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How God Still Causes Things to Be

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Filed under God


Atheists often claim that it’s contradictory for believers to assert that God is at the same time both the universal cause of all being and immutable. In other words, God can’t be changeless and at the same time changing, in the sense that he causes things to come into and go out of existence.

Consider, for example, that my act of typing this article right now is a reality ultimately because God causes it to be. His causal activity is not in opposition to my free action, but the presupposition for it. For whatever has being is ultimately caused to be by the source of being, God. Since my act of typing has being (it actually exists), it follows that God ultimately causes my action to be (even if he doesn’t cause every typo or imperfect metaphor that I choose).

By the time you read this article, however, my act of typing it will no longer exist. I’ll be engaged in other acts, such as throwing the football with my sons.

So, what God is causing to exist now (me typing this article in real time), he will no longer cause to exist when I shut down the computer. And what God was not causing to exist (me throwing the football with my sons), God will cause to exist.

But this seems to entail that God changes in his acts, acting to cause one thing at one moment in time, ceasing that act at another moment in time, and engaging in a new act to cause something else at some other moment in time.

If God brings about new effects in time, so it’s argued, he would have to engage in new acts of the will. And if that were true, he would change.

So it seems that if we affirm God as the ultimate cause of all temporal effects, we would have to say God changes. If we say God can’t change, then we couldn’t affirm that he’s the ultimate cause of all temporal effects. Neither of the two options is available for one who believes in the classical understanding of God.

Is a theist trapped?

Notice how the objection assumes that God’s causal action is located in time just like the effect is located in time, as if we can point to some moment in time before which he doesn’t act and after which he does. But there are good reasons to think this assumption is false.

God is eternal, and therefore doesn’t exist or act in the flow of time. He’s entirely outside the succession of moments in time, having all moments of time (our before and after) present to him simultaneously. Consequently, God doesn’t have a “before” and an “after.” And if that’s the case, then it’s not correct to assume that he begins to act after a certain time, before which he didn’t act.

Moreover, as the first and universal cause, God not only ultimately causes my act of typing but also the time at which he wills this act to be (5:00 pm October 14 in Brisbane, Australia). For if he were only the first cause of the action, and not the time at which the action occurred, then there would be some aspect of being (the temporal aspect of being) that would have escaped God’s universal causality. Since that can’t be, we know he must not only cause the action, he must also cause the particular moment in the flow of time at which the act takes place.

And because God can’t be conditioned by that which he causes to be (the particular moments in the flow of time at which all activity takes place), his causal activity can’t possibly be subject to time. In other words, God’s causal activity has no “before” and “after” because God’s causal activity itself determines the “before” and “after” of all activity. We have to be careful not to confuse, “God causes some things to be at some moments of time,” with “God, at some moment in time, causes some things to be.”

Since God’s causal action is not in time, it’s not necessary that he change in his act of causing new temporal effects (i.e., go from not causing to causing). Therefore, the assertion that God is the universal cause of temporal effects doesn’t contradict the claim that God is immutable.

Now, an atheist might respond, “Perhaps God doesn’t undergo change in his causal activity because he acts in time. But he must undergo change inasmuch as he acts as a cause, for change necessarily belongs to what it means to be a cause. So God, therefore, can’t be immutable and the universal cause of all things at the same time.”

The problem with this counter is that it assumes change necessarily belongs to what it means to be a cause.

Sure, the causes that we experience undergo change when they bring about an effect (e.g., me going from not engaging in the act of typing this article to engaging in the act of typing this article). But just because a cause of our experience changes when it causes an effect, it doesn’t necessarily follow that anything whatsoever that acts as a cause must undergo change.

All that’s necessary for a cause to be a cause of an effect is for the effect in question to be brought about by that cause. In other words, without the activity of the cause the effect would not be. There’s nothing in this understanding of a cause that necessitates the cause undergo change when it acts as a cause.

And that’s all a theist is saying when he says God causes temporal effects. Something comes into existence at a specific moment of time due to God’s causal action, and it goes out of existence ultimately because of God’s causal action.

So, the idea that some things are brought about at different moments of time, and that God is the ultimate cause that brings those things about at their distinct moments of time, in no way shows God must undergo change when he acts as a cause. There’s nothing in the notion of a cause that entails change and God’s causal action is not characterized by time.

At least on this front, theism passes the coherence test.

Karlo Broussard

Written by

After a three-year apprenticeship with Fr. Robert Spitzer S.J. PhD., nationally known author, speaker, philosopher, and theologian, Karlo works as a full time apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers giving lectures throughout the country on topics in Catholic apologetics, theology and philosophy. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology from Catholic Distance University and the Augustine Institute, and is currently working on his masters in philosophy with Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He is one of the most dynamic and enthusiastic Catholic speakers on the circuit today. He resides in Murrieta, CA with his wife and four children. You can view Karlo's online videos at KarloBroussard.com. You can also book Karlo for a speaking event by contacting Catholic Answers at 619-387-7200.

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  • Phil Tanny

    The effort to make theism coherent may be misplaced. Such an effort would seem to assume that a phenomena as large and fundamental as God is typically thought to be would be subject to the rules of human reason, a very small thing indeed.

    When one tries to make theism coherent one is actually accepting the primary premise of atheism, the notion that all of reality, including any gods contained within, are subject to rules invented by a single half insane species on one little planet in one of billions of galaxies.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Is your insight also the product of "a single half insane species on one little planet in one of billions of galaxies"?

      • Phil Tanny

        No, I alone am the greatest prophet of all time and thus transcend the half insane masses in every way possible.

        Clever little quips earn the same in return.

    • The effort to make theism coherent may be misplaced. Such an effort would seem to assume that a phenomena as large and fundamental as God is typically thought to be would be subject to the rules of human reason, a very small thing indeed.

      Are you ignorant of apophatic theology? There is also the following, from Timothy Ware:

          The life of the Church in the earlier Byzantine period is dominated by the seven general councils. These councils fulfilled a double task. First, they clarified and articulated the visible organization of the Church, crystallizing the position of the five great sees or Patriarchates, as they came to be known. Secondly, and most important, the councils defined once and for all the Church's teaching upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith—the Trinity and the Incarnation. All Christians agree in regarding these things as 'mysteries' which lie beyond human understanding and language. The bishops, when they drew up definitions at the councils, did not imagine that they had explained the mystery; they merely sought to exclude certain false ways of speaking and thinking about it. To prevent people from deviating into error and heresy, they drew a fence around the mystery; that was all. (The Orthodox Church, 10)

      Here you have theists claiming they understand something, but not everything. What is the adjustment you would make, Phil?

      When one tries to make theism coherent one is actually accepting the primary premise of atheism, the notion that all of reality, including any gods contained within, are subject to rules invented by a single half insane species on one little planet in one of billions of galaxies.

      You appear to have a rather stunted view of theology. Here is some John Milbank:

          Indeed, I argue that, from the perspective of Christian virtue, there emerges to view a hidden thread of continuity between antique reason and modern, secular reason. This thread of continuity is the theme of ‘original violence’. Antique thought and politics assumes some naturally given element of chaotic conflict which must be tamed by the stability and self-identity of reason. Modern thought and politics (most clearly articulated by Nietzsche) assumes that there is only this chaos, which cannot be tamed by an opposing transcendent principle, but can be immanently controlled by subjecting it to rules and giving irresistible power to those rules in the form of market economies and sovereign politics. If one tries, like MacIntyre, to oppose antique thought to modern thought, then the attempt will fail because antique thought – as Plato already saw in The Sophist – is deconstructible into ‘modern’ thought: a cosmos including both chaos and reason implies an ultimate principle, the ‘difference’ between the two, which is more than reason, and enshrines a permanent conflict.
          Christianity, however, recognizes no original violence. It construes the infinite not as chaos, but as a harmonic peace which is yet beyond the circumscribing power of any totalizing reason. Peace no longer depends upon the reduction to the self-identical, but is the sociality of harmonious difference. Violence, by contrast, is always a secondary willed intrusion upon this possible infinite order (which is actual for God). Such a Christian logic is not deconstructible by modern secular reason; rather, it is Christianity which exposes the non-necessity of supposing, like the Nietzscheans, that difference, non-totalization and indeterminancy of meaning necessarily imply arbitrariness and violence. To suppose that they do is merely to subscribe to a particular encoding of reality. Christianity, by contrast, is the coding of transcendental difference as peace. (Theology and Social Theory, 5–6)

      You, however, will undoubtedly object:

      PT: The question I would bring to this is, are we really separated from God, or do we just FEEL separated? Is the separation real, or an illusion?

      This is not "sociality of harmonious difference", but instead "the reduction to the self-identical":

      PT: Perhaps all things are like this, just patterns created by energy moving through a denser form of energy called matter, with no independent existence of their own.

      LB: Were this actually true, you would be incorrect to say "all things" instead of just "thing". You would have only one word, which would refer to everything. All would be undifferentiated. And then you couldn't experience anything.

      PT: The word you're reaching for here might be God. :-)

      As far as I can tell, this is undifferentiated pantheism. I personally suggest being born again, not being unborn. You, Phil Tanny, really are loved by Jesus.

      • Phil Tanny

        Are you ignorant of apophatic theology?

        Are you ignorant of everything except what somebody else has said? :-) It would be fun to talk with you sometime instead of all these other people.

        That off my chest, I thank you for the introduction and from the briefest of reviews agree apophatic theology has some interest.

        Here you have theists claiming they understand something, but not everything.

        Please note that I present the very same challenge (is reason qualified?) to atheists all the time, been doing it for years. It's an even handed challenge applied equally to all contestants in the God debate. It's an entirely reasonable challenge given how small humans are in comparison to any god ever defined.

        You appear to have a rather stunted view of theology.

        Your appear to have more interest in saying the opposite of whatever I say than in the topic itself. And so I say this unto you.... Luke is a great guy, a wise philosopher indeed! Ok, go for it, do your thing! :-)

        This is not "sociality of harmonious difference", but instead "the reduction to the self-identical":

        And this is pseudo intellectual fancy talk BS. Plain English please. That kind of talk may impress Dr. B, but I'm more impressed by one's own insights expressed in the most accessible language possible.

        As far as I can tell, this is undifferentiated pantheism.

        The whole process of putting things in to little categories just doesn't interest me that much. That said, to each their own I guess.

        An improvement would be, "that sounds like pantheism, and that's good or bad according to my own personal insights and experience, which do not depend upon copy and paste."

        You, Phil Tanny, really are loved by Jesus.

        Again the presumption that Phil Tanny and Jesus are two different distinct separate phenomena. We seem intent on ignoring the Catholic doctrine which states that God is ever present in every time and place.

        What I imagined might have happened is that Jesus went in to the desert and somehow overcame the illusion of division, thus experiencing unity with God.

        But then, maybe because he was only 30 years old he got a tad confused, and perhaps seduced by his ego, and maybe concluded that while he was God, others were not, thus re-establishing the illusion of division. Or it could be that this is not what he meant by his sermons, but only how he was understood. Seems impossible to know at this point.

        What I'm failing to explain to you and other readers is:

        IF division is an illusion generated by the way thought works.... THEN we are unlikely to achieve unity with God in the process of philosophy.

        We can talk about unity within philosophy, but that is something very different than experiencing unity, just as talking about food should not be confused with eating.

        • Two things confuse me in your comment.

          (1) How the following are consistent with each other:

          Are you ignorant of everything except what somebody else has said? :-) It would be fun to talk with you sometime instead of all these other people.

          Again the presumption that Phil Tanny and Jesus are two different distinct separate phenomena. We seem intent on ignoring the Catholic doctrine which states that God is ever present in every time and place.

          Either "all these other people" and I are different, or we are not. Either you and I are different, or we are not. Either you and Jesus are different, or you are not. This does not preclude us sharing nothing in common. In fact, we could not even communicate if we shared nothing in common.

           
          (2)

          PT: When one tries to make theism coherent one is actually accepting the primary premise of atheism, the notion that all of reality, including any gods contained within, are subject to rules invented by a single half insane species on one little planet in one of billions of galaxies.

          LB: You appear to have a rather stunted view of theology.

          PT: Your appear to have more interest in saying the opposite of whatever I say than in the topic itself.

          Do you dislike that we disagree? It would contradict your [apparently] deeply held belief that all difference is a violation of the primordial unity. But you disagree with others aplenty. Surely you aren't merely trying to cause everyone to agree with you and create uniformity that way? And yet, if everyone were to spend 24/7 in the same desert as you, with no communication with each other …

           
          Now I can better explain the following:

          LB: This is not "sociality of harmonious difference", but instead "the reduction to the self-identical":

          PT: And this is pseudo intellectual fancy talk BS. Plain English please.

          "sociality of harmonious difference": multiple individuals interacting in a way where none tries to make everyone else like him/her, or otherwise all homogeneous

          "the reduction to the self-identical": the best end-state for what exists is for it to all merge into a single, undifferentiated unity

          Is that better?

          • Phil Tanny

            Luke,

            #1 - It's my contention, or at least a theory to be investigated, that the illusion of division is VERY compelling because both the philosopher and the philosophy are made of thought, suggested to be the machinery generating the illusion. Language is built on top of this illusion, thus making meaningful discussion of unity nearly impossible, or at least highly contradictory and confusing.

            #2 - I truly don't object to disagreement, in fact I thrive on it. But I'd prefer to disagree with you than all the "experts" you are copying and pasting. But, my preference is just that, not a rule anybody has to follow.

            #3 - No better, but no problem.

            #4 - Temps approaching 90 today here STILL, as in Florida summer is eternal. So I'm spending too much time inside, too much time online, and as is predicted by my "thought theory" am becoming rather too divisive as a result. My gravestone will read, "Enthusiasm was his best and worst feature".

            Finally, those who investigate the challenges generated by the medium of thought are typically those who need to.

          • #1 - It's my contention, or at least a theory to be investigated, that the illusion of division is VERY compelling …

            #2 - I truly don't object to disagreement, in fact I thrive on it. But I'd prefer to disagree with you than all the "experts" you are copying and pasting.

            But isn't the division between Luke Breuer and said experts, itself an "illusion of division"? How are you not caught up in this "VERY compelling" cognitive fallacy?

            LB: This is not "sociality of harmonious difference", but instead "the reduction to the self-identical":

            PT: And this is pseudo intellectual fancy talk BS. Plain English please.

            LB: "sociality of harmonious difference": multiple individuals interacting in a way where none tries to make everyone else identical to him/her, or otherwise all homogeneous

            "the reduction to the self-identical": the best end-state for what exists is for it to all merge into a single, undifferentiated unity

            PT: #3 - No better, but no problem.

            Wait, so when I rephrase things in my own terms which are almost surely simpler, you say there is zero improvement whatsoever? Who's the one not being very cooperative here, Phil?

          • Phil Tanny

            I said zero improvement because I personally perceive no improvement. Others may differ on that.

            Yes, I too am caught up in the illusion of division because I too am made of thought, especially in this medium. This is exactly what my theory predicts, and I am happy to validate that theory by agreeing that it applies to all products of thought, including this poster.

            So again, you are attempting a big devastating debunkination :-) but you're not investing much work in to it, and so I can undermine it as fast as I can type, which admittedly does get a little bit tiresome.

          • PT: #1 - It's my contention, or at least a theory to be investigated, that the illusion of division is VERY compelling …

            #2 - I truly don't object to disagreement, in fact I thrive on it. But I'd prefer to disagree with you than all the "experts" you are copying and pasting.

            LB: But isn't the division between Luke Breuer and said experts, itself an "illusion of division"? How are you not caught up in this "VERY compelling" cognitive fallacy?

            PT: Yes, I too am caught up in the illusion of division because I too am made of thought, especially in this medium. This is exactly what my theory predicts, and I am happy to validate that theory by agreeing that it applies to all products of thought, including this poster.

            Well then which is it:

            (A) Some divisions in thought are acceptable.

            (B) It is wrong to characterize Luke as relying on others, for any division between Luke and others is merely an illusion.

            ?

          • Phil Tanny

            Not clever, waste of time, try again please. Try this perhaps. How about a series of posts from YOU about the nature of thought, which make no reference to me or anybody else. No copy and paste, just Luke from start to end.

          • Why would I do that with a fundamentally incoherent person? By the way, you are always welcome to pick out what you see as incoherence in my thinking. We humans are bad at seeing that in ourselves, thus requiring others to help. Although if there are no others, then I guess it's just incoherence 4 lyfe?

          • Phil Tanny

            Why would I do that with a fundamentally incoherent person?

            Don't do it with me or for me. Do it for yourself. Find out whether Luke has anything of his own to say.

            And like I said, if it turns out you don't, that could be a good thing.

          • I have plenty to say, but when I say it to you, it is like speaking into a void. When I speak to @disqus_TloUppAkh3:disqus, on the other hand, we have wonderful interactions. And it doesn't bother us overmuch when the other disagrees—indeed, that often signals an opportunity for growth and/or correction.

            Also, it's rather curious that you're trying to get me to accept your value system while you simultaneously claim I should think for myself.

        • Chris Morris

          "And this is pseudo intellectual fancy talk BS. Plain English please... I'm more impressed by one's own insights expressed in the most accessible language possible."

          And yet, when I followed the story-telling language that you were using you ran off in a huff. I have to say Luke's sentence is very clear and is "expressed in the most accessible language possible."

          "You appear to have more interest in saying the opposite of whatever I say..." You said the same thing to me - is there any possibility that this may indicate people are pointing out counter-arguments to your view which you're too engrossed in your own ideas to recognise?

          • I have to say Luke's sentence is very clear and is "expressed in the most accessible language possible."

            Hey Chris, thanks for stepping in. It's always helpful to find that I'm not the only one who might see something a given way. Would you mind saying what you think of my attempted "Plain English" rephrasing of Milbank?:

            LB: This is not "sociality of harmonious difference", but instead "the reduction to the self-identical":

            PT: And this is pseudo intellectual fancy talk BS. Plain English please.

            LB: "sociality of harmonious difference": multiple individuals interacting in a way where none tries to make everyone else identical to him/her, or otherwise all homogeneous

            "the reduction to the self-identical": the best end-state for what exists is for it to all merge into a single, undifferentiated unity

            From what I see, that may in fact strike at the heart of @phil_tanny:disqus's [anti-]philosophy. The more I talk to Phil, the more I find intuitive Owen Barfield's schematization that (i) the East wishes to be unborn; (ii) the West wishes to be reborn. I *really* need to find someone who wants to go through Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry with me …

          • Chris Morris

            I would say that's as clear as language can make it. Of course, I would take that as a starting point to examine how we get to recognise ourselves as individuals by understanding others as individuals through our commonalities but I suspect that Phil's obsession with holding to his own opinion and seeing any other view as simply others being contrary for no other reason than to argue with him would prevent him from following that particular trail.

          • Phil Tanny

            Yet another post mostly about Phil, and mostly not about anything too interesting.

            Address the subjects I've expressed consistent and persistent interest in in a manner which is well considered, thoughtful, and hopefully based on personal experience, and you won't find me objecting to your objections. What I'm objecting to is your unwillingness to raise your game to the level I'm sure you are capable of. I'm objecting to laziness.

          • Chris Morris

            But you are the subject of the conversation (and, for me, a very interesting one) because it's clear that you have a considerable part of your self invested in the opinions you express and, consequently, you seem to feel that any disagreement with, or questioning of, those views is a personal attack.

            I find this fascinating for the reason Luke has pointed out, that your view seems to be that we are all, literally, of one mind but so far you have yet to find anyone who shares that mind.

          • Phil Tanny

            I am the subject of the conversation because I am what interests you. It works like this Chris.

            I am a confident writer on a very limited number of subjects. Your male ego is perceiving that my male ego is attempting to position itself above your male ego, and so you feel a compelling need to bring me down a peg. You're clogging multiple conversations with this essentially boring topic.

            I agree I am confident to the point of arrogance on a small number of subjects. I agree my personality is not always appealing, as it doesn't always appeal to me either. If this is what you wish to explore, ok, so let's take it to Facebook or some high school forum.

            I DO NOT experience your objections as a personal attack Chris, and have no personal animosity towards you. I experience your objections as boring lazy distractions from the topics which I find compelling. And I find that frustrating because I sense you are capable of much more.

          • Chris Morris

            Sorry Phil but I'm much too old to worry about "male egos".
            "You're clogging multiple conversations with this essentially boring topic." I'm slightly puzzled as to why you regard your opinions as constituting a boring topic.
            "...your comment shows you have yet to understand anything I'm talking about..." Reading through the several conversations here, I get the impression that no one has yet understood what you're talking about. What it means to be human and related topics have, indeed, been explored for thousands of years (I distinctly remember mentioning that very point in one of our earlier exchanges) but I still have very little idea what your opinion on this is other than that humans are very insignificant and our reasoning capacity is too limited to make sense of the universe, a view which presents considerable difficulties for rational conversation presumably.

          • Phil Tanny

            Ok, so I'm willing to admit that male ego is part of my process, but you won't do the same. This is exactly what I mean Chris, you're slowing us down by requiring us to wade through junk like this. The notion that "you are too old to worry about egos" is obviously blatantly false posturing by, your ego.

            Let's explore some more thread clogging ego trash...

            I'm slightly puzzled as to why you regard your opinions as constituting a boring topic.

            You know this is not what I meant. You know you are misrepresenting what I said, which was that the topic of Phil is boring, but the topic regarding the fundamental nature of the human condition is not. So now we are wasting more time dealing with laziness from you regarding stuff you knew was false before you typed it.

            You want us to take you seriously. Ok, would like to do that, so please start acting seriously. Apply your intelligence to the topics being discussed, and stop clogging the threads with Facebook junk.

            but I still have very little idea what your opinion on this is

            Aha, we finally reach a true statement. And the reason you have very little idea what my perspective is Chris is that you're not paying much attention to the topic, but are instead focused on me.

            So let me address your real question. No, you can not have my baby.

          • Chris Morris

            "You want us to take you seriously." Who is this "us" that you're taking it upon yourself to speak for?

            "...you have very little idea what my perspective is..." No, I think I've got a reasonable idea what your perspective is but I've still got almost no idea what your opinion is and instead of taking that opportunity to explicate it, you've chosen to focus on me and my apparent failure to live up to your high standards.

            "No, you cannot have my baby." Hmmm, I'm not too disappointed about this as I have a baby of my own (although she is 25 now - which makes me wonder how all those years flew by so quickly).

          • Phil Tanny

            I find this fascinating for the reason Luke has pointed out, that your
            view seems to be that we are all, literally, of one mind but so far you
            have yet to find anyone who shares that mind.

            I'm glad that you are fascinated, but your comment shows you have yet to understand anything I'm talking about, perhaps because you're focused on me instead of the topics I'm addressing. For your information, such topics have been explored in earnest for thousands of years.

          • I would say that's as clear as language can make it.

            Heh, I wouldn't go that far. This unity & diversity thing (problem of the one and the many) interests me more and more as I learn and do more. It is so easy for us to collapse into uniformity and/or utter difference. Why can't we hold them in [better] intension?

            Of course, I would take that as a starting point to examine how we get to recognise ourselves as individuals by understanding others as individuals through our commonalities →

            I've finally started George Herbert Mead's Mind, Self and Society, which gets at this. But I'm not sure I can accept 'the social' being the primordial thing. In the Trinity, the individual & social are co-primordial. :-p I think our classical love of atomism left something major out, something we've only recovered here and there. Perhaps the following is a clue:

                Philosophy has been a long time coming to grips with the category of relation. Aristotle said of relations that they were "least of all things a kind of entity or substance" (Metaphysics 1088 a 22). The tradition has tended to echo this ever since. The categories of substance (thing) and attribute (property) are long established, but not so the category of relation. It is not until the late nineteenth and the twentieth century with C. S. Peirce, William James, and Bertrand Russell that relations begin (no more than begin) to come into focus. (Universals: An Opinionated Introduction, 29)

            That all being said, I have started to ask just what it means to self-reflect. This is doubly important if our self-conceptions are actually largely (I'm not sure about 'totally') acquired from the internalization of others' treatment of us. If a major thing our minds do is try to find as much reality as predictable as possible, then correctly modeling others' models of us is something it will attempt. That, of course, recurses.

            ← but I suspect that Phil's obsession with holding to his own opinion and seeing any other view as simply others being contrary for no other reason than to argue with him would prevent him from following that particular trail.

            My guess is that those who won't "listen", to steal a term-in-context from Feser, are actually too unsure about what they themselves believe. It's almost as if they're not secure enough in themselves, to permit a little space to exist and grow where another person's thinking can exist—without invading and taking over. Does that make any sense?

          • Chris Morris

            "Heh, I wouldn't go that far." :-D But it's true in the sense that ordinary language is linear and, therefore, has difficulty describing the non-linear process of human being (and this is where I would find some agreement with what Phil seems to be reaching towards, although he hasn't yet recognised it as a reflexive process rather than a fixed position) which is why, for example, Mead uses "I" and "Me" in specific ways which they don't have ordinarily.
            Yes, I think 'recursiveness' requires a space around our individual identity where some chemistry can take place - I worry about agreeing with Feser about anything but that sounds about right!
            By the way, as this touches on what we were discussing on "The Task of the Revolutionist Creator", I should explain that I lost track of that conversation because I was ill for a while and haven't yet regained the energy necessary to think about that subject - I find it very hard work and tiring analysing such ideas.

          • I agree on linearity not capturing everything there is to capture. That being said, can we talk about linearity moving to resonance, and then add on the idea of scientific revolution / paradigm shift / emergence? I'm thinking there can actually be quite a bit more continuity in understanding this stuff than is generally acknowledged. I've read a tiny bit of Coleridge and more from Owen Barfield on Coleridge, as well as James Cutsinger's The Form of Transformed Vision. The idea of "continuity amidst discontinuity" I find very interesting. Continuity without discontinuity is stasis; discontinuity without continuity is death.

            Sorry to hear you were sick; you know I'm in these discussions for the long term and can pretty easily resume state, so get around to replying if and when you have the energy. It can be pretty tiring for me, too!

          • Chris Morris

            Cutsinger looks very interesting - he certainly picks up on the importance of German philosophy's influence on Coleridge.

          • Phil Tanny

            Not to mention the crucial relevance of existential angst to the processes of cultural development in centralized societies whose fundamental assumptions have been transformed by the triangulation of competing conceptual forces at play in the development of bullshit storms.

          • Chris Morris

            Ah! Alan Sokal, eat your heart out...

          • Phil Tanny

            Luke, you know how people who have recently become rich tend to show off their wealth? That's what these posts crammed with references and fancy talk sound like. Yes, you've read a lot of books. We get it!

          • Do you like it when people impute evil motives to you when there are perfectly benign if not good motives which are equally well-supported by the evidence?

          • Phil Tanny

            I did not "impute evil motives" to you Luke.

          • I did not say that you did.

          • Phil Tanny

            Then what did that post mean?

          • It was meant to mirror your own comment, which had that careful qualifier of "sound like".

          • Phil Tanny

            Ha, sorry, I have no idea what we're discussing now, which is probably just as good. :-)

          • We're discussing this:

            PT: Luke, you know how people who have recently become rich tend to show off their wealth? That's what these posts crammed with references and fancy talk sound like. Yes, you've read a lot of books. We get it!

            Would you like to clarify or retract anything?

          • Phil Tanny

            In my rude bombastic opinion, you're trying too hard to impress upon us that you are a scholar person, and that agenda seems to be interfering with the development of your own insights.

            Feel free to ignore this with my blessing, as it's really none of my business. But if you'd like to explore your own experience and insights in more detail, perhaps try taking a month off from the references to other writers.

            What if all these other people didn't exist. Would you still have anything of your own to say?

            If not, ok, that might be good. It might be real good. For all of us. What if we were to come to realize that none of our perspectives on these subjects are really worth bothering with, mine included? What if we followed the trail of philosophy far enough to come to the end of it? What then?

            Maybe then we'd be quiet enough inside our minds that God could get a word in? Maybe. Who knows. An angle to explore perhaps.

          • In my rude bombastic opinion, you're trying too hard to impress upon us that you are a scholar person, and that agenda seems to be interfering with the development of your own insights.

            What if this is just false? Or does your imagination not stretch that far? You might start by considering how ridiculous it would be for me to value a few people on the internet thinking I'm "scholarly". Of what benefit would that be to me in life?

            But if you'd like to explore your own experience and insights in more detail, perhaps try taking a month off from the references to other writers.

            One of the reasons I reference other writers so often is that if I don't, my own experience and insights get stomped by people. You did this, too:

            LB: "sociality of harmonious difference": multiple individuals interacting in a way where none tries to make everyone else identical to him/her, or otherwise all homogeneous

            "the reduction to the self-identical": the best end-state for what exists is for it to all merge into a single, undifferentiated unity

            PT: #3 - No better, but no problem.

            If I were to only go with my own intuition, and all I got was stomping, I would question it pretty severely and I would be unable to find aids to going further. What do you think is the most rational course of action? Absorb myself into the One while dividing others from others?

            What if all these other people didn't exist. Would you still have anything of your own to say?

            I wouldn't be. We are largely the product of those who formed us, and those who continue to form us.

            What if we were to come to realize that none of our perspectives on these subjects are really worth bothering with, mine included?

            Then you would have attacked a group of well-armed soldiers with flip flops and a rusty sword, and somehow defeated them because they completely lost their senses and surrendered to pure irrationality.

            Maybe then we'd be quiet enough inside our minds that God could get a word in?

            What words has God got in to you? Where's the evidence that your approach actually works? And note: words divide. Whoops!

          • Phil Tanny

            What if this is just false?

            It could be, I'm just reporting the perspective of a single reader, which I've invited you to ignore.

            You might start by considering how ridiculous it would be for me to value a few people on the internet thinking I'm "scholarly". Of what benefit would that be to me in life?

            You're right, what I've neglected to consider is that posters on philosophy sites have no interest at all in promoting their self image. Silly me!

            One of the reasons I reference other writers so often is that if I don't, my own experience and insights get stomped by people.

            Ah, so your public image does matter after all. Who knew?

          • Phil, if there's anyone here trying to clone his public image, it's you. You're also conflating the establishment of a solid identity which can exist in the world and hopefully make it better for others and self, and the projection of a public image for accolades by people who may judge only by appearance—and thus contribute negatively to solidity.

            Most of my online interactions take place on web sites where virtually everyone disagrees with me. I find this is the best way to get my views examined as rigorously as possible. I want true solidity, not the appearance of solidity. If I were trying to burnish my public image, don't you think I'd aim for a higher upvote-to-comment ratio? Your model is just all wrong—unless perhaps there's some stereotyping or even self-projection going on?

          • Phil Tanny

            Where's the evidence that your approach actually works?

            Define "works".

          • PT: Maybe then we'd be quiet enough inside our minds that God could get a word in?

            LB: What words has God got in to you? Where's the evidence that your approach actually works? And note: words divide. Whoops!

            PT: Define "works".

            I'm thinking along the lines of:

            dictionary.com: works:
            19. to act or operate effectively:
                We all agree that this plan works.
            20. to attain a specified condition, as by repeated movement:
                The nails worked loose.
            21. to have an effect or influence, as on a person or on the mind or feelings of a person.

            In these definitions, there is a goal and a means of truly getting there; if you are properly employing sufficient means to get there, what you're doing "works".

            You will note that I left you to partially define what the goal is. Ostensibly it has something to do with "God … get[ting] a word in"—but I'm not entirely sure what you mean by that, given that words surely divide and you don't seem to like division.

          • Phil Tanny

            I'm arguing my point of view just like everybody else, which apparently is now being proposed to be some kind of malady.

            And I've explained why I am frustrated with some of the commentary here. As example...

            Chris already knows that we are in a Presidential election. He already knows that this process will select a single person who can, on his sole authority, erase modern civilization by pressing a button. He likely already knows that there is very little discussion of this huge fact in the current Presidential campaign. He can surely understand that this is not a rational act by our culture.

            And in spite of the fact that he already knows everything I'm saying on the subject, and most likely already agrees with it, he still has to clog such a discussion with a seemingly endless parade of pointless objections which can be dismissed as fast as one can type.

            All such a process accomplishes is to slow potentially useful conversations to a snail's pace so that everyone understandably becomes bored and bails.

          • I'm arguing my point of view just like everybody else, which apparently is now being proposed to be some kind of malady.

