a look at the evidence, and stop being so smug about your beliefs."

Skep, before you get all hot and bothered about others "mind reading" you, keep I mind that you do the same thing all the time. Right here, in the above example, you called ing delusionalm asleep, and smug - all classic examples of attempted mind reading. On countless occasions, you have labeled the Christian faith as "fragile" and imagined that the people you were debating were "threatened" by your comments (a laughable notion, by the way). Earlier in this thread, in a spectacularly inept attempt at mind reading, you accused me of "intolerance" because I pitied you. How is that intolerance? Is concern for a suffering fellow human being intolerance? 'Cause if so, then you and I read very different dictionaries!

You badly need to get your own house in order before you presume to criticize others'.

B. Prokop said...

TYPO ALERT:

"you called ing delusionalm asleep, and smug" should have read "you called ing delusional, asleep, and smug"

A case of "m" being next to the comma on the keyboard.

im-skeptical said...

"Why do you presume to repeatedly tell me what I think or how I've come to the beliefs I have?"

"the only way you can maintain this is by sticking your fingers in your ears and closing your eyes ... You seem to have this preconception that all theists fit into your identikit idea of irrational wishful thinkers."

Why do you presume to repeatedly tell me what I think or how I've come to the beliefs I have? Seems to be a bit of a two-way street, don't you think?

Bob looks at a sunset and thinks "goddidit". I see that and think "that's an emotional reaction. Emotions aside, I don't see the evidence for 'goddidit'". I've even been told that the gospels are solid proof that the Christian narrative is true. Why can't I see that? Because they're not. They're stories that someone wrote, and they don't agree with other available evidence. Bob then accuses me of "sticking your fingers in your ears and closing your eyes". OK. I'm guilty. Guilty of rejecting beliefs that I think aren't based on good evidence.

ingx24 "inspects" his own mental activity and thinks "The way I perceive my own mind is different from the way I perceive other things. That can't be just mindless electrical impulses." So he concludes "The mind must be immaterial". I see that and think "His conclusion is based on perception, but perception doesn't necessarily give us a realistic view of things. It is to be expected that we perceive our own mind differently than the way we perceive things through our sense organs. That doesn't constitute evidence that mind has an existence apart from our physical bodies. There is more than ample evidence that mind has no existence apart from our bodies. It is a physical phenomenon." once again, I'm guilty of rejecting beliefs that I think aren't based on good evidence.

"Is there no argument for the existence of God that is any good at all?"

I've said before that I think they are all flawed because they make assumptions that a materialist couldn't accept without evidence. Case in point: the AFR. You have to buy that cognitive function can't come from purely physical causes. I think it can, and the evidence supports that. If you want to make this assertion, you need to show me evidence - not just some vague feeling you have that there must be something else behind it.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

Regarding the intolerance: I misread your statement. I thought that was what you wished, not what you think. Sorry.

"Is concern for a suffering fellow human being intolerance?"

Is it concern? Or is it smugness?

mattghg said...

Why do you presume to repeatedly tell me what I think or how I've come to the beliefs I have?

Did I tell you what you think? No. Did I say how you manage to maintain one belief? Yes. Repeatedly? No.

Why? Because you made the strong claim that there is no evidence for theism (not 'not enough' or 'inconclusive'). Since I know that there is at least some, what am I supposed to conclude? I haven't claimed that there is no evidence for atheism or that atheism is ipso facto irrational.

All this psychologizing is ironic in a thread about the AFR, given that that argument poses the following question: if all mental activity can be reduced to physical processes, what physically distinguishes a belief arrived at for good reasons from one arrived at for bad reasons (or no reasons)? 'even if grounds do exist, what exactly have they got to do with the actual occurrence of the belief as a psychological event?' (C.S. Lewis)

B. Prokop said...

Skep,

I have many, many, exceedingly many flaws. Laziness tops the list. (In fact, it dominates it. I expect to be spending a good deal of time on the Fourth Cornice of Purgatory - much less on the others.) But smugness ain't one of them.

ingx24 said...

ingx24 "inspects" his own mental activity and thinks "The way I perceive my own mind is different from the way I perceive other things. That can't be just mindless electrical impulses." So he concludes "The mind must be immaterial". I see that and think "His conclusion is based on perception, but perception doesn't necessarily give us a realistic view of things. It is to be expected that we perceive our own mind differently than the way we perceive things through our sense organs. That doesn't constitute evidence that mind has an existence apart from our physical bodies.

Wrong. I inspect my own mind, notice that nothing in it even comes close to even resembling electrical impulses in a neural network, and conclude that my mind is not electrical impulses. If you want to claim that introspection is worthless and only neuroscience can reveal the mind as it truly is, then there is no point in arguing with you since (according to you) none of our thoughts are really real anyway, so there isn't even an argument taking place at all.

You've convinced yourself (as have most theists) that "mindless electrical impulses" can't possibly result in cognition. As I said, there is "matter in motion" behind it, but it's anything but mindless. It is just how mental function works.

Again: If you think that certain kinds of physical causation can be mindful and goal-directed, then you are committing yourself to formal and final causality, and thereby letting in the entire Aristotelian-Thomistic system under which the existence of God and Catholic-style natural law morality fall out inescapably. Refusal to call it final causality does not make it any less identical to final causality.

B. Prokop said...

ing,

You're beating your head against a stone wall here. I pointed out the pile of contradictions Skep gave us in one short statement on this very subject (at 4:40 AM), but he continued straight ahead, like the Titanic into the iceberg.

The thing is, he doesn't even see how incoherently self-contradictory his "position" is. (I put the word position in quote marks, since Skep maintains that he has no "worldview", so how is it possible for him to hold a position on anything?) So your attepts to reason with him are like trying to nail Jello to the wall.

B. Prokop said...

"attepts" was my attempt to type "attempts".

im-skeptical said...

Where to begin?

"Because you made the strong claim that there is no evidence for theism"

A bit overstated, I admit. There is no empirical evidence. OK?

"I inspect my own mind, notice that nothing in it even comes close to even resembling ..."

That's perception. It doesn't tell you much about how your cognitive processes actually work.

"If you think that certain kinds of physical causation can be mindful and goal-directed, then then you are committing yourself to formal and final causality"

Sorry, no. I absolutely reject that pre-scientific mumbo-jumbo.

"I pointed out the pile of contradictions"

It's still pre-scientific mumbo-jumbo. I will be happy to continue calling A-T mumbo-jumbo what it is. You can disagree all you like.

"Skep maintains that he has no "worldview""

Your reading comprehension is as bad as crude's. I never said any such thing.

B. Prokop said...

From Skep's gallery of greatest hits:

"I am a person who calls himself an atheist"

"I don't agree that atheism (in its own right) implies any worldview"

"the fact of being atheist implies no particular worldview"

"The fact of being atheist certainly does not imply any particular worldview"

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

What part of that don't you understand? And while you're searching for quotes, why don't you find more instances where I discuss having a worldview? I repeat, I never said I don't have one.

B. Prokop said...

Great - then let's have it. What is your worldview? Specifically as regards to the following:

- Do the words "meaning" and "purpose" have any meaning, when applied to human life?

- Are specific actions objectively good or evil? Do those terms even have a meaning?

- Are objects beautiful in themselves, or only because we perceive them to be so?

- Will it matter how any of us have lived 5 billion years from now, after the Earth has been destroyed by the Sun's expansion into a red giant?

- Are we free to choose between alternative actions?

- Is it ever possible to state something with absolute certainty?

- Is Love simply an electrochemical reaction, or does it have any greater significance?

Those will do for now...

ingx24 said...

Well, those questions weren't addressed to me, but just for fun I'm going to try to answer them:

- Do the words "meaning" and "purpose" have any meaning, when applied to human life?

This is a *very* difficult question. Something having a purpose presupposes someone who's purpose it is, so whether or not human life has an objective purpose seems to hinge on whether or not there is a God who had a purpose for creating human life. And that's a question I don't have an answer to.

- Are specific actions objectively good or evil? Do those terms even have a meaning?

I will admit I don't have a good theory of ethics: I reject divine command theory and natural law as unacceptable, and traditional forms of utilitarianism seem to lead to absurdities when followed to their logical conclusions. I will say that I think it is objectively and intrinsically wrong to cause pain to an innocent person, and objectively and intrinsically good to help others and make them happy, based simply on the intrinsic moral value of positive and negative feelings and the sentient beings who have them. But I don't have any clue how to actually formulate this into a coherent moral theory that doesn't lead to absurdities such as it being objectively good to ignore your own drowning children in order to push buttons which will cause mild sexual gratification in a warehouse full of rabbits.


- Are objects beautiful in themselves, or only because we perceive them to be so?


My rational side has always told me that, in the end, beauty is in the eye of the beholder: it's all a matter of perspective. But I've had some experiences that have, on a deeper level, made me think twice about that. (No doubt people like im-skeptical will immediately use this as an excuse to call me irrational and vulnerable to emotionally-driven wishful thinking: note that I have not taken emotional experiences to be infallible guides to what is true; only that they sometimes have made me think twice about certain things.)

