Friday, December 25, 2015

Historical Doubts Relative to Napoleon

After all, all we have about Napoleon is just stories.

27 comments:

Cal Metzger said...

Apologists who go for this one make at least these two fundamental errors:

1) We have corroborating documentation for Napoleon that is on a scale of the cosmos to earth (contemporary and hostile accounts, his own writing, paintings, statues, etc.) when compared to the paltry and contradictory little we have for Jesus.
2) More importantly, Napoleon historians don't claim that Napoleon did anything supernatural, and all of his (including some extraordinary) achievements have contemporary examples from our own time.

So, that's that then.

B. Prokop said...

"Napoleon historians don't claim that Napoleon did anything supernatural"

But surely that is because Napoleon did not do anything supernatural for historians to report. If he had, then they would be remiss in not reporting that he did. In like manner, since Jesus did perform miracles, it is only right that they be recorded.

So it appears that Cal's objection is not to the record as such, but rather to the idea of the supernatural. Otherwise, he would not object to an account for merely recording such events.

Merry Christmas, and Jezu ufam tobie!

Aragorn said...

Surely, intelligent as you are, you understand why supernatural claims would require stronger evidence than paltry, contradictory accounts

B. Prokop said...

My point was that Cal appears to be rejecting the accounts of Christ's miracles solely on the grounds that they are "supernatural" - a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. Under those ground rules no record of a miraculous event would ever pass muster, simply by definition. Whereas I say that an eyewitness to a miraculous event has a positive duty to record what he has witnessed. We know we have at least 2 eyewitness accounts in the New Testament - and I personally believe we have a minimum of 7 (Matthew, Peter, John, Mary, Luke, Paul, Jude, and the author of Hebrews)*.

"He who saw it has borne witness - his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth - that you also may believe." (John 19:35)

"we were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Peter 1:16)

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us - that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you." (1 John 1:1-3)

* Matthew is eyewitness to (many of) the events in Matthew, Peter to those in Mark, John to most of John, Mary to the Infancy Narratives in Luke, Luke to the "I" passages in Acts, Paul to those events he relates in his letters as well as to many in Acts, and Jude and the author of Hebrews to those in theirs. There are undoubtedly many unattributed eyewitness accounts included in the Gospels. For instance, the mysterious unnamed man in Mark 14:51 is almost certainly the eyewitness to the events in Gethsemane that occurred while the disciples were sleeping.

Paltry? Contradictory? I think not! The Gospel narratives are (excuse me) "supernaturally" coherent, and buttress each other at every point. "Undesigned coincidences" permeate the entire New Testament. It takes "second shooter behind the grassy knoll" sort of thinking to enable a person to ignore the testimony of the Evangelists.

Merry Christmas and Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

I should have emphasized that the comments in the footnote above are my opinions, and I acknowledge that I cannot prove them to be facts. I am not presuming to present them as such. The evidence convinces me, so I am comfortable in believing that what I wrote in the footnote is an accurate reflection of reality, but I do not expect everyone to be equally convinced. Apologies for neglecting to make this clear in my last posting.

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "The evidence convinces me, so I am comfortable in believing that what I wrote in the footnote is an accurate reflection of reality, but I do not expect everyone to be equally convinced."

Right. My standard, for instance, is good evidence. And stories about eyewitnesses to magical events are, well, stories about magical events. And stories aren't good evidence for magical events. (But they are good evidence that magical things make for good stories.)

Do you know what's credible? Stories about mundane events.

Do you know what's not credible. Stories about magical events.

I'm not begging the question with the above. I'm making an observation, based on the fact that the only time we have "evidence" for magical events, that "evidence" comes to us in the form of a story.

And mundane events -- mundane events happen in stories, AND in reality, too!

Two kinds of events can happen -- one can happen both in stories AND reality, and one can only happen in stories. You don't have to a philosopher, or a physicist, to concede that that this is correct.

One has to wonder (even if one is an apologist) why it is that the only way magical events ever actually happen is if one is telling a story. And that those magical events never outside that story. Not ever.

Quite a head scratcher, that one.

B. Prokop said...

"mundane events happen in stories, AND in reality, too!"

And given that miracles actually do occur (e.g., the Resurrection of Christ), then such stories "happen" in reality, too!

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "And given that miracles actually do occur (e.g., the Resurrection of Christ), then such stories "happen" in reality, too!"

And your evidence for these miracles is... stories.

Do you know what the evidence is for gravity? Stories, AND gravity.

Do you know what the evidence is for miracles? Stories.

See?

B. Prokop said...

Cal,

I posted this to Dangerous Idea way back in July 2010:

Early on in George MacDonald's fairy story Phantastes, we come upon the following scene. The book's main character (Anodos) is suddenly confronted by a magical creature, who then speaks to him. Allow me to quote the passage in full:

"Anodos, you never saw such a little creature before, did you?"