            What exactly prompted you to think any of us thinks this?

          • Phil Tanny

            My guess is that those who won't,
            to steal a term-in-context from Feser, are actually too unsure about
            what they themselves believe. It's almost as if they're not secure
            enough in themselves, to permit a little space to exist and grow where
            another person's thinking can exist—without invading and taking over.

            Ok, your turn, proceed with the back peddling.

          • I'm sorry, but you've lost me.

          • Phil Tanny

            Ok, that's cool, a good time to let this one go.

          • Phil Tanny

            That all being said, I have started to ask just what it means to self-reflect.

            It means that the inherently divisive operations of thought have created a conceptual division within our minds between "me" and "my thoughts".

          • Phil Tanny

            From what I see, that may in fact strike at the heart of Phil's [anti-]philosophy.

            To be a bit more precise, I truly do feel that philosophy can usefully explore the limits of philosophy. But it can not transcend those limits.

            As I see it, I am not anti-philosophy, but am doing philosophy, and taking it to places you are not yet willing or able to go. Don't feel bad, Dr. B isn't willing or able either.

          • To be a bit more precise, I truly do feel that philosophy can usefully explore the limits of philosophy. But it can not transcend those limits.

            I would be inclined to agree that any given philosophy cannot, of its own accord, transcend its limits. That must come from a source external to the given philosophy. If we cut off all external sources, that's like erecting a total solar shade around the earth.

            As I see it, I am not anti-philosophy, but am doing philosophy, and taking it to places you are not yet willing or able to go.

            You surely do see it this way. I am not willing to violate the principle of non-contradiction, while you apparently are. I'm not willing to do philosophy like this:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpZvpPryb1E

            Perhaps that isn't what you're really doing, but it's hard for me not to see it that way.

            Don't feel bad, Dr. B isn't willing or able either.

            I like it when others can also find things comprehensible I can find comprehensible. But I try to not draw strength that I'm right about something because others agree with me.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "I am not willing to violate the principle of non-contradiction, while you apparently are."

            You affirm the central truth here. He has made it clear that he denies the universal truth of the principle of non-contradiction, for example, when he rejects the formulation that either God exists or he does not exist.

            I think I am able to go wherever reason will take us. But I am absolutely not willing to go down any rabbit holes in the company of someone so irrational as to reject the very foundation of reason itself, namely, the principle of non-contradiction.

          • A friend of mine told me he had just started thinking about how important 'imagination' is, which got me thinking of Owen Barfield's essay "Lewis, Truth, and Imagination". He starts out talking about the rabid reductionism which was all the rage in the UK in Lewis' formative years. This is especially the background for e.g. The Abolition of Man. Lewis was very sensitive to self-undermining thought. Barfield reports that a change in climate occurred during Lewis' lifetime:

            There seems to have been, in a good many quarters, what I can describe only as an attempt to come to grips with the mystery of the human imagination, a growing conviction that it has things to tell us, and to tell us about the real world of matter and spirit, things which reductionism is debarred by the rules of its game from ever discovering. (Owen Barfield on C.S. Lewis, 98)

            This made me think of you and the various arguments you've made about 'intellect'. Now, I don't know how to relate what Barfield meant by 'imagination' and what you mean by 'intellect'. But I suspect there's a key connection, especially when one injects anti-reductionism. And there … my own intuition runs out of words for the time being.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Given the modern propensity to identify images with concepts, one can "imagine" the confusion that arises constantly when people talk about "imagining" possible worldviews. What we really should say is to "conceptualize" worldviews.

            What is clear, once one avoids reductionism, is that our conception of reality can far exceed the limits posed by pure empiricism. The senses grasp but a tiny fraction of the physical world, and yet, we develop scientific understanding of the vast majority of physical reality that the senses sense not.

            Not to mention the entire world of the trans-physical that can be grasped only by concepts indirectly formed from things the senses grasp in this world. Where is intellect here? Intellect feeds of phantasms formed by the imagination that, in turn, gets its content from the external senses.

            This ontological structure of epistemic powers needs better understanding if we really want to know the limits and extension of our knowledge.

          • michael

            Dennis, earlier you said that PHILOSOPHY can proof all 7 billion+ of us are descended from one lone couple with no other humans or sex partners round but themselves who had kids that then did sibling-incest with each other and the massive variety of genetic diversity humanities now has. Please explain: how is humanity's family tree a PHILOSOPHICAL thing?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have been pondering how to reply charitably to your total mischaracterization of my article on the scientific possibility of Adam and Eve. I fear I shall fail to do so.

            It would really help if you learned to read the articles you criticize before attacking them.

            I never said this was a philosophical paper. What I did say was this: "It was never the intent of this paper to offer scientific proof of Adam and Eve’s literal reality. The sole purpose has been to show that they are not scientifically impossible."

            The paper was explicitly interdisciplinary -- NEVER presented as purely philosophical analysis. It takes a bit of sophistication to treat this complex question properly. As I clearly stated in the paper:

            "Few understand that adequate speculative treatment of a literal Adam and Eve requires proper correlation of three disciplinary perspectives: theological, philosophical, and natural scientific. Theologically, Adam and Eve must be the first true human beings and all true men must be their descendants. Philosophically, the first true man must be the first hominin possessing intellect and a spiritual soul – as evinced by artifacts, such as those artistic stone hand axes of three-quarters of a million years ago. This is the reason why “candidates” proposed more recently in time cannot possibly be the true first parents, since there is evidence that true humans would chronologically precede them. Finally, in terms of natural science, it must be shown that – unless there is need for recourse to the interbreeding hypothesis – a bottleneck of just two true first human beings is possible. A credible case for that very possibility in the speculative time frame that I propose has just been offered, as shown above."

            You would really appear better informed if you actually went back and read the paper at; https://strangenotions.com/the-scientific-possibility-of-adam-and-eve/

            As you will see there, the very title of the piece was "The Scientific Possibility of Adam and Eve."

            Had you even bothered to look at the title itself, you would not have posed such an ill-informed question.

          • michael

            True, but OUTSIDE that article, you said to me that it can be proven PHILOSOPHICALy that everyone is descended from one lone couple.

          • David Nickol

            Any halfway reasonable person knows without even checking that Dr. Bonnette never said such a thing. You will lose whatever small shred of credibility you have here unless you identify the message or messages in which Dr. Bonnette said what you claim. Let's see your evidence.

          • Phil Tanny

            As I recall, there was an article on that subject, though I can't accurately summarize it.

          • David Nickol

            Best I can tell from a quick review of the above, Dr. B is basically dodging and weaving.

            How this is even possible I fail to understand. Michael claimed that Dr. Bonnette said something that Dr. Bonnette did not, in fact, say. There is nothing to dodge and weave about.

            He's technically correct, but perhaps misrepresenting the real intent of the article.

            What was said in an article is not at issue. Note that above Micheal says, "True, but OUTSIDE that article, you said to me . . . ."

            Michael made an indefensible claim and doubled down on it when challenged. Dr. Bonnette did not say, and would never say, that it can be proven by philosophy alone that all human beings are directly descended from two "first parents."

            When the issue is as clear as this, there is nothing to be gained by attempting to find something to agree with in Michael's claim or something to criticize in Dr. Bonnette's response. Michael is simply wrong.

          • Phil Tanny

            More dodging and weaving about pretty much nothing.

          • michael

            I'll go look! I do remember him saying that.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Frankly, I no longer trust you to read correctly what I have actually written.

            I have published some eight or more articles on the Adam and Eve topic, including three in peer reviewed journals -- and I am highly skeptical that I would ever have said such a stupid thing.

            What you are describing is theological monogenism -- meaning that a single genuinely-human first mating couple are parents of the entire human race, and that every true human being is a descendant of a single Adam. That is theology, not philosophy.

            It is a separate question in natural science as to how this theological belief might or might not be naturally possible.

            Philosophy is useful here mostly just to point out that the first true human being must be one with a spiritual soul and spiritual intellectual and volitional faculties.

            I have no idea on earth where you obtained the notion that I have said what you claim I said. Please find that text you claim exists and present it to me. I do not believe you can.

          • michael

            Even as that might be, I remember reading it. And please name all of these articles and peer-reviewed science journals.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You really do NOT KNOW HOW TO READ, do you, Michael!?

            I said above "peer reviewed journals." YOU come up with your own purely-hallucinated reading of "peer-reviewed science journals!"

            No wonder you cannot understand very much! You have to learn how to read and see and understand what the print actually says -- not what you think it should say.

            The first of my peer-reviewed articles was "Monogenism and Polygenism" in the New Catholic Encyclopedia Supplement 2012-2013: Ethics and Philosophy, 3:1013-16.

            The second was "The Rational Credibility of a Literal Adam and Eve," published in Espiritu here: https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=5244649

            And the third peer-reviewed article was "The Impenetrable Mystery of a Literal Adam and Eve," appearing in Nova et Vetera (Fall 2017) https://muse.jhu.edu/article/678131

          • michael

            Is bio-complexity.org one of those journals?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            No.

          • Phil Tanny

            Philosophy is useful here mostly just to point out that the first true human being must be one with a spiritual soul and spiritual intellectual and volitional faculties.

            Better philosophy would point out that there was no single moment in time that separates "true human beings" from their ancestors, and that the attempt to draw such a neat and tidy line is a product of the inherently divisive nature of the way thought works.

            Better philosophy would point out that there's no possible way anyone can prove or disprove the existence of souls, and that the paradigm "existence vs. non-existence" is yet another neat and tidy invention of thought which doesn't represent the real world very well.

            Better philosophy would point out that this kind of round and round and round has been going on for centuries, and not really accomplished much beyond entertainment.

          • Phil Tanny

            Dr B, here's how you characterized your article in another comment thread.

            It is absolutely true that a literal Adam and Eve are Catholic teaching as is clear in the first paragraph of my article on this subject, in which I also give the scientific rationale of their actual possibility.

          • Phil Tanny

            Dr. B,

            I AM reasoning, you just don't like where my reasoning is taking me.

            As example, I have reasonably proposed that the vast majority of reality, space, can not be clearly and definitively said to either exist or not exist. Please see the video I keep linking to for extensive discussion by experts on that subject.

            It thus follows that we can, and should, reasonably question a God debate built upon the almost always unquestioned belief that a simplistic formula such as "exists vs. not exist" is the only possible option. It may be the only option. Or maybe not. Refusing to address that question is not philosophy, but ideology.

            In your perspective you seem to elevate human reason to the status of a god, in that you seem to propose that everything in all of reality, including any gods, must submit to the rules of human reason. This is a reasonable and very common point of view, but not one that is beyond questioning as your comment seems to imply.

            I'm not going down any rabbit holes. I'm just offering a reasonable rational analysis which perhaps you don't know how to address.

          • Phil Tanny

            I think I am able to go wherever reason will take us.

            The "central truth" I'm proposing is that reason can take us only so far, due to built in limitations of the medium of thought that reason is made of, plus our limited ability to reason. To the best of my limited knowledge, such a claim is not in dramatic conflict with Catholic theology.

          • Phil Tanny

            I would be inclined to agree that any given philosophy cannot, of its own accord, transcend its limits.

            For myself, I'm not really referring to "any given philosophy" but the process of philosophy as a whole. Put briefly, I don't feel it's possible to achieve the bottom line goal of religion, the experience of unity, in a medium (thought) which operates by a process of division.

            As just one example we might observe how 2,000 years of Christian philosophy has failed to achieve unity even within the Christian community.

            I do believe one can come to these understandings via philosophy, which is indeed useful if one then acts on that understanding by exploring experience outside of philosophy.

            This is not as esoteric or foreign as my apparently inept writing may make it sound. As example, the experience of love suggested by Jesus, with it's temporary surrender of the primary divisive product of thought the "me", is one such experience.

            If you wish, we might compare the experience of love with a doctrine of love. We might observe how the experience of love tends to bring us together, while all doctrines of every flavor tend to divide us. In my view, this is explained by the fact that the act of surrender we call love is not made of thought, while all doctrines are made of thought.

            The core problem is not the particular people or particular philosophies but the medium that all philosophers and philosophies are made of. This explains why human problems are so intractable, whatever the time, place or culture.

            Thus, you don't see me claiming Christianity is a pile of crap as many of our atheist friends might, because I see the genius at the heart of it. I however do feel a great deal of distracting doctrinal crap has been piled on top of the genius over the centuries, a fate most likely inevitable in any religion.

            I am not willing to violate the principle of non-contradiction, while you apparently are.

            I'm not sure what this is in reference to, and so will say this. The principle of non-contradiction is a concept developed by a single species on one planet in one of billions of galaxies. The agreed upon fact that such concepts can be very useful at human scale does not automatically equal such rules being binding upon all of reality, typically the scope of god ideas.

            One reason I keep harping on nuclear weapons is that they seem to serve as dramatic evidence that even if reason is qualified for the largest of questions, our ability to reason is actually quite limited, even if we have high level professional training in the processes of reason.

            What I see happening in most discussions such as we find here, by both theists and atheists, is an unwarranted leap from the fact that reason can be very useful in our day to day lives, to a typically unexamined assumption that reason is therefore qualified to address all topics, no matter how large. Such an assumption should at least be questioned.

            What may be obstructing such questioning is that, as nerd people, we may have a higher loyalty to the act of philosophy than to any of the subjects which philosophy tries to explore.

          • PT: To be a bit more precise, I truly do feel that philosophy can usefully explore the limits of philosophy. But it can not transcend those limits.

            LB: I would be inclined to agree that any given philosophy cannot, of its own accord, transcend its limits. That must come from a source external to the given philosophy. If we cut off all external sources, that's like erecting a total solar shade around the earth.

            PT: For myself, I'm not really referring to "any given philosophy" but the process of philosophy as a whole. Put briefly, I don't feel it's possible to achieve the bottom line goal of religion, the experience of unity, in a medium (thought) which operates by a process of division.

            I think the bottom line goal of Christianity is relationship, which does not have precisely the same semantic range as unity. The two different persons in a relationship are distinguishable, but they are not divided; in fact the longer and deeper the relationship continues, the more they shape each other. But it is a toxic relationship if they end up merging into an undifferentiated unity.

            As just one example we might observe how 2,000 years of Christian philosophy has failed to achieve unity even within the Christian community.

            It is an exceedingly hard problem. You don't seem to have a better solution.

            As example, the experience of love suggested by Jesus, with it's temporary surrender of the primary divisive product of thought the "me", is one such experience.

            What on earth are you talking about? Jesus astounded people by speaking with authority, not via "legally" reasoning from what previous rabbis had said. Before Jesus' time doxa meant 'opinion' and was supposed to be subordinated to logos. After Jesus, doxa meant 'glory'. The individual, separated from the community, can be glorious. Jesus paved the way. This doesn't mean he had no deep relationship with his Father or with his disciples. It doesn't mean he was willing to give his life for others—then take it back up again.

            If you wish, we might compare the experience of love with a doctrine of love. We might observe how the experience of love tends to bring us together, while all doctrines of every flavor tend to divide us.

            Love tends to bring whom together, in what sized groups before there are scapegoats? Jesus' equal love of everyone, and refusal to side with any group against the others, led to his crucifixion. Love works well in a family, maybe in a tribe. Anything more than this apparently requires something supernatural, if one respects the empirical evidence.

            What I see happening in most discussions such as we find here, by both theists and atheists, is an unwarranted leap from the fact that reason can be very useful in our day to day lives, to a typically unexamined assumption that reason is therefore qualified to address all topics, no matter how large. Such an assumption should at least be questioned.

            I often question whether our current understanding of 'reason' is big enough to deal with everything that's out there. For example, I've dealt with nonlocal state, an ontological posit that apparently for a long time was thought to be ridiculous by physicists. I question people who think that modern physics has pretty much everything [fundamental] figured out. But I don't question the principle of non-contradiction, because once that's out the window, there is no more stability left in the world. And you can't have unity, either.

            Do you have any specific suggestions for where human-scale reason starts breaking down, and how to repair it? Just telling people to go out into the desert doesn't seem to be particularly helpful, here.

          • Phil Tanny

            I didn't run off in a huff Chris, and am happy to try to engage with you. I saw no productive future for our discussion of nuclear weapons, and concluded it would be wiser to accept that failure than to beat it to death.

            If you wish, observe how in your comment above you contributed nothing too relevant to the topic under discussion, but instead focused solely on saying the opposite of what I said.

            That's why I said that to you, as it seems to often be true. Prove me wrong by forgetting about me, and adding something relevant to the topic. Or not, as you wish.

          • If you wish, observe how in your comment above you contributed nothing too relevant to the topic under discussion, →

            I judge this to be false. (see here)

            ← but instead focused solely on saying the opposite of what I said.

            Would you like @disqus_TloUppAkh3:disqus to enumerate where you two agree? Or do you just not want anyone to say the opposite of you? I hope it's not the latter.

          • Phil Tanny

            Luke, where exactly in Chris's last comment did he make any mention at all of anything at all theological? All he said was, "you're wrong" which is a somewhat predictable pattern that I have accurately commented upon.

            An improvement would be, "you're wrong on the main points you are addressing because of the following 19 well considered reasons".

          • PT: If you wish, observe how in your comment above you contributed nothing too relevant to the topic under discussion, →

            LB: I judge this to be false. (see here)

            PT: Luke, where exactly in Chris's last comment did he make any mention at all of anything at all theological?

            My excerpt from John Milbank's Theology and Social Theory was expressly theological; you described two key bits I picked out as "pseudo intellectual fancy talk BS". It was very helpful to have @disqus_TloUppAkh3:disqus indicate that in fact, he could make sense of it. Here's the full discussion, going beyond said "last comment":

            LB: This is not "sociality of harmonious difference", but instead "the reduction to the self-identical":

            PT: And this is pseudo intellectual fancy talk BS. Plain English please.

            LB: "sociality of harmonious difference": multiple individuals interacting in a way where none tries to make everyone else identical to him/her, or otherwise all homogeneous

            "the reduction to the self-identical": the best end-state for what exists is for it to all merge into a single, undifferentiated unity

            CM: I have to say Luke's sentence is very clear and is "expressed in the most accessible language possible."

            LB: From what I see, that may in fact strike at the heart of @phil_tanny:disqus's [anti-]philosophy. The more I talk to Phil, the more I find intuitive Owen Barfield's schematization that (i) the East wishes to be unborn; (ii) the West wishes to be reborn. I *really* need to find someone who wants to go through Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry with me …

            CM: I would say that's as clear as language can make it. Of course, I would take that as a starting point to examine how we get to recognise ourselves as individuals by understanding others as individuals through our commonalities but I suspect that Phil's obsession with holding to his own opinion and seeing any other view as simply others being contrary for no other reason than to argue with him would prevent him from following that particular trail.

          • All he said was, "you're wrong" which is a somewhat predictable pattern that I have accurately commented upon.

            Please explain how the underlined is not sufficiently similar to "you're wrong", for there to be a log in your own eye:

            LB: This is not "sociality of harmonious difference", but instead "the reduction to the self-identical":

            PT: And this is pseudo intellectual fancy talk BS. Plain English please.

            LB: "sociality of harmonious difference": multiple individuals interacting in a way where none tries to make everyone else identical to him/her, or otherwise all homogeneous

            "the reduction to the self-identical": the best end-state for what exists is for it to all merge into a single, undifferentiated unity

            Is that better?

            PT: #3 - No better, but no problem.

            LB: Wait, so when I rephrase things in my own terms which are almost surely simpler, you say there is zero improvement whatsoever? Who's the one not being very cooperative here, Phil?

            PT: I said zero improvement because I personally perceive no improvement.

            For example, you could explain how the following are not "Plain English":

            (A) multiple individuals interacting in a way where none tries to make everyone else identical to him/her, or otherwise all homogeneous

            (B) the best end-state for what exists is for it to all merge into a single, undifferentiated unity

            An improvement would be, "you're wrong on the main points you are addressing because of the following 19 well considered reasons".

            Do you mean, precisely the thing you did not do—choosing the underlined as a response, instead? Or are you going to make a convenient division between "wrong" and "pseudo intellectual fancy talk BS"? It appears that you're stuck between a rock of inconsistency and a hard place of inconsistency.

          • Phil Tanny

            You said the same thing to me - is there any possibility that this may indicate people are pointing out counter-arguments to your view which you're too engrossed in your own ideas to recognise?

            Is there any possibility that I've been chewing on these subjects longer than many members have been alive and thus don't find many of the counter-arguments compelling?

            As example, none of your counter-arguments on nuclear weapons were compelling, or even interesting. I'm sorry, they just weren't.

            In your defense, that is completely normal, and a pattern shared by many or most intellectual "elites". I'm not really debating you personally on that subject, but the entire culture, especially those who earn fat salaries for being supposed "thought leaders". In my view, the intellectual class is largely engaged in a fraud, as proven by the fact they are largely incapable of focusing on the very literal gun aimed at everything we hold dear.

            I tried to explain this to you in simple terms with the "gun in one's mouth" example, which I am absolutely sure you are intellectually capable of grasping. But you aren't honest enough to address the example head on, preferring to dodge and weave your way to a Facebook flavored personality conflict agenda instead.

            I'm NOT offended, or threatened. I'm bored.

            I know you have a higher quality game to share. I'm asking you to share it.

        • "IF division is an illusion generated by the way thought works.... THEN we are unlikely to achieve unity with God in the process of philosophy.

          We can talk about unity within philosophy, but that is something very different than experiencing unity, just as talking about food should not be confused with eating."

          Yes! Just as "fingers pointing at the Moon are not the Moon".

          From that starting point, an entire lifetime of collaborative awakening.

    • When one tries to make theism coherent one is actually accepting the primary premise of atheism.

      And what is this "primary premise of atheism" exactly? Coherence is an axiom of rationality, not atheism.

      Frankly, if the concept I'm trying to consider isn't coherent, I will axiomatically dismiss it. If you are trying to describe something incoherently, it means that you're not using language correctly, and must therefore not be describing anything.

      • Phil Tanny

        And what is this "primary premise of atheism" exactly?

        Already explained in the post you are replying to.

    • "https://www.google.com/search?q=sam%C4%81dhi&rlz=1CAARBI_enUS847&oq=sam%C4%81dhi&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.965j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8"

      "Size", like "time" is ephemeral and transient. Neither provides comprehension of omnipresent continuum.

      "Atheism" like its complement "staunchly dualistic theism" is unaware of, indifferent to, or opposes that comprehension.

  • Phil Tanny

    Regarding the classical definition of God you linked to above, I found this interesting:

    According to classical theism, God is not one item in the world, even the biggest or most powerful. Rather, he is the fundamental reality on which all things depend for their being at any moment.

    It's interesting to me that this definition would also seem to apply to space, so I'm wondering what the relationship between God and space might be.

    A related example, Catholic doctrine claims that God is ever present in every time and place, another definition which can also be applied to space.

    Another example from the linked article....

    One hallmark tenet of classical theism is the doctrine of divine simplicity. For God to be God, he must be simple. In other words, he cannot be composed of any parts.

    Again, to the best of our knowledge, space is not composed of parts, but is a single unified phenomena with no internal divisions forming the ground of all reality at every scale.

    To the degree space is relevant to the God concept, it might make some ideas about God more easily understood.

    As example, we typically think of "things" and "space" as being two different phenomena. But a closer examination of "things" reveals they are overwhelmingly composed of space down to the smallest of scales. As example, an atom is overwhelmingly composed of space.

    Seen through this lens we might wonder if "me" and "God" are actually two different things.

    What if the perceived boundary between such phenomena are not a property of reality, but rather a property of the tool being used to observe and analyze reality, thought?

    An example of this in our daily lives might be tinted sunglasses. As we look through them all of reality in every direction appears to be tinted, but the tint is in the sunglasses, not in what is being observed.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Space [and time], said Einstein, are caused by the existence of matter. They do not themselves have separate and independent existence either from matter or from each other.

      • Phil Tanny

        Ok, so if that's true, how might it relate to a comparison between God and space?

        I'm attempting here to develop further insight in to the God idea by observing that which God is said to have created, much as I might learn about you by reading what you have written.

        It seems the overwhelming majority of reality is space, a phenomena which seems to share some characteristics with some definitions of God.

        Can you add to this line of reasoning?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Space is not a 'thing'. Therefore, strictly speaking it does not 'exist.' It is an aspect of material things, like mass, decay, extension, etc. As for God, again strictly speaking, he must exist, since he is Existence Itself.

          • Phil Tanny

            Space is not a 'thing'. Therefore, strictly speaking it does not 'exist.'

            Yes, space doesn't exist according to our definitions of existence, and yet it is there. So what we see is that the overwhelming majority of reality, space, does not fit neatly in to the "exists vs. doesn't exist" paradigm which forms the foundation of the God debate.

            This raises the question of whether the question being asked in the God debate is so fundamentally flawed as to render all the competing answers meaningless. If the vast majority of reality can not be clearly said to either exist or not exist, then why should we assume that a God can only exist, or not exist, one or the other?

            It seems we invest enormous amounts of time and energy in to the competing answers game of the God debate, but rarely get around to inspecting and challenging the validity of the question being asked in that debate. If the question "does God exist" is somehow fundamentally flawed, we may be wasting enormous amounts of time.

            What color is the sound of an oboe? A bad question is incapable of generating useful answers, and no amount of effort can fix that.

          • Mark

            I think what is fundamentally flawed is the smuggled premises on how to define God and existence and space. Being untrue to how a Catholic theist or material atheist would define those terms is the source of confusion.

          • Phil Tanny

            Being untrue to how a Catholic theist or material atheist would define those terms is the source of confusion.

            Catholic theologians and atheist ideologists have resolved nothing in centuries of effort, so I suggest it's probably wise not to restrict ourselves to their limitations.

            We need not limit ourselves to simplistic equations like "exist vs. not exist" just because that's the game most people are comfortable playing.

            In our every day human scale lives it makes sense to say the sun rises, an empirical observation readily available to every human observer. But as we gain a wider perspective it becomes clear the concept of "sun rise" is completely wrong.

            I'm just suggesting that it's at least possible that the same kind of understandable mistake may be happening in regards to our understanding of existence. We may be trying to impose human scale concepts upon all of reality.

            We shouldn't be blindly assuming that the question "does God exist or not?" is a valid question which accurately reflects the nature of reality. Maybe it does, maybe not, merits more investigation.

          • Raymond

            "ideologists "? You mean atheist philosophers?

          • Phil Tanny

            In my view, those who have strong views about things that nobody could possibly know are most accurately described as ideologists. You may choose another label if you want, no problem, I don't wish to have a big debate about it.

          • Raymond

            I’m sure you don’t.

          • Raymond

            "In my view, those who have strong views about things that nobody could possibly know are most accurately described as ideologists"

            So...God ideologists then?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Yes, space doesn't exist according to our definitions of existence, and yet it is there.

            Where? 'Space is only the absence of a thing, not a thing in se. That is, space occurs only if no material object occupies that place.

            Try using ouisia or substantia in place of thing and you will perhaps grasp why your rejection of the Excluded Middle results in your Mysterian approach to logic.

            What color is the sound of an oboe?

            Chartreuse.

          • Phil Tanny

            Hi again YOS,

            Where is space? In between the Earth and Moon for one, within every thing for another, etc.

            If I understand, you wish to define space as nothing. Ok, but others wish to define it as something.

            My point is that the phenomena of space doesn't really seem to fit within either our "exists" or "doesn't exist" categories.

            I agree this is clearly debatable, but if it is at all true, the God debate is in a lot of trouble, so perhaps it's worth considering with more than quips.

            Please note, this line of reasoning is NOT an attempt to prove either that a God exists or doesn't.

            It is instead a suggestion that the assumptions the God debate are built upon may be sufficiently out of touch with the nature of reality so as to render that debate a meaningless exercise.

            Bad questions are not capable of delivering good answers.

          • Raymond

            So you would not agree with the analogy "darkness : absence of light :: space : absence of matter:? What matter or substance exists in space?

          • Phil Tanny

            Hi Raymond, I've been pointing everyone to the following documentary film, which deals with this subject in extensive and accessible detail.

            https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/everything-and-nothing/

            You seem to be asking whether space is a something or a nothing. I don't know, and suspect that neither does anybody else. However, given that space is the overwhelming majority of reality, and thus perhaps a clue to the nature of God (should such a thing exist) it seems we owe the subject more than assumptions based on little more than habit.

            What I am claiming is that thought operates by a process of division, imposing conceptual boundaries on everything it touches, so we should be trying to understand whether that is the source of simplistic paradigms such as "exists vs. doesn't exist".

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Where is space? In between the Earth and Moon for one...

            OK. "Space" is not-Earth and not-Moon. I assume you exclude the Earth's atmosphere, as well as the solar wind, photons, and other detritus that fills this region. It is where there is no thing, just as 'darkness' is a place where there is no light and 'cold' where the is no heat.

            If I understand, you wish to define space as nothing. Ok, but others wish to define it as something.

            If it is some thing, what sort of thing is it? What is its mass, dimension, number, genus, or any of those properties possessed by thinginess? So far, you have only said it is the absence of things.

            the phenomena of space doesn't really seem to fit within either our "exists" or "doesn't exist" categories.

            If it is some thing, as you claim, then it clearly "exists."

            if it is at all true, the God debate is in a lot of trouble

            I don't see how. It's not like Aristotle never proposed potencies as a third mode between 'exixtant' and 'nonexistant'. Some discussions and cautions found here: https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2019/10/beingless-objects.html

          • Phil Tanny

            If it is some thing, what sort of thing is it? What is its mass,
            dimension, number, genus, or any of those properties possessed by
            thinginess?

            YOS, please watch the excellent video I've linked to all over the site. It's two hours of experts addressing these very questions, outlining the entire history of an inquiry in to the nature of space.

            I have NOT said space is a thing. I've suggested that it is a phenomena which is present, but apparently having none of the properties of thingness.

            It seems you wish to dismiss the whole subject by declaring space a nothing. You may wish to review some Einstein, who the best of my knowledge claims space is bent by large mass bodies. You may wish to review that video, which to the best of my knowledge claims the fabric of space are tiny bits of energy rapidly blinking in and out of existence.

            I am not a physics major, in no way any kind of expert. And so I'm making a different point more appropriate to this site. Please try to engage that point, which is....

            The existence, or non-existence, or something else, of space seems rather uncertain, which makes the simplistic "exists or not" paradigm the God debate is built upon also rather uncertain.

            If most of reality can not be clearly said to either exist or not exist, then why should we assume a God can only exist or not exist?

            The God debate has been going on for 500 years, endlessly round and round in the same little circles to nowhere. We should be trying to think outside of the box.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Einstein wrote:

            [T]here are no objections of principle against the introduction of this hypothesis [general relativity], by which space and time are deprived of the last trace of objective reality.
            -- Albert Einstein, "Explanation of the Movement of Mercury's Perihelion on the Basis of the General Theory of Relativity," 1915

            and again:

            Formerly, people thought that if matter disappeared from the universe, space and time would remain. Relativity declares that space and time would disappear with matter.
            Albert Einstein

            He regarded space and time as 'metaphysical intrusions' into an otherwise empirical science. 'Space' is then a phenomenon caused by the existence of matter, just as time is caused by change ['motion'] in matter. Mathematically, 'space' is modeled by the field of Ricci tensors and matter being a state of the Ricci tensors, the field may be considered 'warped' by the existence of matter. This is what people call 'gravity.'

          • Phil Tanny

            Here's a concise and accessible description of Einstein's view:

            Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity describes gravity as a geometric property of space and time. The more massive an object, the greater it's distortion of spacetime, and that distortion is felt as gravity.

            If true, a phenomena we call spacetime, which would appear to have none of the properties we use to define existence, can be distorted.

            If true, spacetime would appear to be both something and nothing, by our definitions.

            Yes, that appears to us as contradictory and nonsensical, so we understandably rebel against it. But let us please recall, a reality vast beyond our comprehension is under no requirement to follow our little human rule books.

          • Phil Tanny

            And again, why does this matter, and what does it have to do with StrangeNotions??

            The God debate that's been going on for centuries is built upon a simplistic, dualistic perception of a hard distinction between "exists" and "doesn't exist". Such a neat and tidy division appears to be out of touch with the vast majority of reality, that which we call spacetime.

            What the phenomena of spacetime may be revealing to us is that such neat and tidy divisions are not a property of reality, but rather properties of the tool being used to observe reality.