- Will it matter how any of us have lived 5 billion years from now, after the Earth has been destroyed by the Sun's expansion into a red giant?

That depends: matter to whom? It all hinges on whether there will be anyone around to care: if our minds simply disappear after death and there are no other minds (divine or otherwise) left after we're gone, then this question becomes meaningless as there won't be anyone around for our lives to matter to. (I may be a dualist, but that does not mean I am committed to belief in life after death: I remain agnostic on the question of what happens after we die.)

- Are we free to choose between alternative actions?

I would say yes - since I believe in the irreducibility and causal efficacy of mental states, I would definitely say that our thoughts and decisions make a difference in what we do and how causation unfolds.

- Is it ever possible to state something with absolute certainty?

I can state that I exist as a thinking, feeling being with absolute certainty. And no materialistic sophistry is going to convince me otherwise any time soon.

- Is Love simply an electrochemical reaction, or does it have any greater significance?

Well, love certainly doesn't seem like an electrochemical reaction, and since I trust my own introspection over scientistic bullshit (see above), I'm going to have to say that love is definitely a real thing with real significance - possibly more significance than anything else.

im-skeptical said...

- Do the words "meaning" and "purpose" have any meaning, when applied to human life? Meaning - yes. Purpose - no.

- Are specific actions objectively good or evil? Do those terms even have a meaning? Yes, and yes.

- Are objects beautiful in themselves, or only because we perceive them to be so? Beauty is purely subjective.

- Will it matter how any of us have lived 5 billion years from now, after the Earth has been destroyed by the Sun's expansion into a red giant? No.

- Are we free to choose between alternative actions? We have the illusion of choice. At the moment an action is decided, there are no real alternatives.

- Is it ever possible to state something with absolute certainty? No.

- Is Love simply an electrochemical reaction, or does it have any greater significance? Love is an emotion. Human relationships are meaningful and important in our lives.

There is too much here to discuss in detail. If you'd like to know more about what I think about a particular question, we can talk about that.

B. Prokop said...

Wow. I have to admit that I didn't really expect an answer to my questions - and certainly not two of them! So, to show my appreciation, I'll answer them myself:

- Do the words "meaning" and "purpose" have any meaning, when applied to human life?

Without personal immortality, life ultimately has no meaning. Without God, it has no purpose. Since I believe in both, I'll answer with a "yes".

- Are specific actions objectively good or evil? Do those terms even have a meaning?

Yes. And that objectivity comes from a source outside of the natural order. Were I a materialist, I would have to say the terms were meaningless, but thank God, I am not.

- Are objects beautiful in themselves, or only because we perceive them to be so?

Beauty is an inherent property of a thing, and is not dependent upon our own perception or opinion. Mahler's Kindertotenlieder does not cease being beautiful simply because some listener doesn't think so.

- Will it matter how any of us have lived 5 billion years from now, after the Earth has been destroyed by the Sun's expansion into a red giant?

Yes, because we will all - every one of us - still be around for it to have mattered. However, were I to believe that our individual existence ceases with our death (which I don't), then I would be forced to answer "no".

- Are we free to choose between alternative actions?

Yes, Free Will is a bedrock, fundamental Truth. I would sacrifice nearly everything else I hold to be true before abandoning this one.

- Is it ever possible to state something with absolute certainty?

Yes, but not often.

- Is Love simply an electrochemical reaction, or does it have any greater significance?

Love is what created the universe, holds it in existence, and determines its destiny. Our human experience of Love is a pale shadow of the Reality.

Walter said...

- Is it ever possible to state something with absolute certainty?

It is absolutely not possible to state anything with absolute certainty. Of this I am absolutely certain.

im-skeptical said...

"Without personal immortality, life ultimately has no meaning."

Seems to be a rather cynical view: You don't value your life in this world, which (let's face it) is the only life you have. The only meaning is in an existence (the beatific vision) that entails no experience, no goals, no achievement, as fulfillment has already been achieved. "Man is not perfectly happy, so long as something remains for him to desire and seek." (Aquinas). After a few millennia of this perfect fulfillment (and with many more to go) what does anything in the past really mean?

As I see it, if our lives have any meaning, it is the meaning we give them while we are here, not some sterile non-life. There are many people who have had an impact on my life, people who have made a difference. To me, their lives have meaning. Likewise, I hope that my life matters to someone. But when we're all gone, there's no one left to care.

B. Prokop said...

"But when we're all gone, there's no one left to care."

Which is why I used the word "ultimately". Seems you agree with me on this one.

Papalinton said...

The only abiding and valued task for humanity is to find meaning in life. Douglas Adams poignantly and beautifully crafted the only reasonable and logical response to the nonsense of searching for the 'meaning of life'. The answer? #42.

You get one shot at it, from the moment you are conceived to the moment you cease to be alive. Nothing more nothing less. You were non-existent entity for an eternity prior to your conception and you will again be non-existent entity for an eternity at death.

Ockham's razor in veritable application.

Everything else is a smorgasbord.

John Mitchell said...

Bob mentioned Mahler's Kindertotenlieder

Thumbs up

B. Prokop said...

I'm so glad that Linton brought up 42 as The Answer.

42 is the number of generations in the genealogy of the Christ, as listed in the first chapter of Matthew - the very opening lines of the New Testament. So Douglas Adams was on to something there.

mattghg said...

A smorgasbord?

B. Prokop said...

mattghg,

Remember, Linton is Down Under, so what he really meant to write was "drobsagroms".

You know, I may be on to something here. If you read all of Mr. Wilson's postings backwards, they start to make sense!

Dan Gillson said...

Premise 1 contains a category mistake. The existence or nonexistence of objects can't determine the properties of causes, unless you're willing to assume that the properties of causes share the state of being an object with other objects, which is just odd.

im-skeptical said...

Since I'm not familiar with Mahler's Kindertotenlieder, it's impossible for me to say that it's beautiful. But if it is objectively beautiful, there should be some criteria that you can use to evaluate it. What are those criteria? How would I know?

B. Prokop said...

"there should be some criteria that you can use to evaluate it. What are those criteria? How would I know?"

We are back on the same turf as "is there an objective morality?" The materialist must (if he is to be consistent) say no. In the same manner, he is compelled to regard all beauty as subjective.

That this is nonsense is easily illustrated by the existence of "acquired tastes". I may greatly dislike beer upon my first sip, but as I learn to appreciate the taste, I am eventually able to discern the difference between a fine ale and cheap weasel piss. Now the beer hasn't changed one whit. What has changed is my perception of it. So you can't say that somehow it was at one point "bad" and subsequently "good" - the beer is exactly what it always was.

So there is indeed an objective quality of "goodness" (or "badness") to the beer, independent of my own opinion in the matter.

Ilíon said...

Well, VR ... you get what you pay for. In this case, it's the general run of your commenters.

im-skeptical said...

"What has changed is my perception of it. So you can't say that somehow it was at one point "bad" and subsequently "good" - the beer is exactly what it always was."

You can't ever say that it was objectively bad and then it became good. You can say it tasted bad and then it tasted good (both of those statements would be true). That's because (as you yourself indicated) what makes it taste good or bad is your perception.

im-skeptical said...

"We are back on the same turf as "is there an objective morality?" The materialist must (if he is to be consistent) say no."

Consistent with what? If you define morality as something that comes from god, then I'd say there is no morality at all. But I don't believe that. Morality is part of human nature. And while I agree that it is largely subjective and situational, I think it is possible to state objective criteria for goodness or badness of behavior. You could say that good behavior is defined as that which results in the greatest overall happiness (among all people), for example. If such a definition becomes a consensus (which is problematic), it would then be seen as the standard basis of objective morality. But even without a consensus, a person could adopt his own criteria for moral behavior. In any case, having some kind of defined criteria is the basis for saying that something is 'objective'. Such is not the case with god-derived morality. (I have never seen any criteria for objective moral behavior that supposedly derives from god.)

Beauty is different. It is, by its very nature, a subjective experience. Nobody can ever define criteria for it. It is entirely dependent on how you perceive something.

B. Prokop said...

Skep,

You have a very strange idea of what "objectivity" is, if you say it arises from consensus or from simply defining it.

But you were right to call me out on looking for consistency within materialism. Such a thing is not possible.

im-skeptical said...

"You have a very strange idea of what "objectivity" is, if you say it arises from consensus or from simply defining it."

That's not what I said. In my view, objectivity is closely linked with the ability to define criteria by which to evaluate it (or to evaluate its truth). This is not out of line with a standard philosophical view of objectivity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivity_%28philosophy%29

"But you were right to call me out on looking for consistency within materialism. Such a thing is not possible."

What is my inconsistency? I admit that I haven't systematically examined all my beliefs to be able to say that they are entirely consistent. Have You?

B. Prokop said...

I find it inconsistent to label something as objective, and then to base said objectivity on consensus or personal definition.

