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disillusioned last won the day on November 5 2019

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About disillusioned

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    Still trying to find my way, mostly making it up as I go along.
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    Chess, literature, science, philosophy, entertainment, food and drink.
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    "Using words to talk of words is like using a pencil to draw a picture of itself, on itself."
    ~Patrick Rothfuss~

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?
    I have looked deep into the sauce and cheese.

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  1. Who cares? Why should we concern ourselves with what Christians think? I believe what I believe. No one other than me has license to say what exactly it is that I think. My expressed opinions, beliefs, etcetera, are open for criticism. Absolutely. But I will not have people telling me what I think, and then attacking their idea of what I think. That's just silly. These people aren't worth the time it takes to tell them to shut up.
  2. I'd vote Trudeau ten times out of ten if the only alternative was Trump. And I'm not that big of a Trudeau fan. For that matter, I'd vote Harper ten times out of ten, and I really don't like Harper. This is the problem. Trump is not normal. When he is compared to normal options, it legitimizes him. He's. Not. Normal. Somehow, Americans seem to have lost track of that. "None of the above" is wonderful in principle, but in practice it basically boils down to MAGA. Sorry to be blunt, but that's how I see it as an outsider.
  3. I was there quite a while ago. Trump is not Hitler. But there are lessons to be learned here. And no one seems interested in learning. As a Canadian, this situation is legitimately frightening.
  4. I think this is basically right. There is still a problem there. You could say that prophecy only occurs in such cases where something will happen regardless of what choices we make. I think it's possible for somethings to be predetermined without everything being predetermined. Prophecy could be cases of God saying "no matter what you choose to do, I will do X", which he can do, because He's all powerful. We would still have free-will in general. Even in those specific cases we'd still have it; it's just that the choice we make wouldn't affect the outcome of the prophecy. These don't strike me as terribly good answers, but if I were committed to Christianity I might say something like this. Notice, though, that I've now had to adjust what is meant by both "all-knowing" and "prophecy". This should give us pause.
  5. Usually, those who claim to be compatiblists are not arguing for Christianity, but I take your point. I think there is definitely a kind of similarity between the determinism/free-will dilemma and the omniscient God/free-will dilemma. Saying "we just can't fully understand God's ways" is a bit of a cop-out, in my view, but it is a kind of compatabilistic stance. I actually agree with this. If God does exist, there's no reason at all for us to be able to understand His ways. Earthworms might as well try to reason about quantum mechanics. And if He is all-powerful in truth, then He can do whatever He wants, whether we understand it or not. Again, this is a cop-out, but it works...
  6. I now want to take what I've developed here so far and try to apply it to some practical questions. The first topic I want to examine is morality. What follows is an attempt to build on what I began to explore in this thread back in 2017. I don’t want to restate everything that was said there, but rather to try to ground it in the theory of truth that I’ve been attempting to develop here. (@Edgarcito, you expressed interest in this topic). If we are going to examine morality, then it seems to me that there are several questions which must be answered: 1) What is morality? 2) What is the basis of morality? 3) Is morality objective? 4) Is morality universal? 5) Does morality change over time? I’ll take these questions in order, and we’ll see how far we get. What is morality? Morality, as I’m using the term, concerns moral claims, which are claims about the rightness and wrongness of human actions. It may be claimed that murder is wrong, while caring for one’s children is right, for example. These are moral claims. Moral claims are distinct from other claims in that they do not merely describe what is, they describe what ought to be. This is a fairly simplistic view of morality, but I think it will serve for the purposes of this discussion. What is the basis of morality? This is a more interesting question. Moral claims are routinely made by humans. On what grounds do we make these claims? If I say that an action is wrong, where