            Spacetime may be a phenomena which illustrates the essential unity of supposed opposites.

          • Phil Tanny

            I am clearly obsessed by this subject. Here's why, in part.

            First, if it's true that spacetime reveals our simplistic "exists or not" paradigm does not reflect reality accurately....

            We can observe that theists and atheists would appear to have agreed entirely that the "exists or not" paradigm is binding on the question of God.

            Next, we can observe that many, most or all thought leaders on both sides of the issue would appear to have embraced the validity of "exists or not" paradigm largely without question.

            If it is true that the "exists or not" paradigm is a poor foundation for the God debate, and if it is true that leading experts on all sides of the issue have largely accepted that poor foundation without complaint, that should cause us serious concern, given that most of what most people are thinking and saying on these subjects is derived from the authority of thought leaders.

            If the above is true, it could be very good news. If the God debate is seen to be hopelessly corrupted by false assumptions, that could possibly sweep the table clear and make room for new approaches.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            That seems to be accurate, I have said the same here. But we should be cautious of identifying empirical reality with mathematical models. The latter approximates the former. It is well known that even when a model output matches observation there is no guarantee that the internal workings of the model match the workings of the universe. Paraphrasing Hawking, that a model contains a term does not compel the universe to go along with the gag. So we ought not confuse the 'fabric of space' with a bolt of cloth.

            I'm not really into mysticism and all that 'puny human intellect' stuff, so popular in 1930s fantasy. It rather pulls the rug out from under that video you've been linking

          • Phil Tanny

            But we should be
            cautious of identifying empirical reality with mathematical models.

            What is the relevance of this?

            1) Does space have weight or mass? Apparently no, therefore space doesn't match our definition of existence.

            2) Is space distorted by mass bodies? Apparently yes, therefore space doesn't match our definition of non-existence.

            Do we agree so far?

            If yes, do you see how this relates to the God debate, which is built upon the assumption that "exists" or "doesn't exist" are the only options?

            If you don't agree with #1 and #2 above, can you explain why?

            Thanks!

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Is space distorted by mass bodies? Apparently yes, therefore space doesn't match our definition of non-existence.

            That's why we should be cautious of identifying empirical reality with mathematical models. According to the current mathematical models, matter is a state in the field of Ricci tensors. This creates a mathematical curvature in the equations which we experience as gravity. The too-easy equation of "space" with a mathemnatical tensor field was the relevance of my earlier comment. The tensor field may prove no more real than epicycles.

            Does space have weight or mass? Apparently no, therefore space doesn't match our definition of existence.

            It certainly doesn't match a materialist's definition of existence, since he is likely to insist that only material bodies exist. However, as a one-time mathematician, I recognize that non-material bodies exist: like "three" or "tensor" or "differential manifold."

            Consider an analogy: an automobile. It possesses color [say, tan], weight, and a variety of other properties, such as reliability. Does color have existence? In a way. But it is derivative existence. There is no 'tan' without a tan thing. In this case, a tan car [or more accurately, tan paint.] Similarly, weight derives its existence from the car. So does reliability.

            Similarly, space is a property derived from matter. As Einstein said, if matter were to disappear, space [and time] would disappear with it. Just as tan, weight, and reliability would disappear if the car disappeared. The old Newtonian notion of space-time as an empty stage on which matter struts its stuff is hard to shake off.

            do you see how this relates to the God debate, which is built upon the assumption that "exists" or "doesn't exist" are the only options?

            That is what most everything is built upon, like the Endangered Species debate. But a third realm has been known for millennia. There is Plato's World of Ideals or Aristotle's notion of Potency, which I think I already mentioned. In addition to "exists" and "does not exist," there is also "could possibly exist".

            Then, there are those qualities like safety, reliability, light, warmth, and so on, where one extreme is defined by the absence or diminishemnt of the other. That is, there is no either/or, there is only more/less. Darkness is a deficiency of light; cold is a deficiency of warmth. An airliner cannot be called "safe" or "reliable" only "more safe" or "less safe." We could say that dark exists, in places where the sun don't shine, for example; but this is only a manner of speaking and equivocates on the term 'exist'.

          • Phil Tanny

            First, I get that you are a very well educated fellow, but translations in to English will be helpful where possible, as I attended only Netflix university. :-)

            I'm not really intending to debate so much as nail down my understanding of your perspective. That's why I asked simple direct questions above. I'll try again.

            1) Do you believe that space has no weight and mass?

            2) Do you believe that space is distorted by mass?

            My understanding so far is that the answer to the above questions is yes in both cases. Are we in agreement so far?

            I'm hoping that such discussion might shed some useful light on the God debate. I'm attempting to shift our focus from the competing answers game, to a closer look at the quality of the "does God exist" question being asked.

            Does the "exists or not" paradigm that the God debate is built upon reflect the nature of reality? Are "exists" and "doesn't exist" the only possible answers to the God debate question?

            Or is the "exists or not" paradigm more a product of the database like operations of our minds?

            You know, our minds create simplistic equations like "tree" vs. "not-tree" that while useful, don't reflect the real world nature of trees very well, given that what we call trees are highly connected to and entirely dependent upon many other phenomena. In our minds there is a neat and tidy line between "tree" and "not tree" but that neat and tidy line tends to melt away in the real world.

          • Phil Tanny

            Reasoning further, it's interesting, to me at least, how readily any notion that the God debate question might be fundamentally flawed is ignored or dismissed.

            Acceptance of such a theory presents considerable inconvenient obstacles to philosophers, and wannabe philosophers such as myself.

            First, if it's true the God debate question (does God exist) is fundamentally flawed, it follows that all the experts who have been pounding away on that question for centuries are flawed as well, raising inconvenient questions about the nature of authority. The emperor is wearing no clothes?

            Next, if it's true that the God debate question is fundamentally flawed, it follows that the very many memorized arguments held dearly by debaters on all sides may in fact not be all that clever, which implies the debaters themselves may not be as clever as we imagine ourselves to be. Ouch!

            Finally, if it's true that the God debate question is fundamentally flawed, the rug is pulled out from under a very familiar game people like us have often come to enjoy. Bummer!

            If it's true that the God debate question is fundamentally flawed, we are seemingly left with no trusted authorities, no imagined cleverness, and no game to play.

            This seems like a disaster at first, but I'm coming to feel it might instead be really good news, at least for those sincerely interested in the inquiry.

            If it is true that the God debate question is fundamentally flawed, the sooner we let go of that question the sooner we can begin exploring new territory. It's like a fire in a California forest, all the dead wood and weeds are swept away making room for new life to emerge.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I'm not sure what I wrote that was not in English, but here goes:
            For the third time, it has been known for millennia that there are things which fall in between existence and non-existence; so I don't know what your puzzlement is.

            I am reluctant to answer your 'exist' questions, because I don't know what your simplistic concept of existence is. So, if I say Yes [or No] you could pivot on an equivocation and cry Aha!
            Space does not have mass, but this need not mean it has no existence, except in the senses already mentioned. You have defined 'space' as what lies between the Earth and Moon [or between atoms, etc.] But, as you can easily see, this defines space negatively, and in such a way that 'space' does not exist in itself. Rather, planets [and atoms] exist and space is only a deficiency of suchlike bodies. The parallel suggested by others, and which you have not addressed, is to 'darkness,' which is merely the absence of 'light.' So, while we may ask what causes light, the issue of what causes darkness is simply that the causes of light have been blocked.

            As for tree and not-tree, there is no doubt that what we normally mean by 'tree' [or 'Baum' or 'arbol' or 'shu'] actually exists, although there may be disagreements in each language as to what constitutes 'tree.' For example: is the mulberry a tree or a bush? Chaucer called whales 'ffysche.' But the term 'ffysche' in his day meant 'thing that lived in the sea.' Similarly, a 'floegel' meant 'thing bigger than an insect that flies.' So, calling a bat a 'floegel' did not mean Anglo-Saxons were stupid. Only that they categorized things differently. [The modern word 'bird' comes from 'bridd,' which meant what we would call a 'chick' or 'hatchling.'] Pondo is an Aspen grove in Colorado. All the trees are genetically identical and grow from the same root system. So is Pondo one tree or many?

            Categories have fuzzy boundaries. 'Blue' may mean many colors. The Russians have two distinct words for them. But the existence of dawn and dusk does not invalidate the distinction between night and day.
            I do not know what you mean by the 'God debate' and how a third mode of being affects it. According to theologians, God is Existence itself. And Existence must exist.

          • Phil Tanny

            For the third time, it has been known for millennia that there are
            things which fall in between existence and non-existence; so I don't
            know what your puzzlement is.

            This kind of superiority posturing disengages me. Not offended. Bored. I can see now you won't be able to follow the inquiry I'm attempting to explore, so let's just leave it there.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I can see now you won't be able to follow the inquiry I'm attempting to explore, so let's just leave it there.

            This kind of superiority posturing disengages me.

          • " As for God, again strictly speaking, he must exist, since he is Existence Itself."

            The idea of God "existing" though, is the root of all confusion.

            The void of non-finite potential supporting "existence", is a category unto itSelf, and not supported by any "thing".

            No limitations therefore THIS. (The self referential nature of "existence", expressing as relativity).

            The Tao by any other name....

      • How does this interact with quantum fluctuations, which show up in space–time but do not appear to be caused by matter–energy? The void, is it were, appears to be fecund. But then making matter–energy primary would be problematic.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Heisenberg proposed that mass-energy was what Aristotle meant by the hule prote -- prime matter. 'Matter' to the Greeks was simply that from which a thing was made. Books, for example, have a subject matter. The brick is the matter of a wall; clay is the matter of a brick; and so on. But matter is the principle of potency, so these things may also be realized as something other than a wall or a brick. A pile of 'building materials' may be used to guild a house, or a scaffold, or bleachers, or a bonfire, or..., or remain a pile of building materials. Once building commences, these many potencies "collapse" into a single act, we begin what Aristotle called "active potency" or "motion" [kinesis]. Prime matter is pure potency unlike clay, which while it is potentially many things, is not potentially an armadillo.

          I'm mot sure whether we should reify the functions of a mathematical model. Stephen Barr is a particle physicist and devoted a section of his book, Modern Physics; Ancient Faith, to quantum fluctuations/virtual particles. But a I understand it, they are caused mathematically by superpositions of quantum states. If so, quantum states are the matter [that-from-which] of virtual particles.

          • Thanks for the explanation of prime matter and the book reference. It is true that I have not dug into virtual particles or any of that, so I have requested Barr's book from my local library. Thank you for the suggestion!

  • A limited creature such as man cannot understand the Creator, since a small part of the Creator is capable of feeling and understanding.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      So, you understand something about the creator, even though "man cannot understand the Creator"? What kind of being are you?

      • Do you understand yourself?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I partly understand myself and am partly a mystery to myself, just as I think I partly understand God and he is more than partly a mystery to me.

          • Phil Tanny

            Maybe this will bump things along?

            Let's note the construction of the sentence "I partly understand myself". The sentence implies two different things, "I" and "myself". Or we can observe the phrase "I am thinking" which likewise presumes there is "me" and "my thoughts", in much the same way we might say "me and my house", ie. two different things.

            The point here, which seems central to a study of religion, is that not only do we feel divided from reality and from each other, we experience division inside of our own minds.

            This illustrates how thought imposes a pattern of division upon all that it touches, both externally and internally. Because this division process is built in to the fabric of what we are made of psychologically (thought), it's a very compelling form of bias and illusion which then becomes a building block of language (ie. nouns) so that every time we open our mouths to speak the illusion gets reinforced.

            And of course, all other humans are having this same experience, so a largely un-examined group consensus emerges further strengthening the illusion of division.

            The process of conceptual division which is thought is a very powerful tool, as it breaks reality in to conceptual parts which we can then re-arrange in our minds, ie. we can be creative.

            This built-in process of division is also the source of our madness as it creates an experience of reality as being divided between "me" and "everything else", with "me" perceived to be very very small. This perspective gives rise to fear, and from there most other human problems.

            Religion attempts to overcome this problem of division by various methods of "getting back to God", reconnecting with reality, the supernatural, and our fellow humans etc.

            The problem most religions face is that they attempt to implement this re-unification process in the medium of thought, the very thing causing the experience of division in the first place. And so religions go on and on for centuries, because they never actually solve the problem they are trying to address.

          • So, now you can understand my comment!

  • Phil Tanny

    ...in the sense that he causes things to come into and go out of existence.

    It may be helpful to dig deeper in to our understanding of common concepts essential to the article.

    In our everyday human scale lives the concept of existence is simple enough. There is a pencil on my desk or there isn't, yes or no.

    It seems important to keep in mind that when discussing God we aren't addressing just human scale, but the most fundamental nature of all reality. Here's an example to illustrate the difference.

    At human scale, it seems perfectly obvious that the Earth is the center of the universe and the Sun and Moon rotate around the Earth. Even a child can simply look up in to the sky and see that for themselves. Except of course all of this is wrong, which becomes clear once one has a sufficiently wider perspective.

    This same kind of problem may effect our understanding of existence. While the pencil on my desk can be reasonably said to exist or not, yes or no, the vast majority of reality, space, can not be so easily classified.

    What I see happening in very many writings from both theists and atheists is that concepts that are sensible and useful at human scale get automatically applied to all scales no matter how large.

    So, before we claim that God does or does not cause things to exist, we might be more careful about the nature of existence.

    • So, before we claim that God does or does not cause things to exist, we might be more careful about the nature of existence.

      For sure one thing is certain, there is a higher intelligence than all humans together!
      For example if all human kind look and examine one single human body we know many things about it but not everything, where the body itself knows everything about it since it made it!

  • Ficino

    This in the OP entails a contradiction: " it follows that God ultimately causes my action to be (even if he doesn’t cause every typo or imperfect metaphor that I choose)."

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I think the author means that God causes the reality of his typos and metaphors, but not the failure (non-being) of the typing or metaphor to be what it was intended to be or to convey.

      • Ficino

        Somebody else causes the non-being?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Non-being, as such, needs no cause.

          It is like making donuts. If you make the donut, its hole does not need a proper cause.

          • Ficino

            Yes, I know. Like making darkness - since darkness is pure privation.

            But that which has no cause can't properly be known, etc.

            Oh well, as we've discussed often, when properties are being predicated of non-being, and non-being is made to do significant work in arguments, I decline to go along with the discourse.

          • Phil Tanny

            You guys seem to be making somewhat wild claims about your ability to understand the nature of nothing, non-being etc. It appears you are trying to dismiss the overwhelming majority of reality at every scale with a lazy sweep of the hand, perhaps because you are yourself gods?

            Perhaps we could make some progress by the less ambitious project of considering the psychological nature of non-being?

            In our minds there are conceptual objects, thoughts, which are surrounded by a field of silence just as the universe contains stars and planets which are surrounded by space. The mental images might be called a form of being, and the silence they are immersed in a form of non-being.

            This seems a crucial field of inquiry for any religious person because in the silence of non-being our minds are liberated from the distraction generated by thinking and our focus is freed to observe the real world, where presumably a real God is most likely to be found.

          • Ficino

            You guys seem to be making somewhat wild claims about your ability to understand the nature of nothing, non-being etc.

            What guys? I've been in dialogue with Dr. Bonnette and other Thomists on here for some time, so I'll make reference to Thomistic positions without necessarily subscribing to them.

          • Phil Tanny

            Oh dear, all this time and typing, and this is the only thing you wish to respond to. Well, at least now I know how to get your attention....

            That's right guys, I clearly remember reading Ficino state categorically that he believes Santa Claus is real, and living in his basement. Yep, that's what he said, I'm pretty sure, I mean maybe, it could have been you know, except probably not, ok ok, so it didn't happen.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Off the top of my head, I would suggest that we don't actually predicate anything of non-being. Rather, we are saying things about the being in terms of its limitations or turning away from its true nature.

            Darkness might be better understood subjectively in terms of a power of sight that is limited in that it is presently in act, but not apprehending its proper object. Even so, one is aware of the act of seeing in that the "blackness" is only in front of us. True blindness has no experience at all. Even it would be manifest only in a sentient creature aware of other sense objects that do not include sight.

            Otherwise, darkness, as in space, is not apprehended at all, but intellectually understood in terms of real spatial extension between bodies in the absence of photons. Photons are real, but there just happen not to be any in that space. Some have discussed the reality of space here. I think space is real, since it defines the real relations between bodies. It is not like that which is "outside" the cosmos, since there is no "outside" at all, but merely a limit to the extension of the cosmos itself.

            Some misunderstand the nature of the immaterial in that they think we are talking about mere non-being. The immaterial is known through a "negative judgment of separation." That is, through an affirmative judgment that something exists, but that it is not material in that is does not have the limitations that are inherent in material being, such as being only in this or that place or location in space, or being subject to corruption of matter.

          • Phil Tanny

            That is, (the immaterial is known) through an affirmative judgment that something exists, but that
            it is not material in that is does not have the limitations that are
            inherent in material being...

            Here we see a phenomena that is proposed to be real, and yet has none of the properties we use to define existence. Just as with the example of space, a neat and tidy boundary line between "exists" and "doesn't exist" is brought in to doubt, which again raises the question of whether a God debate built upon such a neat and tidy line is on the right track.

            The greatest minds among us on all sides of the question have been building the God debate upon an assumed boundary between exist vs. doesn't exist for centuries, which raises a related question regarding whether studying the "experts" is really such an important aspect of such an inquiry.

            What I'm suggesting is that some focus be transferred from a comparative analysis of various contents of thought, to a closer inspection of the nature of thought itself, the machinery which generates all the thought content.

            It may be that thought is a mechanical database-like operation which insists on filing all observed phenomena in to some neat and tidy little box, but that this process, while useful, does not accurately represent the nature of what is being observed.

            Many human problems appear to be intractable, no matter the time and place or philosophy being pursued etc. This suggests the possibility of a source of distortion which is deeper than the content of any philosophy, idea, concept etc.

          • Phil Tanny

            I think space is real, since it defines the real relations between bodies.

            If I understood this excellent documentary some experts feel that space is a bubbling caldron defined by tiny bits of energy rapidly blinking in and out of existence. That is, if I understand, they feel space is some form of "something". I may not understand, and if I do I've likely not expressed it very well.

            Everything and Nothing

            Two-part documentary which deals with two of the deepest questions there are - what is everything, and what is nothing?

            In two epic, surreal and mind-expanding films, Professor Jim Al-Khalili searches for an answer to these questions as he explores the true size
            and shape of the universe and delves into the amazing science behind
            apparent nothingness.

            The first part, Everything, sees Professor Al-Khalili set out to discover what the universe might actually look like. The journey takes him from the distant past to the boundaries of the known universe.

            Along the way he charts the remarkable stories of the men and women who discovered the truth about the cosmos and investigates how our understanding of space has been shaped by both mathematics and astronomy.

      • Ficino

        I am still finding it hard to sign on to this. Are you saying that it's true that God causes the reality of the metaphor but false that God causes the metaphor?

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I think the idea is just that, insofar as the metaphor is imperfect, the imperfections are not caused by God.

          For that matter, I think one could equally say that the imperfections are not caused by the human author. Even insofar as the human author fails to cooperate with divine creative potential, that failing is "non-creative"; it doesn't cause anything, rather it fails to cause something.

          For a bartender to pour a half-full pint of beer, he just needs to pour in half a pint of beer; he doesn't need to add in half a pint of nothing. You can blame the bartender, or you can blame the proprietor for hiring a bad bartender, but neither of them *creates* the emptiness that characterizes the imperfect pour.

          • Ficino

            I think paradoxes of talking about non-being are getting in the way.

            You go to a bar. You order a pint of beer. You are given a half pint. If you're charged the price of a pint, you will say this is unjust. If you're charged for a half pint, you might complain that you wanted more beer at the outset, but the price is just.

            So what is your evaluation of the action if you are charged for a pint of beer but are served a half pint?

            Bartender: I didn't cheat you. A not-pint is non-being insofar as it is a not-pint. And non-being isn't caused. So I caused nothing. Therefore I caused no injustice.

            ???
            .

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, but technically I think it is true that you "caused no injustice" in that scenario. I think it is rather that you "failed to cause justice that you should have caused". At least, if one hews to a privation theory of evil (and personally, I have yet to see any better way of talking about evil), that seems like the right way to frame things.

            Mind you, I wouldn't bother with such technical niceties if you were actually cheating me out of half of a beer!

          • Ficino

            Yes, particular examples can have limitations. One could say of the beer pouring case that the injustice lies, not in the non-pouring, since non-pouring is non-action and thus non-being, but in the fixing of an unjust price. Perhaps if you pay in advance for a full pint, and then the bartender pours only a half pint, it'll be a more obvious case of injustice. So we wind up dancing around how to define the unjust act without including 'non-anything' in the definition.

            Failure to perform ontological function is an evil condition of a thing, no? There are sins of omission?

            if one hews to a privation theory of evil (and personally, I have yet to see any better way of talking about evil),

            I haven't sat down and worked out a whole theory of ethics, let alone a theory of evil. But so far I am not seeing the privation theory as adequate, since it seems to entail that evils qua evils are non-being and thus are uncaused. In that case:
            1. What happens to the Platonic-Aristotelian axiom that contraries are the object of the same knowledge? Aquinas signs on to that axiom, as far as I know, cf. In VII Meta l. 6 C1405ff. But evil is the contrary of good, not merely its contradictory. Yet, if evil qua evil is non-being, and thus not caused, how is it the object of knowledge? And if one of a pair of contraries is not knowable, the other is not knowable - so good would turn out to be not knowable.
            2. How do we have a robust account of moral blame? [too big to get into in comboxes, I suppose - and it's been discussed for centuries, so I just note that so far the privation theory of evil doesn't seem to me to provide a basis for a robust account of blame. In the chapters on God’s providence in SCG, Aquinas argues that God is first cause of every event, that secondary causes do real work, and that evils are accidents so are not outcomes of God’s intention or of a per se series. This sounds screwy.]
            3. Aquinas himself talks in places as though evil has being, e.g. God can bring goods out of evils, ex malis. We don't say that X comes "out of", ex, Y if Y is not-being, unless we are talking about acts of creation. Creation wouldn't seem to apply in this context.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thanks for the good exchange, Ficino. I'm not even close to being as well versed as you when it comes to Plato, or Aristotle, or Aquina, but I think I at leastly dimly understand the challenges you are raising, so I'll take a stab:
            1. Maybe I am missing something, but it doesn't seem problematic to me to say that good and evil are contradictories, and that they are the object of the same knowledge, and yet one exists and the other, in some sense, does not. To know the contours of "the good" is to know the chasms and gaps within it, just as I know my local mountain cliff by the gorge that it looks out over. The gorge doesn't have any real existence of its own; it is defined by the precipitous absence of the mountain, any yet I think I might reasonably say that my knowledge of the gorge and my knowledge of the mountain are one and the same.
            2. I'm only just beginning to think this through, but I wonder if one couldn't say that in some sense every sin is a sin of omission. Every sin is a failure to cooperate with God's grace, a surd, a refusal to participate as a co-creator with God? Even the axe murderer isn't so much guilty of his "interactions" with his victims, but is rather guilty of his failure to interact more fully with them, which fuller interaction would have necessitated an affirmation of their lives. I expect this seems like a stretch, and again I confess that I haven't thought it all through, but that seems like a not unreasonable line of thinking.
            3. Yeah, there's no question that it is hard to avoid speaking in terms like that, but I don't know that that flummoxes the theory at a technical level. We speak of felix culpa, for example, as a sort of precondition for a glorious redemption for creation, but I think you could still say something like: well if we hadn't torn that gash in creation, then God wouldn't have had a stage on which to perform this beautiful reintegration. That doesn't necessarily entail that the gash is a real thing in itself. It can be a great thing to fill a hole, even if the hole per se doesn't exist.

          • Ficino

            Thanks, likewise. I envy you your mountain crags!
            To a detail re yours on 1.:

            Maybe I am missing something, but it doesn't seem problematic to me to say that good and evil are contradictories, and that they are the object of the same knowledge, and yet one exists and the other, in some sense, does not.

            I said "contraries" not "contradictories." Contradictories are merely F and not-F, and as such do not admit of degrees of F-ness. Contraries are polar opposites, which in many cases admit of degrees, like white-black, or up-down. Things can be more or less evil or good, so good and evil are contraries. If then one has knowledge of the good, one must have knowledge of the evil. So the evil cannot be the sort of "non-being" that cannot be known.

            So is it some other sort of non-being?

            I suggest that the questions are beginning to become pseudo. The reason: because existence is not a predicate or perfection. But to talk about one contrary as non-being and another as being, you are treating being as a perfection. And as far as I can see, locutions start to arise, that don't lend themselves to standardization in modern logical notation. That's a huge red flag for me.

            If you're committed to a theory on which evil is non-being, what sense can inhere in a proposition like "there exists an X, such that X is evil"? There exists an X, such that X does not exist? Wha...?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That's a very nice explanation of the distinction between contraries and contradictories. That's a handy distinction that I will carry with me, so thanks for that. I confess that I do think of existence as a predicate in at least this sense: it seems to me that there is some aspect of me that is "not yet" / "yet to be". So, while it is perhaps true that any description of what I already am is unimproved by the assertion that "I exist", nonetheless I think I can claim that there is some aspect of me that does not yet exist, without that claim being meaningless or fruitless. In describing the contours of "what is not yet but should be", I feel fairly confident that I am successfully referring to something in reality. In other words, I can successfully refer to what is not there :-) Of course that sounds funny, but I'm being serious. It honestly seems to me that I am successfully referring to something, even while predicating non-existence of it.
            I don't think I'd be up for the project of mathematizing being and non-being and goodness and evil, but it seems like it is at least somewhat amenable to mathematical analogy. In the context of the set of rational numbers, I can say that the the irrational numbers have non-being, for example. Of course I need recourse to some encompassing context (the Real line, in this case) in order to assert that "non-being", but this is highly analogous to what I would want to assert theologically, i.e. that "what is not yet but should be" does not (yet) exist in creation, but exists in the fullness of all things, which is God. The outpouring of God into the gaps / sins of creation is very nicely evoked by the line from Habakkuk that anticipates that "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea".

          • Phil Tanny

            ...what is not yet but should be" does not (yet) exist in creation, but exists in the fullness of all things, which is God.

            I like that definition of God, the fullness of all things. Thanks.

            It seems that would also include that which is not yet but shouldn't be, according to us. That's the rub isn't it? Wouldn't defining God as the fullness of things require us to make peace somehow with rather a large pile of unspeakable horrors?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Ficino, our discussion reminded me of the following address from Pope Benedict XVI. This doesn't necessarily add any new perspective to our dialogue and so I don't offer it as an additional argument, but simply as a re-phrasing and contextualization of the issues we are discussing:

            In the history of thought, Christian faith aside, there exists a key explanation of this duality, with different variations. This model says: being in itself is contradictory, it bears within it both good and evil. In antiquity, this idea implied the opinion that two equally primal principles existed: a good principle and a bad principle. This duality would be insuperable; the two principles are at the same level, so this contradiction from the being's origin would always exist. The contradiction of our being would therefore only reflect the contrary nature of the two divine principles, so to speak. In the evolutionist, atheist version of the world the same vision returns in a new form. Although in this conception the vision of being is monist, it supposes that being as such bears within itself both evil and good from the outset. Being itself is not simply good, but open to good and to evil. Evil is equally primal with the good. And human history would develop only the model already present in all of the previous evolution. What Christians call original sin would in reality be merely the mixed nature of being, a mixture of good and evil which, according to atheist thought, belong to the same fabric of being. This is a fundamentally desperate view: if this is the case, evil is invincible. In the end all that counts is one's own interest. All progress would necessarily be paid for with a torrent of evil and those who wanted to serve progress would have to agree to pay this price ...
            And let us therefore ask again: what does faith witnessed to by St Paul tell us? As the first point, it confirms the reality of the competition between the two natures, the reality of this evil whose shadow weighs on the whole of Creation. We heard chapter seven of the Letter to the Romans, we shall add chapter eight. Quite simply, evil exists. As an explanation, in contrast with the dualism and monism that we have briefly considered and found distressing, faith tells us: there exist two mysteries, one of light and one of night, that is, however, enveloped by the mysteries of light. The first mystery of light is this: faith tells us that there are not two principles, one good and one evil, but there is only one single principle, God the Creator, and this principle is good, only good, without a shadow of evil. And therefore, being too is not a mixture of good and evil; being as such is good and therefore it is good to be, it is good to live. This is the good news of the faith: only one good source exists, the Creator. Therefore living is a good, it is a good thing to be a man or a woman life is good. Then follows a mystery of darkness, or night. Evil does not come from the source of being itself, it is not equally primal. Evil comes from a freedom created, from a freedom abused.

            Full address: https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20081203.html

          • Ficino

            I don't sign on to Benedict XVI's account, but thanks for posting the quotation.

          • Phil Tanny

            If this was a forum we could start a thread on the Pope's writings and go in to them in detail over a period of months. That subject would be clearly identified and well organized in a single thread, making it easier for those interested to find the conversation and engage, and easier for those not interested to avoid.

          • Phil Tanny

            Every sin is a failure to cooperate with God's grace, a surd, a refusal to participate as a co-creator with God?

            Hmm....

            To me, it seems the most useful place to reach for an understanding of God is the closest possible inspection of that which God has created, in much the same way I would seek to understand you by reading what you have written.

            A reading of the "Bible Of Nature" would seem to quickly reveal that God is not just an agent of creation, but equally an agent of destruction. Further, it may be reasonable to state that creation and destruction aren't really two different things but rather a single process we have arbitrarily divided within the human mind. You know, every act of creation destroys the previous status quo, while every act of destruction creates a new status quo.

            To the degree the above is true, it would seem to complicate the issue of sin considerably.

            As example, it seems reasonable to propose that the Nazis were more in touch with the way nature really works than is Judeo-Christian morality. It is after all God who created the phenomena of predation, which plays a crucial role in the management of life.

            It can be argued that the Nazis were playing out one of the roles that God created, whereas Judeo-Christian morality is attempting to impose our own theory of how things should be upon the human experience.

            We are in effect rabbits who are insisting that there should be no coyotes, a reasonable desire for sure, but not one in tune with "the book" of nature which God has written.

          • A reading of the "Bible Of Nature" would seem to quickly reveal that God is not just an agent of creation, but equally an agent of destruction. Further, it may be reasonable to state that creation and destruction aren't really two different things but rather a single process we have arbitrarily divided within the human mind. You know, every act of creation destroys the previous status quo, while every act of destruction creates a new status quo.

            This is intellectually incoherent: if the present constitutes a destruction of the previous, then what on earth are we talking about when we talk of "the previous"? If there is no continuity amidst discontinuity, one cannot talk reliably about the past. The best sense I can make of your words is by interpreting them via Iain McGilchrist, whereby your left hemisphere is hypertrophic and your right hemisphere is fighting for its life:

            Chapter 6: The Triumph of the Left HemisphereLooking back over the evidence I have discussed in the previous chapter from philosophy, neurology and neuropsychology, it would appear that there is a good chance that the right hemisphere may be seeing more of the whole picture. Despite the left hemisphere's conviction of its own self-sufficiency, everything about the relationship of the hemispheres to one another and to reality suggests the primacy of the right hemisphere, both in grounding experience (at the bottom level) and in reconstituting left-hemisphere-processed experience once again as living (at the top level). We have also seen that many important aspects of experience, those that the right hemisphere is particularly well equipped to deal with – our passions, our sense of humour, all metaphoric and symbolic understanding (and with it the metaphoric and symbolic nature of art), all religious sense, all imaginative and intuitive processes – are denatured by becoming the object of focussed attention, which renders them explicit, therefore mechanical, lifeless. The value of the left hemisphere is precisely in making explicit, but this is a staging post, an intermediate level of the ‘processing’ of experience, never the starting point or end point, never the deepest, or the final, level. The relationship between the hemispheres is therefore highly significant for the type of world we find ourselves living in. (The Master and His Emissary, 209)

            In a key sense, the left hemisphere does not understand 'history'. But the solution isn't to destroy the left hemisphere, it is to restore a balance between the hemispheres. We need both! John Meaney acknowledges this in his Nulapeiron Sequence (Paradox is the first book), where 'logosophy' has replaced 'philosophy' and no longer has static concepts but instead constantly moving entities as its lexicon. The elements of logosophy explicitly have history!