Using your reasoning, up to the time of Copernicus it was objective truth that the Sun went around the Earth, since that had been the consensus for more than a thousand years, and in any case the Earth was defined as the center of creation.

If something is objectively true, then it remains true even if no one believes it to be so. In the same manner, a sunset is beautiful even if no one sees it at all.

im-skeptical said...

"I find it inconsistent to label something as objective, and then to base said objectivity on consensus or personal definition"

Bob, I urge you to read and consider what I have written, not just dismiss it without bothering to understand my meaning.

There may be 'objective truth', but you can't say that something is 'objectively true' unless you can say how you know that it is true. That's objectivity. And you can't say something is beautiful unless you perceive or experience that thing. That's subjectivity.

William said...

It's complicated. I recommend Lafave on this distinction:

http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/subjective_objective.html

Papalinton said...

"42 is the number of generations in the genealogy of the Christ, as listed in the first chapter of Matthew - the very opening lines of the New Testament. So Douglas Adams was on to something there."

Interestingly, Luke provides a very different number of generations; 56 in all, if one starts both lists at the common ancestor, Abraham down through Jesus. And even more ironically Matthew maps out the generations following Joseph's lineage, while Luke's follows the lineage of Mary. And we know Joseph was not the father unless of course you believe what Matthew believed, that jesus was the 'anointed one', not born a god of the trinity but selected by god depending on which apologist one reads. But then the miasma of scriptural interpretation simply overwhelms any semblance of reason and rationality about the two very different lines. Even then there is some argie-bargie and providential switching from matrilineal to patrilineal and back again when convenient to harmonize conflicting detail.

In his book: "42: Douglas Adams' Amazingly Accurate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything" outlines his reasons for why he selected the number 42. It is a parody on the Christian mytheme and the christian obsession with finding meaning through the ancient art of numerology. Seven, fourteen, 42, all possess magical meaning and powers not to mention their great mystical prophetic significance to the supernaturalist.

Incidentally, the number of generations, 42, can only be derived if a few of them are tossed out.
As Wiki :o) notes: "The total of 42 generations is achieved only by omitting several names, so the choice of three sets of fourteen seems deliberate. Fourteen is seven, symbolizing perfection and covenant, doubled, and is also the gematria of David. Numerous other explanations have been proposed as well."

I think this statement underscores my point about the miasma of biblical interpretation.

mattghg, perhaps buffet is a clearer analogy.

Walter said...

If something is objectively true, then it remains true even if no one believes it to be so. In the same manner, a sunset is beautiful even if no one sees it at all.

Beauty is defined as the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, so I find it difficult to understand how anything can be "objectively" beautiful with no mind to experience the pleasure. Especially since for something to be objectively true means that its truth is mind-independent. A subjective truth is mind-dependent, and beauty by definition requires the apprehension of a mind.

im-skeptical said...

William,

Thanks for the article. Good points about the metaphysical/epistemological distinction. (And I haven't finished it yet.)

mattghg said...

perhaps buffet is a clearer analogy

Analogy for what?

B. Prokop said...

Well, Walter, perhaps I should start with the disclaimer that I also believe that a tree falling in a forest does make a sound, even if there's no one around to hear it.

im-skeptical said...

"Well, Walter, perhaps I should start with the disclaimer that I also believe that a tree falling in a forest does make a sound, even if there's no one around to hear it."

What does it sound like?

Walter said...

Bob,

The appreciation of beauty is purely the function of a mind. Sure, the form that you admire could still exist without a mind being around, but it would be as meaningless as a pressure wave traveling through the air without an ear to hear it or a mind to comprehend what it just heard. So, yes, a falling tree does make a sound when no one is around, but the sound conveys no meaning without the presence of a mind--it is just a pressure wave propagating through a material medium.

B. Prokop said...

Linton,

I went to a far better source than Wikipedia for my understanding of the genealogy of Christ - the Catena Aurea by St. Thomas Aquinas. In it, he definitively shows how there is zero conflict between Matthew and Luke as regards the two accounts. And no, I will not attempt to summarize his synthesis in a blog post. Thomas took 56 pages to cover the ground, and any cut-and-paste job just won't do the trick. I suggest you read the book for yourself (though sadly, I doubt that you will).

mattghg said...

The appreciation of beauty is purely the function of a mind

No-one disputes that, but it doesn't follow that beauty itself should be so defined. Some things might be beautiful even if no-one appreciated them as such.

(Or at least, this is what I take Bob's point to be.)

Papalinton said...

"Thomas took 56 pages to cover the ground, and any cut-and-paste job just won't do the trick. I suggest you read the book for yourself (though sadly, I doubt that you will)."

Do I really have to study the arguments for Santa too? Short of that I'm perfectly capable of discerning Santa, Vishnu, God, Thor et al, as all wonderful and colourful cultural mythemes.

All that Aquinas may have written about the generational line doesn't make it a fact or true. As Wiki notes: "Modern Biblical scholarship tends to see these genealogies as inventions, conforming to Jewish literary convention.[3][4] Traditionally, Christian scholars have put forward various theories that seek to explain why the two lineages are so different."

Your predilection for Aquinas's version is a matter for you. But at bottom it fully remains an exegetical interpretation. Nothing more.




Walter said...

Some things might be beautiful even if no-one appreciated them as such.

Beautiful to whom? A concrete thing that we assess as being beautiful could certainly exist without the presence of any human mind around to appreciate it, but beauty itself is a feeling of pleasure generated within a mind. Without a mind to place value on something, all you are left with is matter and energy, which is neither beautiful nor ugly.

grodrigues said...

@Walter:

"beauty itself is a feeling of pleasure generated within a mind."

Bob would deny this, I think -- I surely do. Most literary critics (sticking to literature because it is what I know best) also would deny it, for the very simple reason that it implies that there is no such thing as literary criticism.

B. Prokop said...

C.S. Lewis wrote an entire book on this very subject - The Abolition of Man, in which he condemns in the strongest terms possible (as a threat to civilization itself) the notion that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".

Walter said...

@grodrigues

I am not a literary critic, so you may need to flesh out your argument a little more before I can see where you are coming from. It still seems to me that Bob and a few other here are conflating psychology with ontology. If all minds ceased to exist today while the material world remains behind, then that inspiring and beautiful piece of literature would still exist...as a meaningless collection of ink-stained depressions on some paper.

im-skeptical said...

Walter is correct. Beauty is an experience, not something that exists apart from the person who has that experience. No critic can tell you what you find to be beautiful. At best, he can tell you why he finds it to be beautiful. I disagree with LaFave on this point. Two highly qualified experts on classical music can disagree over what is the best musical piece. Someone who doesn't have the same intellectual understanding can still see a musical work as beautiful, not because he understands it intellectually, but because it moves him. I wonder if Bob or grodrigues can provide us with the intellectual critic's perspective on who the most beautiful woman is.

Walter said...

C.S. Lewis wrote an entire book on this very subject

Randal Rauser also has a chapter to the same effect in his latest book co-authored with John Loftus.
I consider neither Rauser nor Lewis to be infallible oracles of revelation, so I believe that both are mistaken.

B. Prokop said...

"I consider neither Rauser nor Lewis to be infallible oracles of revelation"

Nor do I, but I do think Lewis nailed it with this one.

Might I also suggest an excellent (and quite short - only 65 pages) science fiction novel by Owen Barfield, Night Operation, describing a future world in which subjectivity rules supreme. But brace yourself: it's very unpleasant reading (though worth it). Barfield was, by the way, a member of the Inklings, along with Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams.

grodrigues said...

@Walter:

"I am not a literary critic, so you may need to flesh out your argument a little more before I can see where you are coming from."

I though it was pretty clear what I had in mind. Anyway, here goes:

(1) Beauty itself is a feeling of pleasure generated within a mind.

(2) Beauty is (one of) the subject matter of literary criticism.

(3) Feelings of pleasure generated within the mind are not the subject matter of literary criticism.

Something has got to give and (2) and (3) seem to me to be pretty much unassailable. The error is in conflating the cause, Beauty, however we conceived it to be, with its effect on the mind, presumably some or other feeling of pleasure, so it is something of an irony that you suspect of a conflation between ontology and psychology.

Compare: before rational minds appeared in the universe, and if all were to disappear from the universe, there was, and there would be, no one to grasp such truths as mathematical truths. But one is not thereby lead to the absurd conclusion that such truths were not, or would cease to be, or would become a "meaningless collection of ink-stained depressions on some paper".

grodrigues said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
grodrigues said...

@Walter:

One more thing; classically, beauty was viewed as a transcendental, on par with being, one, true and good. How we go from what is a metaphysical claim to say, aesthetics, is way way beyond my competence or what could be said in a combox. For a start, you could read Aertsen's "Medieval philosophy and the transcendentals -- the case of St. Thomas", Maritain's "Art and Scholasticism" or U. Eco's "The Aesthetics of St. Thomas".

Walter said...

Compare: before rational minds appeared in the universe, and if all were to disappear from the universe, there was, and there would be, no one to grasp such truths as mathematical truths. But one is not thereby lead to the absurd conclusion that such truths were not, or would cease to be, or would become a "meaningless collection of ink-stained depressions on some paper".