is the force behind my words? What is it that makes it wrong to murder, and what is it that makes it right to care for one’s children? One possible response to this is to say that natural selection has shaped us to tend to behave in certain ways. It is beneficial to the survival of the species for us not to go about murdering each other, and to care for our children. Because natural selection has also equipped us with conscious thought, we tend to think about our actions, and when we do, we find that we find certain types of actions repulsive, and certain others attractive. We call the former “wrong” and the latter “right”, and morality is born. I think something like the above is basically correct. It isn’t a very robust picture of the origins of morality, and there are lots of specific questions that can be raised, but this is where I think we need to start. Is morality objective? Now we actually get into the meat of this issue. Given that morality concerns “right” and “wrong”, and given that it has an evolutionary basis of some kind, can it be properly said to be objective? Here I will turn back to our favourite apologist William Lane Craig, who routinely argues that, on atheism, objective moral principles do not exist. By “objective moral principles”, Craig means moral principles which are real and binding irrespective of what anybody thinks. In the vocabulary of this thread, Craig seems to be saying that “objective moral principles” are ontological truths, and he seems to be saying that on atheism, there are no such principles. I tend to agree with this, but I don’t think that it follows from this that morality is entirely subjective. I think objective moral truth exists; I just think that moral truths are epistemic in nature. When I say that it is “wrong” to commit murder, I am not merely stating my personal opinion. It is actually wrong. It’s just that the reason why it is wrong is because people think it is wrong. This is the mark of an epistemic truth. Now of course, there are those who disagree. We call them sociopaths, and we generally discount their opinions on this matter. A key point to remember is that epistemic truths do not derive from what any particular individual thinks; they derive from what people in general think. So the existence of individuals who dissent from standard thought on moral issues should not be particularly troubling to us. Anarchists exist as well, and governments still somehow manage to retain authority. So long as most people agree that murder is wrong, it is actually true that murder is wrong. Thus we can have objective morality on atheism; it’s just that moral truths are epistemic rather than ontological in nature. A consequence of this is that WLC’s argument from morality falls apart entirely. He asserts that on atheism objective morality doesn’t exist, but objective morality does exist, therefore God exists. I have just shown that you can have objective morality on atheism. Moral truths are true irrespective of what anybody thinks; they just aren’t true irrespective of what everybody thinks. That is to say, they are epistemically true. Is morality universal? Here I am inclined to say “no”, although I think there are probably elements of morality that are universal. It is clearly the case that different cultures in different places at different times have different societal norms. There are many cases where things which we consider to be wrong here and now might be considered perfectly acceptable under different circumstances. Adultery comes to mind. In the culture I was born and raised in, adultery is considered quite wrong. But this is not necessarily the case in all cultures at all times. There have been plenty of times and places where it is quite acceptable to have numerous sexual partners, and numerous casual sexual experiences on the side. In such societies, it seems to me that adultery wouldn’t really be wrong at all. As I said before, though, I think that there are probably some aspects of morality that are universal. That the care of one’s children is good comes to mind, for example. Does morality change over time? Of course it does. On this conception, morality arises from evolution, which is literally change over time. As such, it would be asinine to assume that our conception of morality will not continue to evolve. So where does this leave us? Well, what we have is a kind of moral relativism, but not moral subjectivism. Morality derives from evolution, it is epistemic in nature, it is subject to socio-cultural differences, and it can change over time. But nevertheless it is completely coherent for us to say that an action is objectively morally right or wrong, just as it is completely coherent for us to say that a $5 bill is objectively worth five dollars. We just need to be clear that these are statements about epistemic truths, not ontological truths.