            We are in effect rabbits who are insisting that there should be no coyotes, a reasonable desire for sure, but not one in tune with "the book" of nature which God has written.

            You have forgotten, or never knew, the polemical force of Genesis 1–3 over against contemporary creation myths such as Enûma Eliš. In his second lament over Jerusalem, Jesus notes that the Jews in his time do not know the ways of shalom. (Lk 19:41–44) But if things are too chaotic for you, I can see how you might not see shalom as even a logical possibility, not to mention desirable.

          • Phil Tanny

            This is intellectually incoherent: if the present constitutes a destruction of the previous, then what on earth are we talking about
            when we talk of "the previous"?

            You typed your post above. That act of creation destroyed the previous arrangement of words on this page.

            Perhaps a mod deletes this post, an act of destruction which creates a new arrangement of words on this page.

            The apparent dividing line between creation and destruction is an illusion generated by the inherently divisive processes of the human mind.

            You have forgotten, or never knew, the polemical force of Genesis 1–3 over against contemporary creation myths such as Enûma Eliš.

            You have forgotten that I'm not interested in such fancy talk, though I assume that others will be, so have fun with it

          • You typed your post above. That act of creation destroyed the previous arrangement of words on this page.

            This is a failure to understand discontinuity-amidst-continuity.

            The apparent dividing line between creation and destruction is an illusion generated by the inherently divisive processes of the human mind.

            I'm pretty sure that if your wife got hit by a car, you'd know which is which.

            PT: We are in effect rabbits who are insisting that there should be no coyotes, a reasonable desire for sure, but not one in tune with "the book" of nature which God has written.

            LB: You have forgotten, or never knew, the polemical force of Genesis 1–3 over against contemporary creation myths such as Enûma Eliš. In his second lament over Jerusalem, Jesus notes that the Jews in his time do not know the ways of shalom. (Lk 19:41–44) But if things are too chaotic for you, I can see how you might not see shalom as even a logical possibility, not to mention desirable.

            PT: You have forgotten that I'm not interested in such fancy talk, →

            So the Bible pressing for peace over violence in many different ways is just … irrelevant to this conversation? Then why on earth are you arguing on a Roman Catholic discussion board?

            ← though I assume that others will be, so have fun with it

            I almost always talk to the person I'm talking to and not the audience; this is no exception.

          • Phil Tanny

            This is a failure to understand discontinuity-amidst-continuity.

            And this is more fancy talk. :-)

          • Right, because the following—

            PT: The apparent dividing line between creation and destruction is an illusion generated by the inherently divisive processes of the human mind.

            —doesn't constitute "fancy talk".

          • Phil Tanny

            I agree it would be good if I could phrase that in even simpler terms, but even if I succeeded in that, there still wouldn't be anyone here who was willing or able to engage the topic of the divisive nature of thought. Please see my last 4,937 comments on that topic, most of which are entirely ignored.

            I think the quote already uses pretty simple words and concepts, except for the "inherently divisive processes of the human mind". I agree that part requires some digging in to, and I've been attempting to lead such a dig for a couple months now, but this just isn't an appropriate place to do that.

            Here's the problem, as I see it.

            The role of a philosopher or writer should be to try to add something to a conversation. There's a narrow window you have to hit to make that work.

            If the audience is already familiar with what the writer can share, the writer isn't making a contribution. If the audience isn't ready for what a writer has to share, again, not a contribution.

            The narrow window is an audience not that familiar with a topic, but ready, wiling and able to be familiar.

            My problem is that I tend to be too confident and ambitious sometimes. I arrogantly assume I can introduce an unfamiliar topic through force of will (thus the many posts), a case of wishful thinking disease, a recurring ailment here.

          • If you cannot tolerate change over time which does not obliterate the past but instead adds to it, then I'm not sure what there is to talk about.

          • Phil Tanny

            Luke, if I had said the opposite of what I did say, you'd be quibbling with that too.

          • And you know that—how?

          • Phil Tanny

            How? HOW??? I am his Most Eminent Flatulence Sri Baba Bozo, founder of Bozoism the next major world religion, a transformational world historical figure who has transcended mere logic to dwell in the ineffable and yet still delightful sound of my own voice honking like an eternal foghorn, that's how!!

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a2cdb9aaa37394092eac9bc350fcd7e4a92b2da5f5c8f24d61e26121a01f1fa0.jpg

          • Phil Tanny

            The gorge doesn't have any real existence of its own; it is defined by the precipitous absence of the mountain

            And the mountain is defined by the gorge, so there is a sense in which "mountain/gorge" is a single unified system, which is divided conceptually in the human mind. Perhaps the same might be said of good and evil?

            As you've perhaps seen, it seems quite important to me to take in to consideration a bias for division that is built-in to thought, a phenomena which seems fundamental to any discussion of religion.

            In thought "tree" is seen to be separate and divided from "not-tree" in a clean, distinct, neat and tidy manner. This image of division is expressed in the building block of language, the noun.

            In the real world outside of our minds, the dividing line between "tree" and "not-tree" is not neat and tidy but far murkier, perhaps even imaginary.

            To the degree dividing lines are illusions, imaginary creations of the human mind, the comparative processes of philosophy can begin to take on a different hue, as it would appear delusional to compare one thing to another thing if things (ie. division) don't actually exist.

            If division is an illusion generated by the way thought works, then it may be that the more philosophy we do the less chance there is we will experience the unity we most deeply seek.

          • Phil Tanny

            For most of human history it was entirely reasonable to say that the sun rises in the east because a universally shared empirical observation revealed that to be true beyond any doubt. Once we obtained a wider perspective beyond the human scale of our day to day lives, the experience of "sunrise" was revealed to be a compelling illusion.

            That's what I suspect is happening here.

            In our day to day lives it's entirely reasonable to presume the existence of division, and thus things. It seems to me that we are understandably but mistakenly attempting to map this limited human scale perception of division on to immeasurably larger phenomena such as God, reality, the most fundamental nature of everything everywhere etc.

            Atheists do this when they assume that because logic is binding in our daily lives, it is therefore binding everywhere in all of reality, for all subjects no matter how large or fundamental.

            Theists do this in their personalizations of God, where for example they transfer the reality of human opinion on to God, and assume God must have opinions too.

            A better example might be the almost universally shared definition of God as a form of hyper-intelligence. What we define as intelligence is drawn from an immeasurably small sample of reality, a single species on a single planet in one of billions of galaxies. But we dive right in to projecting this extremely small phenomena which is so familiar to us on to the most fundamental nature of reality, ie. gods.

            I am a compulsive typoholic, this is well known to me and very familiar. Therefore, the entire universe is a compulsive typoholic, and the most fundamental fabric of reality as well.

          • Chris Morris

            At the risk of accusations of clogging up the conversation, and as you seem to have left the other thread somewhat unresolved, may I ask where this perspective leaves you? You've spent an inordinate amount of time and energy repeating this mantra in several places but, as far as I can see, you've not yet expressed an opinion on what we should do about it.

          • Phil Tanny

            you've not yet expressed an opinion on what we should do about it.

            So far, I've not identified anyone here either willing or able to usefully engage such opinions. As example, as usual, your post is about me and not the subject.

          • Chris Morris

            "...your post is about me and not the subject."

            But, who else am I going to ask about your opinions other than you?
            And, until you express a clear statement of your opinion, how is anyone supposed to know what the subject is?

            What I've picked up so far from your posts is that you regard any possibility of a supernatural realm as beyond the human categorising of existence/non-existence which intellectual analysis requires. As far as I'm aware, this perspective has a long and respectable history as part of what you've termed the "God Debate".
            Does that help to make it easier to answer my question?

          • Phil Tanny

            But, who else am I going to ask about your opinions other than you?

            Well, you could always forget about me and my opinions and engage the topic yourself. If you're interested in these subjects you'll be conducting your own investigation independent of anything I do or don't do. If you aren't interested, that's your call of course, but then it doesn't make sense for me to try to engage an interest that doesn't exist.

            Does that help to make it easier to answer my question?

            Your question was, "as far as I can see, you've not yet expressed an opinion on what we should do about it."

            And my answer is....

            What do you think we should do about it?

          • Chris Morris

            "Well, you could always forget about me and my opinions and engage the topic yourself."
            This is an interesting misunderstanding of my response. It should be abundantly clear from my previous comments that I have a long-standing commitment to philosophical investigation so that it would be natural for me to ask anyone who presents themselves as having a very different view from that of most of the commenters here to explain their ideas.

            "And my answer is... What do you think we should do about it?"
            Assuming that this constitutes an acceptance of my guess as to what "it" is, my views on this were addressed, for example, in replies I made to you some time ago in answer to your question "But have you noticed that communication on such lofty topics as are addressed by the God debate rarely accomplishes anything?"

            In a previous comment, you concluded by writing that "If it's true that the God debate question is fundamentally flawed, we are seemingly left with no trusted authorities, no imagined cleverness, and no game to play. This seems like a disaster at first, but I'm coming to feel it might be really good news... the sooner we let go of that question the sooner we can begin exploring new territory."

            If I understand this correctly, I feel some agreement with this view; certainly, I've argued elsewhere that internet debates far too often run to a pre-agreed script and fail to consider real-world implementation. However, I think what's missing from your view is the recognition that the "God debate" is, itself, merely an element of the investigation of human reality. That is, several thousand years ago the "God debate" was the "new territory" and has played, and continues to play, an essential part in the process of human reality.

          • Phil Tanny

            It should be abundantly clear from my previous comments that I have a long-standing commitment to philosophical investigation

            So get on with it then. Like this...

            You've spent an inordinate amount of time and energy repeating this mantra in several places

            Stop worrying about what I think, and do what I did, spend an inordinate amount of time and energy exploring the topic, whatever you see that to be.

          • Chris Morris

            Well, OK. If you don't want to talk to me that's not a problem but I don't understand why anyone would join in these conversations and, at the same time, refuse to engage in any dialogue that might clarify their views. In my opinion, "exploring the topic" doesn't really happen until you put it in to words and explain it to someone else in such a way that allows them to understand your view.

          • Phil Tanny

            I'm not engaging you because...

            1) Because this is what you wish to discuss, me, and that's not too interesting.

            2) Any notion that I've been stingy with my comments is beyond absurd, as you referenced yourself just a few comments ago.

            3) If you are interested in these subjects you will keep writing about them no matter what I do or don't do.

          • Chris Morris

            You've made yourself "interesting" (to me, anyway) because your actions in wanting to join the conversation but seemingly being uncomfortable with people responding to your comments and in telling people that they shouldn't listen to other people telling them what to think are so contradictory that it raises interesting questions.

            As we both agree, you've made a considerable number of comments but, in my view, the 'stinginess' of those comments consists in their apparent inability to reveal any detailed analysis of your general perspective. You've had several opportunities for a more detailed expansion of your views but, as far as I can see, you haven't availed yourself of those opportunities so you can take this as one more opportunity to expound some informative ideas.

          • Phil Tanny

            Another post all about Phil.

            Again, for about the 8th time, I'm not uncomfortable with people responding to my comments or challenging them in earnest. I'm uncomfortable with thread clogging lazy low quality engagement such as we are currently having.

            As to your second paragraph, you're on to something there. That's true, I don't blast away with everything I've got from the start. I throw some bait on the ground and see who bites and how serious they are. Sincere interest is revealed by members conducting their own investigation on these subjects, from any level or point of view, no matter what I do or don't do.

            You keep claiming to be interested in what I've written while largely ignoring it in favor of an endless discussion of Phil, in spite of repeated requests to get on some kind of interesting subject.

            Your time has expired. You're free to write about anything you wish, but I will now be moving on to other subjects.

          • Chris Morris

            Well, as I said before, it's not a problem if you haven't been able to understand the views I've expressed sufficient for you to give a serious response.

            "Your time has expired." I have to let you know, Phil, it expires for all of us eventually :-D.

          • BTS

            Please tell me which bar this is so I can avoid it.

          • Phil Tanny

            I think the idea is just that, insofar as the metaphor is imperfect, the imperfections are not caused by God.

            Here is one of a billion examples, chosen more or less at random, of how thought imposes a pattern of division upon our perception of reality.

            God is divided from the author. Divine is divided from non-divine. Perfection is divided from imperfection. God is defined as good, while other things are filed in the bad category.

            Such imaginary divisions are useful conventions from the limited perspective of our day to day human scale lives. When we try to map these limitations on to entirely different scales such as God we are headed for confusion.

            What members are seeing as they observe the apparently separate phenomena being discussed is not reality, but instead the lens through which reality is being observed. As example, if one is wearing sunglasses all of reality appears tinted, but the tint is a property of the glasses not of what is being observed.

            Until we shift some focus to the nature of that which both the philosopher and every philosophy is made of we are condemned to go eternally round and round and round the mulberry bush to nowhere, like riders on a children's merry-go-round.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Until we shift some focus to the nature of that which both the philosopher and every philosophy is made of

            But how on earth would one do that while remaining immune to the nefarious effects of "thought [imposing] a pattern of division upon our perception of reality"?
            Unlike the rest of us, who are doomed to view reality through our filmy lenses, you seem to claim to have some direct unmediated access to reality, so that you know what it really is, while the rest of us rubes are just being duped by our parochialisms.
            Let me grant that you have had, and perhaps continue to have, some sort of direct unadulterated encounter with undifferentiated reality. When you come back down from this enlightened vantage point, do you not perhaps betray your own experience when you describe it as "undifferentiated reality"? After all, there is presumably no difference between what is differentiated and what is undifferentiated, so to describe it as merely "undifferentiated" is surely to impose some pattern of division that does not inhere in reality itself?

          • Phil Tanny

            Hi there Jim,

            But how on earth would one do that while remaining immune to the
            nefarious effects of "thought [imposing] a pattern of division upon our
            perception of reality"

            Question: How does one transcend philosophy within philosophy?

            Answer: One doesn't. But one can use philosophy to understand and maybe communicate that transcending philosophy may be necessary. Here's why.

            Thought operates by a process of division.

            This is the place to start, a focus on the nature of thought, the way it works. Why? Because all philosophies and philosophers are made of thought, thus whatever the properties of thought may be determined to be, they are fundamental.

            Thought observes the real world, and breaks it up in to conceptual objects, ie. nouns. It's clear beyond any doubt that this is a very powerful and useful process, that is, unless....

            One is attempting to experience unity with God, or for atheists, unity with reality. It's not very logical to assume that one can use a process defined by division to experience unity, right?

            No Jim, I don't know what reality is any more than anyone else, and don't believe I've claimed that, though you are surely correct that my ego is not immune to running wild.

            What I'm claiming is that I understand how central the divisive nature of thought is to the subject of religion, and that this is one of the most productive inquiries we might conduct.

            Is this site an appropriate place to host such a productive inquiry? Perhaps not. Catholicism is a very thought intensive religion, and the software here is, well, you know.

            Sorry to miss your post for 4 days, just now discovered it by the random wandering around method.

          • Phil Tanny

            you seem to claim to have some direct unmediated access to reality

            Everybody experiences such access routinely on a day to day basis. It's entirely ordinary.

            You're driving to work lost in thought, and a kid on a bike shoots out from a side street. You instantly leave lost in thought mode, and experience a moment of pure observation. In fact, you don't even exist in that moment (psychologically) as your mind is so busy taking in data from the environment that it doesn't make time for "me". The crisis passes, and you return to "me" and lost in thought mode. It all happens so quickly and is so utterly normal that we don't see anything at all unusual about it.

            Your mind temporarily surrendered "me" to deal with the real world. Your mind died to the symbolic and was reborn in to the real, to use Catholic language. Or as you put it, it had "direct unmediated access to reality".

            While such unmediated access happens naturally, one can also learn to take some conscious control over the process. That doesn't have to involve anything exotic such as sitting cross legged while wearing a turban and chanting etc. Just spending enough time in nature can do it pretty effortlessly, for example. Our mind adjusts to the lower stimulation environment naturally, the volume of thought gradually fades, and as it does reality comes in to sharper focus. Reality comes in to sharper focus for the simple reason that now we're paying attention to it. That's all there is to it, nothing complicated involved.

            If one is interested in God, and if God is not just an idea but part of the real world, having reality come in to sharper focus ain't such a bad plan, right?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Your mind temporarily surrendered "me" to deal with the real world.

            Yes, my mind did (in that hypothetical scenario) let go of "me" in that moment, but that doesn't mean that there was no individuated "me" in that moment. Just because I stop thinking about myself as an individual doesn't mean that I cease existing as an individual.

            You may well come back from such a moment and conclude: "there really was no 'me' in that moment", and perhaps that is a respectable conclusion, but note that you arrive at that conclusion not in the moment itself, but rather through a process of rational reflection about the moment. Which is to say, you arrive at your conclusion via a process of "thought and division". You can only obtain that conclusion by letting your thought regain that quality of "aboutness". Every time you type something in a combox here, you are entering into the world of "though and division" and "aboutness". Which is perfectly fine, but please stop using this process of "thought and division" while simultaneously chastising others for doing the same thing.

            If you are convinced that such division is illusory and harmful, it would seem that the solution is to stay away from the comboxes altogether. That would at least be a coherent response. What is not coherent is to continue using thought and language to warn others that they really are missing the mark if they use thought and language.

          • Phil Tanny

            Hi again Jim,

            I'm agreeable that you simply discard my explanations, as it is experience which has the calories not the explanations, just as a book about food contains no nutrition.

            As a defense of my explanation, imagine that I am walking down the street towards you. You say, "here comes Phil" and not "here comes a kidney, a stomach, an elbow, an eyeball etc". That is, you correctly perceive Phil to be a single unified system. That's all I'm saying about reality.

            Yes, I arrive at my conclusions through a process of thought, agreed. And thus my conclusions, like all conclusions, are contaminated with the bias for division built-in to thought and then expressed in language, agreed again.

            We might note that Jesus advised us to "die and be reborn". Observe that he didn't say, "write a book about dying and being reborn", or "develop a doctrine about dying and being reborn". "Die" and "be reborn" are verbs which imply action and experience. So Jesus too was using explanations to point beyond explanations to experience.

            Jesus advised us to love. Love is an experience, not a doctrine or philosophy. Jesus used a philosophy to point to experience beyond philosophy.

            And please observe, if you will, that there is very little discussion of love on this website. The primary obstacle to such discussion is our obsession with explanations and doctrines etc. Regrettably, one has no way in this medium to point to this obstacle other than more explanations.

            I am using thought. Thought is a non-negotiable necessity of human existence. No one is disputing that. But thought is not a god. The divisive processes of thought are very powerful and useful as we all agree, but those very same divisive processes are an obstacle to the experience of unity, which I presume to be the primary goal of religion.

            Much of your comment is really aimed at my personality, the confidence I express on a very limited number of topics. That's ok, as I'm a nerd, and my social skills are admittedly rather limited.

            If readers need to hear all this from someone who will be more skillful in not denting the male egos here, ok, no problem, go for it, discard me, and find that person. If you can, find somebody else who will come to this website every day and relentlessly pound these insights on to the page until you finally get it. I don't object to that at all, as I'm probably running out of gas anyway.

            But if you discard the insight that thought operates by a process of division, you will also be discarding a fundamental fact which lies at the heart of religion.

            Once it is seen that thought operates by division, and that all philosophy is made of thought, it soon follows that the unity we seek can not be found in philosophy. And this is what the evidence confirms. 2,000 years of Catholic philosophy, and Catholic culture is still divided within itself, right?

            The source of that division within Catholic culture is not the people involved or Catholic philosophy specifically, but rather that which Catholic philosophy, and all other philosophies too, are made of.

          • Phil Tanny

            Postscript: The fact that the division arises from thought itself is actually very good news. Thought is a mechanical process of the body which can be managed through simple mechanical means.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            ... those very same divisive processes are an obstacle to the experience of unity, which I presume to be the primary goal of religion.

            In my view you are working from a partially false premise here. It may be the goal of some religions to experience a dissolution into the unity of all things, but that is not the way that the Christian religion has come to understand its objective. Rather than seeking union, Christianity seeking communion, or in other words: an experience of belonging, and of being connected to all things, all while affirming individuation and differences. I heartily invite you into this glorious world, where differences actually do exist: some things are higher and others are lower, some things are lighter and some things are heavier, some things are more true and some things are less true, some things are more sacred and some things are more secular, and so on. It is a world alive with color and texture, a world with peaks and valleys, a world where the real difference between you and me is an invitation to adventure, a real chasm to jump across rather than a deceptive obstacle. It is a world that is not masked by thought and language, but is enhanced and celebrated by thought and language.

            On the other hand, I think it is true that many religions, especially those before the so-called "Axial Age", had as their goal a sort of dissolution of identity into the unity of all things, the sort of experience that can be induced with a good helping of ritual violence, or ritual eroticism, or maybe just with a good slug of Soma . However, even in those religious practices, there seems to have been a recognition that uncontrolled dissolution was somehow not the answer: hence those practices were ritualized, precisely to control them, to maintain that needed separation that exists here in the world of "thought and division".

          • Phil Tanny

            Jim, my comments are getting deleted as spam again. As we've discussed, it's pretty difficult to take this site seriously when it insists on using broken software, that is, when nobody else involved takes the site seriously.

            No offense, but the world you are inviting me in to has been riddled with conflict, sometimes murderous conflict, since the very beginning, and Catholics are still immersed in conflict with each other, to this day.

            Again, I do hope you see I am not blaming this on Catholics as people, or even on Catholicism as a particular philosophy. I'm not laying the blame there because these conflicts are part of every ideology. The universal nature of such conflict seems a huge clue that the source of the conflict is something all philosophies have in common.

            And anyway, I am already part of the world you speak of. I come from centuries of Catholic DNA, was born and raised Catholic, baptized and confirmed, and here I am today, on a Catholic website doing Catholic kinds of things.

            I left the Church 50 years ago because I don't accept your understanding, or the Pope's understanding, of what Catholicism should be.

            No discussion of love on this website Jim, the central teaching of Jesus. I've visited hundreds of Catholic websites, pretty much the same on all of them. Is that Catholic?

            Trillions of dollars wasted on expensive real estate used only on Sunday mornings, while a billion human beings live on the edge of starvation. Is that Catholic?

            And all these kinds of things, endlessly rationalized in a very intelligent and articulate manner (very Catholic!), which I just don't find persuasive.

            But, I hope you see I'm not at war with Catholicism, because it's my heritage, part of my daily reality and personality, and being at war with any particular philosophy isn't going to accomplish much, as the source of what concerns us arises from a deeper level than any philosophy.

            The nature of thought fascinates me, but is of little interest here. That's ok, as I'm not an evangelist, but merely a typoholic. :-) And this post will soon be deleted anyway, so.....

          • Jim (hillclimber)
          • Phil Tanny

            Six articles out of over 500. No crime here, none of my business really, but one does wonder if members really understand their own religion. Just sayin...

          • Phil Tanny

            I should perhaps explain a bit more...

            A few years back I tried to offer a free blog and forum hosting service to Catholics. As part of the marketing for that service I visited MANY Catholic websites (many hundreds) and tried to engage the owners. Rarely did I see any discussion of love, or for example Catholic Charities. Instead it was almost always like this site, doctrine, doctrine, doctrine with added helpings of moral superiority poses.

            On Catholic Answers I started a thread specifically and sincerely asking why there was so little discussion of Catholic Charities, an impressive and thoroughly Catholic enterprise which would seem to spotlight the faith in action. The thread didn't make it to the end of the first page before members became too bored to continue.

            Point being, my bombastic declarations on this subject are based on more than just this website.

            It's of course up to Catholic website owners to do whatever they wish with their websites, no argument there. I'm just saying, when Catholic writers suggest I should become Catholic, I'm wondering if maybe they should do the same.

          • Sample1

            You sound like a sock who was here recently endlessly complaining about Disqus and how SN should change it’s platform amongst other shoulder chips.

            Mike

          • Phil Tanny

            I'm not a sock, but yea, endlessly complaining about Disqus is true. I spent 25 years making such software for a living, I know suck when I see it. But, endlessly complaining is pretty suck too, admit to that.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I didn't intend that as an invitation to adopt Catholicism wholesale. I only intended it as an invitation to test-drive one aspect of the Catholic worldview, namely realism, the notion that reality is more or less as it seems to be, such that differences that seem to exist in reality actually do, for the most part, inhere in reality itself (albeit there is always a need for critical reflection and revision, i.e. realism doesn't have to entail *naive* realism).

            You have already conceded (I think?) that conceptual distinctions are necessary in order to have any conversation at all. You seem to accept this with some degree of chagrin, as if it is a necessary evil. I'm just asking to you to consider the possibility that conceptual distinctions and language actually enhance and deepen our experience of reality. Wouldn't that be good news, if it were true? So, just consider it, just test-drive viewing reality through that lens rather than the lens you are currently using. If you don't like it you can always go back. I'm not making any appeals to authority here, just asking you to taste and see.

          • Phil Tanny

            I only intended it as an invitation to test-drive one aspect of the Catholic worldview, namely realism

            Ok, I understand your point better now, thanks.

            Of course, I believe I am being realistic in stating that thought operates by a process of division. Witness the noun, which at the least exaggerates the reality of division. "Tree" is neat and tidy in thought, in the real world boundary lines are not so neat and tidy. When does the water you drink become you? Not so simple, eh?

            You have already conceded (I think?) that conceptual distinctions are necessary in order to have any conversation at all.

            Yes, necessary for conversation, but not always for communication. And yes, concepts are necessary for religion if one thinks that religion is a conceptual experience, a matter of belief, as many Catholics and other Christians perhaps do.

            I would counter this with the suggestion that the experience of love forms the foundation of Christianity, and the experience of love is not a concept. And it's an experience defined by an act of surrender which is much the same as what I'm referring to. Whether one surrenders the "me" via love or meditation or nature immersion or something else, it's the same surrender, the same experience of personal liberation.

            You seem to accept this with some degree of chagrin, as if it is a necessary evil.

            I once experienced a guru, who I didn't believe in at all (I was there for the hippy chicks) fill a room with a profound sense of peace just by sitting on a chair and doing nothing anyone could observe. I don't remember a word of his talk, but I remember what I experienced. It's much the same in Catholicism, the walking of the walk is much more persuasive than the talking of the talk.

            I'm just asking to you to consider the possibility that conceptual distinctions and language actually enhance and deepen our experience of reality.

            Here I am dude. :-) I obviously love language, I just think it's a weak stew compared to experience, just as a person's Facebook photo is not as rich as the actual living breathing person. The photo (ie. symbols) clearly has it's uses, I'm just attempting to put it in perspective.

            It's funny that you are trying to sell me concepts and language, don't you think? Aren't I the guy who types 363 posts a day?? :-)

            Seriously, I return your invitation with this. Do you think God is real? Or just an interesting idea?

            If you answer real as I suspect you will, doesn't it follow that the real world would be a logical place to look for God? Isn't that what Jesus did when he went to the desert?

            You are a fun partner, and you are rescuing me from the fit of, um, ornery hysteria I had here last week. I thank you for that.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            When does the water you drink become you? Not so simple, eh?

            No one said that differences were simple, only that they are real. I can perceive the reality of something without having a complete theoretical account of it. It's well known that all boundaries have this fuzzy property, but as others have pointed out to you, this doesn't mean that boundaries don't exist. I don't know exactly where my yard ends and my neighbor's yard begins, but I know the soccer net is clearly on my property and the swing set is clearly on his.

            I would counter this with the suggestion that the experience of love forms the foundation of Christianity, and the experience of love is not a concept.

            Of course. This is completely uncontroversial. But again, we can't put experience in a combox. We put descriptions of experience in comboxes. Similarly, we don't put explananda in comboxes; we put explanations in comboxes. We are communicating using language. What has been very frustrating is that you refuse to accept the core principles of linguistic communication ... and yet you are hell-bent on endless linguistic communication! Engaging in dialogue with a person who refuses to accept the basic principles of dialogue is like playing chess against a squirrel. It's just not interesting.

            Yes, I think God is real. Yes, I think God can be found in all things. I think God is mediated to me through his creation. But when I talk about or write about those experiences, I do so with the benefit of thought and language. And, while I don't think one can ever capture the fullness of any experience in language, nonetheless I don't find that linguistic description and communication entails a diminishment of experience. At its best, language is a celebration of experience. And, for that matter, thought and language are part of my experience of being in the world, and hence part of my relationship with God.

          • Phil Tanny

            It's well known that all boundaries have this fuzzy property, but as others have pointed out to you, this doesn't mean that boundaries don't exist.

            Why should I believe in boundaries when you can't even tell me when the water you drink becomes you?

            Boundaries do exist. In our minds, that's where the boundary is born and lives out it's life.

            Of course. This is completely uncontroversial.

            RATS! Foiled again! :-)

            But again, we can't put experience in a combox. We put descriptions of experience in comboxes.

            Ah, but as you've seen in your research here on the site, we don't put descriptions of the experience of love in these comboxes very often, do we? Might this fact perhaps help make my point that we are being distracted from "God=Love" by so many symbols of our own invention?

            Yes, I think God is real. Yes, I think God can be found in all things.

            If it is true that God is found in all things, then you don't find God, you are God. As are we all, along with everything else.

            I'm proposing that while a boundary between "me" and "God" is all very neat and tidy in thought, it's not so simple in the real world, just as you can't find the boundary between "you" and "water".

            At its best, language is a celebration of experience.

            At it's best, language points away from itself to more experience. That's what I'm attempting to do.

            I don't believe this is in conflict with Catholicism so much, as Jesus instructed us to love. I don't recall him saying anything about writing a book about love.

            Thanks for the back and forth! Feel free to steer us in another direction should this boundary business begin to wear out.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Why should I believe in boundaries when you can't even tell me when the water you drink becomes you?

            I think that should be turned around: if I perceive a boundary between "me" and "not me", then why would I doubt my perception? The incompleteness of our conceptual maps is no reason to doubt our perceptual experiences. (If anyone would sign up for that statement, I would think it would be you!)

            we don't put descriptions of the experience of love in these comboxes very often, do we?

            Over the years, I am sure I have included many descriptions of experience in my conversations here, and others have certainly done the same. And of course, no one is stopping you if you want to do as much. But surely you can appreciate that different people will approach the site with different interests. You may have a special interest in descriptions of experience, but not everyone is you. Others will complain (and have complained) that descriptions of experience does nothing to further dialogue because (in their view) the most productive dialogue deals in matters that are third-person verifiable. I think there is a place for both. Different strokes for different folks, man!

            If it is true that God is found in all things, then you don't find God, you are God.

            No, that doesn't follow. God is in all things, and all things are in God, but God transcends every finite thing, and infinitely so. He certainly transcends me, that I can assure you.

          • Phil Tanny

            Good morning Mr. Jim!

            I think that should be turned around: if I perceive a boundary between "me" and "not me", then why would I doubt my perception?

            You wouldn't doubt your perception if you are made of thought, your perception is made of thought, you've not had any experience outside of thought, the majority of others are in the same situation so that a group consensus confirms your perception. Like this....

            The sun obviously rises in the East and then travels across the sky because everyone can literally see this for themselves, even children.

            Different strokes for different folks, man!

            Ok, I'm for that. My stroke is to point out that this site, most Catholic sites, seem to largely (not entirely) ignore what I see as a central teaching of Jesus. Knowing that this group consensus emerges largely from the clergy, I decline to accept the authority of the clergy, and left the Church when I figured all this out at about age 15. That's my stroke man, and I agree others are entitled to theirs.

            This is how I was raised. When I was young no matter what idea I brought home from school my parents would always jump to the other side of the question. It used to drive me nuts, until I realized they were teaching me how to think.

            What I learned from this training is that any idea anybody has can always be ripped to shreds by somebody somewhere, thus it may not be wise to put too much faith in any belief.

            No, that doesn't follow. God is in all things, and all things are in God, but God transcends every finite thing, and infinitely so. He
            certainly transcends me, that I can assure you.

            Yes, a proposed division between "me" and "God" is surely a central teaching of Catholicism. To me, space serves as a good model of God, as it's everywhere in all times and places just as God is proposed to be.

            I doubt either of us can assure the other about much of anything on topics so large, though it's fun to try. Any such assurance by anybody about anything will be made of thought, and thus subject to the limitations of that medium.