That is because logical and mathematical truths exist necessarily. But what is beauty? Is it a platonic form that necessarily exists apart from every mind? Surely not.

I think what Rauser was implying in his argument was that the concept of beauty always has and always will exist within the mind of the only necessary being, even if the minds of all created beings cease to exist. Since Assuming the freedom of the will then I am free to disagree with God as to what I consider to be beautiful, then beauty stills seems to reside in the eye of the beholder, and thus it is ultimately subjective.

B. Prokop said...

I'm afraid this is one of those times in which I have to draw a line in the sand and declare "¡No pasarán!" The notion that everything is subjective is what led us to the atrocities of the 20th Century. With Lewis and Owen Barfield, I fear for the very survival of Western Civilization itself if we abandon the foundational principle that objective truth, goodness, and beauty exist, regardless of what people may think.

May I leave you with the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Nobel Prize Speech (one of the most important documents of our time - well worth your careful reading):

So perhaps that ancient trinity of Truth, Goodness and Beauty is not simply an empty, faded formula as we thought in the days of our self-confident, materialistic youth? If the tops of these three trees converge, as the scholars maintained, but the too blatant, too direct stems of Truth and Goodness are crushed, cut down, not allowed through - then perhaps the fantastic, unpredictable, unexpected stems of Beauty will push through and soar TO THAT VERY SAME PLACE, and in so doing will fulfil the work of all three?

Walter said...

I'm afraid this is one of those times in which I have to draw a line in the sand and declare "¡No pasarán!" The notion that everything is subjective is what led us to the atrocities of the 20th Century.

No need for hyperbole, just because I believe that beauty is ultimately subjective does not mean that I think that everything is. We are not discussing moral theories here.

B. Prokop said...

No hyperbole, Walter. I just wanted an excuse to say "¡No pasarán!" in my best Hemingway imitation, while sipping a good Spanish wine and watching a bullfight!

(And Hemingway's writing, by the way, is objectively beautiful!)

im-skeptical said...

"I fear for the very survival of Western Civilization itself if we abandon the foundational principle that objective truth, goodness, and beauty exist, regardless of what people may think."

With due respect to Lewis and Barfield, that is a category fallacy. Writing some lofty prose about something does not make it true.

"(And Hemingway's writing, by the way, is objectively beautiful!)"

Beauty is whatever I say it is.

B. Prokop said...

"Beauty is whatever I say it is"

At last, we have Skep's worldview, summed up in a single line.

grodrigues said...

@Walter:

"That is because logical and mathematical truths exist necessarily. But what is beauty? Is it a platonic form that necessarily exists apart from every mind? Surely not."

I did mentioned how Beauty was viewed by the Scholastics: as a transcendental. And while I agree, why is it so obvious that beauty is not a Platonic-like object?

"Since Assuming the freedom of the will then I am free to disagree with God as to what I consider to be beautiful, then beauty stills seems to reside in the eye of the beholder, and thus it is ultimately subjective."

Assuming freedom of the will you are also free to disagree with God about what are the mathematical truths -- either by honest mistake or deliberate stubbornness. So what? Besides what does it mean to disagree with God that x is beautiful? Do you imagine God "fancies" x to be
beautiful and y ugly? It seems to me that if you want to stand your ground, what you have to say is that the question is meaningless and God considers x neither beautiful nor ugly.

And you keep conflating the source of the experience of beauty with the experience of beauty itself. To vary the comparison, insofar as I sense experience an object, a relation is established between me as subject and the object as perceived. But sense experiences can only be gotten by beings with proper sensory apparatuses. And if all such beings were to disappear tomorrow, it is true that there would be none around to sense experience sensory objects. But this in no way establishes that what causes the sense experience, the sense object or some property thereof, is in any way non-existent. In fact, it would be positively incoherent to say so. If we experience beauty, we experience a definite something caused by some extra-mental object. Bob and I maintain that however we conceive it, there must be something objectively present in the perceived object that objectively causes our experience, in the same way as there must be something in the essence of numbers that makes it necessarily true that the Fermat theorem holds -- and yes, this can be cashed out in non-Platonic terms, although it is a notoriously difficult and vexing question.

@B. Prokop:

"At last, we have Skep's worldview, summed up in a single line."

Bingo. Raw, naked Will to Power. And then again, is it surprising?

ingx24 said...

The idea that beauty is objective and transcendent leads to absurd conclusions. For example:

(1) There is only one "correct" taste in music - everyone else's musical likes and dislikes are literally "wrong". And how do we know whose musical tastes are "correct" and whose are "wrong" or "broken"? How do you know yours are the correct ones?

(2) Some people are objectively more beautiful than others, regardless of what anyone else thinks. It doesn't matter if you think your wife or girlfriend is the most beautiful human being in the universe - chances are, you are literally "wrong", and someone that you think is less attractive is actually objectively the most attractive person in the universe. And some people are just plain objectively unattractive - if beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, then people who are less attractive really should feel ashamed of how they look, and there's nothing they can do about it.

I could go on, but I think the absurdity should already be self-evident.

im-skeptical said...

"there must be something objectively present in the perceived object that objectively causes our experience"

What's beautiful to one person might be ugly to another. What's the difference? It's not the object or anything in the object. It's what's in you that determines how you experience it. Beauty (to you) is whatever you say it is.

grodrigues said...

@ingx24:

"There is only one "correct" taste in music - everyone else's musical likes and dislikes are literally "wrong"."

I am sorry, but this does not follow. For quite a number of different reasons.

"And how do we know whose musical tastes are "correct" and whose are "wrong" or "broken"? How do you know yours are the correct ones?"

Like we know pretty much everything else?

But it is always nice to know that there is no objective difference between Shakespeare and E. L. James and that all literary criticism, from Aristotle and Longinus to Kermode and Bloom can be thrown to the dustbin of irrelevancy. It must be the case that the central place of Shakespeare in the western canon is an historical contingency, possibly the product of a conspiracy of the cultural elites. One has to wonder what so enamoured the Demiurge that is not found in Shakespeare's scores of contemporaries.

"And some people are just plain objectively unattractive - if beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, then people who are less attractive really should feel ashamed of how they look, and there's nothing they can do about it."

Another non-sequitur.

ingx24 said...

Oh, almost forgot:

(3) Some works of literature are objectively better than others, and some people's tastes are literally "wrong". You are either right or wrong if you prefer Shakespeare over Hemingway: there is an objective fact of the matter as to which is better, and your tastes are "wrong" and "broken" if you do not have the correct opinion. (And how do we know what the correct opinion is?)

Walter said...

@ingx24

Exactly.

To deny mathematical or logical truth is to be irrational. Claiming the Mona Lisa is an ugly painting might get you branded as a philistine, but your rationality won't be impeached due to your aesthetic tastes.

Crude said...

Claiming the Mona Lisa is an ugly painting might get you branded as a philistine, but your rationality won't be impeached due to your aesthetic tastes.

'Won't', with the right crowd, possibly. But that doesn't go anywhere towards showing beauty is or isn't objective.

Is a gang-rape pictorial more beautiful than the Triumphal Arch? No fact of the matter?

Which has more aesthetic value: Beethoven's 5th symphony, 1st movement? Or a black and white picture of the inside of Rosie O'Donnell's toilet after burrito night at the local Tex-mex place?

I have no hard and settled opinion on the objectiveness of beauty myself. But I think it's pretty far from a scoffable suggestion.

B. Prokop said...

Ing,

You're making a very common mistake when it comes to approaching the objectivity of beauty, and that is to reduce everything to a ranking system. What is the best? Which is better? These questions are red herrings that obfuscate the real issue.

As objects aquire more beauty, they become less capable of being ranked against each other - not more. You can do this only with mediocre works of art. But when you get into the realm of the truly beautiful, the qualities that make something beautiful diverge, so that a side-by-side comparison becomes less and less of a possibility.

That's why the perennial lists of the "10 Best Movies of All Time" or whatever are ultimately nonsense. Not because of a lack of an objective standard, but because the things you are comparing have less and less in common with each other. How to decide which is better, Late Spring by Yasujiro Ozu, or Forbidden Planet? Impossible to meaningfully determine - again, not because of any subjectivity, but because you're dealing with apples and oranges.

Similarly, you cannot meaningfully say which is "better", The Brothers Karamazov or Four Quartets, because they are on widely divergent branches of the Tree of Beauty.

As Dante Alighieri pointed out in a very different context, the souls in Heaven differ from one another almost in kind, whereas the damned are practically indistinguishable from one another.

Walter said...

Is a gang-rape pictorial more beautiful than the Triumphal Arch? No fact of the matter?

I would be repulsed by the rape depiction for moral reasons, not aesthetic ones. That is a different discussion.

Which has more aesthetic value: Beethoven's 5th symphony, 1st movement? Or a black and white picture of the inside of Rosie O'Donnell's toilet after burrito night at the local Tex-mex place?