"No," said I, "and indeed I hardly believe I do now."

"Ah, that is always the way with you men; you believe nothing the first time; and it is foolish enough to let mere repetition convince you of what you consider in itself unbelievable."


That little three line exchange is one of the most profound statements I have ever read about how many people approach the miraculous. Just think about it. Were a person to come across a single lifeform in an otherwise lifeless universe - heck, were he to find a single strand of DNA, he would either refuse to believe it existed, or proclaim it a miracle. But here we are in the real world, surrounded by trillions and trillions of incomprehensibly complex lifeforms, and all too many many people dismiss it all as just “the way things are", or even the product of blind, purposeless chance.

The same thing goes for the Resurrection. Its very singularity is a stumbling block to many skeptics, but the same people will not be bothered for a second by the fact that there are billions of people alive all around them right now. Why should coming to life a second time be any more unbelievable than the first time? The usual objection is we don’t see it happening every day. So is it "mere repetition", in MacDonald's words, that makes the starkly incredible fact of one's own existence so casually accepted?

I believe that MacDonald has hit upon an unexamined (and therefore unchallenged) assumption underlying skeptical thinking. Let me call it The Singularity Problem. (A problem, that is, for the skeptic.) Basically, the issue can be stated quite simply. A main objection to miraculous events raised by skeptics is that they are not common, or even sui generis. Thus, we frequently hear people objecting to Christ’s Virgin Birth because we don’t see such births happening around us as a norm. But why should we? The singularity of the event is definitionally mandated by its miraculous nature. Until we somehow rule out the possibility of one-of-a-kind events on grounds stronger than ruling them out on principle (which, after all, amounts to a "because I said so" argument), we cannot object to their existence on those grounds alone.

I say this underlying assumption needs to be examined and defended, not simply accepted a priori. Otherwise, the skeptic must somehow make the case that we are not quite literally surrounded by countless miracles all the time.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Bob, you appear to have just tried to counter my observation that magic things only happen in stories by quoting yourself, quoting a story, where magic does indeed happen. In a story.

B. Prokop said...

I guess that means you lose.

Cal Metzger said...

Bob: "I guess that means you lose."

Only in stories, Bob. Only in stories. :)

Talon said...

No, Cal it means you lose on the larger intellectual scale, this sort of Humean garbage has been thoroughly debunked. They are only "just stories" if you a priori decided they can be nothing more than "stories" based on general human experience ala Hume. Circular reasoning, nothing more.

Joe Hinman said...

Napoleon did not exist because there were supernatural claims about him. Those would be prophesies by Nostradamus. It's really surprising how few people in history existed.

Joe Hinman said...

Jesus did not do magic. Alexander the great is said to have horns, so he didn't exist., It's also said he was a son of Zeus so he didn't exist twice over. Teddy Roosevelt believed in Bigfoot so he didn't exist.

Joe Hinman said...

"And your evidence for these miracles is... stories.Do you know what the evidence is for gravity? Stories, AND gravity."

>>In Christianity we don't thin tautologies are proofs,

Cal Metzger said...

Talon: "No, Cal it means you lose on the larger intellectual scale, this sort of Humean garbage has been thoroughly debunked."

Explain how the enterprise of acquiring knowledge scientifically has been debunked. Good luck!

Talon: "They are only "just stories" if you a priori decided they can be nothing more than "stories" based on general human experience ala Hume."

I am making an observation -- that magical things only happen in stories, and that real things happen in stories AND in reality. I make a reasonable inference based on that. Do you understand that?

Talon: "Circular reasoning, nothing more."

How is the reasoning I have described circular?

How is the reasoning that magical things happen in reality, even though they actually only happen in stories, a sound way to form beliefs about magical things?



Cal Metzger said...

Himnan: "Jesus did not do magic."

Okay, then explain the story about him raising someone from the dead. I understand magic to mean outside natural explanation. If you think you have a natural explanation for Jesus raising someone from the dead -- one that doesn't boil down to "outside natural explanation," then I am all ears. Otherwise, I would surmise that you're caviling over semantics, instead of dealing with the gist of what I'm writing.

Hinman: Alexander the great is said to have horns, so he didn't exist., It's also said he was a son of Zeus so he didn't exist twice over. Teddy Roosevelt believed in Bigfoot so he didn't exist."

This seems like an odd way for you to reason. If you're suggesting that I reason this way then you should probably re-read what I have written.

Cal Metzger said...

Me: "And your evidence for these miracles is... stories. Do you know what the evidence is for gravity? Stories, AND gravity."
Hinman: "In Christianity we don't thin tautologies are proofs,"

Oh, zing! Is that what you were going for? Let me show you how it works, then:

And in the real word, we don't think that that observations are tautologies.