            Please feel free to take our discussion in any direction that interests you, I'll try to keep up.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            What I learned from this training is that any idea anybody has can always be ripped to shreds by somebody somewhere, thus it may not be wise to put too much faith in any belief.

            That's understandable at an emotional level, but I think your conclusion was premature. (Not to mention self-contradictory: it is logically incoherent to strongly believe that one can't put too much faith in any belief). It is certainly true that any description, or proposition, or statement of belief, can benefit from critique and refinement. And certainly some ideas can and should be not merely refined, but refuted. But, regardless of where we are on the refinement--refutation spectrum, what we do with ideas matters. Refinements matter; refutations matter. Ideas have consequences.

            I won't presume to psychoanalyze you, but let me just point out a tendency that I have noticed in my own life at various times: I have caught myself thinking that it doesn't matter that I have this or that gap in my knowledge. "It doesn't matter that I've hardly read any Shakespeare, or any of the Greek or Roman classics, or Aquinas, or Heidegger, or that I don't understand Einstein's theories of relativity, or whatever." Usually, upon further analysis, I find that it does matter; I find that I would be a richer person if I understood these things; I would be able to do more good in the world if I understood these things; and even: I would understand love better, and practice love better, if I didn't have these gaps in my knowledge. But this further analysis involves a somewhat painful acknowledgement: I find myself gasping at this vast chasm between who I am and who I could be, and knowing that I will likely die long before I fill even a small part of that chasm. I find myself in a state of deep epistemic poverty. In short, it is humbling. It would be much easier on my pride if I simply said, "Well, yeah, but that stuff doesn't really matter".

            Again, I don't know what is going on in your head and I can't presume to psychoanalyze you. I would just say that, as a very general principle, it is always a good idea to probe one's inner motivations when one finds oneself saying that this or that thing doesn't matter.

          • Phil Tanny

            Hi ya Jim,

            Interesting turn of topic, thanks.

            I would agree that one can get carried away with any idea, including the idea that one shouldn't get carried with ideas. Obviously, I have LOTS of ideas, that I often get carried away with.

            Perhaps it's more a matter of one's relationship with ideas. We can cling tightly to them, or watch them float by like clouds, or some blend of the above. Clinging too tightly can sometimes be hazardous, as some clever butthead can always come along and spoil the party. You know, you guys think this site is about Catholicism, and then some clever butthead comes along and points out there are almost no articles about love. You can handle that, but not everybody can.

            I agree that ideas matter, for people like us. However some people, like my wife for example, are thoroughly non-philosophical, non-intellectual, and it doesn't seem to harm them at all. In fact, my wife is far more compassionate in action than I am, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with any philosophy, ideology, religion etc.

            Here's a new conceptual divide which might merit exploration?

            You spoke of "who I am and who I could be". This is called "becoming" in some circles, just to assign it a name. The counter part to becoming can be labeled "being". One thing we can become is a person who is at peace with just being, at least some of the time.

            The needs of the body have to be met, not talking about that, but after that. A great deal of the conflict in the world, and in our minds, is generated by our chronic inability to be at peace with the simple gift of life God has given us.

            About a week ago I was way out in the woods standing among some trees. It felt good so I decided to join them and just be a tree for awhile. Just stand there, and be, like a tree. I know, it sounds silly, but it doesn't feel silly. Joni Mitchell once called God the "tireless watcher", kinda like trees.

            We're both urging each other to become. You're urging me to become you, and I'm urging you to become me. Who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and become people who can just accept each other as we already are. :-)

            But not yet! Don't want to wreck the thread after all. :-)

          • Phil Tanny

            In my view you are working from a partially false premise here. It may be the goal of religions to experience a dissolution into the unity of all things, but that is not the way that the Christian religion has come to understand its objective.

            In friendly retort, the partially false premise you may be operating from is a notion that clergy and theologians, those who have appointed themselves to play the role "experts", actually understand what the objective of Christianity was intended to be.

            In Catholicism in particular, reliance on the clergy for interpretation seems extensive, thus whatever misunderstandings the clergy may have gets multiplied across many millions of followers.

            Across a variety of fields (not just religion or Catholicism) I'm having a "the emperor is wearing no clothes" experience. As example, it seems truly bizarre to me that nuclear weapons are widely considered to be off topic not only on religion sites, but in the political realm as well.

            To return to the topic, I wouldn't describe it so much as "dissolution into the unity" as emerging from the illusion of division. As example, when Jesus went in to the desert he didn't become God, but realized that he had been God all along. Or so the story reads to me.

            The unity is always there, has always been there, and will always be there. But the divisive filter of thought tends to obscure it. Remove the filter, vision restored.

    • Phil Tanny

      Conceptually, in the human mind, being and non-being are two different mutually exclusive phenomena. It's all very simple, neat and tidy.

      Does this perception accurately reflect the nature of reality, or is it a pattern of division imposed upon our experience of reality by the way our minds work?

      As example, the vast majority of every "thing" is made up of what we typically call "nothing". And, what we typically call "nothing" is said by some scientists to be bubbling with energy.

      Is there really a neat and tidy line between something and nothing, being and non-being? Or is this paradigm better described as a human scale experience which we are assuming is binding upon all of reality?

      For extensive (and yet accessible) detail on the relationship between something and nothing see this excellent documentary. Has been available on Netflix, and in some forms on YouTube. You may need to dig around for it a bit.

      Everything And Nothing

      https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/everything-and-nothing/

      Two-part documentary which deals with two of the deepest questions there are - what is everything, and what is nothing?

  • Phil Tanny

    Atheists often claim that it’s contradictory for believers to assert
    that God is at the same time both the universal cause of all being and
    immutable.

    Here's how to deflect that challenge.

    Ask such an atheist to prove that the rules of human reason are binding on everything everywhere in all of reality, thus including any gods who may be contained within. Unless this can be proven, complaints like "contradictory" are meaningless.

    What you'd be doing here is mirroring the atheist's own valid methodology back upon their own position. You're reasonably asking them to prove the qualifications of their chosen authority for the question at hand, exactly as they might reasonably ask you to prove the qualifications of the Bible or the Vatican.

    You should expect replies to this challenge along the lines of "reason is the best tool we have". This may indeed be true, but even if it is, that proves nothing at all about reason's qualifications to generate useful statements on such enormous topics beyond human scale as God. As example, a nine year old knows more math than a four year old, but that does not automatically equal the nine year old being able to do advanced particle physics.

    You should expect not to accomplish much of anything at all by presenting this reasonable challenge to the foundation of atheism, just as there is little the atheist can say that will change your perspective. Such a realization is also inconveniently useful, as it reveals the process of theology/philosophy to be a largely pointless, but nonetheless often quite entertaining process. This process might be compared to dancing, where each party exerts a lot of effort and burns a lot of calories but nothing tangible is accomplished other than entertainment. We could perhaps assign theology the accurate and fun name of, nerd dancing.

    The atheist faith in the universal relevance of human reason is typically stronger than your faith in God. They typically take such universal relevance to be an obvious given which doesn't require inspection or challenge, if they've ever considered the question at all. So, it's likely they may look upon this challenge as form of cheating. By presenting this challenge you aren't just confronting this or that argument they are making, but pulling the rug out from under their entire operation, a death blow to their ideology which is understandably often not welcomed.

    You shouldn't expect that you will present this challenge in an even handed fair manner to your own perspective either, as that's typically not how ideology works. Remember, if you succeed in challenging the universal relevance of human reason for all topics no matter how large, you will have planted a bomb under a great deal of your own perspective too, an act of ideological suicide you are unlikely to find appealing.

    Or, I could be totally wrong, and you may pursue such a challenge and discover that nobody on any side can prove the qualifications of their chosen authority for such enormous questions. And then you will have nothing. And that's when the God debate finally becomes interesting.

  • Sure you can define God this way. I don't see any logical contradiction Of course it means free will is impossible. Because all action in time were known and simultaneously created by God timelessly. It means block time is true and our sense of a succession of moments is illusory. But free will went with omnipotence.

    Of course no good reason to think such an entity exists.

    • God Hates Faith

      Its like writing a novel, and then saying the characters you wrote have free will because they made decisions in the book.

    • Phil Tanny

      Please prove that logical contradictions and "good reason", that is, the rules of human reason, are binding upon all of reality and thus any gods contained within. Until you do, your position is based on faith.

      I'm not against faith. But it grows rather tiresome seeing faith labeled as reason.

      • God Hates Faith

        Please prove that logical contradictions and "good reason", that is, the rules of human reason, are binding upon all of reality and thus any gods contained within.

        That's a great counter-argument...to a claim no one is making...

        • Phil Tanny

          To a claim few KNOW they are making.

      • God Hates Faith
      • God Hates Faith

        "Until you do, your position is based on faith."

        Lack of certainty = faith???

        • Phil Tanny

          Like you have lack of certainty, just more BS delusion.

          • God Hates Faith

            You know my feelings? Are you a mind-reader?

            Your delusion is that you think people's certainty about their beliefs are black and white. I can be 75% confident in X belief. Or 90% confident Z belief is false.

            Absolute certainty is the playground of fools.

          • Phil Tanny

            You know my feelings?

            On this topic, yes, I do.

            You want to strike a bold blow against theism, but when cornered you will retreat in to various forms of dodge. Which you will now deny because the primary goal of your postings is your ego, and so losing face is unacceptable.

          • God Hates Faith

            Ad hominem.

            I don't need to strike any blows to theism. Theism is self-defeating.

          • Phil Tanny

            An accurate analysis is not an ad hominem, and the accuracy is demonstrated by your reply.

          • God Hates Faith

            Let me know when you want to discuss ideas. Until then, have a nice day.

      • Logic is self-attesting, it literally is true even if it's false. Don't need to walk you through this? Logic isn't "binding,", it's just a fact.

        Wanting good reasons before I believe things is just what I do, if you think it is a good idea to believe things without food reasons, important things, it's your perogative.

        But feel free to deny logic and advance an epistemology that will accept truth claims on bad reasons. Is this what you think the Catholic Church supports?

        • Phil Tanny

          Hi Brian,

          Logic is self-attesting, it literally is true even if it's false. Don't need to walk you through this? Logic isn't "binding,", it's just a fact.

          Yes, you need to walk me through this please.

          Wanting good reasons before I believe things is just what I do

          Ok, so what are the good reasons to believe, apparently without questioning, that rules invented by human beings are relevant to everything everywhere, the scope of god claims?

          But feel free to deny logic...

          I'm not denying reason, I'm using reason. I'm applying the very same challenge to your chosen authority that you reasonably apply to theist authorities, such as holy books etc.

          Applying the very same challenge to all authorities and positions in an even handed manner is reason. What you're doing (challenging only the other fellow's authority) is not reason, but ideology.

          To be fair to you, there is rampant misunderstanding of the relationship between reason and ideology that is widely shared by both theists and atheists. You are definitely not alone, but in good company.

          • Ok, we assume the laws of logic are false and see what happens. The law of identity says things are what they are. So we assume the law of identity is false. So for "A, A is not A, but because the law of identity is false, "not A" is not what it is either, so "not A" is not "not A", it is A. So we cave a contradiction. The problem is every time you want to say something is not what it is, you have to first accept it is what it is. So even if the law of identity false it must be true.

            The same for the other laws of logic.

            They are all basically saying there cannot be contradictions. There just can't be, be cause to contradict, there must be something that is in contradicting, but if both actually are contradicting, meaning the each if the contradicting is true it, by definition cancels the other.

            There is no escaping this, not even for a god. The Catholic Church agrees.

          • Phil Tanny

            Please read what you are rejecting again.

            Please prove that logical contradictions and "good reason", that is, the rules of human reason, are binding upon all of reality and thus any gods contained within.

            No claim has been made that the laws of logic are false. The question posed to you is whether you can prove that those laws apply to everything everywhere.

          • They are facts an they are stated universally. I claim that they apply universally. Such a claim is easily falsified by finding an actual contradiction that exists.

            I think it's fair for me to rely on, a shared premise that God cannot do something logically contradictory.

            If you say he can, I don't have anything more to discuss.

          • Phil Tanny

            I think it's fair for me to rely on, a shared premise that God cannot do something logically contradictory.

            That is, you are proposing that the rules of human reason are a higher authority than a God, that a God would be subject to human generated rules. In your defense many theists would make the same claim.

            What's contradictory is that such a claim, by theists or atheists, is in direct conflict with most definitions of God as an all powerful being etc.

            So you don't object to contradictions, just contradictions inconvenient to that which you prefer to believe.

          • Not the rules of "human" reason. Laws of logic. They aren't an authority, they're facts.

            Not just theists all philosophers. The Catholic Church.

            You are correct it is in conflict with an absolutely omnipotent being. But I don't think most theists insist on such a definition. Catholic Church clearly doesn't.

            Actual contradictions are impossible. There just aren't any. You can make a contradictory argument or sentence of course.

          • Phil Tanny

            I respect your faith.

          • That is, you are proposing that the rules of human reason are a higher authority than a God, that a God would be subject to human generated rules. In your defense many theists would make the same claim.

            One can also suggest that God restricts Godself to the laws of logic so as to be intelligible to us. Roy A. Clouser presents this position in The Myth of Religious Neutrality, drawing on Kuyper and Dooyeweerd. This is a different way to generate the same restriction to logic; do you have any problem with it? If you don't, then your quibble with "many theists" would appear to be a bit academic—unless you can see some important outworkings of the difference which can be detected in some way?

          • Phil Tanny

            Such a claim is easily falsified by finding an actual contradiction that exists.

            Your claim, your burden. Sound familiar?

          • I met the burden by showing they are self attesting. That they are universal. They are so in any possibke world. I am just noting they are also falsifiable in case you think you can find an exception.

            Are you saying you aren't clear whether bits possible that an actual contradiction can be true?

          • Phil Tanny

            I met the burden by showing they are self attesting. That they are universal.

            This is a claim, not proof.

            This exchange we're having might be interesting to you if you wish to better understand theism. By "understand" I don't mean agree with or conversion or anything like that. If your only goal is to reject theism, then I would agree I'm wasting your time and should leave you in peace.

            Theists believe things they can't prove. So do you. That's not the theist condition, it's the human condition.

            You think it may be possible that something can be what it is not?

            I'm open to the possibility that we may only be able to grasp the tiniest fraction of reality.

          • No, it actually was the proof.

            I never suggested I don't believe things I cannot "prove". I don't believe things without good reasons. I don't believe things if they entail a logical contradiction.

            >I'm open to the possibility that we may only be able to grasp the tiniest fraction of reality.

            Not the question.

          • Raymond

            "Ok, so what are the good reasons to believe, apparently without questioning, that rules invented by human beings are relevant to everything everywhere, the scope of god claims?"

            There's your problem right there. These rules were not invented...they were reasoned.

          • To be fair to you, there is rampant misunderstanding of the relationship between reason and ideology that is widely shared by both theists and atheists. You are definitely not alone, but in good company.

            I would like to hear more about this. To possibly indicate some understanding on my part, I'll throw out the following:

            Proposition 1: Power defines reality    Power concerns itself with defining reality rather than with discovering what reality "really" is. This is the single most important characteristic of the rationality of power, that is, of the strategies and tactics employed by power in relation to rationality. Defining reality by defining rationality is a principle means by which power exerts itself. This is not to imply that power seeks out rationality and knowledge because rationality and knowledge are power. Rather, power defines what counts as rationality and knowledge and thereby what counts as reality. The evidence of the Aalborg case confirms a basic Nietzschean insight: interpretation is not only commentary, as is often the view in academic settings, "interpretation is itself a means of becoming master of something"—in the case master of the Aalborg Project—and "all subduing and becoming master involves a fresh interpretation."[4] Power does not limit itself, however, to simply defining a given interpretation or view of reality, nor does power entail only the power to render a given reality authoritative. Rather, power defines, and creates, concrete physical, economic, ecological, and social realities. (Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice, 227)

    • Mark

      Last night I told my 17 year old to study for his chemistry test without his phone on to distract him. He tries to tell me it doesn'tmatter; yet can't understand why even though he studied for hours he still didn't ace it. It's in his nature to desire snapchat rather than study valence electrons. One is a greater good that he can't see. I "knew" he was not going to get an A on the test. I also don't need to check his grade, what I need is him to desire knowing what I know. I'm not psychic nor God; he has free will. One can "see" the outcomes of free choices based on a superior knowledge. I allowed him do the wrong thing to bring about a greater good in him.

      • Nothing you've said here is inconsistent with determinism.

        God is not making predictions based on informed guesses. On the framework advanced above he literally knows exactly what will happen. It is impossible for anyone to choose differently than they do.

        So, you can try to advance a version of free will in which all decisions are preordained and no one can ever decide differently, but to me that sounds like Determinism.

        • Phil Tanny

          On the framework advanced above he literally knows exactly what will
          happen. It is impossible for anyone to choose differently than they do.

          A God knowing what will happen in advance and the person having free will are not inconsistent. The God simply knows how the person will exercise their free will. That knowledge by the God doesn't eliminate the free will.

          I'm just doing logic quibbling here, not promoting any position other that tidying up your reasoning.

          • Yes, this is a bit of a wall. I guess I would say if you have free will on picking a or b, but it is literally impossible for you to pick b, then free will kind of loses any meaning.

            You could equally say it wouldn't matter that minds are determined machines which necessarily will choose b and impossible to choose a, because it being impossible to choose differently doesn't mean you don't have free will.

            What is free will if not the thing that allows you to choose differently irrespective of external factors?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Free judgment does not guarantee successful outcomes. So you may still freely choose to flap your arms and fly to the moon. That doesn't mean you actually will fly to the moon in this manner. If there is a means which is known to you to be impossible, then you will not will it, just as you would not will 2+2=5, once you have understood the meanings of the signs.

            The will is free, Aquinas said, to the extent that your knowledge of the means is incomplete. You cannot want what you do not know.

          • Phil Tanny

            I guess I would say if you have free will on picking a or b, but it is
            literally impossible for you to pick b, then free will kind of loses any
            meaning.

            Theists are not saying it's literally impossible for me to choose B. They are saying that God already knows what I will choose.

          • And because god already knows and gods knowledge is perfect, it is actually imposdible for god to be wrong, it is literally impossible for you to choose b.

            In the abstract, in the absence of the fact that god knows you pick a, it would be right to say it's possible. But at any time t, when you have a choice you will pick one thing and your choice cannot violate the block time reality that god knows will/has/is occurred/ing.

          • BTS

            What if we all just start doing the opposite of the thing we were just about to do?
            Will the universe explode?
            :)

          • I doubt it. I think we'd a just do the opposite of what we were just about to do.

        • Mark

          Merit, reward, punishment, and ethics are contrary to determinism.

          • No, these are easily consistent with determinism.

          • Mark

            Well I guess that is your claim to easily prove. You might start with the monistic presuppositions you include in your definition of determinism, because that will be the first premise I deny. Self-determination implies a separation of volition and individuality.

          • Yes.

          • michael

            So if you didn't believe in free will, you'd just led Ted Bundy and Jeffrey dammer run free?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          "What will happen" does not exist in God, since as Aquinas determined, God knows all things at once. Being outside space and time the universe presents as a 'block universe.' That he knows what you will choose does not entail that he determines what you will choose.

          • Alitheia

            Aquinas is mistaken.

            God doesn't need to know everything that will happen before it happens because he's omnipotent and nothing or no one can frustrate his purposes.

          • BTS

            I don't have a dogmatic position on the topic of free will either way, but here's my two cents:

            That he knows what you will choose does not entail that he determines what you will choose.

            Seems to me god does in a way determine what you will choose because god "made" each of us with a specific set of personality characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, abilities, parental circumstances, faulty dna, etc.

            edit: He could also choose just NOT to make you. He knows ahead of time which of the very high percentage of fertilized eggs, for example, will not implant.

            Unless...he precludes himself from knowing which sperm will fertilize the egg...

          • Rob Abney

            BTS, was there a time when you regularly prayed to God? I assume that you don't do that now, would that have been God's decision or was it your decision? If you are still praying to God, whose decision is that?

          • BTS

            I don't mind answering but it's a little off the topic, perhaps?

          • Rob Abney

            I thought you were discussing free will?

          • BTS

            Prayed dutifully as a youngster. Never heard the slightest response. Lots of Catholic school - grade school, high school, college, retreats, etc. Literally nothing. No response. Absolute silence. Played in the guitar mass group for a while years ago but started to feel like a hypocrite.

            When I prayed I tried not to ask for things for me but instead for others.

            As an adult I have a running interior monologue. I suppose one might call it non-standard prayer. I argue constantly with an imagined god? I ask him to reveal himself. I conduct debates with him. Does that count? I think it does. I sense disparagement in your question.

            I'm not entirely sure to whom I should be praying.
            Jesus, My Brother?
            Jesus who will send me to Gehenna if I misbehave?
            God the Father?
            Holy Spirit?
            Jesus from the Gospel of Mark or the reimagined Jesus from the Gospel of John?

            I am still hanging around with a very liberal group of catholics, for the most part. Some know of my waning faith.

          • Rob Abney

            It seems to me that your answer indicates that you do believe in free will, at least you act as though you have free will. I would suggest that God also has free will and has not yet followed your will.
            No disparagement intended, just dialogue.
            I don't think it matters which understanding of God that you pray to, you do seem to recognize that your prayers are aimed at someone other than yourself.
            I hang around liberal Catholics also but at this point I would only change my understanding about the Church if they had a valid argument to convince me.

          • BTS

            Like I said, I don't get too worked up about the free will debate. I really don't have a strong opinion. I just have observations.
            Why would god even bother creating me if he knows I will make the wrong decisions and end up in hell? Seems a merciful god would just skip the part where he creates me.

          • Rob Abney

            I would say that He created you to give you existence and the ability to choose the good, but He allows you to choose what you desire even if you desire hell. But even in hell He will still hold you in existence.

          • BTS

            Hell is a created notion with a convoluted and manipulated history used to instill fear and control people. I can be a catholic and disbelieve in hell, even if only to believe it is a temporary condition, as noted below.

            I plan to read both of the books below if I get time.
            This is from the most recent America Magazine newsletter.

            Our featured book review this week is a double whammy. Thomas Rausch, S.J., of Loyola Marymount University, takes us through two new books on the Christian doctrine of salvation: That All Shall Be Saved, by David Bentley Hart and Salvation: What Every Catholic Should Know, by Michael Patrick Barber. Hart is a philosopher, social commentator and Eastern Orthodox scholar of religion; Barber is a professor of Scripture and theology at the Augustine Institute Graduate School of Theology. Rausch notes that both come at the subject from different viewpoints and also reach some different conclusions.

            “Barber’s concern is to unpack the meaning of salvation in Christ from a Catholic perspective, using Scripture, the church fathers and frequently the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” Rausch writes. “He sees salvation as far more than ‘fire insurance.’” Hart’s focus, on the other hand, “is much narrower. His book is a sustained argument that many in the first five Christian centuries believed that all would be saved (apokatastasis). They did not reject the idea of hell, but following St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3, understood it as purifying fire, not an unending one,” Rausch notes. “At the heart of his argument is the idea that a God who creates a world in which eternal suffering is possible, even if the result of one’s free choice, could not be the infinitely good God of Christianity.”

            While we’re on the topic of salvation, our archives selection this week is a 2018 reflection by Peter Schineller, S.J., with the provocative thesis that “without the love of neighbor, there is no salvation.” Riffing off the notion that “Outside the church there is no salvation,” Schineller writes that “Yes, this is affirming that one can be saved and reach eternal life without being a full member of the Catholic Church, without baptism by water and the seven sacraments, without explicit belief in Jesus Christ—indeed, even without explicit belief in God! Radical? Yes. Absurd? I think not.”

            In addition, “if we focus on the meaning and centrality of love of neighbor, we gain insight into the special nature of Christianity. Christianity is not so much a series of doctrines, articles of a creed, but a way of life, the way of love,” Schineller writes. “Christianity is a worldly religion, rooted in the world, and that is where we find and serve God. That is where we achieve salvation.”

            Our poetry selection this week is “Tree of Life,” by Diane Scharper. To read more of our latest published poems, visit our poetry page.

            Also, please welcome our newest book to the Catholic Book Club: St. Peter’s B-list: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints. The book is edited by Mary Ann B. Miller and features an afterword by our own James Martin, S.J. Remember to visit our Facebook page for the latest updates as well as our web page.

          • Rob Abney

            I'm not sure what you mean that hell is a created notion. I don't consider it as fearful but as the opposite of where I want to aim for.

          • BTS
          • Rob Abney

            So, do you believe that hell exists or not, if it doesn't then why the concern about a merciless God? Second question, do you believe that heaven exists?
            (It will take some time to listen or to read that whole podcast, but SC and his guest start off by saying they don't believe hell exists but they offer no rationale for that belief)

          • BTS

            So, do you believe that hell exists or not

            My intellect tells me hell does not exist, but it is difficult to shake the conditioning of 45 years of Catholic guilt and conditioning. I'm talking Incarnate Word nuns for grade school, here, so cut me some slack :)

            why the concern about a merciless God?

            I have these concerns for countless reasons. Among them:
            1) The Old Testament.
            2) Conservative Catholics who harp on hell and sinfulness ad nauseam.
            3) The POE
            4) Apologists in general claiming to know things that they don't really know.

            Second question, do you believe that heaven exists?

            I am not afraid to say I have no idea if heaven exists.

            Regarding Sean Carrol's podcast on hell, my point is that no one can even agree on what it is or even what Jesus' conception of it was and what the early Christians thought. There's a whole development of "hell" from the times of ancient Israel through modern times. The middle ages really ramped up the fire and brimstone. And the concept of the devil changed radically throughout Biblical times. The devil wasn't even a "bad" guy in the older Jewish texts, just a "henchman" of god. The Accuser, etc.

          • Rob Abney

            My intellect tells me hell does not exist...I am not afraid to say I have no idea if heaven exists.

            You do believe that you exist now, I presume, and you've known that you existed since you were very young until now. Do you expect any part of you to exist after you die? If so there needs to be a state of existence, if not then its all moot.

          • BTS

            Do you expect any part of you to exist after you die? If so there needs to be a state of existence, if not then its all moot.

            I don't know what to expect, and the suspense is quite literally killing me. But I can tell you with a genuine heart that I'd rather expect nothing and then be pleasantly surprised than to expect everything and be disappointed.

          • Rob Abney

            Why do you assume that you would be pleasantly surprised?

          • BTS

            I'm not assuming anything. Geez. I clearly said I don't know what to expect. If I end up with a good result, I'll be pleasantly surprised.

          • Rob Abney

            I would not be pleasantly surprised if I rejected God and then had to go spend eternity with Him (I don’t think you are rejecting Him at this point though).

          • Mark

            You might consider Ignatian spirituality exercises BTS. Since you have liberal Catholics friends, find one that knows or uses the Jesuit practices. A Jesuit spiritual advisor that uses Joseph O'Brien SJ completely changed how I conceived prayer. The silence is actually Good. Dissonance and resonance are heard in silence. The biggest struggle for those that try to use it is getting to the silence.

          • BTS

            Thanks, I am familiar with the Jesuits and the spiritual exercises but have not tried the ignatian approach in a long time. Maybe...
            Appreciate the suggestion.

          • Phil Tanny

            This is very interesting, thanks. Please write a full article on this and get Brandon to publish it. Seriously, hope you will consider this.

            I've always been curious about the Jesuits, but never really put it all together about who they are, what they do etc. Lots to learn here.

            What hooked me on your comment was the sentence "the silence is actually good". Much more discussion of this is merited, imho.

            The good news is that "getting to the silence" can be achieved by simple mechanical exercises accessible to pretty much anyone. It does require some patience and sticking with it, but there's really nothing esoteric about it. It's really just a matter of how much one wants the silence.

          • Phil Tanny

            Prayed dutifully as a youngster. Never heard the slightest response.

            I was surfing by myself as a teen, around 1966 or so. A storm came up so I went up to sit under the eaves of a beach house to wait it out.

            Bored with watching it rain, to pass the time I asked God for a sign of his existence. A lightning bolt, a whale breaching, dolphins in the surf, anything. I waited, I waited some more, and some more. Nothing happened. Nothing. Then the rain stopped, so I went back to surfing and forgot the whole God question game, merely a momentary diversion.

            That was over 50 years ago, and about the only thing I remember about that period of my life was sitting under the eaves in the rain asking that question.

            What does this prove? That I'm an incurable nerd. After that, your guess is as good as mine.

          • Rob Abney

            Maybe you missed the sign, the rain stopped.

          • Phil Tanny

            Ha, yea, good point, maybe I did indeed. I interpret the story as being a case of "Ok, we'll get to that, when you're ready."

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You probably mean "God" rather than "god," since you attribute a variety of powers not possessed by you regular, garden-variety god.

            I notice you used scare quotes around "made," which might be appropriate. God does not "make", which is a business of moving matter around, but some gods are said to "make" as for example by erecting the world from the body of Ymir the Frost Giant.

            You are assuming that "personality characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, abilities, parental circumstances, faulty dna, etc." actually determine the movements of one's will rather than merely inform them. That is, you are concluding determinism by assuming determinism.

        • Alitheia

          The capability of asking "Why" is not to be taken for granted for there is absolutely no "Why," simply no curiosity, without Free Will. There's only acceptance. Free Will creates dissatisfaction. It's what is at the core of our consciousness, our identity. Contrast that with the substances of our material reality. There's simply no doubting. Everything operates just as the rules and regulations of nature's laws determine. So systematically is this adherence that it is possible to outline those principles simply by studying these substances.

          Now, imagine if every element of the universe could ask "Why"? Suppose they were able to decide if to abide by those laws or perhaps act in another way? It is this reality precisely which sets us apart. Our minds are designed to evaluate information and make choices based upon it. The final result is not contingent upon how the natural laws govern the behavior of the atoms that make up our brains. Without Free Will, we would certainly have no more volition than a waterway has in deciding its actual course. There is absolutely no "Why." There is certainly no wondering. There's simply doing - like a torrent rushing down its riverbed.

          • I don't grant free will is required for curiousity or dissatisfaction.

            Why would everything operating according to natural laws mean there is no doubting?

            I do agree that without free will we are no more able to decide differently than we do than a waterway is able to decide to take a path different than the natural forces determine. This doesn't mean i.have no mind, or that my.mind dies not ask questions, including 'why?"

            Wondering is doing. It's thinking "I wonder", it seems to be deterministic.

          • Alitheia

            Now, contrast us with the substances of our material reality. There's simply no doubting. Everything operates just as the rules and regulations of nature's laws determine. So systematically is this adherence that it is possible to outline those principles simply by studying these substances.

            Suppose, on the other hand, if every element of the universe could ask "Why"? Suppose they were able to decide if to abide by those laws or perhaps act in another way?

            It is this reality precisely which sets us apart. Our minds are designed to evaluate information and make choices based upon it. The final result is not contingent upon how the natural laws govern the behavior of the atoms that make up our brains.

            Without Free Will, we would certainly have no more volition than a waterway has in deciding its actual course. There is absolutely no "Why." There is certainly no wondering. There's simply doing - like a torrent rushing down its riverbed.

          • But doubting is what Material reality does according to laws of nature. It's what people do.

            There is no point in asking if chemical compounds or atoms can think or act contrary to natural laws, they can do neither. I mean I can suppose it, but why?

            Yes, our minds set us apart from chemistry that doesn't think, we make choices and evaluate information. Do does a thermostat. (we are not designed). But actually yes, these choices are determined by laws of physics. That what Determinism means.

            Once again, I say our decisions are as determined as the path of a river.

            Did you read my comments? You are just repeating yourself.

          • Alitheia

            It appears you missed the thrust of my rejoinder. Let's try this: If, as you contend, we have no free will, why can't any individual's actions be predicted to the same degree as the behavior of chemical compounds or atoms can be?

          • Because they are far too complex.

          • Alitheia

            Do you seriously believe you have somehow been pre-ordained to formulate your arguments and write your responses by your own brain processes or genetic disposition?

            You might argue now, of course, that free will is an illusion and are merely permitting this illusion to manifest itself through you - but if this was the case, why would you trust this illusory force and abide by it's dictates so closely, permitting it to dictate your every action?

            Would you let a genie in a bottle to tell you what to do with your life?

          • >Do you seriously believe you have somehow been pre-ordained to formulate your arguments and write your responses by your own brain processes or genetic disposition?