If you have some kind of feces fetish you might seriously opt for the latter.

For the record I care nothing for classical music; it simply does not move me on an emotional level. I am more of a fan of '80s pop rock (philistine, I know). Is the music of Beethoven objectively better than that of Billy Idol or Journey? Depends on the who you ask. Is it possible to test an object or a musical composition for intrinsic beauty units?

grodrigues said...

@B. Prokop:

"You're making a very common mistake when it comes to approaching the objectivity of beauty, and that is to reduce everything to a ranking system."

Right. Aquinas would say he rejected the univocity of being. There are degrees of being, and insofar there are degrees of being and degrees of perfection, by the convertivility of being there are degrees of beauty. But this in *no* way entails that for every object of a given kind (e.g. sonnets), that we can put them in a line, possibly with a number rate, and then compute what is the most beautiful. This is just stupid (whether one agrees with Aquinas on the univocity of being or not). To people with only a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Crude said...

Walter,

I would be repulsed by the rape depiction for moral reasons, not aesthetic ones. That is a different discussion.

No, it's not, since I'm asking about the aesthetics specifically.

If you have some kind of feces fetish you might seriously opt for the latter.

Likewise, I'm not asking about sexual gratification. I'm asking about aesthetics.

Seriously - are you maintaining that not only is there no fact of the matter about the aesthetic superiority of one to the other in both cases, but that this is clear and evident?

Is it possible to test an object or a musical composition for intrinsic beauty units?

Why would an objective and true judgment require strict measurement units anyway?

Walter said...

Alright let's not muddy the waters by bringing morality or sexuality into the discussion. If you prefer Beethoven's music and I prefer Steve Perry's how do we go about determining which set is objectively more beautiful? Sure, each of us could devise a test to where our preferred music comes out ahead, but why should the other accept the results of such a test? We could poll a large number of people, but does that mean that something is "objectively" better simply because a higher percentage of people prefer it?

I drive a race car as a hobby on weekends, and to me there is nothing more beautiful than the symphony of sound produced by a 2,500 horsepower Pro Modified engine on a quarter mile pass. I would rather listen to that over Beethoven any day of the week.

Crude said...

Alright let's not muddy the waters by bringing morality or sexuality into the discussion.

I'm not, and didn't anywhere. I'm focusing on aesthetics, purely. And I think my question is fair.

The problem I have is that 'aesthetics are clearly not objective' is claimed, but to rally evidence of this, you point at difficult comparisons - song v song. But of aesthetics is absolutely not objective, then it's not objective even in the cases I mentioned.

But if it IS objective there - or if the case for objective judgment there is strong - then a song v song comparison is only highlighting the difficulties of particular judgments.

how do we go about determining which set is objectively more beautiful

I don't think this argument is persuasive, because it ultimately relies on something like 'if aesthetics were truly objective, there should be universal agreement on all points'.

I think if someone claims aesthetics and beauty are non-objective, then they're committed to claiming that the two cases I mentioned are both in the running with each other for being the more aesthetically pleasing. And I'm not here arguing for the case that aesthetics are obviously objective - just that it's not some easily refuted position.

B. Prokop said...

"If you prefer Beethoven's music and I prefer Steve Perry's how do we go about determining which set is objectively more beautiful?"

Walter, now you're making the same mistake as ingx24. Don't confuse the objectivity of beauty with some sort of rating system. As objects acquire more beauty, they become less like each other, and thereby more difficult to say which is "better".

We see this all the time around us. Great architecture is as diverse as the Parthenon and St. Basil's Cathedral. Great music is as unlike as Shostakovich and The Incredible String Band. Great art can differ from Rembrandt to Rothko. The food served at an authentic Italian trattoria tastes nothing like that to be found in a great Indian restaurant.

In contrast, who can tell one crappy Europop song from another? Or one anonymous concrete apartment block from the next in the former Soviet Union? And with your eyes closed, can anyone really tell the difference between a hamburger from McDonald's and one from Wendy's?

In fact, a good way of answering your question might be, if you can rate them at all, they're probably not among the "more beautiful".

Ilíon said...

"To people with only a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

People who will admit to only nails deny the utility of any tool but hammers.

Ilíon said...

B.Prokop: "Don't confuse the objectivity of beauty with some sort of rating system. As objects acquire more beauty, they become less like each other, and thereby more difficult to say which is "better".
...
In contrast, who can tell one crappy Europop song from another? Or one anonymous concrete apartment block from the next in the former Soviet Union? ...
"

I wonder whether something similar might be said about persons? That is, that the more human persons become like God – the more perfect/complete/beautiful we become – the more we become distinctly ourselves.

I wonder whether, in the end, the Godless are damned because they are anonymously indistinguishable from their sin?

Papalinton said...

Let's not beat about the bush. The argument for objective beauty is the core of theology. At bottom, if beauty is objective, there is a God. If it isn’t, then it ain’t.

And as theological claims draw their alimony from ineffable, unknowable and opaque supernaturalism, there is little to substantiate the theological claim of 'objective beauty' as anything more than opinion.



Crude said...

Bob,

Walter, now you're making the same mistake as ingx24. Don't confuse the objectivity of beauty with some sort of rating system. As objects acquire more beauty, they become less like each other, and thereby more difficult to say which is "better".

I think what I'd add is, the difficulty of rating two limit cases of supposed beauty doesn't really act as evidence against the objectivity of beauty.

I'm always surprised at how so many philosophical questions seem to focus on thought experiments that deal with very touchy, limit case comparisons rather than on the starker ones.

Beethoven's fifth symphony, movement one, or Rosie O'Donnell's movement number two? Does one have objective beauty and the other lacks it / does one have more objective beauty than the other?

grodrigues said...

@Crude:

"I'm always surprised at how so many philosophical questions seem to focus on thought experiments that deal with very touchy, limit case comparisons rather than on the starker ones."

Right. It is an extremely bizarre approach to knowledge: start from what one does *not* know instead of what one does know; undeniable data staring one right in the face that one must make a deliberate effort to forget that it is there.

Why, one almost wonders what would be the result of applying the same logic to *any* field of human knowledge, say mathematics... then invoke Gödel's theorem's... or Tarski's theorem on the undefinability of truth... or the algorithmic unsolvability of the Halting problem... or -- you get my drift.

B. Prokop said...

"If beauty is objective, there is a God. If it isn’t, then [there] ain’t."

At last we agree on something.

Crude said...

grodrigues,

Right. It is an extremely bizarre approach to knowledge: start from what one does *not* know instead of what one does know; undeniable data staring one right in the face that one must make a deliberate effort to forget that it is there.

I can understand part of it being 'Well the easy questions are easy, they're uninteresting. It's the hard questions which are fascinating.' But it seems like sometimes what's supposed to be an easy question is forgotten altogether.

Anyway, that was less a comment about this thread and more about what I keep running into with modern philosophy.

Walter said...

Beethoven's fifth symphony, movement one, or Rosie O'Donnell's movement number two? Does one have objective beauty and the other lacks it / does one have more objective beauty than the other?

As I stated upthread I believe there is a conflation or perhaps confusion between ontology and psychology. The fact that humans collectively share certain psychological traits like an almost universal disgust for fecal discharge does not seem to be strong evidence that there is something intrinsically repulsive about feces that exists as a mind-independent fact.

The fear among some theists like Bob seems to be that if objective aesthetic values do not exist someway somehow, then objective moral values likely don't either, and everything descends into relativistic chaos.

And for those who believe in the convertibility of the transcendentals, does that mean that a musical composition or a painting or an example of human engineering have more "being" than a human turd? If so, that truly is a bizarre claim.

B. Prokop said...

"The fear among some theists like Bob"

No fear here, Walter. Just an unblinking view at the probable consequences of contemporary cultural trends.

B. Prokop said...

"does that mean that a musical composition or a painting or an example of human engineering have more "being" than a human turd? If so, that truly is a bizarre claim."

Call it bizarre if you so wish, but that is precisely what Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, C.S. Lewis (and myself) are all claiming. The closer a created thing approaches the attributes of its Creator, the more "Real" it becomes - the more it has "being".

Might I reference The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto VI, lines 99-108. Or C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce, at the conclusion of Chapter 13.

Walter said...

Call it bizarre if you so wish, but that is precisely what Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, C.S. Lewis (and myself) are all claiming.

I realize that you revere the writings of these men as something close to sacred scripture, but I remain unconvinced that a bright colored flower is somehow more Real than the matter that discharges from an anus.

"If beauty is objective, there is a God. If it isn’t, then [there] ain’t."

I don't see the correlation here, and I tentatively believe in a deity, just not the anthropopathic god of the Christian religion. I don't believe that objective aesthetic values necessarily must exist if a Creator does.

B. Prokop said...

"anthropopathic"

Wow. You made me look up a word - that's a new one to me!

I know that Ben and I disagree with each other on this one (at least, I think we do - I'm not sure), but I take Jesus seriously when he says, "He who has seen me has seen the father" and "He who see me sees Him who sent me." If we genuinely wish to know what God is like, look at Jesus. If that's "anthropopathy", so be it.