  7. The problem of free will is a major issue in philosophy. It isn't restricted to Christianity. Christians have a particularly bad version of the problem to deal with, but they aren't the only ones who have to face it. In normal philosophy, the problem of the freedom of the will has to do with the apparent incompatibility of determinism and freedom. The statement of the problem is usually something like this: if it is true that the universe operates according to fixed laws, and that it is causally closed, then it ought to be possible, at least in principle, to predict, given complete knowledge of one state of the universe, all subsequent states of the universe, and to retrodict all previous states (this is the essence of determinism). But if this is so, then there cannot be freedom of the will, because any choice I might make is part of a state of the universe, and is hence completely determined. Nevertheless, it seems fairly obvious that I do have free-will. Hence, we have a problem. There are some people who argue that the problem is misconceived, and that free-will and determinism are actually compatible (appropriately named "compatiblists"). I don't personally think these arguments really go anywhere. There are also people who say that free-will must simply be an illusion. And then there are those who say that determinism must be false. I fall into this final category. Notice, though, that this still leaves a kind of problem of free-will, namely that we need to demonstrate how freedom of choice arises. To do so, I think, will require a robust explanation of consciousness, and, well, it isn't called the "hard problem" for nothing. For Christians, though, the problem is worse. If God is supposed to be an all-knowing, all-powerful creator, then, in a sense, He knows what will happen, and because he is the creator, he has caused it to happen. Under this picture, it is very difficult to see how freedom of the will is possible. I can see a few possible ways out. We could say that freedom of the will is illusory, but I don't think this will have great appeal for most Christians. We could say that God is not all-knowing, but again, I don't think this will be very popular. A more palatable response may be to adjust what we mean by "all-knowing". One thing that has just occurred to me is that it could be argued that God knows all possibilities, and all consequences of all possibilities, but he doesn't know what choices we will actually make. He knows what the consequences of every possible choice are, but he leaves up to us what we will choose. On this conception, your life is like a very complex "choose your own adventure" novel. There are many different story lines, and many different endings, and it is up to the reader (us) to choose which path she will take. Nevertheless, the author knows all possible paths, and he knows at every step where each choice leads. So the author is all knowing about the possibilities, but he isn't all knowing about what choices we will make. That is up to us.
  8. I don't know what exactly is going on in this thread, but I was planning on turning to the subject of morality in the Truth, Knowledge, and Belief thread in the near future. Just as soon as my schedule allows. I actually do think it's important to be able to give a coherent account of morality aside from Christianity/religion. This is an area where I think a lot of atheists end up essentially ducking the question. I hope to be able to avoid doing that. Time will tell.
  9. I want to get back to the concerns that @WalterP raised about the distinction between the type of experience that gives rise to scientific knowledge and the type of experience that the religious often cite in attempts to justify their claims. This is a very important issue, and it's worth taking the time to get it right. I want to note at the start that I'm using the term "theism" in a very strong sense in this post. I do this because I am trying to draw a stark contrast between theistic worldviews and naturalistic worldviews. Of course I'm aware that theism comes in a variety of forms, and some of them are stronger than others. This is largely beside the point I'm trying to make though, and I'm not interested in making things more complicated than they already are, so I'm lumping them all together for now. The first thing I want to point out is that science is able to function perfectly well on the basis of a worldview which is similar to the one that I began this thread with. The three axioms I posited are sufficient to allow for science. Science is, after all, the study of the natural world by thinking beings. My axioms are not sufficient, however, for theism. Theism claims specifically that there exists a supernatural realm in addition to the natural one. This doesn't follow from the axioms. Attempts to argue for the supernatural realm on the basis of a normal worldview inevitably fall into fallacy (see: WLC). This has as a consequence that you can have a supernatural realm if you want one, but you'll need to assume it. Add it to the list of axioms, in other words. Doing this results in what I'm referring to here as a theistic worldview, in contrast to naturalistic worldviews, which resemble the one I've presented. If this is clear, then it ought to be fairly clear as well that theists and scientists are not playing the same game. (Again, I'm speaking in generalities here, leaving aside the fact that theists can be scientists. Obviously they can, but I'd argue that inasmuch as they are good scientists, they aren't actively being theists as they do science. Set that aside.) Scientists are interested in building knowledge about the natural world, while theists are interested in God. The natural world, for the theist, is basically a way of getting to God. It is not valued much for its own sake. The very idea that there might be simple brute facts about the world which are true irrespective of what anybody thinks falls apart on theism, because all facts are true specifically because God has purposed them so to be. All things are true only because God thinks they are true. Hence, all truth is epistemic, save for the existence of God. This is obviously quite different from the approach that the rest of us take. When a scientist does science, it is so that she can try to build her knowledge. When a theist does anything, it is so