            No, depending on what you mean by "pre-ordained" I do accept Determinism is true. I really do. Yes this means my responses, arguments, my thoughts themselves are the result of the material operation of my body in its environment. There is no extra thing that governs or is involved.

            It's not trusting an illusory force, my thoughts, my conscious experience simply is the activity of my body. It isn't like there's my thoughts, there's my brain, then there's a "me" that gets to choose whether to to trust my thoughts. It's all just one system doing very complex things, some of which is the conscious experience if thinking.

          • Alitheia

            So you don't believe that your arguments and responses have been predestined, fated, or determined beforehand by your own brain processes or genetic disposition?

          • You've switched from "pre-ordained" to "predestined". These are loaded terms, as they seem to imply sone plan or something.

            Can you elaborate on what you're asking?

          • Alitheia

            Let's take a step back, then. Is it your claim that occurrences in nature, or social or psychological phenomena are causally determined by preceding events or natural laws?

          • Yes, they aren't caused by the laws the laws though, laws of natire are descrptions of how things happen. They are caused by the events consistent with the laws.

          • Alitheia

            And so you believe that your every thought and action has been causally determined by such which is why you have no freedom of will, yes?

          • michael

            Then choices are determined by the information we have, and thus are still not free.

          • Alitheia

            If, as you contend, we have no free will, why can't any individual's actions be predicted to the same degree as the behavior of, say, chemical compounds or atoms can be?

          • michael

            Red Herring fallacy. Missing the point of what I'm saying and changing the subject. And the brain has trillions of neural connections, how can we study so much of it to predict that?

          • Alitheia

            It appears you missed the thrust of my rejoinder. Let's try this, do you seriously believe you have somehow been predestined, fated or determined beforehand to formulate your arguments and write your responses by your own brain processes or genetic disposition?

            You might argue now, of course, that free will is an illusion and are merely permitting this illusion to manifest itself through you - but if this was the case, why would you trust this illusory force and abide by its dictates so closely, allowing it to dictate your every action?

            Would you let a genie in a bottle to tell you what to do with your life?

          • michael

            YES, YES I DO! OTHERWISE EVERYTHING WOULD JUST BE BRUTE FACT WITH NO EXPLANATION. LOGIC WOULD BE USELESS OUTSIDE OF EXTREMELY BASIC THINGS LIKE MATH.

          • michael

            What is this illusion you speak of? How would you feel any different if you did not have free will? You do realize that if free wille exists means our choices are brute fact and the world is just randomness without any predictability or order

          • Alitheia

            What is this illusion you speak of?

            See my rejoinder here: https://strangenotions.com/how-god-still-causes-things-to-be/#comment-4706797586

          • michael

            That link is not about free will.

          • Alitheia

            How so?

          • michael

            It's about how God sustains the world in existence.

          • Alitheia

            Wait a few minutes for my comment to load.

          • Alitheia

            How would you feel any different if you did not have free will?

            Our lives would be no different than that of irrational beasts.

          • michael

            Explain

          • Alitheia

            Well, look at the vast chasm that exists between human society and the animal world in terms of language, technology, development, scientific achievement, etc., etc.. It is man's ability to ask why which is at the heart of it all and which separates them from us so conspicuously.

            Animals don't ask why. They simply do as predisposed by their preprogramming, their instincts.

          • Alitheia

            You do realize that if free wille exists means our choices are brute fact and the world is just randomness without any predictability or order

            How so?

          • michael

            In order for our choices to truly be free they must be brute fat with 0 external influence at all.

          • Alitheia

            You misapprehend how free will works. To borrow from the brainchild of Harry Frankfurt, "so long as a person’s choice is causally undetermined, it is a free choice even if he is unable to choose the opposite of that choice.

            Imagine a man with electrodes secretly implanted in his brain who is presented with the choice of doing A or B. The electrodes are inactive so long as the man chooses A; but if he were going to choose B, then the electrodes would switch on and force him to choose A. If the electrodes fire, causing him to choose A, his choice of A is clearly not a free choice. But suppose that the man really wants to do A and chooses of his own volition. In that case his choosing A is entirely free, even though the man is literally unable to choose B, since the electrodes do not function at all and so have no effect on his choice of A. What makes his choice free is the absence of any causally determining factors of his choosing A.

            In other words, a limitation in the range of choices is not the same as having no choice at all. If A, B, and C are good choices, and D, E, and F are evil choices, one’s inability to choose D, E, or F does not negate the fact that he can choose A, B, or C.”

            When you go to an Italian restaurant, they may only serve 12 out of 150 possible Italian dishes. The fact that you cannot choose 138 of those dishes does not negate the fact that you can choose any one of the 12 options before you.

            Thus, libertarian freedom of the will does not require the ability to choose other than one chooses.

          • michael

            That totally matters, since Catholicism is all about choosing between the kind of options in A B C and choosing to avoid D E or F While having the ability to choice from all six options. And if the man in the first paragraph could not have chosen B, then his choice was fate, not free will. If it wasn't fate, it'd be brute fact. That's extremely simple, to be frank.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The appeal to "brute facts" is atheists' way of simply denying causality or sufficient reason.

            Free will is a very complex topic, I grant. But our direct experience of weighing alternatives proposed by our intellects, and knowing we can choose one or the other, enables us to know freedom is real.

            Of course, we are influenced by the various finite goods that entice us to choose one of them. But as long as the goods are finite, we can always choose the desirable qualities of some other good that the present one lacks. Or, perhaps to choose none at all, since they are all limited. Solely an infinite good, namely, God, would necessitate the choice of the will -- were he apprehended fully.

            Free will does not conflict with sufficient reason, since God sustains the will in its operation. It operates as a free agent because an intellectual being can compare two or more finite goods and see the limitations in each of them -- thereby being "overwhelmed" by none of them. We all know that the will can be influenced by the attractiveness of the good. And we all know that the will can be even totally inhibited in its exercise by such drugs as alcohol.

            Free will is not a brute fact, since God sustains its existence and moves the will to act, but to act according to its nature as a free faculty. Yes, God determines the will to act -- but that determination is that it should act according to its nature to freely choose its object for action.

            You can see the complexity of this question is not, as you claim, "extremely simple." If you think it is, why don't you explore my article on the subject at https://strangenotions.com/how-human-free-will-harmonizes-with-sufficient-reason/

            I know how easily you dismiss arguments which you do not understand and with which you disagree. But it is misleading to Alitheia to pretend that this is all so "extremely simple."

          • Ficino

            Yes, God determines the will to act -- but that determination is that it should act according to its nature to freely choose its object for action.

            Thomists have been saying this for centuries, but it is incoherent. Actions that are determined are not ἐφ' ἡμῖν, not "up to us." "You don't determine it, but you are responsible for it" is not what "free" means.

          • michael

            On the contrary, the absence of brute facts is the fulfillment of sufficient reason.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Good then. Without God to create it, the universe has existed from all eternity, not as a brute fact, but with some sufficient reason. What is that reason?

          • michael

            I don't know what created the universe, but it wasn't God.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            So you admit that the universe is created? That it needs a sufficient reason for being? Only you are still so sure of yourself that it could not possibly be the God of classical theism?

            What kind of power do you think it needed to make something have existence as opposed to being nothing? Or can't you think in those terms?

            Ever hear of infinite power? What other being than God do you know of that is said to have infinite power? Your sufficient reason for the universe being created -- even from all eternity -- had better have the property of infinite power, or I doubt it can do the job.

            I guess the only absolute certitude you have is that God cannot possibly exist.

          • michael

            A lot of power. But hat power is not synonymous with being an a self-aware, all knowing, all-innocent being.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You really need to ponder a little metaphysics.

            The power to make something, such as the universe, exist has to be infinite, simply because there is no way to measure the total lack of relationship between non-being and being.

            https://drbonnette.com/how-cosmic-existence-reveals-gods-reality/

            And since the Infinite Being whose infinite power is the cause of the universe, every positive property found in the universe must preexist in that Infinite Being.

            What measure of foolishness is required not to respect such a Being, especially when you owe your very existence to him? Have you no gratitude at all?

          • michael

            I don't owe gratitude to the one who created Ebola, Cholera, Hell, Ted Bundy, etc.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You may not be able to understand how these evils or evil aspects of these things are compatible with the goodness of God, but metaphysics demonstrates that God must be all good. This necessarily entails some flaw in your reasoning about God and your conclusion directly blaming God for the evil in the world.

            It also does not remove your obligation to be grateful to the One who made you and keeps you in existence.

          • michael

            Do you think kids with Ebola created Ebola and gave it to themselves?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are descending into nonsense.

            The problem of evil must be logically addressed by starting with the metaphysical demonstrations of God's existence and goodness. Then, and only then, do you look at the world and try to figure out how the evil we find in it can be there, since we know with certitude that it cannot come directly from an all good God.

            The free will defense has been widely recognized as the key to such understanding, since God made creatures with free will and the misuse of such free wills could introduce evil into a world that God made to be good in the first place.

            You can get all emotional about the evil in the world, but unless you directly attack the metaphysical foundations of natural theology, your attacks remain at the emotional level.

          • michael

            So who created Ebola then? It certainly wasn't man.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Actually, the Ebola virus itself does very well for itself. It just so happens that it is a disaster for human hosts.

            For the umpteenth time, God creates a good world. Free agents screw it up. And now you want to blame God for the effects of what they did.

            And, yes, we DO know it had to be something like this that happened, because we have metaphysical certitude that an all good God exists. You don't because you do not know how the metaphysical argument attains this certitude. But then, I suspect you never had a complete course in that philosophical science.

          • michael

            Show me the humans who created Ebola then, if humans screwed it up.

          • michael

            Nad that first sentence is just sycophantic. No justification at all.

          • michael

            "It's good for the virus' is not a justification. It's something that'd land any defendant on Death Row.

          • michael

            That's not rocket science. No college courses are needed to know thats not a just response.

          • michael

            Do you think that you'd be satisfied with that defense if you or your child actually had Ebola or Cholera?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Alright, Michael, frankly I have replied to you more times already than I should have. I have more major writing tasks to devote my energies to.

            Let us stipulate that Ebola, cholera, snake bites, heart attacks, murders, and a million other bad things happen in this world and they entail all sorts of suffering, pain, agonies, dread, anger, frustration, and all sorts of other unpleasant things that you despise and so do I.

            The general theoretical explanation is that God exists and is all good and that he creates free agents who do bad things and somehow thereby introduce suffering and death into this world with all that goes with it.

            God does not directly cause all this (and you would ALREADY KNOW ALL THIS IF YOU REALLY READ MY ARTICLE ON THE PROBLEM OF EVIL), but rather allows or permits it to happen for some greater good.

            Now it is morally licit to allow some evil, provided greater good comes from it -- as when we let a child learn an adult lesson the hard way for his own good.

            So, the only question is how do we know that all these horrible evils that God allows in the world really are ordered to a greater good in the end.

            The answer is that unless we think we are God, we cannot and will not know his greater purposes. And to think we can figure it out and judge him is the height of intellectual arrogance.

            So, since we know from metaphysics that God exists and is all good, and therefore that he MUST have a good reason to permit the evils that exist so that greater good comes from them.

            Now, if you don't know the metaphysical basis for all this, I cannot give you an entire course on this thread. So I guess you will just have to sit -- mired in your skepticism and bitter atheism.

            Needless to say, I do not share your pessimism and oppressing negativity, since I have spent fifty years studying and teaching these questions and am satisfied with the total explanation in its many details.

            So, I hope you will forgive me for ending these comments and replies now. I thank you for your many comments, but I do not think further dialogue will serve any useful purpose since it is getting a bit circular at this point. And, frankly, it is getting in the way of my writing a more formal article for publication.

          • michael

            HUMANS CREATED NONE OF THOSE THINGS.

            Also, "actualized potential" is not the definition of good. Good means fun and parties and not hurting anyone.

          • michael

            Besides, your answer is naive and too trusting. It's like saying "We don't know how but maybe God can creates married bachelor". It is not the height of intellectual arrogance to dismiss such a statement.

          • michael

            And frankly, I believe you're the only missionary to claim that it requires years of studying medieval books to become a catholic.

          • michael

            Also, and most importantly of all by far, no quantity or quality of greater good could justify people being tormented day and night forever and ever.

          • David Nickol

            For the umpteenth time, God creates a good world. Free agents screw it up. And now you want to blame God for the effects of what they did.

            It is in no way clear to me what free agents have to do with the existence of pathogens (except in cases—largely in fiction, so far—in which they are weaponized. Even putting Adam and Eve hundreds of thousand of years ago, things like bacterial and viral diseases (and cancer) predate that.

          • Ficino

            In Aristotle, there is always an admission of cases of failure and defect in nature - the greater, the farther the bodies are from the first principle. Aristotle puts the notion of "for the most part" to heavy use in his discussions of finality in nature, and he gives MANY examples of failure, both on the part of individuals within a species of thing but even on the part of some species' natures. We've all been discussing for some time the extent to which Aquinas and beyond him, modern Thomists, succeed in harmonizing an admission of failure and defect in nature with their contention that the First Unmoved Mover is the cause of motion "all the way down" -- or, put in other terms, that God's providence governs all natural bodies.

            There is also the question, how do the natural operations of beings "lower" in the scale of nature occur "for the sake of" beings higher than they. This is a general principle in Ari and Aq: cf. e.g. In XII Meta l. 12 C2632 “all things that are in the universe are in some manner put into an order (ordinata), but not everything is ordered in the same way, as [e.g.] marine animals and flying animals and plants. And nevertheless, though they are not ordered in the same way, they are not such that one of them does not have a relation to another; but there is some kinship/affinity and ordering of one to the other. For plants are for the sake of animals, and animals are for the sake of humans." Your question, "how are pathogens 'for the sake of' humans?" can be answered from various auxiliary assumptions - like, Suffering Provides Occasions for Developing Virtue, or Perfection Requires All Levels of Being to be Instantiated, or whatever. I confess that after all this time, the answers don't succeed in avoiding the appearance of ad hoc answers or special pleading.

            But apart from the way your question bleeds into the PoE, it also is connected to a different question that we might call quality control. As I recall, Robert Pasnau has brought up this issue of defect and, so to speak, design problems in nature. That raises questions about the thesis that nature is directed by the kind of governor that A-T tells us of.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Three possibilities obtain here that I can think of off hand:

            First and foremost, it is an error to think that the only possible free agents that could introduce defects in the world are human beings.

            For this reason, it is possible that God created an order of finite spirits (something that Christian theology maintains that, in fact, he did in making angels) and that those spirits, existing before the beginning of the physical world, introduced, by their free sins, disorder deliberately into God's physical creation in ways we do not presently comprehend.

            Second, following the Christian claims about Adam and original sin, and given the fact that God exists outside of time, it is possible that Adam's sin was foreseen as a cause occasioning the introduction of disorder in God's physical creation by a kind of retrospective causation.

            Third, following St. Thomas, who may be read as clarifying some of Aristotle's wanderings metaphysically, the Angelic Doctor writes that "Nature always tends to one thing, and therefore things that come from nature come always in the same way, unless they are impeded, which is infrequent." (Contra Gentes, III, 23)

            This text clarifies many misconceptions about Aristotle's teaching on finality. (For one thing, it is not advisable to put too much weight on the Aristotelian cosmology, which is often disoriented by reliance on an archaic physics.)

            What St. Thomas says clearly here is that nature does always aim at the same end, unless some other "chain of causality," as Maritain says, interferes and redirects the outcome of the causality to some end that was outside the "intention" of the initial cause. That is the precise meaning of "unless they are impeded."

            For this reason, it is possible that God's initial causation in nature could be redirected and led toward outcomes that would be bad for certain natures, just as Ebola is bad for human beings, given that some initial interference in the order of creation took place through the sinful actions of created free agents, as described in points one and two above.

            Thus, for example, the prevalence of failed pregnancies may arise as an inbuilt defect in gestation that occurred within the genetics long ago as a result of earlier misdeeds by finite free agents at the very beginning of God's physical creation.

            Just as a side note, we should recall that every agent in seeking its own good end for itself or its species, may be evil with respect to the ends of another nature. For example, in seeking its supper, the wolf may engage in actions which are not so beneficial to the sheep. Thus, in the very act of creating sentient organisms, God may have had the choice either that they engage in acts which per accidens entail evils for others of their kind, or else, that he not create the entire order of sentient organisms at all.

          • Ficino

            Third, following St. Thomas, who may be read as clarifying some of Aristotle's wanderings metaphysically, the Angelic Doctor writes that "Nature always tends to one thing, and therefore things that come from nature come always in the same way, unless they are impeded, which is infrequent." (Contra Gentes, III, 23)

            I don't deny some wanderings of the Stagyrite, but impediment arising from operations of some other agent is already an Aristotelian explanation of failure/defect. The general principle: "We say “this is for the sake of that” wherever there appears to be some end toward which the movement proceeds if nothing impedes it," Parts of Animals 641b23-24. Examples: "what already exists and is earth or fire moves toward its own place if there is nothing impeding it,” De Caelo 311a7-8; "multiple [embryos] impede each other’s completion and generative movements," PA 770b25.

            Ari does though appeal to the "indefiniteness of matter" also in explaining defect, e.g. at On Generation of Animals 778a4-9. Ari hasn't developed a doctrine of God's providence over individuals, so he doesn't make a point of explaining every case of failure by appealing to an alien "chain of causality." To do that, though, gets back to the above questions. Why does the Unmoved Moved Mover set in motion so many alien chains of causality that 65%-70% of pregnancies fail, when we're also told in A-T that defect is rare and not "for the most part"? And there is the question of why, say, ebola organisms should benefit so nicely from humans as nourishment, when THEY are supposed to exist "for the sake of humans".

            Well, auxiliary assumptions about angels or The Fall etc. get into "easy to vary" explanatory territory, so I shall not comment on those. Instead, though, I wonder whether we know that appeals to the indefiniteness of matter are never correct. Does every apparent decay in nature really resolve into an effect of some OTHER substance's actualizing its nature, at the end of an alien causal chain?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I should not have given the implication that Aristotle does not say the same thing in places, since it is basic A-T doctrine.

            Still, the ambiguities of possible failures, such as in atomic decay models, should never be there -- IF the basic metaphysical principles are correct. There is always a sufficient reason why something fails to achieve its end.

            "Does every apparent decay in nature really resolve into an effect of some OTHER substance's actualizing its nature, at the end of an alien causal chain?"

            What "impedes" attaining the end may be extrinsic, as in the case of some external cause, or, it may be intrinsic, as appears to be the case in atomic decay. This would not mean that there is no internal cause of the decay, but rather that we cannot discern what causes it to occur at a given time.

            The appeal to free agents is hardly an easy to vary explanation, since it is really the ONLY alternative to strict determinism. And we have good reason to suspect it, since the vast majority of mankind affirms their own direct experience of freedom. I am well aware that some attempt to explain it away as some sort of psychological deception. On the other hand, Thomists do offer arguments based on direct experience as to why this is not a self-deception.

            The point is that, if, as most people believe, we humans have free will, then the hypothesis that other agents might have it also seems not far fetched. And, if freedom is real, it is a clear cut instance in which God would be insulated from the evil results of his creature's sins -- other than having, perhaps, a reason to permit it to occur which entails a greater good than the evil permitted.

            Still, nothing would prevent God from causing a system of natural agents that interfere with each other so as to produce some greater good. Perhaps, that is even the proper explanation of why evolution gives the appearance of every higher forms of life, based on the interaction of lower causes which fail to attain their expected ends.

          • Ficino

            The appeal to free agents is hardly an easy to vary explanation, since it is really the ONLY alternative to strict determinism.

            On that score I had mentioned angels and Adam and Eve. I don't know that such exist/existed.

          • BTS

            because we have metaphysical certitude that an all good God exists.

            Dennis,
            Can you put this proof in a syllogism? And/or a capsule summary?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Of course not!

            Done properly, this constitutes the entire philosophical science of natural theology. You can give a thumbnail argument, but skeptics will scoff at it for its simplicity and failure to answer their hundreds of objections.

            If you want to see the complexity of a really complete treatment, read Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange's God: His Existence and His Nature, Vol. I, which has 392 pages.

          • BTS

            Thanks, I wish I had more time to dedicate to reading...kids, life, and work get in the way.

            Just a friendly quibble...it's not just these horrible skeptics who have objections.
            True believers will go to their graves as well with terrible doubt & essential questions for which they never got satisfactory answers. Agreed?

            For example, probably ME. :)

            I don't think Thomism is going to convince me as it has convinced you. I'm still waiting for a different kind of insight.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, since I employ Thomistic realism as the only really rational philosophical method, I suspect my answers to your difficulties would never satisfy you, since you apparently want "a different kind of insight."

            I have no difficulty with people posing objections, but one must understand that complete explanations can get pretty extensive and complex. Replies to objections are usually given at about the same level as the objections themselves are posed. Great complexity, as I am sure you realize, is not well-suited to a venue such as this thread.

            I now have some 26 articles posted on this web site. Hopefully, some of them might respond to some of your concerns. Still, if you want "a different kind of insight" than Thomistic realism, I fear I shall disappoint you.

          • BTS

            Thanks, I am looking for personal revelation and evidence for the supernatural. You are correct that you cannot provide that for me. Haven't found it yet. But I'll keep looking, and reading.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since you want something different and evidence of the supernatural, we must remember that the early Church spread through word of the supernatural, that is miracles.

            In today's world, the best documented miracle intrinsically merged with Catholicism is the miracle of the sun at Fatima.

            I just looked it up on a web search and found nothing but sites claiming to debunk this event. But I have researched it closely myself and find the "debunking" is mostly wishful thinking on the part of skeptics.

            Here below, if you are really serious, two web sites that give substantive evidence favoring the supernatural nature of the Fatima events. The first takes slow and careful reading, since it cites two of the leading Lisbon newspapers at the time and recounts the actual words of many eyewitnesses.

            The second site is an excellent commentary on the logic and evidence itself, which I find quite convincing. If you really want to see some evidence for the truth of the Catholic faith, here is a good place to start.

            Three things to look for: (1) the prophecy of the exact day of the event, which is well documented, (2) the objective nature of the event itself, even if it were a general subjective visual experience, and (3) the sudden drying of rain-soaked woolen clothes of those present and of an entire mud covered hillside.

            http://devotiontoourlady.com/solar-miracle-fatima.html

            https://www.markmallett.com/blog/2017/10/14/debunking-the-sun-miracle-skeptics/

          • BTS

            Thanks. You and I have already discussed Fatima.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Did I also tell you I was 80 years old and senile?

          • BTS

            Dennis, I'll tell you what. If you pass into the next life before I do, contact me through disqus with some posts that only you could possibly make, and maybe a photo or two, and I'll instantly regain my faith.
            :)

            Also, please use your afterlife powers to fix Disqus. ha!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Actually, I personally know a story that essentially meets those criteria -- but I would never post it on this thread, because while I have absolute knowledge of and trust in the source, readers here do not -- and therefore it would be a waste of time.

            If all the eyewitness testimony at Fatima does not convince you, neither would this.

          • Rob Abney

            "And he said to him: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead. "

          • Sample1

            What’s missing in the logic, even generously granting that all the claims about drying clothes, a dancing sun, and now, a whole hillside of mud could be independently verified to a “this can’t be simply ignored” degree of confidence is this: a good reason to grant only one correlation to the specifically Catholic causation. I’ve no doubt Dr. Bonnette realizes that and suspect he’s just offering a well known apologetic methodology. Accept one claim and then others ostensibly begin to fit, until the full narrative flows seamlessly within its own logical environment.

            That approach works for any religious story (Catholic or otherwise). It also works for naturalism but with the latter, there are other tools of reason, many would argue, that not only would tease out the plausibility factors for Hindu claims from say Christian ones but also natural ones from one another in the pursuit of discovering more reliable facts about existence and our relationships to them.

            The challenge for believers is convincing those who live meaningful lives (in ways most would probably agree: prosperous, safe, contributory, loving, happy, etc.) is that naturalists are nevertheless missing out in what is most important: acknowledging one specific deity and his luggage. The only consequence I’ve been offered is that a claimed afterlife could be in danger of being full of torment for those not including the deity with the other aforementioned meaningful ways to age.

            For only a few centuries (still a remarkable fact!) our species has been able to construct living spaces, by no means yet ubiquitous, without the dominant culture’s religious beliefs wreaking havoc in this life. We should all agree that such living spaces are preferable to what our ancestors experienced when social pressures for thought crimes reigned. Such living spaces were risky economically, socially, etc. an
            We seem to be more forgiving when the mere afterlife for we naturalists remains the last space for threats and warnings. As easy as those after life claims can be ignored by many, it’s still an artifact of something more sinister from our recent history and I’d argue claimants shouldn’t feel so free, without strenuous pushback, to continue making those threatening, warning, call it what you will, claims. At best it’s rude I suppose but at worst, well, how isn’t that evil?

            Just my two cents in a forum, granted, isn’t being forced upon me but does, however, represent a population that goes out from here into meat world to behave just as I’ve described.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • BTS

            Mike, good timing.
            I subscribe to the Catholic Thing newsletter (to keep up with the nonsense) which arrives daily in my inbox. It's a group of very happy people only slightly to the left of Church Militant.
            Today's lesson is the ever-cheery reminder that
            dogma is way more important than loving your neighbor.

            https://www.thecatholicthing.org/

          • Rob Abney

            From the article you referenced: "We are by nature born for the contemplation of truth, goodness, and beauty, and by way of these three “transcendentals” we are summoned to our fulfillment in the contemplation of God."
            It seems to me that the article says that love your neighbor is equally but not more important than truth and beauty.
            How do you know how to love your neighbor if you have no knowledge of the truth?

          • michael

            Even if Jesus appeared to me in person floating in midair showing me the wounds in hands and feet and side, I would not respect him or owe him respect. I would shout at him saying "YOU MONSTER! RELEASE ALL THE PEOPLE BEING TORMENTED IN HELL AND GIVE THEM THE BEATIFIC VISION! NOW!"

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I can see that you are very frustrated that fate did not determine you to be God.

            Please do not ask me to sit at your defense table when the time comes.

            You are emoting far more than you are reasoning.

            Since you are mixing theology with philosophy so much in this very confused outburst, I really cannot answer you here. I have addressed the problem of evil extensively elsewhere.
            https://drbonnette.com/how-to-approach-the-problem-of-evil/

            Still, I would point out that at least Catholic theology insists that those who go to hell do so by reason of their own choices. God lets them have their way in their choosing to exclude themselves from a kingdom of all that is good, holy, true, and loving. God does not send them to hell. They go there by their own choice. If you have issues with a theology in which God sends people to hell against their will, then do so. But it is not the Catholic position.

            "This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called 'hell.'" Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 1033.

          • michael

            I see you've never read The Bible. It ALWAYS describes Hell as something God sends people to and inflicts from the outside in, against the will of the damned. Luke 13:24-25 is a prime example. Another is Isaiah 11:4. 2 Thessalonians 1:8. Revelation 20:15 (notice these all have transitive, not reflective, verbs)

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I will not get into a fight over Scripture interpretation, except to point out that language often does not mean what it says literally. For example, it may say that God judges the soul at death, which makes it sound like he is determining where it goes. But judgment can also mean simply a recognition of the truth that the soul is not disposed to go to heaven, but has freely chosen to exclude itself from heaven.

            The Catholic Church does not routinely run around telling people what Scripture means, except when an interpretation falsely conflicts with doctrine. Remember, for Catholics, the Bible is the Church's book, not the Church is a product of the book.

            The correct theological interpretation is that the damned soul has freely chosen to separate itself from God through grave sin. God is merely ratifying that fateful decision.

          • michael

            Iw won't ask you. My conscience and intellect are all the defense I'll ever need.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Thank you. You are welcome to be your own attorney pro se.

          • michael

            Nowhere in The Bible does anyone say "Hey, I WANT to be in endless anguish! Hey Jesus, I'm gonna toss myself into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth!". That'd be absurd.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What is not absurd and people do it all the time is to choose to lead very evil lives in which they deliberately choose goods they know are opposed, not only to the supremely-good God, but even common decency: serial killers, drug dealers, ruthless dictators, wanton adulterers, and so forth.

            That is enough to show what they truly love, namely, a disorder love of themselves -- as opposed to a proper subordination of their intellects and wills to the good order of themselves, society, and yes, if they have the light to see it, of God as their Creator and Lawgiver.

            Upon death, their wills will be clearly aligned either with God and goodness, or against him and it -- thereby making natural the choice of their eternal abode. God merely ratifies their own choice.

          • michael

            That's silly. You're saying The Church can say "This quote means the polar opposite of what the intellect and grammar says it looks like, right down to the subject/object of this verb" and still be reasonable.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You seem to have this reply under the wrong comment.

            But I think you are referring to texts that say God says things like "depart from me into everlasting fire," etc.

            This is no more than a judge telling a defendant that he has violated a law and that that law mandates a prison sentence of ten years. In pronouncing the judgment, the judge merely affirms that the criminal has freely chosen to commit this crime for which he knows the penalty, which means actually that the criminal has sent himself to jail.

            Don't let semantics confuse what is really going on here. God does not send people to hell. They choose hell by making creatures into their supreme good, when they are not.

            We can debate the rectitude of the judgment and punishment, but the point at issue here is that the free created agent is freely choosing to seek an end other than the heavenly one he is designed by God in his nature to seek.

          • michael

            I listed multiple other verses beside that, which use transitive verbs like "Smite" "Throw" and "Take vengeance" and not reflective verbs.

          • michael

            If they really loved themselves they'd choose the joy of Heaven and not misery.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Now you have it right!

            Sinners do NOT really love themselves in sinning, since sin turns the sinner away from his true nature and his true end in God.

          • michael

            You think they wanna be miserable?

          • michael

            That would only be true if we weren't wired to choose whichever is the more attractive option.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are assuming what you try to prove. Or, you are merely looking at what is chosen, and then defining that as what was the most attractive option. Still, mere assumption.

            Our actual experience is that of realizing that different options offer differing possible goods. And then we choose which one we want, fully aware we need not do so.

          • michael

            I have no such awareness. I always choose what seems best. I couldn't have chosen something foolish and lesser.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I guess you must be a saint then.

          • michael

            Anything that happens happens because it must happen. Anything that doesn't doesn't because it was impossible under the circumstances. There is no middle ground.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            There you go again -- assuming what you claim to prove.
            Freely chosen outcomes are precisely the middle ground that breaks your pseudo-dilemma. They did not have to happen, but they did because someone made a free choice that resulted in them happening. The alternative outcomes were entirely possible, but simply did not occur because someone made a free choice that did not include them as outcomes.

          • michael

            It's just common sense. If it weren't true, everything wold be random brute fact and logic would be useless.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Your "common sense" is non-sense.

            Free will is a secondary form of causality sustained by God as Creator, but a causality that emanates from the creature's own power of intellectual appetite (free will).

            It does not contradict the principle of sufficient reason or causality, as you constantly assume. Rather it is itself an exercise of causality by a free faculty, whose natural operation is sustained by God.

            Yes, it may be influenced by many other causal factors, but that does not mean that it cannot frequently brush aside these influences so as to "work its will."

            I may be strongly influenced or tempted to eat a piece of pie, but use my will power to refuse the influence.

            Assuming that all influences are determining is simply to assume that free will does not exist. It is NOT a proof that free will does not exist.

          • michael

            You confuse temptation with actual influence of a final outcome.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            And you confuse influence with total control of an outcome. Many factors can influence the decision of a free agent without thereby being decisive in his final decision.

            That is why I gave the example with the piece of pie above.

            Besides, the bottom line is that, if freedom actually exists, all your influences, temptations, partial causes, and so forth, do not ultimately eradicate its exercise in some cases.

          • michael

            If a choice is influenced by something it isn't free. If merely enticed, but without it's outcome INFLUENCED by the enticement, so tha tti's enticed but not influenced, and with no prior causes at all affecting the outcome from within or without, then i would be free.

          • michael

            In order for the outcome to be influenced, whatever is doing the influence must change the outcome. Which would be DETERMINING the outcome.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are assuming that the influence is consented to. I may be influenced by greed to seek to rob a bank, but fear of sin or respect for the property of others or fear of being caught may render that greedy urge impotent to move my will.

            Motives influence our decisions, but free will can choose between various motives and accept one while rejecting others.