Ilíon said...

Walter: "The fear among some theists like Bob seems to be that if objective aesthetic values do not exist someway somehow, then objective moral values likely don't either, and everything descends into relativistic chaos."

B.Prokop: "No fear here, Walter. Just an unblinking view at the probable consequences of contemporary cultural trends."

We've always been at war with EastAsia.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

If you think beauty is objective, you should be able to define what objective means, ant put that in the context of beauty. Exactly what does objective beauty mean to you?

grodrigues is obviously confused about it, because he confuses it with logic. Logic is something that there is universal agreement about, and that makes it objective. Nobody disputes whether logic is objective, but beauty is clearly a subjective experience, at least as I see it. How do you see it?

And by the way while evolution has made us (and many animals) to be repulsed by waste matter, perhaps Rosie O'Donnell's movement number two would be a thing of beauty to a fly.

B. Prokop said...

"We've always been at war with EastAsia."

Goldsteinite! Arrest that provocateur!!!

(Ilion strapped into Room 101, his eyelids taped open, and an endless reel of Rachael Maddow reruns playing before his horrified gaze.)

B. Prokop said...

Skep,

In answer to your question, read my opening comment on the thread three above this one.

im-skeptical said...

"Wow. You made me look up a word - that's a new one to me!"

That's how you define objective beauty? Or did you mean your penultimate comment: "If we genuinely wish to know what God is like, look at Jesus."?

What I would like to know is how you define objective beauty, your admiration for someone you've never seen aside.

Ilíon said...

"(Ilion strapped into Room 101, his eyelids taped open, and an endless reel of Rachael Maddow reruns playing before his horrified gaze.)"

I haven't watched much television since I left home in '75 -- I never even bought one until a few years ago ... and that only to attach to a DVD player.

But, there is a TV in the hotel rooom where I spend my nights during the work-week, and I sometimes turn it on.

Flipping through the channels -- 60 or so channels, and "there's never anything on" -- I *have* observed a moment or two of the smug superciliousness of that woman.

And I can state this as a matter of objective fact: being forced to watch her do her little act would, indeed, be tortue to any rational man.

Ilíon said...

I-pretend-to-speak-of-objectivity-and-Planet-Earth: "grodrigues is obviously confused about it, because he confuses it with logic. Logic is something that there is universal agreement about, and that makes it objective."

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

I-pretend-to-value-truth: "Nobody disputes whether logic is objective."

These people will say *anything*

B. Prokop said...

"I haven't watched much television since I left home in '75 -- I never even bought one until a few years ago ... and that only to attach to a DVD player"

Careful, Ilion. You're starting to resemble more and more this apologist for mass murderers. I also do not have a TV, and haven't for years. (Technically I do own one, but like yours it's only connected to my DVD player, on which I mostly watch movies made before approximately 1975, many much older - check out my list of "favorite movies" on my profile.) And again, my primary exposure to television is in hotel rooms (and at my in-laws' house, where it is on incessantly).

B. Prokop said...

Skep,

I said to go to the thread three above this one - not the comment three above on this thread.

You read the wrong comment.

im-skeptical said...

"You read the wrong comment."

Perhaps you could be a little more explicit. I see nothing that comes close to answering the question I asked. perhaps for my benefit, you could repeat the comment.

Ilíon said...

I-pretend-to-speak-of-truth: "grodrigues is obviously confused about it, because he confuses it with logic. Logic is something that there is universal agreement about, and that makes it objective."

Yesterday, during the lunch hour, I had started to compose something I meant to post here, concerning what I see as the misunderstanding and talking-past-one-another that I see behind most of the postsin this thread. Unfortunately, I copied the wrong file to my flash drive, and I may have later deleted the file from the desktop.

Anyway, the gist of is was that the meanings of the terms 'objective' and 'subjective' were intenionally muddied by materialists/atheists -- so as to aid in the positivist and logical positivist campaigns to make materialism/atheism "true" ... by definition -- and that the logic of that muddying has finally, as it had to do, worked itself out to a post-moderneist stance.

Shoot! Why did I even bother? All I had to do is wait for an 'atheist' to make the case for me.

B. Prokop said...

For Skep's benefit:

Perhaps it's time for theologians and philosophers to take a cue from today's astronomers. Despite all the popular misconceptions about the Standard Cosmological Model (a.k.a., the "Big Bang"), mainstream cosmology does not assume that the entire universe was once compressed into a single point. What they do refer to is the Singularity (like the Big Bang, a singularly unfortunate term), defined here as a point in time prior to which no meaningful statements can be made.

I would propose that as we approach the "nature of God" we encounter a singularity, past which our language (and maybe even logic and reason itself) cannot adequately function to express what we desire. And just as the Singularity in cosmology does not deny the reality of what occurred on "the other side" of it, such a concept in theology would not be dismissive of an Ultimate Reality beyond our ability to comprehend.

Reference: The Cloude of Unknowyng by anonymous, mid-to-late 14th Century. (See, sometimes those "ignorant" Middle Ages were way ahead of us!)

Ilíon said...

"You're starting to resemble more and more this apologist for mass murderers."

Is there not a difference, subtle thou it is, between being an apologist for mass murder and being an apologist for mass murderers?

I have no doubt that you object to Lenin and Stalin (and Hitler) ... even as you embrace, endorse, and promote the very "principles" by which their mass-murders were "justified", while demonizing those, like me, who oppose those "principles".

B. Prokop said...

Actually, the most hilarious aspect to Skep's statement (" Logic is something that there is universal agreement about, and that makes it objective.") is the idea that universal agreement equals objectivity. Like I said in an earlier posting, there was universal agreement among the most brilliant minds in the world for more than a thousand years that the Sun went round the Earth. According to Skep's "logic", that was then objective truth, but is no longer, now that there is a new consensus.

grodrigues said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"grodrigues is obviously confused about it, because he confuses it with logic. Logic is something that there is universal agreement about, and that makes it objective. Nobody disputes whether logic is objective, but beauty is clearly a subjective experience, at least as I see it."

It is futile to explain anything to you, but (1) I did not make any confusion and (2) to say that there is universal agreement about __ is the condition of objectivity of __ is a real index of your obtuseness. But as if it was not enough, you say (3) "at least as I see it" -- yes, that is your *opinion*, and that is all it is, opinion. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I for one couldn't care less about your "opinion".

Oh, and I do not know what you mean by "universal agreement", but in one fairly plausible understanding of it, no, there is *no* universal agreement about logic. And please, do not even open your mouth and grace me with more of your ignorance -- please, don't. My background is in mathematics, so I have probably forgotten more about it than your pea brain will ever know.

im-skeptical said...

"According to Skep's "logic", that was then objective truth, but is no longer, now that there is a new consensus."

As usual, you either don't understand or you deliberately misrepresent what I say. It appears we are once again conflating existence and perception. That's precisely why I asked Bob to define what he meant. Please read the article William cited earlier.

I think Bob is a realist about the existence of conceptual things such as numbers and beauty - that is, they exist as objects, and their existence is metaphysically objective in the sense of LaFave. As a nominalist, I reject that notion (there is no such thing as an object that is called beauty - it has no objective existence), and Ilion starts jumping up and down, frothing at the mouth, and blaming atheists for his own confusion.

But with regard to beauty, it makes sense to discuss whether it epistemologically objective. And that involves having some kind of way of knowing whether something is beautiful, or perhaps a standard for comparing the relative beauty of different things. Can there be any such standard? If there is, then you can say that beauty is epistemologically objective in the sense of LaFave.

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

I really don't care what your background is. If you want to impress people with your knowledge and wisdom, why don't you show some?

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

"Please read the article William cited earlier."

Skep, why are you asking me to read the article (which I did long ago)? LaFave agrees with everything I've been saying here (or did you fail to understand that?) and pretty much labels what you've been pushing here as madness.

You are perpetually accusing others of lacking in reading comprehension, whilst ironically demonstrating again and again an appalling lack of the same.

im-skeptical said...

"You are perpetually accusing others of lacking in reading comprehension, whilst ironically demonstrating again and again an appalling lack or the same."

Why can't you help clear things up by simply answering the question I asked? I wasn't asking about singularities in the cosmos, or anything remotely related to that. I was trying to get to an understanding of your concept of the objectiveness of beauty. That was, after all, the topic of the discussion.

How can I tell whether LaFave is in agreement with what you say if you won't even explain your position? Am I speaking with someone rational? Or maybe it's because of my own lack of comprehension (as you keep harping about) that I missed where you gave some kind of cogent explanation of your position on this question.

Ilíon said...

Walter: "ingx24

Exactly.

To deny mathematical or logical truth is to be irrational. ...
"

Ah! So we agree that ing(énue)24 is irrational, for he strenuously denies the truth, openly discoverable by logical reasoning, that (western-style) atheism implies materialism, much as materialism assumes atheism; and he steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that his imaginings about some hypothetical atheist who asserts-without-principle some individual proposition contrary to materialism, or even to atheism, tells us nothing at all about atheism.