that he can get closer to God. Alright, now back to experience. Because the theist has as his goal discovering more about God, and because the theistic worldview reduces to one in which the only ontological truth is that God exists, the theist is inclined to look for support for his specific God-related beliefs anywhere he can find them. Dreams become laden with deeper meanings. Coincidences become seen as signs of God's favor or displeasure. Confirmation bias begins to play a crucial role, and experiences begin to be interpreted in ways which specifically support one's individual beliefs. Thus, the Christian (for example) may say "I know God exists. I have experienced Him." When pressed, however, it turns out that the experiences in question must be interpreted according to the belief which they supposedly demonstrate. This is, essentially, begging the question. Now let's turn to science for a moment. Science is an attempt by humans to build their knowledge about the natural world. In its simplest forms, it requires no special equipment or expertise. An example of a very simple scientific claim is that objects which are dropped will fall to the earth. This is directly testable by anyone who has access to anything and the ability to drop it. My knowledge that this claim is true is born of repeated observational evidence (ie, experience). Notice two things immediately: first, any piece of observational evidence I might cite in support of my claim that objects which are dropped will fall is repeatable, and second, one does not need to accept the proposition in order to agree that any particular observation is consistent with it. You can be as skeptical as you like, and maintain that no amount of repetition is sufficient to demonstrate the general rule, but you will find yourself very hard-pressed to deny that a rock which I have dropped, and which has fallen, has in fact fallen. It should be fairly clear from this that the experiences which give rise scientific knowledge are objective in a way that the experiences which theists cite in support of their claims are not. Scientific evidence is repeatable, in principle by absolutely anyone. So long as the experiment is performed in the same way, the results should be the same. Now, of course, in practice it is no longer true that anyone can verify any scientific claim for themselves, directly. This is because science has developed to a point where it is quite sophisticated, and where quite a bit of special expertise and subject specific knowledge may be required in order to carry out a particular experiment. But in principle, anyone can gain the requisite expertise and repeat any experiment. This is absolutely vital for science. An experimental result is nothing if it is not repeatable, and a scientific theory is nothing if it isn't supported by experimental evidence. Now, lets contrast scientific evidence which is based in this type of experience with some of the experiential evidence put forth by theists for their claims. When I was a Christian, I used to pray when I'd lost something that I would find it. Then, when I did find it, I would take that as experiential evidence that prayer works. And, of course, if I didn't find it, I'd just move on and draw no conclusions at all about the efficacy of prayer. This is very clearly different from how science works. When I say I know that objects will fall when dropped, I don't mean that sometimes they will and sometimes they won't. I mean they will all the time. Moreover, when presented with an example of an object which does not fall (Voyager 1, for example), I am able to very clearly explain why it is the case that this object appears to violate the general rule (in this case, it doesn't, it is just that the rule was clumsily stated). It takes only one example of an inexplicable violation of the rule to cause the theory to require revision. This is clearly not the case for theism. When prayer does not work, it usually turns out that God works in mysterious ways. If you want a rough and ready test for whether something is based in science or not, simply ask yourself, "does it work?", or, more specifically, "does it work whether I expect it to work or not?". This allows us to overcome the difficulty I mentioned above about science being quite sophisticated these days. I verify that the internal combustion engine works every time I drive my car. I can do this even if I don't have a firm grasp on precisely how it works. I trust that some people understand how it works, and they seem to be right. Again, this is very different from Christian faith claims. The Christian claims a partial understanding, as the rest of us do, but the Christian applies no actual rules to the limits of this understanding. Some days it works, some days it doesn't. And, in general, it only works if you expect it to. Hopefully this has adequately addressed the issue of the difference between the nature of the experiences on which scientific evidence is based, and those on which the claims of theists are based. If not, I'll say some more, and try to be more clear.
  10. I agree. But the thing about innovation is, it's all very relative to when you're talking about. Egypt brought great innovation. Greece brought great innovation. Italy brought great innovation. Germany brought great innovation. America is on the list too, for sure, but the claim isn't that America has been the greatest, its that it is. Right now, the argument that America is the most innovative is harder to make. I agree with this. America is pretty great. There's no precise measure of absolute greatness. That should be the end of the conversation, as far as I'm concerned.
  11. This was basically my point. See: defensiveness. For the record, I love the US, and I want to love it more than I do. But my former statement stands. If no one but you perceives you as the greatest, are you really the greatest? By that logic, China is the greatest. So is North Korea. I'm not drawing parallels here, just making an observation. If you were really clearly the greatest, everyone would know it. We don't. Therefore, you aren't. Personally, I think any claim to be the greatest country is absurd on the face of it. There is no precise measure of greatness where countries are concerned. America has been great. I'd like almost nothing more than to truly see it be great again.