            You cannot simply define freedom away by assuming causal determination. That amounts to assuming precisely what needs to be proven. Free will means that we may have strong motives to perform some act or make some choice, and yet, refuse to do so. Or, we may be reluctant to perform some act, but "force ourselves" to go through with it anyway.

            Any insistence that the freedom was illusory and that we what we did was simply the outcome of predetermining causes is to presume the very claim you need to prove.

          • michael

            Then that fear influenced and determined the outcome of the choice. Your fear was the stronger motive.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            We are influenced by temptations in that they "factor into" our decisions. But when we resist a temptation by using our free will, the influence is curbed in its effect.

            Stop trying to define free will away by assuming everything is determined by causes.

            What don't you understand about "assuming what you are trying to prove?"

            Causality is real. But free will is its own form of causality that can change the order of non-free events.

          • michael

            Free will is a severance in the chain of casualty, not a part of it. Only determinism describes a true continuation of the chain.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The whole point of free will is that it is an agent that determines its own course of action.

            The so-called "free choice" is not actually free, since by the time it is made it has been already determined. But we call it a "free" choice because it proceeds from the free will, which is a power by which an intelligent secondary cause is sustained by God in determining its "free choices" without itself being determined as to which "free choice" it must make.

            You simply cannot define free will out of existence by continually assuming that all causality is deterministic, since that is precisely assuming what you seek to prove.

            https://drbonnette.com/how-human-free-will-harmonizes-with-sufficient-reason/

          • michael

            Read that ages ago.

          • michael

            If something isn't determined by causes, then that means it just POOF magically happens with no sufficient explanation. This is so obvious as to need no further explanation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Apparently, for you it DOES need further explanation.

            You confuse a reason with a cause. Everything needs a reason. But logically, that reason can be either within itself or not within itself. If it is within itself, it is its own reason. If it is not within itself, then it needs an extrinsic reason or, what we call a cause.

            You identify these distinct cases. But a thing can be its own reason without needing an extrinsic reason or cause.

            The perfect example is God, who is his own reason for being and needs no extrinsic reason or cause at all.

            So too, with God's freedom. He is the reason for his own eternal choice, and since nothing extrinsic to him causes him to exist or to choose, his perfect eternal autonomy is self-evident.

            No magic. No POOF. Just careful reasoning.

          • michael

            If he is the reason for his own choose, the reason is DETERMINED by him. But we exist within time and cannot be self-explanatory.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, I am glad that at least in God's case, you can see that there is no problem with him being his own eternal free act of choice -- since, being the eternal now entails no reduction from potency to act.

            But this just means that God does move the human will to move from potency to act in order for the will to make a choice. As I say in the article:

            "The choice made has a sufficient reason, namely, the exercise of the free will that is moved to make a choice by God giving it the natural inclination to desire the good found in the alternatives.xiv But to say that the sufficient reason for the choice made lies in the exercise of the free will is not the same as saying that there must be a sufficient reason why one alternative is chosen over another."

            And again:

            "These free choices are perfectly natural, since God, as the sole cause of natural agents’ natures, is the sole agent able to enable the free will to be a genuine cause of its own contingent, not necessary, effects.xix God sustains the reduction from potency to act in the will whereby it chooses between the alternatives proposed by the intellect. But he does so in a manner perfectly natural to the will as a true secondary cause of contingent, not necessary effects. Thereby, the human free will exercises its own proper act of choosing – with no violation of the principle of sufficient reason entailed at all."

          • michael

            I meant in order for God to make sense he would have to create necessarily just as he necessarily love himself.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            God necessarily wills those things that belong to his own essence, such as his own existence and goodness.

            But God is free with respect to the creation of lesser things, since they are not necessary to his existence.

          • michael

            Then his choice of creation is just brute fact God made on a random whim. Otherwise it'd be necessary.

          • michael

            "But to say that the sufficient reason for the choice made lies in the exercise of the free will is not the same as saying that there must be a sufficient reason why one alternative is chosen over another." I already explained why this is nonsensical arbitrary randomness.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Then, apparently you missed the point.

            There is a distinction between the sufficient reason for the free choice being made freely and, on the other hand, there being a sufficient reason why one alternative is chosen over another.

            This means that God must sustain the free will in its exercise of making the free choice. But that is different than the sufficient reason why one thing is chosen as opposed to another. I may rob a bank because of desire for the money, or, I may not rob the bank because of fear of going to prison.

            The sufficient reason for each possible choice is the stated
            in the "because of ...." that follows the opposed actions of robbing or not robbing. That is, if you ask why I chose to rob the bank, my answer will be "to get the money." But if I freely decide not to rob the bank and you ask my why I made that decision, I will say it was "because I did not want to go to prison." Each reason is sufficient, but the choices are distinct.

            But the sufficient reason as to why I freely choose between the alternatives lies in the nature and exercise of the free will, which God causes to be and to exercise in me.

            Those are two different orders of causality, which must not be conflated.

          • michael

            Not a satisfactory answer. Only the strongest desire wins out.

          • michael

            Saying something is "determined to be free" is like saying "A chain of causality severes itself to bring about arbitrary randomness". It isn't rocket science.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have already explained this to you before.

            God determines us to be free just like he determines that a bird shall fly.

            God creates and sustains the creature according to the nature he gives to it. If he makes a natural agent, like a bird, the bird flies because it is its nature to do so. God sustains it in its flying, but it is the bird that flies.

            If God makes a free agent, like man, then man makes free choices because it is his nature to do so. God sustains him in his act of choosing, but it is the man who does the actual free choosing.

            No, it isn't rocket science. Why do you make it so hard?

          • michael

            Because free choosing has nothing to decide its outcome. "Itself" is not a sufficient answer. Without determination, "itself' is the only answer at all.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I do not understand what you are trying to say here.

            But, I have given a more complete explanation in another comment about four comments below a couple minutes ago.

          • Alitheia

            And a limitation in the range of choices is not the same as having no choice at all. If A, B, and C are good choices, and D, E, and F are evil choices, one’s inability to choose D, E, or F does not negate the fact that he can choose A, B, or C.

          • michael

            Things need to have patterns and prior causes in order to have predictability and order. Free Will require stoa tour choices have no exterior influence or causes, otherwise they'd be caused by those things instead of ourselves.

          • Alitheia

            If you could clarify, exactly how is "an ancient Greek portico usually walled at the back with a front colonnade designed to afford a sheltered promenade" germane?

          • michael

            Aren't you depressed, believing that people are shrieking in indescribable agony in hell?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Aren't you the least bit worried that some place much like you describe just might actually exist? St. Faustina had a vision in which she reports visiting hell briefly. She noted that most of its inhabitants were souls that had never believed it existed.

          • Alitheia

            What are you talking about?

          • michael

            What do you think I'm talking about?

          • Alitheia

            I don't know which is why I'm asking.

          • michael

            How clear can "Aren't you dressed belting hell" be?

          • michael

            How clear can "Aren't you depressed believing in hell" be?

          • Alitheia

            That part's clear it's the rest of your question that needs rephrasing for clarity. Perhaps providing an example or two can help.

          • michael

            Sad things don't make you sad?

          • Alitheia

            Yes, of course they make me sad. I just wish people would make better choices so they didn't have to suffer, alas . . .

          • michael

            Shouldn't people screaming in imaginable, indescribable torment in hell make you constantly depressed 24/7 and utterly joyless, unless you're a psychopath?

          • Alitheia

            It sounds like you're in a lot of pain . . .

            How long have you been in agony and why?

          • michael

            I don't believe in Hell and thus feel no pain from mourning the damned.

          • Alitheia

            How is that germane?

          • michael

            It's relevant because I brought it up.

          • Alitheia

            You'll need to do better than that . . .

          • michael

            Please stop dodging the question and answer it.

          • Alitheia

            Why? Are you interested in embracing Theism as a disciple of Christ?

          • michael

            No, even if Jesus appeared to me I'd never love or bow to him. I'd demand he release ll the people being tormented in hell and send everyone to heaven immediately. Now please answer the question: Why aren't you depressed believing that people are shrieking in unimaginable torment forever and ever?

          • Alitheia

            Where is this happening? What are you talking about?

          • michael

            Where is what happening? And Christianity teaches that right now, people are shrieking in unimaginable agony forever in hell.

          • Alitheia

            Actually, the doctrine that God demoniacally tortures billions of immortal spirits for all eternity in a blazing sea of perpetual fire is a Satanic Antichrist mendacity that defames God. <=== Go there to learn why

            As a God of justice and love, he would never create such a vicious and barbaric realm much less prescribe infinite punishment for a finite crime no matter how wicked.

          • michael

            What's the point of choosing to love God for his own sake, when he already has infinite beatitude regardless of anything we do or fail to do? Seems redundant.

          • Alitheia

            We do it for our sake since he needs nothing from no one or anything.

  • God Hates Faith

    If your god is unchanging then it would only make sense for him to continue creating more and more universes. Whatever the reason for him creating one universe, would be unchanging and not "fulfilled' by the creation of our universe.

    In fact, why would a perfect being have a reason or need to create a universe in the first place?

    • You seem to be construing 'need' and 'reason' as acting solely out of lack. I first came across this degeneracy† in conversation with @slograman:disqus.

      What if instead, God simply wants to create and bless? Instead of acting out of lack God could act out of abundance. Now, there are good reasons to think that much Western philosophy and human thinking in general will be opposed to this possibility. Much Greek philosophy was deeply opposed to creatio ex nihilo, construing it primarily as a fall from Unity, Oneness, Goodness, etc.‡ Claude Tresmontant justifies this position in A Study of Hebrew Thought, drawing heavily on Bergson. The ancient Hebrews, in contrast, were quite happy with creatio ex nihilo; change could be a distinctly good thing! Change could also bring about badness. It was up to humans to choose which way things would go. The Idea of Progress almost certainly comes from Judaism and Christianity.

      Obnoxiously, humans have the tendency to try to take what I might call the "infinite perspective", which could be compared to [our idea of!] "God's perspective". That is, they assume they basically understand everything that is to be understood, so that any remaining gaps won't radically change our view of the world. (So: no post-quantum revolution.) Sean Carroll exemplifies this in his Seriously, The Laws Underlying The Physics of Everyday Life Really Are Completely Understood (update with nice visualization); for opposing viewpoints one could look at the work of Physics Nobel laureate Robert Laughlin's A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down and Chemistry Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine's The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature. Laughlin and Prigogine take what I would call the "finite perspective": admitting that they may understand only an infinitesimal sliver of reality.

      This "infinite perspective" I describe—which I doubt is actually remotely close to God's true perspective—would see any creatio ex nihilo as either a degradation of what is perfect, or a completion of what is imperfect. But if it's a completion, it really comes from an already extant perfection, so its status as creatio ex nihilo is dubious. My suspicion is that the "infinite perspective" is inherently conservative in the worst sense of the term.

      God being unchanging doesn't mean God cannot create freely. It does mean God is not filling any lack in Godself. There is no necessity driving God to create. If we cannot conceive of action not driven by necessity, perhaps that's a moral/​aesthetic defect within ourselves. Christianity has some things to say about such a defect …

       
      † I mean in the mathematical sense of not properly representing all options: WP: Degeneracy (mathematics).
      ‡ Spinoza does as well, and Einstein's 'God' was patterned after Spinoza's. The same animus toward creatio ex nihilo arguably bolsters ideas such as expressed in the blog post Time, Free Will and the Block Universe.

      • God Hates Faith

        Instead of acting out of lack God could act out of abundance.

        That assumption simply raises separate problems. Even with that assumption, the abundance of this unchanging being could not be exhausted. So, it would continue creating more universes, infinitely.

        Or it leads to yet another assumption that this deity's abundance ran out after creating this universe!

        The problem with defining a deity into existence, is that it provides no explanatory power other than through the story. So, one must make up more stuff to explain the earlier stuff, that wasn't told in the original story. This makes the story either (1) never ending; (2) non-explanatory (that's just the way this deity is).

        • That assumption raises similar problems. Even with that assumption, the abundance of this unchanging being could not be exhausted. So, it would continue creating more universes, infinitely.

          There is no compulsion to create, so I don't see how this follows. You seem to want to understand God entirely in terms of the category 'necessity'. Or rather, the dichotomy 'necessity' / 'arbitrariness'.

          The problem with defining a deity into existence, is that it provides no explanatory power other than through the story.

          You are the one contending that a deity has been defined into existence. I find it interesting that in our exploration, I have possibly detected a cognitively restricted world, one which cannot see a way of behaving other than 'necessity' and 'arbitrariness'. Curiously enough, that world does not allow agents to exist. My suspicion is that God would be quite happy for this improvement in understanding to happen. :-D

          Oh, and you almost certainly are presupposing the existence of 'agency' in all of your discussions, so this is just an exploration of what must be true for your very stance to make sense in the first place. And that, I believe, is how @dennisbonnette:disqus would portray many of his blog posts and much of his life—exploring that kind of stuff. Now, just who would want all that stuff to stay shrouded in mystery …

          • God Hates Faith

            There is no compulsion to create, so I don't see how this follows.

            I said nothing of compulsion. Maybe the universe was created out of a lack. Maybe it was created out of abundance, or maybe it was created by accident, or arbitrarily. In any event, if this deity is unchanging, the pre-requisite necessary for the universe's creation would not change. So, if it was an accident, then this deity will continue unchanging making accidents. If it was arbitrary, this unchanging deity will continue being arbitrary (resulting in more universes).

            "You are the one contending that a deity has been defined into existence. "

            So, Zeus, and Vishnu, and Ahura Mazda are all real?!?

            "I have possibly detected a cognitively restricted world, one which cannot see a way of behaving other than 'necessity' and 'arbitrariness'."

            Either there is a reason for an action, or no reason for an action. In either case, you paint yourself into a corner when you define your deity as "unchanging".

            "Oh, and you almost certainly are presupposing the existence of 'agency' in all of your discussions"

            I do presuppose that humans can make decisions. So, can dogs. Not sure if you consider that "agency".

          • In any event, if this deity is unchanging, the pre-requisite necessary for the universe's creation would not change.

            God being 'unchanging' doesn't mean that God is a machine, churning out chair after chair after chair.

            LB: You are the one contending that a deity has been defined into existence.

            GHF: So, Zeus, and Vishnu, and Ahura Mazda are all real?!?

            That is not a logical implication of what I wrote.

            LB: I have possibly detected a cognitively restricted world, one which cannot see a way of behaving other than 'necessity' and 'arbitrariness'.

            GHF: Either there is a reason for an action, or no reason for an action. In either case, you paint yourself into a corner when you define your deity as "unchanging".

            One of the distinctives of a person is that [s]he does not operate like a machine: turning out chair after chair after chair.

            LB: Oh, and you almost certainly are presupposing the existence of 'agency' in all of your discussions …

            GHF: I do presuppose that humans can make decisions. So, can dogs. Not sure if you consider that "agency".

            But you don't go around making chair after chair after chair—and nothing else. Do you think this is purely because you are changing, in time?

             
            P.S. Is there a reason you write <blockquote>"TEXT"</blockquote> instead of <blockquote>TEXT</blockquote>? I do like the blockquoting over the quotes, but you do both for some reason.

          • God Hates Faith

            God being 'unchanging' doesn't mean that God is a machine, churning out chair after chair after chair.

            Then we need to re-define "unchanging".

            That is not a logical implication of what I wrote.

            Yes it is. Unless you are claiming that all deities are real, then some (or all) have been defined into existence. Often by story.

            "One of the distinctives of a person is that [s]he does not operate like a machine"

            A person isn't "unchanging" ; )

            Do you think this is purely because you are changing, in time?

            Yes. I may not have need for more than one chair. I have needs which change, whereas the definition of Yahweh is that he does not.

            P.S. Is there a reason you write...

            Habit!

          • Then we need to re-define "unchanging".

            Perhaps we do. When YHWH said "I am the same as I was, am, and will be", that communicated absolute trustworthiness. Now this was just a claim; it was up to Moses to believe it or not believe it, as he went through life. He ultimately disbelieved it, as can be seen by contrasting Ex 17:1–7 and Num 20:1–13. In the first case he was told to strike a rock for water while in the second case he was told to merely talk to the rock for water. He got it right the first time, but then did two strikes instead of zero the second time. Moses increased in violence while God wanted a decrease. Was God changing? Or was he leading humanity to stability, to trustworthiness, to life [everlasting]?

            GHF: If your god is unchanging then it would only make sense for him to continue creating more and more universes.

            LB: Instead of acting out of lack God could act out of abundance.

            GHF: The problem with defining a deity into existence, is that it provides no explanatory power other than through the story.

            GHF: The problem with defining a deity into existence, is that it provides no explanatory power other than through the story.

            LB: You are the one contending that a deity has been defined into existence.

            GHF: So, Zeus, and Vishnu, and Ahura Mazda are all real?!?

            LB: That is not a logical implication of what I wrote.

            GHF: Yes it is. Unless you are claiming that all deities are real, then some (or all) have been defined into existence. Often by story.

            I never stated whether I think YHWH is defined into existence. My stance on that is utterly disconnected to whether any or all the other deities are defined into existence. I did state that I think this discussion is helping us elucidate terminology which I would dare say qualifies as 'metaphysical inquiry': examining the instruments with which we measure reality. And maybe what's out there is not a what but a who. Maybe. One cannot tell unless one has an instrument which is up to the task. If the pattern on your perceptual neurons does not sufficiently well-match any pattern on your non-perceptual neurons, you may never become conscious of that pattern. (Grossberg 1999 The Link between Brain Learning, Attention, and Consciousness, partial tutorial)

            A person isn't "unchanging" ; )

            If my wife were changing in all dimensions, she would not be trustworthy. Well, on what dimensions must she change, for her to qualify as a 'person'?

            I have needs which change, whereas the definition of Yahweh is that he does not.

            Do you believe that having needs which change is constitutive of being a 'person'? You realize that we're back to talking about lack, right?

            Habit!

            Ah, those things. Very powerful. But changeable. Have you come across Lee Smolin's Time Reborn and his idea that our universe could give birth to baby universes with slightly different laws?

          • God Hates Faith

            Perhaps we do.

            Yeah! We agree!

            When YHWH said...

            Not sure why the Bible is brought up. Why should I believe anything in the Bible?

            My stance on that is utterly disconnected to whether any or all the other deities are defined into existence.

            So, you agree with my earlier statement "that a deity has been defined into existence."?

            I did state that I think this discussion is helping us elucidate terminology which I would dare say qualifies as 'metaphysical inquiry': examining the instruments with which we measure reality.

            I would not agree that talking about someone's invisible friends (deities) is metaphysical inquiry. Since there is no reliable epistemology for discerning the metaphysical. I would say its a thought experiment.

            One cannot tell unless one has an instrument which is up to the task.

            What instrument (if any) is up to the task?

            Well, on what dimensions must she change, for her to qualify as a 'person'?

            Are you suggesting she isn't a person? Or claiming a humans are unchanging?

            You realize that we're back to talking about lack, right?

            Yes. Since "chairs" was your example. I could easily show how humans change with "abundance" or "accidentally" or "arbitrarily".

            "Have you come across Lee Smolin's..."

            Nope.

          • Not sure why the Bible is brought up. Why should I believe anything in the Bible?

            For present purposes, I'm using it purely as a source of metaphysical tools and building blocks. The meaning of YHWH therein denotes infinitely trustworthy stability. That is a kind of 'unchanging', no?

            So, you agree with my earlier statement "that a deity has been defined into existence."?

            No, I do not agree. I think you don't know whether the deity exists and the definition aligns sufficiently well for present purposes, whether the deity exists but the definition is bad, or whether the deity does not exist. And yet, you want to stake out a position prematurely. I think that's fallacious reasoning.

            For some reason whenever I talk about deities or gods, people assume I am referring to their god.

            There is a reason I interspersed 'YHWH' with 'God' in my previous comment. In general, I try to let the term 'God' mean a wide range of things, when talking to people who are very unlike me. When talking with other Christians I also leave a good deal of room, because finite beings can only know so much about infinite being and there is always the possibility of serious error.

            I would not agree that talking about someone's invisible friends (deities) is metaphysical inquiry. Since there is no reliable epistemology for discerning the metaphysical. I would say its a thought experiment.

            The primary topic of our conversation hasn't been "someone's invisible friends (deities)", but instead what it would mean for a single deity (probably omniscient and omnipotent, dunno about morally perfect) to be 'unchanging'. I brought in the aspect of 'trustworthiness' as a way to explore plausible meanings for 'unchanging'. You seem to be veering away from that focus.

            LB: And maybe what's out there is not a what but a who. Maybe. One cannot tell unless one has an instrument which is up to the task.

            GHF: What instrument (if any) is up to the task?

            I suspect that thinking around the term imago Dei would be a good start on this, but in general, I haven't seen much of any good discussion out there on this topic! And so, I've had to do a lot of trailblazing, myself. I think a good start is my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being?, which you might construe as dealing with derivatives instead of absolute values. Instead of being obsessed with how to describe present data with minimal Kolmogorov complexity (≈ Ockham's razor), what if we were to focus on extrapolations from what is toward more and better?

            GHF: A person isn't "unchanging" ; )

            LB: If my wife were changing in all dimensions, she would not be trustworthy. Well, on what dimensions must she change, for her to qualify as a 'person'?

            GHF: Are you suggesting she isn't a person? Or claiming humans are unchanging?

            No & no. I was reacting to an apparent necessity behind your "isn't". I don't know why else you would say it, if you didn't mean to communicate necessity.

            LB: Oh, and you almost certainly are presupposing the existence of 'agency' in all of your discussions …

            GHF: I do presuppose that humans can make decisions. So, can dogs. Not sure if you consider that "agency".

            LB: But you don't go around making chair after chair after chair—and nothing else. Do you think this is purely because you are changing, in time?

            GHF: Yes. I may not have need for more than one chair. I have needs which change, whereas the definition of Yahweh is that he does not.

            LB: Do you believe that having needs which change is constitutive of being a 'person'? You realize that we're back to talking about lack, right?

            GHF: Yes. Since "chairs" was your example. I could easily show how humans change with "abundance" or "accidentally" or "arbitrarily".

            In that case, I don't understand your "Yes." That is, I don't understand why 'change' is required for personhood—including for decisions. You seem to think 'change' is integral and I don't.

          • God Hates Faith

            The meaning of YHWH therein denotes infinitely trustworthy stability.

            So, that means we can also bring up the time Yahweh wasn't trustworthy?

            "And yet, you want to stake out a position prematurely. I think that's fallacious reasoning."

            How is it premature, if we both agree there are deities that are made up (defined into existence)???

            The primary topic of our conversation hasn't been "someone's invisible friends (deities)"

            YOU brought up the topic of "metaphysical inquiry", and then wrote a whole paragraph about. Now you are saying you don't want to talk about whether our discussion fits in that category? Ok...

            I suspect that thinking around the term imago Dei would be a good start on this

            Why start with the assumption that a deity exists, or that s/he is like us in some way?

            which you might construe as dealing with derivatives instead of absolute values. Instead of being obsessed with how to describe present data with minimal Kolmogorov complexity (≈ Ockham's razor), what if we were to focus on extrapolations from what is toward more and better?

            Could you explain what that means?

            No & no. I don't know why else you would say it, if you didn't mean to communicate necessity.

            I don't see how that is relevant to the example, since you agree (1) you wife is a person, and (2) persons are not unchanging.

            It seems like you want to go down a separate rabbit hole, since its not relevant to the example

            I don't understand your "Yes."

            The "Yes" was not a response to that question. It was a response to the portion I quoted. If I misunderstood the quoted portion, then feel free to clarify.

          • So, that means we can also bring up the instances in the Bible when Yahweh wasn't trustworthy?

            If you want to broaden the discussion, I'm happy to do so in this direction. We were focusing on how to understand possible meanings of 'unchanging', though. It might be wise to get that to some sort of nice stopping point before adding complexity. Up to you, though.

            GHF: The problem with defining a deity into existence, is that it provides no explanatory power other than through the story.

            GHF: How is it premature, if we both agree there are deities that are made up (defined into existence)???

            Because we weren't talking about just any deity, we were talking about a specific one.

            LB: I never stated whether I think YHWH is defined into existence. My stance on that is utterly disconnected to whether any or all the other deities are defined into existence. I did state that I think this discussion is helping us elucidate terminology which I would dare say qualifies as 'metaphysical inquiry': examining the instruments with which we measure reality. And maybe what's out there is not a what but a who. Maybe. One cannot tell unless one has an instrument which is up to the task. If the pattern on your perceptual neurons does not sufficiently well-match any pattern on your non-perceptual neurons, you may never become conscious of that pattern. (Grossberg 1999 The Link between Brain Learning, Attention, and Consciousness, partial tutorial)

            LB: The primary topic of our conversation hasn't been "someone's invisible friends (deities)", but instead what it would mean for a single deity (probably omniscient and omnipotent, dunno about morally perfect) to be 'unchanging'.

            GHF: YOU brought up the topic of "metaphysical inquiry", and then wrote a whole paragraph about it. Now you are saying you don't want to talk about whether our discussion fits in that category? Ok...

            In the context I have provided (feel free to add more), I just don't see how "someone's invisible friends (deities)" is relevant.

            Why start with the assumption that a deity exists, or that s/he is like us in some way?

            I'm inclined to say that "we must start from where we are", which is something @3lemenope:disqus just got at over at Tippling:

            3l: I would situate it in phenomenology; humans' experience of the world, of life, of existence and so forth is rooted in our condition. If a putative deity's condition is significantly dissimilar to our own, their experience of the world will be too incommensurate with ours to support any cognizable shared values. Any agreement of process or outcome would be coincidence.

            Now I don't think this is quite right; I think we can somehow break out of our perspective and explore others'. But just how that works is largely a mystery to me, so I'll probably focus most on "we are the instruments with which we measure reality".

            Could you explain what that means?

            Please first read my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being?, then ask questions.

            I don't see how that is relevant to the example, since you agree (1) you wife is a person, and (2) persons are not unchanging.

            I have presupposed (1), but I have in fact pushed against (2). Why must a 'person' necessarily exhibit 'change'?

          • God Hates Faith

            Sorry for my delayed response. I've been busy.

            We were focusing on how to understand possible meanings of 'unchanging', though.

            Is this intellectual exercise in the context of Yahweh or just a hypothetical deity? If its the former, then I think the examples of changing nature in the Bible are relevant. If the latter, than I agree we can have a narrow focus.

            Because we weren't talking about just any deity, we were talking about a specific one.

            I was not talking about a specific one. It was a general statement.

            In the context I have provided (feel free to add more), I just don't see how "someone's invisible friends (deities)" is relevant.

            Our metaphysical inquiry has included discussions of deities and their potential characteristics. I used the phrase "invisible friend" to refer to deities (even though not all are invisible).

            so I'll probably focus most on "we are the instruments with which we measure reality".

            I still don't see how that leads to a default assumption that deities exist, or guessing which attributes they might have.

            Please first read my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being?, then ask questions.

            I have already referenced that in our other discussions. Unless you want to talk about something specific. If so, please state that.

            Why must a 'person' necessarily exhibit 'change'?

            That is a philosophical question, including figuring out what is a "person" and what does it mean to "change". If we agree that in your example (wife) is not unchanging, then I think this is going down a rabbit hole. Or you could provide an example of a person who is unchanging.

          • Sorry for my delayed response. I've been busy.

            No worries; I'm in this for the long term.

            LB: We were focusing on how to understand possible meanings of 'unchanging', though.

            GHF: Is this intellectual exercise in the context of Yahweh or just a hypothetical deity? If its the former, then I think the examples of changing nature in the Bible are relevant. If the latter, than I agree we can have a narrow focus.

            We can do either; the former is more complex. If we do the former, note that when A measures B and perceives B as changing, an alternative hypothesis is "A was changing, unbeknownst to A".

            GHF: The problem with defining a deity into existence, is that it provides no explanatory power other than through the story.

            GHF: How is it premature, if we both agree there are deities that are made up (defined into existence)???

            LB: Because we weren't talking about just any deity, we were talking about a specific one.

            GHF: I was not talking about a specific one. It was a general statement.

            You were implicitly claiming that all deities are made-up; I say we do not know this. If a general statement has anomalies, sometimes it is very important to caveat those anomalies. I think this is one such case.

            Our metaphysical inquiry has included discussions of deities and their potential characteristics. I used the phrase "invisible friend" to refer to deities (even though not all are invisible).

            The phrase "someone's invisible friends (deities)" did not seem to add any [relevant] cognitive content. Have I missed something? Unnecessary term profusion dilutes discourse [such as ours].

            GHF: Why start with the assumption that a deity exists, or that s/he is like us in some way?

            LB: … so I'll probably focus most on "we are the instruments with which we measure reality".

            GHF: I still don't see how that leads to a default assumption that deities exist, or guessing which attributes they might have.

            I was responding most strongly to the underlined. An instrument cannot detect anything which is not "like [it] in some way". To the non-underlined, why start out one's epistemology one way vs. the other? I don't know an answer other than to measure by long-term pragmatic effectiveness. That of course is not an infallible standard, but I don't see any better—at least, until we talk about how to deal with areas where one's epistemology may not be reliable. Hopefully we will get to that in the thread more focused on it.

            LB: And maybe what's out there is not a what but a who. Maybe. One cannot tell unless one has an instrument which is up to the task.

            GHF: What instrument (if any) is up to the task?

            LB: … which you might construe as dealing with derivatives instead of absolute values. Instead of being obsessed with how to describe present data with minimal Kolmogorov complexity (≈ Ockham's razor), what if we were to focus on extrapolations from what is toward more and better?

            GHF: Could you explain what that means?

            LB: Please first read my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being?, then ask questions.

            GHF: I have already referenced that in our other discussions. Unless you want to talk about something specific. If so, please state that.

            To review:

            What if we wish, instead, to predict the next observation? This is a subtle shift, from:

                 A. What best explains a given sequence of observations?
                 ↓
                 B. Where does a given sequence of observations most likely point?
            (Luke Breuer's Phil.SE answer)

            An instrument which can only do A. is very different from an instrument which can do B. True, or false?

            GHF: If your god is unchanging then it would only make sense for him to continue creating more and more universes.

            LB: Why must a 'person' necessarily exhibit 'change'?

            GHF: That is a philosophical question, including figuring out what is a "person" and what does it mean to "change". If we agree that in your example (wife) is not unchanging, then I think this is going down a rabbit hole. Or you could provide an example of a person who is unchanging.

            Actually, I think by this point, you have not sufficiently justified your opening claim. The obligation is not on me to disprove your claim, but on you to demonstrate your claim.

          • God Hates Faith

            We can do either; the former is more complex.

            Then let's do the latter. Especially since it seems your theory that Yahweh is "unchanging" is unfalsifiable (A is changing).

            You were implicitly claiming that all deities are made-up

            Incorrect. I was claiming that we do make up deities (define them into existence). I could easily make the argument that they are all made up, but I have not done so. Also, if you want to discuss a particular deity (such as Yahweh or El), and whether s/he is made up, we can do so.

            The phrase "someone's invisible friends (deities)" did not seem to add any [relevant] cognitive content. Have I missed something?

            Then perhaps we could refer to any deity as "Zeus"? I found that when discussing theology with theists, arguing about "God" carries too much emotional baggage. Whereas arguing about Zeus, or an invisible friend, or Allah, or X, allows a less biased discussion, while still discussing the same concepts. So, I disagree that the "term profusion" is unnecessary.

            An instrument cannot detect anything which is not "like [it] in some way".

            Do you have evidence to support this claim, or is that a presupposition?

            To the non-underlined, why start out one's epistemology one way vs. the other?

            It seems more reasonable to start with the fewest assumptions possible. (i.e. Occam's razor)

            I don't know an answer other than to measure by long-term pragmatic effectiveness.

            So, the longest lasting or strongest culture, would be evidence in favor of their theistic beliefs? If not, what evidence would you consider in determining what is "pragmatic effectiveness"?

            A. What best explains a given sequence of observations?

            B. Where does a given sequence of observations most likely point?

            An instrument which can only do A. is very different from an instrument which can do B. True, or false?

            Yes. One is backward looking the other is forward looking. Zeus seems to be backwards looking, which is why belief in Zeuses have had no significant pragmatic effect on understanding B. Zeus offers no explanatory value on how to predict the future. It wasn't until humans stopped looking at authority as evidence, but instead used their power of observation were humans ever able to do B with any sort of pragmatic effect.