Oh, wait! That's not where you wanted to go, is it?

B. Prokop said...

Skep,

I answered your question very precisely, and with crystal clarity. I deliberately and purposefully brought up the relevant Medieval concept of a singularity, beyond which we can make no meaningful statement other than to affirm the existence of something, because that's all you're going to get when you demand an answer to a Reality that lies on the other side.

If you can't understand something as basic as that, then we're at the level of having to teach you the English Language before proceeding any further.

Crude said...

Walter,

As I stated upthread I believe there is a conflation or perhaps confusion between ontology and psychology. The fact that humans collectively share certain psychological traits like an almost universal disgust for fecal discharge does not seem to be strong evidence that there is something intrinsically repulsive about feces that exists as a mind-independent fact.

Who said anything about 'repulsiveness'?

But either way, in that case - then your questions about song comparisons are a sham. Even if there was universal agreement that one song was aesthetically superior to another, you could just pawn it off as 'humans collectively sharing certain psychological traits'.

The fear among some theists like Bob seems to be that if objective aesthetic values do not exist someway somehow, then objective moral values likely don't either, and everything descends into relativistic chaos.

Ugh. Psychoanalysis? Okay, fine: the fear among deists like Walter and Cultists of Gnu is that if objective aesthetic values do exist, then Christianity is true and suddenly, despite all their arguments and hopes and wishes, they're not only sinners, but sinners who will one day be exposed. That's all that keeps them from recognizing the obvious errors they embrace.

And for those who believe in the convertibility of the transcendentals,

I think what's entailed by the convertibility of transcendentals is far more reasonable than the claim that the Triumphal Arch and a gang-rape pictorial are ultimately equal in terms of real aesthetic value.

Nor do I think it's being accurately represented here. Still, I came for the aesthetic discussion, but apparently certain subjective proponents have decided a topic change and distraction is in order.

Maybe the conversation wasn't aesthetically appealing!

Crude said...

If you can't understand something as basic as that, then we're at the level of having to teach you the English Language before proceeding any further.

Newsflash: Cult of Gnu member not as intelligent as he thinks he is; actually quite slow! In other news, water still wet, sun still bright.

ingx24 said...

Ah! So we agree that ing(énue)24 is irrational, for he strenuously denies the truth, openly discoverable by logical reasoning, that (western-style) atheism implies materialism, much as materialism assumes atheism; and he steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that his imaginings about some hypothetical atheist who asserts-without-principle some individual proposition contrary to materialism, or even to atheism, tells us nothing at all about atheism.

Your "argument" for atheism implying materialism was full of logical fallacies, and I exposed it as such. You did nothing to answer my objections, nor could you, as you simply concocted the argument post-hoc in order to rationalize your dogmatic assumption that materialism and Christian theism are the only possible worldviews.

I think you might actually be worse than im-skeptical.

im-skeptical said...

"I answered your question very precisely, and with crystal clarity. I deliberately and purposefully brought up the relevant Medieval concept of a singularity, beyond which we can make no meaningful statement other than to affirm the existence of something, because that's all you're going to get when you demand an answer to a Reality that lies on the other side."

OK, so it's my lack of comprehension. You are saying that for me to ask you so state your position on the concept of the objective nature of beauty, is tantamount to asking you to explain an ultimate reality that "lies on the other side", and is therefore inaccessible to explanation and understanding - something about which "no meaningful statements can be made."

I'm glad we cleared that up. Now, going back a way in this thread I seem to recall you asking a question of your own: "- Are objects beautiful in themselves, or only because we perceive them to be so?" Forgive me for being so obtuse as to think that you actually wanted to discuss that question.

Ilíon said...

grodrigues: "Compare: before rational minds appeared in the universe, and if all were to disappear from the universe, there was, and there would be, no one to grasp such truths as mathematical truths. But one is not thereby lead to the absurd conclusion that such truths were not, or would cease to be, or would become a "meaningless collection of ink-stained depressions on some paper"."

Walter: "That is because logical and mathematical truths exist necessarily. But what is beauty? Is it a platonic form that necessarily exists apart from every mind? Surely not."

Really!? Are you -- both of you -- *sure* you want to go there? Are you *sure* you want to say that it is an objective truth "logical and mathematical truths exist necessarily ... apart from every mind"?

Let's see ...
We have matter/energy ...
We have the relationships through space and over time between instances of matter/energy ...
We have ... oh! wait! that's all we have, for "we" have denied that there is a Mind who is "the ground of all being", who is logically prior to matter/energy and time/space and the relationships thereto, and who, in the act of knowing truth, continuously creates all else that is.

These "logical and mathematical truths", and all other "Platonic Forms", are not matter/energy, they are not time/space, they are not the relationships thereto. Their truth-and-reality not only has nothing to do with "rational minds [having] appeared in the universe", but also has nothing at all to do with "the universe" itself -- if there were no "universe" at all, it would still necessarily be true that "A = A" and "A != not-A" and so on.

But, these necessary truths, these "Platonic Forms", are concepts, they are ideas -- they are thoughts. Thus, to assert the reality of *any* necessary truths -- thoughts -- while denying the fundamental reality of the Necessary Being who is thinking/knowing them, is to assert that there necessaritly exist Unthought Thoughts, and that it is these Unthought Thoughts, not any Thinking/Knowing Mind, which are fundamental to reality.

In truth, no thought exists unless there is a thinker who thinks it. "Platonic Forms" and "necessary truths" are thoughts, and like any other thought, they must be thought/known in order to exist. That they exist independently of *us* thinking/knowing them does not entail the illogical conclusion that they exist independently of *all* minds.

That there *are* "necessary truths" is proof that God is. That we *know* that there are "necessary truths" is proof that we -- every single one of us -- have no excuse for denying that God is. That we *know* that there are "necessary truths", that we *know* that the reality of "necessary truths" is proof that God is, is proof that we all know that God is, however much that some of us deny and seek to suppress that knowledge.

Ilíon said...

(dis)ing(enuous) liar:Your "argument" for atheism implying materialism was full of logical fallacies, and I exposed it as such.

He has done no such thing, no more than the “platonic atheist” Parbouj did before him.

What he as done is assert that because he can imagine some hypothetical “atheist” who asserts-without-principle some individual proposition contrary to materialism, or even to atheism, he has thereby shown that (western-style)atheism does not imply materialism.

To put it another way, he asserts that his deliberate refusal to address what I have actually argued, while instead asserting a non sequitur, refutes what I have argued.

ingx24 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ingx24 said...

Ilion,

Since you clearly can't read, let me repost my rebuttal to your "argument":

"Alright Ilion, let's take a look at your argument:

1) the material/physical world of matter-space-time, and the interactions thereof, that we human beings perceive (i.e. 'nature') is real;
2) 'nature' is not created/sustained by any immaterial-and-unembodied mind/agent who is the logically prior transcendent "ground of all being";
From these two axioms of (western-style) atheism, it follows that:
3) human beings -- which is to say, human embodied minds -- have not always existed;
3a) this is true of any other embodied minds that may or may not exist in the world;


Stop. Right there. What you have just done is commit a non-sequitur: it DOES NOT FOLLOW from (1) and (2) that embodied minds have not always existed. It could be true that minds have existed since the beginning of time alongside matter and energy - there is nothing logically inconsistent about believing this. You have simply assumed it to be false, and have done nothing to argue against it.

4) however it is that embodied minds did somehow "arise" in the world – and the cause/trigger must necessarily be ‘natural’, that is, must be “matter in motion” -- there was a time in the past (as there will be in the future) when there were no embodied minds;
4a) that is, there was a time when there were no minds at all;


Again, this is assuming the truth of (3), which you have not shown to be true.

5) when there were no minds at all in the world, then all there was in the world was “matter in motion”;
5a) when there were no minds at all in the world, then *all* states, events, state-changes, causes and so on were only “matter in motion” and the effects thereof;


This blatantly begs the question against views like panprotopsychism, neutral monism, etc. that assert that there is a hidden property of matter that logically adds up to mentality. I happen to think these views are false (they fall victim to arguments from the unity of consciousness, and they lead to epiphenomenalism and thus fall victim to the argument from reason), but you have done nothing to argue against them; you have simply assumed them to be false. Additionally, you have begged the question against the information-theoretic view (which I have called "computational dualism") that claims that information is an objective feature of reality and that minds are created by the accumulation of information within a physical system.

6) the first embodied minds were caused to “arise” by “matter in motion”;
6a) the thoughts of these first embodied minds were caused by “matter in motion”;
7) all subsequent embodied minds are likewise caused to “arise” by “matter in motion”;
7a) the thoughts of these subsequent embodied minds are likewise caused by “matter in motion”;


Besides begging the question against views like panprotopsychism, computational dualism, and neutral monism, you have begged the question against strong emergentist versions of property dualism that assert that there are contingent psychophysical laws that determine that certain configurations of matter will be associated with certain states of consciousness. I happen to think this view is false - I have serious reservations about the whole concept of strong emergence - but you have done nothing to argue against it; you have simply assumed it to be false.