And in the real world, to boot, we don't think syllogisms could even be "proofs," which are (at least in these discussions), syllogisms, or possibly arguments -- but never "proofs" (which like theorem, should be confined to mathematical concepts).

Yes, you should look up what tautologies are; I agree they're not very helpful, but it helps if you don't misidentify them when you're trying to score points.

B. Prokop said...

"I understand magic to mean outside natural explanation."

And there's your problem. That is certainly not how the rest of the world defines the term. "Magic" is the manipulation of natural forces by associative means, such as imagery (e.g., pentagrams, pyramids, a black rose), rituals (e.g., the black mass, incantations, spells), or specific timings and locations (e.g., during a full moon, at a crossroads), etc. The distinguishing feature between technology and magic is not natural vs. supernatural, but rather cause and effect vs. associative similarity.

Magic lies entirely within the natural, physical world. It is simply a specific way of employing purely natural, physical means to (attempt to) achieve an outcome within the natural world.

Cal Metzger said...

Bob, in my bound copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, the word Magic is defined as:

"The pretended are of influencing events, and of producing marvelous physical phenomena, by processes supposed to owe their efficacy to their power of intervention of spiritual beings..."

The above is the FIRST DEFINITION OF THE WORD MAGIC IN THE OED.

Nice try.

B. Prokop said...

As I wrote in the thread above this one:

Well, if all you've got is some sort of bias against "stories" and/or miracles, then I can safely declare victory and pop open the celebratory bubbly.

Joe Hinman said...

Cal Metzger said...
Himnan: "Jesus did not do magic."

Metzger: "Okay, then explain the story about him raising someone from the dead. I understand magic to mean outside natural explanation. If you think you have a natural explanation for Jesus raising someone from the dead -- one that doesn't boil down to "outside natural explanation," then I am all ears. Otherwise, I would surmise that you're caviling over semantics, instead of dealing with the gist of what I'm writing."

>>>You think the only categories are natural or magic? why? hy can't there be other categories? I think miracles are their own ontological category. Magic is irrational contradiction to the apparent rationality in the "order" of things. If one is the authh0r of things then re-writes need not be construed in that way, as illogical disorder or contradiction. It's just a further extension of divine will. God created nature too.




Hinman: Alexander the great is said to have horns, so he didn't exist., It's also said he was a son of Zeus so he didn't exist twice over. Teddy Roosevelt believed in Bigfoot so he didn't exist."

Metzger: "This seems like an odd way for you to reason. If you're suggesting that I reason this way then you should probably re-read what I have written."
December 28, 2015 12:17 PM

the myther game you play, all of them buy into it: mythological wonderworkers don't exist. Jesus was a wonderworker, therefore, he did not exist' fallacy is black is white slide. Jesus has two things in common with mythical wonder workers, he worked wonders and he supposedly lived long ago which makes him seem mythical.

Joe Hinman said...

etz Bob, in my bound copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, the word Magic is defined as:

"The pretended are of influencing events, and of producing marvelous physical phenomena, by processes supposed to owe their efficacy to their power of intervention of spiritual beings..."

The above is the FIRST DEFINITION OF THE WORD MAGIC IN THE OED.

Nice try.


by that definition magic is termed something that doesn't work, so if it odes work it[s not magic. You are also assuming that only fictional people can be claimed to be wonderworkers.

Joe Hinman said...

Cal: "How is the reasoning that magical things happen in reality, even though they actually only happen in stories, a sound way to form beliefs about magical things?"

In my university we call this begging the question, even in Texas! you can't know that unless you investigate call claims. when dis you investigate LOURDES?

Jim S. said...

And stories about eyewitnesses to magical events are, well, stories about magical events. And stories aren't good evidence for magical events. (But they are good evidence that magical things make for good stories.)

What magical events are you talking about? I don't know any magical events in the gospels. Are you using "magical" to describe supernatural events? I ask because "magic" has a more particular meaning in history. If that's what you're doing you're equating two things that are not traditionally considered equivalent. Since one of those things is considered implausible by most (magic) and the other is only considered implausible by some (the supernatural), it looks like you're trying to smear the latter with the problems of the former without actually arguing that the latter really has those same problems.

Surely, intelligent as you are, you understand why supernatural claims would require stronger evidence than paltry, contradictory accounts

You didn't address this to me, so I may not be intelligent enough for you, but could you give me a reason why supernatural events would require stronger evidence than what we have for the resurrection? I'm not saying they don't, I'm just not confident about it one way or the other.

Jim S. said...

This whole discussion reminds me of a short story I wrote as a send-up of the "brights":

http://xssf.blogspot.com/2008/09/brilliant_26.html