  12. In general, I've noticed that true greatness doesn't require declaration, let alone defense. It's just plainly obvious. I've also noticed that many Americans are quick to declare their country to be the greatest in the world, and often become defensive when they aren't agreed with outright. I find this interesting.
  13. Well, that just makes it seem like Craig doesn't know what he's talking about at all. Accepting general relativity but rejecting spacetime curvature? Please. That's pretty much the essence of the theory. This is like saying "I accept that the ocean exists, but I reject the existence of water".
  14. Walter, Thanks for pushing me on this. I hope it's clear to you and anyone else reading or participating in the thread that I'm basically spitballing here. These are my ideas, and some of them may not stand up to scrutiny, which is fine. I've heard it said that one of the marks of a good philosopher is that what most people see as problems, they see as discoveries. I'm a novice philosopher at best, but nevertheless I'm not afraid of having holes poked in my theories. The worst case scenario, as I see it, is that I'm completely wrong, in which case I might learn something. Agreed. This is very important, and I will address it in detail before I move on. I just want to shelve it for a moment while I try to clear up some of the other issues you raised. Please see the attached illustration. A clarification with respect to terminology: I'm using "necessary truth" in roughly the same way as "formal truth". These are a subset of epistemic truths, which are formal provable, and are hence logically necessary. The way I'm currently thinking about this is related to functions in mathematics. Let's set aside for the moment my contention that knowledge does not need to be true, and treat the simplified, idealistic case where all knowledge is true. In this case, knowledge claims can be thought of as functions, which have the set of true things (or subsets thereof) as their domains. Matters of fact are knowledge claims which may have ontological truths or epistemic truths as their domain. Relations of ideas have only epistemic truths as their domain, and more specifically, formal (necessary) truths. In the illustration, z is the formal statement 2+3=5, and R(z) is our knowledge of the fact that 2+3=5. Our knowledge here is a relation of ideas, while the truth, z, is a formal truth. Notice that the mapping here is invertible (ie, the arrows go both ways). This is because formal truths are epistemic, which is to say that they are true by virtue of the fact that we know them to be true. Similarly, the truth y in the illustration is that money is valuable, while M2(y) is our knowledge that money is valuable. Again, this is invertible, because money has value precisely because we know it to have value. This is a matter of fact, however, not a relation of ideas, because that money is valuable is not a formal (necessary) truth. M1(x) is our knowledge claim that the earth is round. I haven't written in the actual value for x in an attempt to illustrate the difference between ontological and epistemic truths. Knowledge of ontological truth is always tentative. We know the earth is round, but the reason we know this (x) is always just out of reach for us. We don't define ontological truth. We define epistemic truth. I am trying to show that there is some brute fact about the world which is the source of our claim that the earth is round, but because this fact is ontological in nature, we can't presume to define it precisely. To paraphrase one of my least admired philosophers, what we see is a poor reflection, as in a mirror. Sadly, though, I don't think that we will ever be able to do much better than this. Notice as well that M1(x) is not invertible. This is because x is an ontological truth, and hence does not depend on our knowledge of it. I hope this clarifies things a little. If not, I'm more than happy to try again. Agreed. As stated above, I'll try to develop this more thoroughly shortly. Fair enough, and I tend to agree with the sentiment. As I said before, the essence of my response to the problem of induction is to say "ok, but that's not a problem. It seems to work..." I agree with this entirely. My opinion is that it is likely that WLC started out with good intentions. He likely now realizes that his arguments don't obtain his desired conclusion, but he's too deep into it to back out. I would hate to speculate about his thought processes, but I can see a potential rationalization. If he truly believes his conclusion, and he truly believes that it is essential that others come to agree with him, and he knows that his arguments are convincing to many people who simply don't know better, then it makes sense for him to continue making the same arguments even if he is doing so in bad faith. The result may be the only thing he cares about. Excellent. I've been inactive in that thread recently because of a lack of time, not a lack of interest. And also because I haven't had any quibbles with what's been posted lately. All good stuff. Truth and Knowledge.pdf
  15. Unfortunately, that issue is often merely the name of a political party.
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