Face it, Ilion - on its own, atheism DOES NOT entail materialism. You have to argue against views like neutral monism, panprotopsychism, panpsychism, computational dualism, strong emergence, and forms of substance dualism that claim that minds have always existed in order to establish theism and materialism as the only possible views available. And you have done nothing to argue against these views; you have simply assumed them to be false. "

B. Prokop said...

"Forgive me for being so obtuse as to think that you actually wanted to discuss that question."

We are having a discussion. But I will forgive you for demanding the impossible as a prerequisite for conversation.

Here's a thought experiment for you: Go up to a cosmologist, and demand that he explain to you in detail what occurred prior to the Inflationary Epoch, or else you cannot have a discussion with him. See how far you get with that.

B. Prokop said...

"Unthought Thoughts"

I like that! I'm going to put it up there alongside Rumsfeld's "Unknown Unknowns".

B. Prokop said...

Skep,

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not trying to win some sort of debating point here. What I'm (probably inadequately) trying to say is that, confronted with the Infinite, our human language, and indeed, our very thoughts, are always going to be infinitely inadequate to express anything even remotely approaching the Reality of what we are trying to communicate.

But so what? Our only alternative is to not explore these things at all. Yet that is impossible. Our inmost natures (even yours, Skep - why do you think you frequent this site?) demand that we do so. We cannot not press forward, knowing in advance that the quest is unending (at least, in this world).

Forget the pugilistic give-and-take of these virtual debates, forget your ego, and please, please, please forget your monomaniacal obsession with "empirical evidence" (that is not only not the only way we learn, it is not even the most important way).

Now before you triumphantly dismiss everything I've written with a "There, I have him. He want's me to take things on unproven blind faith" (which I don't), think about what you've reduced yourself to. You are so scared of opening up your toolbox to include things other than empiricism, that you are willing to toss overboard the concepts of truth, beauty, and morality upon the altar of subjectivity. Is that what you really desire? Are you content to live in a universe of with no beauty, no art, no good (or evil), no objective reality?

Yet deny it as you will (and, unfortunately, I know you will) that is precisely where you are headed. I'm not going to say "For God's sake" but rather "For your sake", think about it (without worrying about who "wins" or "loses" an ultimately pointless internet debate. You're playing with fire here.

im-skeptical said...

"We are having a discussion. But I will forgive you for demanding the impossible as a prerequisite for conversation."

Not much of a discussion, is it? Sorry, Bob, I didn't ask anything impossible of you, and frankly, I think your response was pretty strange. I will remind you of the question that started all this off: "If you think beauty is objective, you should be able to define what objective means, ant put that in the context of beauty. Exactly what does objective beauty mean to you?"

Nothing about what's on the "other side". Nothing that couldn't be answered if you were inclined to do so. If you want to paint me as being unreasonable, fine. Have at it. It seems to be the thing to do.

"Forget the pugilistic give-and-take of these virtual debates, forget your ego, and please, please, please forget your monomaniacal obsession with "empirical evidence" (that is not only not the only way we learn, it is not even the most important way)."

Believe it or not, Bob, that's exactly why I come here. Have I developed a pugilistic attitude since I first started entering into these discussions? You bet.

"You are so scared of opening up your toolbox to include things other than empiricism, that you are willing to toss overboard the concepts of truth, beauty, and morality upon the altar of subjectivity. Is that what you really desire? Are you content to live in a universe of with no beauty, no art, no good (or evil), no objective reality?"

Yeah, I know. You have your preconceived notion of what I think, and no matter how many times I try to explain it to you, nothing changes. You keep telling me what I think. Why should you bother listening to someone who believes those things anyway?

"Here's a thought experiment for you: Go up to a cosmologist, and demand that he explain to you in detail what occurred prior to the Inflationary Epoch, or else you cannot have a discussion with him. See how far you get with that."

Actually, it's not unreasonable to discuss that, either. Did you ever hear of quantum loop cosmology?

Ilíon said...

"I like that! I'm going to put it up there alongside Rumsfeld's "Unknown Unknowns"."

"Unknown Unknowns" is rational, and in the context in which it's used, it's an important concept to keep always in mind ... doing so can prevent hubris. It describes-and-names the those things that we don't know and have so little clue about that we don't even know that we don't know them, in contrast to "Known Unknowns".

But, "Unthought Thoughts" is irrational and, being a self-contradiction, it is illogical. Nevertheless, positing "Unthought Thoughts" is how poor little ing(énue)24, and Parbouj before him, imagines he can rescue God-denial from the smothering embrace of naturalism/materialism.

ingx24 said...

Ilion,

Still waiting on a response to my refutation of your "argument". Why couldn't minds have always existed alongside matter? Why can't there be a hidden property of matter that adds up to mentality? Why can't there be psychophysical laws that determine that some physical systems will give rise to certain states of consciousness? These are all valid theories of how mentality could arise without divine intervention and without being reducible to matter in motion, and you have done NOTHING to argue against them. If you're so damn sure that materialism and theism are the ONLY possible alternatives, you better be ready to DEMONSTRATE that non-materialist forms of atheism are logically incoherent - not just assume that they aren't worth dealing with. As far as I can tell, the propositions

(1) The material world exists
(2) God does not exist
(3) Non-physical entities and/or irreducibly mental non-physical properties exist

are logically consistent with each other. You assert that they are not. You have the burden of proof to show that they are not.

I'm still waiting.

Walter said...

@im-skeptical

Not much of a discussion, is it? Sorry, Bob, I didn't ask anything impossible of you, and frankly, I think your response was pretty strange. I will remind you of the question that started all this off: "If you think beauty is objective, you should be able to define what objective means, ant put that in the context of beauty. Exactly what does objective beauty mean to you?"

I think what it boils down to is that many here accept the medieval metaphysics of Aquinas and the scholastics. For them Beauty has real ontological existence which is convertible with Truth, Being, Unity, and Goodness. In other words all of these concepts ultimately refer to the same thing. If you deny the existence of objective beauty, then you are denying that objective truth or objective goodness exists.

For those of us not well versed in scholastic metaphysics this idea sound pretty strange, mostly because we are not trained to think in this manner. Contemporary metaphysics is vastly different.

grodrigues said...

@Walter:

"I think what it boils down to is that many here accept the medieval metaphysics of Aquinas and the scholastics. For them Beauty has real ontological existence which is convertible with Truth, Being, Unity, and Goodness."

I do accept such a metaphysics, and consequently my view of aesthetics is colored by it. But the objectivity of Beauty can be defended on other grounds, as a cursory look on the history of the subject shows. Whether it can be as *effectively* defended is another story; I would tentatively say no, but for the current discussion this is largely irrelevant.

im-skeptical said...

"I think what it boils down to is that many here accept the medieval metaphysics of Aquinas and the scholastics."

Of course it's all part of the Thomistic worldview, and as such, any denial of the objective reality of beauty represents a threat to the Thomist. And Ihaven't been trying to refute that here.

But as I said a day ago, there is an epistemological side to this discussion, also. If you are making the claim that a particular thing is objectively beautiful, that's not an issue of the objective existence of beauty. It gets into the question of how you know what you are claiming. Different things are beautiful to different people. Who decides? Is there an expert who knows? That's what I was trying to ask about.

B. Prokop said...

Skep,

The language here is admittedly fuzzy, and I appreciate your question. The simplest answer is yes, there are indeed experts who know better than other people, and who are more competent to judge what is beautiful and what isn't.

I am perpetually amazed at the insight I find in various works of literary criticism, that reveal things about one work or another that I myself completely missed. For instance, I didn't think much of Piers Plowman until I read John Alford's A Companion to Piers Plowman, which opened my eyes to vast worlds of beauty in the work that had been completely invisible to me beforehand. I had to be taught how to perceive it.

I see that as empirical evidence for the objective nature of beauty. Were beauty purely subjective, it would be like me saying that Piers Plowman lacked beauty one day, but possessed it the next.

Imagine a mountain obscured from view on Monday by a thick bank of fog, but clearly visible on Tuesday after the fog had lifted. Would you claim that the mountain did not exist on Monday because you couldn't see it? Of course not! In the same manner, individual perception of beauty (or the lack of it) is irrelevant to its objective existence.

im-skeptical said...

"I had to be taught how to perceive it."

It is undeniable that we can change the way we perceive or experience things. An expert critic can give us insight that we didn't have before, and we thus acquire a new perspective and a new way to experience something's beauty. But beauty is still a matter of perception.

"it would be like me saying that Piers Plowman lacked beauty one day, but possessed it the next."

Actually, it would be more like saying that one day you saw it and appreciated it in a different way. I mentioned the beauty of a woman (or a guy, if you are a woman). Can some "expert" teach you how to properly see the beauty? How would that affect your perception of the one you love? What if you disagree with the expert? You think something is beautiful, but the expert says it isn't, so should you then admit (and realize) that it really isn't? And what if two different experts don't agree among themselves? How do you decide which one is right?