            Actually, I think by this point, you have not sufficiently justified your opening claim.

            My opening claim did not reference personhood. So, if we are back to discussing a non-human entity that is unchanging (rather than a spouse) then my original point and its contemporaneous arguments stand. Unchanging means the motivation or cause to produce 1 universe would not change. Therefore this non-human entity would continue creating more universes unless s/he changed or ceased to be.

            Of course, above we are discussing whether Zeus can be unchanging in limited ways.

          • LB: We were focusing on how to understand possible meanings of 'unchanging', though.

            GHF: Is this intellectual exercise in the context of Yahweh or just a hypothetical deity? If its the former, then I think the examples of changing nature in the Bible are relevant. If the latter, than I agree we can have a narrow focus.

            LB: We can do either; the former is more complex. If we do the former, note that when A measures B and perceives B as changing, an alternative hypothesis is "A was changing, unbeknownst to A".

            GHF: Then let's do the latter. Especially since it seems your theory that Yahweh is "unchanging" is unfalsifiable (A is changing).

            Ok; I'm not going to assent to your "seems". :-p

            LB′: You were implicitly claiming that all deities in this discussion are made-up

            GHF: Incorrect. I was claiming that we do make up deities (define them into existence).

            If you'll allow the underlined clarification, this appears contradicted by a later exchange:

            LB: The phrase "someone's invisible friends (deities)" did not seem to add any [relevant] cognitive content. Have I missed something?

            GHF: Then perhaps we could refer to any deity as "Zeus"?

            You seem insistent on the idea that any deity we discuss is as likely to be made up as Zeus, which we probably both agree is no more than 0.0000001% likely, and probably quite a bit less.

            I found that when discussing theology with theists, arguing about "God" carries too much emotional baggage.

            Have you sensed a shred of emotional baggage from me? If so, I would like to see evidence so that I can obliterate it from orbit and become the value-neutral being, for sake of this discussion, that I am [apparently] required to be. Let's do this!

            LB: An instrument cannot detect anything which is not "like [it] in some way".

            GHF: Do you have evidence to support this claim, or is that a presupposition?

            It seems to be purely logical—neither evidential nor presuppositional. In order for A to interact with B, there must be some way for them to interact and I would say that way constitutes "like [it] in some way". Can you think of an exception?

            LB: To the non-underlined, why start out one's epistemology one way vs. the other?

            GHF: It seems more reasonable to start with the fewest assumptions possible. (i.e. Occam's razor)

            Are there any studies or thinking on whether rigorously obeying Ockham's razor might lead to limitations on one's epistemology—say, inability to see that there is more to reality than what your epistemology currently permits? I tried to get at this matter in my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being?. I can also point to Grossberg 1999 The Link between Brain Learning, Attention, and Consciousness, which argues that:

                 (1) if there's a pattern on our perceptual neurons
                 (2) and no sufficiently well-matching pattern on our non-perceptual neurons
                 (3) we may never become conscious of that pattern

            This suggests to me that you might need to do work beforehand, which violates Ockham's razor, to become conscious of new evidence that doesn't fit in with old evidence. What do you think?

            So, the longest lasting or strongest culture, would be evidence in favor of their theistic beliefs? If not, what evidence would you consider in determining what is "pragmatic effectiveness"?

            The possession of truth implies pragmatic effectiveness, but pragmatic effectiveness does not imply possession of truth. I remember taking an intro to Control & Dynamical Systems at school and building a very bad model of a car, which nevertheless worked sufficiently well for implementing a cruise control system. We can have "dashboard knowledge" of reality that works sufficiently well, within certain domains. This would be like knowledge of classical mechanics, as long as you don't get too close to consciousness, the quantum realm, or relativity. (That list may not be exhaustive.)

            In other words: pragmatic effectiveness is never a guarantee that you haven't latched onto a model of reality that works well enough for now, but is actually false. Own Barfield suggests that such false models may be the 'idols' discussed in the Tanakh; see his Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry for details. I find it a provocative thesis, for it suggests that idols delivered the goods for a while, before tapering off and ultimately running out of gas. One form of "running out of gas" shows up in Pankaj Mishra's 2016-12-08 article in The Guardian, Welcome to the age of anger.

            What if we wish, instead, to predict the next observation? This is a subtle shift, from:

                 A. What best explains a given sequence of observations?
                 ↓
                 B. Where does a given sequence of observations most likely point?
            (Luke Breuer's Phil.SE answer)

            LB: An instrument which can only do A. is very different from an instrument which can do B. True, or false?

            GHF: Yes. One is backward looking the other is forward looking. Zeus seems to be backwards looking, which is why belief in Zeuses have had no significant pragmatic effect on understanding B. Zeus offers no explanatory value on how to predict the future. It wasn't until humans stopped looking at authority as evidence, but instead used their power of observation were humans ever able to do B with any sort of pragmatic effect.

            I like your first two sentences. For some values of 'Zeus', I agree with your second and third. I don't know what to think of your last, as the RCC funded plenty of scientific research and today, scientists have to rely on an incredible amount of scientific authority because there simply isn't time to examine everything for themselves. It sounds like you might have a very caricatured understanding of the Galileo affair, instead of knowing about Augustine's comments on that kind of topic and Cardinal Bellarmine's application of Augustine to Galileo's research. There is most definitely a bad kind of authority, but there are other kinds of authority which ensure that the instrument with which we measure reality remains stable for long enough to make measurements which can be meaningfully combined and analyzed as a unit.

            GHF: If your god is unchanging then it would only make sense for him to continue creating more and more universes. Whatever the reason for him creating one universe, would be unchanging and not "fulfilled' by the creation of our universe.

            In fact, why would a perfect being have a reason or need to create a universe in the first place?

            GHF: My opening claim did not reference personhood.

            What [relevant] options are there other than:

                 (1) "god" is a mechanism
                 (2) "god" is a person

            ? Here, 'person' ≠ 'human'. Among other things, 'personhood' means the ability to pursue goals amidst changing conditions.

            Unchanging means the motivation or cause to produce 1 universe would not change. Therefore this non-human entity would continue creating more universes unless s/he changed or ceased to be.

            Sorry, but this seems like a very mechanistic portrayal of "god". Why can't God focus on developing the universe God created? I see no reason for God to change in order to have this as God's goal.

            For the record, I don't have much of a stance on whether God has created other universes. Instead, I am curious as to why you are so insistent that the "god" under discussion would have to, in order to be 'unchanging'.

          • God Hates Faith

            If you'll allow the underlined clarification, this appears contradicted by a later exchange:

            Earlier I was not referring to all deities. Later you asked to avoid unnecessary duplication, so I acquiesced. So, no contradiction based on the timeline.

            You seem insistent on the idea that any deity we discuss is as likely to be made up as Zeus, which we probably both agree is no more than 0.0000001% likely, and probably quite a bit less.

            I easily could argue that. But that is not the argument I am making. You asked for simplification of terms, I acquiesced. If you want to retract that request, I am happy referring to deities by their names or "X" or "invisible friend" etc.

            Let's do this!

            I don't need to demonstrate bias to seek to avoid it. So, we agree on referring to all deities as Zeus for simplicity and to avoid any potential bias?

            LB: An instrument cannot detect anything which is not "like [it] in some way".

            LB: In order for A to interact with B, there must be some way for them to interact and I would say that way constitutes "like [it] in some way". Can you think of an exception?

            First, you change the criteria from "detect" to "interact". Second, an exception would be, if we are able to make a tool which can detect what we cannot.
            Third, an all-powerful Zeus would have the power of making itself detectable to something he is unlike in any way.

            Are there any studies or thinking on whether rigorously obeying Ockham's razor might lead to limitations on one's epistemology—say, inability to see that there is more to reality than what your epistemology currently permits?

            It's interesting that you appeal to Ockham's razor and Godel when it suits your needs, but run away from it when it doesn't.

            I am not suggesting we MUST obey Ockham's razor. I am suggesting you have not made a compelling case why we should include additional presuppositions (including the biggest presupposition of all, Zeus). So, a good place to START is with the fewest assumptions. If we don't get anywhere from this start, we can slowly add presuppositions as necessary.

            LB: I don't know an answer other than to measure by long-term pragmatic effectiveness.

            GHF: So, the longest lasting or strongest culture, would be evidence in favor of their theistic beliefs? If not, what evidence would you consider in determining what is "pragmatic effectiveness"?

            LB: In other words: pragmatic effectiveness is never a guarantee that you haven't latched onto a model of reality that works well enough for now, but is actually false.

            So, pragmatic effectiveness is not a good measurement?

            scientists have to rely on an incredible amount of scientific authority because there simply isn't time to examine everything for themselves.

            I strongly disagree that it is considered scientific "authority". Expertise is not authority. Anyone can overturn any scientific discovery at any time (with evidence).

            There is most definitely a bad kind of authority, but there are other kinds of authority which ensure that the instrument with which we measure reality remains stable for long enough to make measurements which can be meaningfully combined and analyzed as a unit.

            For example?

            What [relevant] options are there other than:

            (3) Zeus is a non-person "being".
            (4) Zeus is a legion of "entities".
            (5) Zeus is indescribable.

            I could go on...

            Why can't God focus on developing the universe God created?

            So Zeus must choose between developing this universe and creating more? I guess Zeus has limited power...

            Regardless, that is not a rebuttal to my claim that unchanging means the motivation to produce one universe would not change.

          • Earlier I was not referring to all deities. Later you asked to avoid unnecessary duplication, so I acquiesced. So, no contradiction based on the timeline.

            Ok, whatever. If you choose 'Zeus', knowing that I do not believe Zeus exists, you will admit that you require semantic help for your argument to work. If you choose 'God', knowing that I will give considerable flexibility to that term, then you will prove that you think you have a strong argument. I will let you choose. Remember that you're talking to me, so any baggage you think others would bring with the term 'God' is simply 100% irrelevant to this conversation.

            So, we agree on referring to all deities as Zeus for simplicity and to avoid any potential bias?

            We can use the term 'Zeus', but only with the understanding I laid out, above. There is obvious bias in the choice of that term. It's glaringly obvious.

            LB: An instrument cannot detect anything which is not "like [it] in some way".

            LB: In order for A to interact with B, there must be some way for them to interact and I would say that way constitutes "like [it] in some way". Can you think of an exception?

            GHF: First, you change the criteria from "detect" to "interact". Second, an exception would be, if we are able to make a tool which can detect what we cannot.
            Third, an all-powerful Zeus would have the power of making itself detectable to something he is unlike in any way.

            (1) What kind of 'detect' are you thinking of which does not presuppose 'interact'?

            (2) A tool which detects what we cannot will translate from what we cannot detect to what we can detect, and it will do so according to theory which will become a part of our processing of the measurements of that tool, rather like a dentist ceases to think about the tool for probing teeth and "feels" the teeth with the tool as a kind of automatic extension of his/her hand.

            (3) I don't see this as necessarily following. If a key part of interaction of separate beings is that they freely let the other exist in each other's mind, then the free refusal is all it takes to keep things from working. Going a step further, maybe I have to make active guesses about what the other person thinks and wants, guesses which paint the Other in a good light rather than bad light. Then [s]he can do the same for me. Maybe this is what truly good relationships look like?

            It's interesting that you appeal to Ockham's razor and Godel when it suits your needs, but run away from it when it doesn't.

            Sorry, but precisely what are you characterizing as "run away"? My A. → B. can be accomplished by a single step away from Ockham's razor; surely you aren't characterizing that as "run away"? As to Gödel's incompleteness theorems, where am I running away from those? Specifics, please!

            I am NOT suggesting we must obey Ockham's razor. I am suggesting you have not made a compelling case why we should include additional presuppositions (including the biggest presupposition of all, Zeus). So, a good place to START is with the fewest assumptions. If we don't get anywhere from this start, we can slowly add presuppositions as necessary.

            Scientists who presuppose that they will find a theory of everything are presupposing two things: (i) that reality is more orderly than it currently appears; (ii) that humans are capable of comprehending that order. Is that "the biggest presupposition of all", second to Zeus? Because when I presuppose that God exists, I'm doing something similar to presupposing that a ToE is accessible, except that I understand it in a moral/​ethical sense instead of merely an empirical sense.

            I don't see where I am refusing to be careful like you describe. My A. → B. reasoning seems pretty careful; do you disagree? Perhaps it would be helpful for you to show where you have personally had to violate Ockham's razor.

            So, pragmatic effectiveness is not a good measurement?

            It is necessary but not sufficient. (And the 'necessary' can experience serious delays, like modern atomism did and perhaps like string theory is doing.) I don't really know what would be sufficient. I'm inclined to think that reality can always through us curve balls. Moreover, it won't always give us ultraviolet catastrophes—we may have to be more proactive and explore things like quantum non-equilibrium or Time Reborn.

            LB: scientists have to rely on an incredible amount of scientific authority because there simply isn't time to examine everything for themselves.

            GHF: I strongly disagree that it is considered scientific "authority". Expertise is not authority. Anyone can overturn any scientific discovery at any time (with evidence).

            Martin Luther also argued with authority. Remember that if we exclude the moral/​ethical/​value domain and pretend that all can be adjudicated like science can be adjudicated, our reasoning cannot translate to a domain absolutely critical for humans to deal with the full problems facing them in the 21st century.

            LB: There is most definitely a bad kind of authority, but there are other kinds of authority which ensure that the instrument with which we measure reality remains stable for long enough to make measurements which can be meaningfully combined and analyzed as a unit.

            GHF: For example?

            The Tanakh records generations-long trends which are critical for thinking seriously about such things. (It demonstrates various methods and presents results—make of them what you will.) We are starting to see that in a few areas, for example:

                 • After Virtue
                 • The Passions and the Interests
                 • The Unintended Reformation

            However, it is still shockingly rare. It's like we humans still think that the only things that really matter, for taking the next steps into the future, are generally just the last 5–50 years. But the more we heed critical historicism and are careful to analyze earlier times in non-anachronistic ways, we get that stability required to obtain comparable results.

            LB: What [relevant] options are there other than:

                 (1) "god" is a mechanism
                 (2) "god" is a person

            ? Here, 'person' ≠ 'human'. Among other things, 'personhood' means the ability to pursue goals amidst changing conditions.

            GHF:
                 (3) Zeus is a non-person "being".
                 (4) Zeus is a legion of "entities".
                 (5) Zeus is indescribable.

            I could go on...

            (a) What is the difference between (1) and (3)?

            (b) How does (4) or (5) provide superior understanding of the phenomena or ability to navigate reality?

            (c) What is a (6) which would produce superior understanding of the phenomena or ability to navigate reality?

            So Zeus must choose between developing this universe and creating more? I guess Zeus has limited power...

            Regardless, that is not a rebuttal to my claim that unchanging means the motivation to produce one universe would not change.

            Sorry, but you seem to be treating 'unchanging' as necessitating 'mechanism', and I see absolutely no reason to do so.

          • God Hates Faith

            We can use the term 'Zeus', but only with the understanding I laid out, above.

            I don't agree. If you can only engage in an intellectual exercise of deities using magic words, then your bias is too great for us to continue.

            (1) What kind of 'detect' are you thinking of which does not presuppose 'interact'?

            I think it is fascinating how when I highlight errors or fallacies you make, you try to hide your mistake. Which goalpost do you want to use???

            2) A tool which detects what we cannot will translate from what we cannot detect to what we can detect

            Excellent! You agree a tool can help us detect something that is not like us.

            (3) I don't see this as necessarily following. If a key part of interaction of separate beings is that they freely let the other exist in each other's mind, then the free refusal is all it takes to keep things from working.

            So, an all-powerful Zeus does not have to power to make itself detectable, even to those who don't want to detect him? The sun makes itself detectable, without stealing anyone's freedom of belief. Maybe that is why the sun was worshiped as a deity, long before your invisible friend.

            Sorry, but precisely what are you characterizing as "run away"?

            You used Ockham's razor to make your own point. But when I use it my point, you challenge the concept. That is "running away" at best, and "hypocrisy" at worst.

            Scientists who presuppose that they will find a theory of everything are presupposing two things

            I don't care about the theory of everything. Why are you bringing it up? To distract from your terrible reasoning, or make yourself feel better that presupposing Zeus is okay?

            My A. → B. reasoning seems pretty careful; do you disagree?

            We disagree about whether we should presuppose your invisible friend Zeus.

            I don't really know what would be sufficient.

            So, there is no reliable epistemology in this context. And, your the one criteria you outlined could also show up when there are false theistic beliefs. That must cause you considerable pause in your beliefs.

            Martin Luther also argued with authority.

            And replaced it with his own Sola Scriptura.

            Remember that if we exclude the moral/​ethical/​value domain

            We were talking about whether there is any authority in science, and suddenly you want to change the subject when I show you are wrong... I never said we should exclude talking about moral instincts.

            LB: There is most definitely a bad kind of authority, but there are other kinds of authority which ensure that the instrument with which we measure reality remains stable for long enough to make measurements which can be meaningfully combined and analyzed as a unit.

            LB: The Tanakh records generations-long trends which are critical for thinking seriously about such things.

            That is not authority. Those are stories (some completely made up like the Exodus story). Additionally, is not unique when one considers the non-unique morality that is a (a) borrowed from surrounding cultures (b) obviously a product of its time, that couldn't even list in its 10 commandments "Thou shall not own another human being"!

            (a) What is the difference between (1) and (3)?

            Are we still talking about whether Zeus is a person? Seem like you are again trying to hide from your original claim by changing subjects...

            A "non-person being" isn't by definition indescribable.

            (b) How does (4) or (5) provide superior understanding of the phenomena or ability to navigate reality?

            How does any claim about Zeus provide a superior understanding of reality? As long as we are defining deities into existence, why stop at one imaginary friend?

            (c) What is a (6) which would produce superior understanding of the phenomena or ability to navigate reality?

            Zeus is a story.

            Sorry, but you seem to be treating 'unchanging' as necessitating 'mechanism', and I see absolutely no reason to do so.

            Sorry, but you seem to be treating unchanging, as changing to pretend that there isn't an inherent contradiction in your conception of your invisible friend.

          • Your tone has taken a distinctive turn for the adversarial; did you sense anything like that intensity in my reply?

            LB: If you choose 'Zeus', knowing that I do not believe Zeus exists, you will admit that you require semantic help for your argument to work. If you choose 'God', knowing that I will give considerable flexibility to that term, then you will prove that you think you have a strong argument.

            We can use the term 'Zeus', but only with the understanding I laid out, above. There is obvious bias in the choice of that term. It's glaringly obvious.

            GHF: I don't agree. If you can only engage in an intellectual exercise of deities using magic words, then your bias is too great for us to continue.

            Ah, I think I'm ok if you will admit it is only you who think that 'God' is a magic word. After all, I don't think I've provided a shred of evidence which can be construed that way. If you aren't ok with this condition, then I have another suggestion: we could use θεός / theos. (capitalization note) If you aren't ok either of the above, then I may just choose to discontinue any aspect of a discussion where you insist on using the term 'Zeus'. I believe I'm being reasonable; feel free to argue using evidence & reason that I'm not.

            LB: An instrument cannot detect anything which is not "like [it] in some way".

            LB: In order for A to interact with B, there must be some way for them to interact and I would say that way constitutes "like [it] in some way". Can you think of an exception?

            GHF: First, you change the criteria from "detect" to "interact". Second, an exception would be, if we are able to make a tool which can detect what we cannot.
            Third, an all-powerful Zeus would have the power of making itself detectable to something he is unlike in any way.

            LB: (1) What kind of 'detect' are you thinking of which does not presuppose 'interact'?

            GHF: I think it is fascinating how when I highlight errors or fallacies you make, you try to hide your mistake. Which goalpost do you want to use???

            You failed to provide an instance of detection that does not require interaction. It is therefore not an error to move from 'detection' to 'interaction'—the latter is actually a weaker term, because it does not include the sense of 'conscious recognition' which the former has.

            Excellent! You agree a tool can help us detect something that is not like us.

            Maybe; is a scientist armed with the correct theory and a Geiger counter "not like" ionizing radiation? If you aren't careful, the self is "not like" the hands and arms [s]he uses to explore so much of reality. So I suspect there is some important nuance, here.

            GHF: Third, an all-powerful Zeus would have the power of making itself detectable to something he is unlike in any way.

            LB: (3) I don't see this as necessarily following. If a key part of interaction of separate beings is that they freely let the other exist in each other's mind, then the free refusal is all it takes to keep things from working. Going a step further, maybe I have to make active guesses about what the other person thinks and wants, guesses which paint the Other in a good light rather than bad light. Then [s]he can do the same for me. Maybe this is what truly good relationships look like?

            GHF: So, an all-powerful Zeus does not have to power to make itself detectable, even to those who don't want to detect him? The sun makes itself detectable, without stealing anyone's freedom of belief. Maybe that is why the sun was worshiped as a deity, long before your invisible friend.

            We have a story of "make itself[/​himself/​herself] detectable" in Ex 19:16–20:21, with the end result being a cry by the masses of "Keep it at a distance!" The subsequent narratives argue that exceedingly few people properly understood the being there revealed. When Jesus allegedly started his public ministry, exactly two individuals are recorded as recognizing him for who he was. So, there is a claim here that "makes itself detectable" is of arbitrarily little use. Any wife who says her husband never really understood her will understand this through and through.

            Another way to look at this is that the mere appearance of the Sun to the naked eye (i) does not require us to develop much of any ontology; (ii) permits worship of it as a deity. Modern science is distinguished from ancient worship in having exceedingly articulate ontology, as well as a rigorous, intersubjective, methods-based epistemology. It is our willingness to theorize about the unobservable in ways that can be empirically tested, which allows us to be so powerful. Arguably, it was non-empirical theorizing about omnipotence which helped us develop the ability to hypothesize about 'counterfactual orders of nature'.[1]

            I claim that what is at issue here is alignment of will, not perceptual commonality. A wonderful little experiment which distinguishes these is The seriously creepy "two-kitten experiment". Two kittens are given identical cages; a harness on one is linked to a gimballed mechanism containing the other in a basket, so that the field of view of the two kittens would stay synchronized. You can probably imagine that the immobilized kitten had developmental issues in comparison to the harnessed kitten. If θεός is interested in shaping our wills, that imposes constraints which IIRC you have not acknowledged.

            GHF: It seems more reasonable to start with the fewest assumptions possible. (i.e. Occam's razor)

            LB: Are there any studies or thinking on whether rigorously obeying Ockham's razor might lead to limitations on one's epistemology—say, inability to see that there is more to reality than what your epistemology currently permits? I tried to get at this matter in my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being?.

            GHF: It's interesting that you appeal to Ockham's razor and Godel when it suits your needs, but run away from it when it doesn't.

            I am NOT suggesting we must obey Ockham's razor. I am suggesting you have not made a compelling case why we should include additional presuppositions (including the biggest presupposition of all, Zeus). So, a good place to START is with the fewest assumptions. If we don't get anywhere from this start, we can slowly add presuppositions as necessary.

            LB: Sorry, but precisely what are you characterizing as "run away"? My A. → B. can be accomplished by a single step away from Ockham's razor; surely you aren't characterizing that as "run away"? As to Gödel's incompleteness theorems, where am I running away from those? Specifics, please!

            GHF: You used Ockham's razor to make your own point. But when I use it for my point, you challenge the concept. That is "running away" at best, and "hypocrisy" at worst.

            I asked for specifics and you did not provide them. What I'm trying to explore here is the difference between rigorously obeying Ockham's razor, and taking one or two steps away. I wasn't imputing to you a view that "we must obey Ockham's razor". Instead, I'm trying to explore how futzing with it a bit might impact one's epistemology/​ontology. I really don't understand your attacks on my intellectual character here; nothing I said was meant as an attack on yours.

            I don't care about the theory of everything. Why are you bringing it up? To distract from your terrible reasoning, or make yourself feel better that presupposing Zeus is okay?

            It was an attempt to explore your "So, a good place to START is with the fewest assumptions.", putting it to use in a real context. As to your "presupposing Zeus", that is directly contradicted by my saying "knowing that I do not believe Zeus exists". I think each of us should be granted the dignity to choose that words that [s]he thinks best describes what [s]he believes; do you disagree?

            LB: My A. → B. reasoning seems pretty careful; do you disagree?

            GHF: We disagree about whether we should presuppose your invisible friend Zeus.

            Can you explain more how you get from { my A. → B. reasoning } → { "presuppose your invisible friend Zeus" } ? That seems like a giant leap, not a small step. My A. → B. reasoning merely need presuppose that reality is more complicated than we are currently modeling; mere induction suggests this is likely. I don't see how I'm being any less epistemologically reasonable than those who presuppose that there is more order to reality than we currently know how to describe.

            GHF: So, the longest lasting or strongest culture, would be evidence in favor of their theistic beliefs? If not, what evidence would you consider in determining what is "pragmatic effectiveness"?

            LB: The possession of truth implies pragmatic effectiveness, but pragmatic effectiveness does not imply possession of truth. …

            In other words: pragmatic effectiveness is never a guarantee that you haven't latched onto a model of reality that works well enough for now, but is actually false. …

            GHF: So, pragmatic effectiveness is not a good measurement?

            LB: It is necessary but not sufficient. (And the 'necessary' can experience serious delays, like modern atomism did and perhaps like string theory is doing.) I don't really know what would be sufficient. I'm inclined to think that reality can always through us curve balls. Moreover, it won't always give us ultraviolet catastrophes—we may have to be more proactive and explore things like quantum non-equilibrium or Time Reborn.

            GHF: So, there is no reliable epistemology in this context. And, the one criteria you outlined could also show up when there are false theistic beliefs. That must cause you considerable pause in your beliefs.

            Erm, your definition of 'reliable' seems 100% dependent upon 'pragmatic effectiveness'. I seek a better epistemology than a merely 'reliable' one. I have discussed elsewhere that 'reliable' seems to depend on 'will', with 'will' being arbitrarily pathetically small. Pick a small enough 'will' and Ptolemaic astronomy will do the trick. Pick a bigger 'will' and all of a sudden there is a problem: can one's epistemology support it? If we're only supposed to reason based on "the facts", then a dangerous Catch-22 arises! I am very wary of imprisoning ourselves with bars which cannot be seen, tasted, touched, heard, or smelled.

            LB: scientists have to rely on an incredible amount of scientific authority because there simply isn't time to examine everything for themselves.

            GHF: I strongly disagree that it is considered scientific "authority". Expertise is not authority. Anyone can overturn any scientific discovery at any time (with evidence).

            LB: Martin Luther also argued with authority. →

            GHF: And replaced it with his own Sola Scriptura.

            So? I gave you an example of overturning previous authority in Christianity. You seemed to want to restrict that to happening only within science. Your "Anyone can overturn any scientific discovery at any time (with evidence)." is of rather dubious value, given that gathering evidence can be very hard if the people with money and relational connections do not believe such gathering will be fruitful. I know: I'm married to a scientist whose research proposal (for a faculty position) was turned down because it was "too risky". A single year later, scientists are talking about her proposed ideas as if they're naturally good topics for study. My wife and I had our faces brutally mashed into this evidence, GHF. Authority matters very much in science, for it controls how resources are allocated. People can be ground up by the scientific enterprise just like religion can grind up people. Did you know that probably fewer than 10% of postdoctoral students get faculty appointments?

            LB: ← Remember that if we exclude the moral/​ethical/​value domain and pretend that all can be adjudicated like science can be adjudicated, our reasoning cannot translate to a domain absolutely critical for humans to deal with the full problems facing them in the 21st century.

            GHF: We were talking about whether there is any authority in science, and suddenly you want to change the subject when I show you are wrong... I never said we should exclude talking about moral instincts.

            Comparing Christianity to science is somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison. This matters when one compares & contrasts 'authority' in the two institutions. Agree, or disagree?

            That is not authority.

            To make intergenerational observations which can be properly compared, they must be collected in the same way, or according to methods where the results can be normalized. (We see such normalization with temperature data collected in various ways.) This means that we must maintain something constant, throughout the intergenerational observation process. If we don't—if our epistemology keeps changing and we don't track the underlying constancy—then all of a sudden the different observations cannot be properly combined. I am connecting this constancy with 'authority'. The 'authorities' over the course of such observation-collection would have to ensure that any epistemological (or ontological) change be properly connected to what came before, so that all the observations can be normalized before being analyzed.

            LB: What [relevant] options are there other than:

                 (1) "god" is a mechanism
                 (2) "god" is a person

            ? Here, 'person' ≠ 'human'. Among other things, 'personhood' means the ability to pursue goals amidst changing conditions.

            GHF:
                 (3) Zeus is a non-person "being".
                 (4) Zeus is a legion of "entities".
                 (5) Zeus is indescribable.

            I could go on...

            LB: (a) What is the difference between (1) and (3)?

            GHF: Are we still talking about whether Zeus is a person? Seems like you are again trying to hide from your original claim by changing subjects...

            How does attempting to distinguish:

                 (1′) mechanism
                 (3′) non-person "Being"

            constitute "changing subjects"? The topic here is how θεός could be 'unchanging' and what is entailed by 'unchanging'.

            LB: (b) How does (4) or (5) provide superior understanding of the phenomena or ability to navigate reality?

            GHF: How does any claim about Zeus provide a superior understanding of reality? As long as we are defining deities into existence, why stop at one imaginary friend?

            To your first question, see this comment to stoke your imagination. Your second question is answered by my own question: "provide superior understanding of the phenomena or ability to navigate reality".

                 (6) Zeus is a story.

            Good, we're getting a nice list going. Is there a (7)? I'm aiming for an exhaustive list. For your (6), what what would falsify it, in the same sense that evidence better described by F = GmM/r^2.0001 would falsify F = GmM/r^2? That is, what is the tiniest deviation from what is well-described by (6) you are able to imagine, which would cast (6) into doubt?

            Sorry, but you seem to be treating "unchanging" as "changing", to pretend that there isn't an inherent contradiction in your conception of your invisible friend. Sorry you defined your invisible friend to be so mechanistic.

            This is an insult / bare assertion and not an argument, so there's nothing to address.

          • God Hates Faith

            Your tone has taken a distinctive turn for the adversarial

            I was probably in a bad mood at the time. I'm human ; )

            If you aren't ok with this condition, then I have another suggestion: we could use θεός / theos.

            Its probably easiest if I refer to deities using terms I prefer, and you do the same (as long as we know we are referring to a deity).

            As you stated later: "I think each of us should be granted the dignity to choose that words that [s]he thinks best describes what [s]he believes..."

            Maybe; is a scientist armed with the correct theory and a Geiger counter "not like" ionizing radiation?

            No. Being able to detect X, does not necessarily make us "like" X.

            We have a story of "make itself[/​himself/​herself] detectable" in Ex 19:16–20:21

            We have lots of STORIES. But no reliable evidence.

            When Jesus allegedly started his public ministry, exactly two individuals are recorded as recognizing him for who he was. So, there is a claim here that "makes itself detectable" is of arbitrarily little use.

            Did you recognize David Koresh as a Savior when he started his ministry? Perhaps that is because he just appeared as a human to you (and/or wasn't a Savior).

            I claim that what is at issue here is alignment of will, not perceptual commonality.

            You are confusing "being convinced" with being detectable (by providing ANY evidence). I am not convinced the sun is a deity, but at least I can detect the sun! Of the vast spectrum of evidence which this deity could provide, NO reliable evidence has been provided.

            Most deity claims (including claims about Jesus) were that s/he performed miracles. So, if your argument that a deity could not be detectable, lest it violate free will, a deity would not perform miracles otherwise it would violate free will. Also, isn't it convenient that when most deities performed miracles, it was hard to verify these claims (and these type of claims were rampant across religions)?

            What I'm trying to explore here is the difference between rigorously obeying Ockham's razor, and taking one or two steps away

            Making a presupposition about a deity is about a BILLION steps away, not one or two steps away. So, would claiming that A to B can be connected with invisible fairies. Better to start with few assumptions when starting with intellectual inquiry or creating a reliable epistemology.

            Can you explain more how you get from { my A. → B. reasoning } → { "presuppose your invisible friend Zeus" } ?

            You wanted to presuppose your deity. I pushed back that we should start with fewer assumptions, and highlighted Ockham's razor.

            My A. → B. reasoning merely need presuppose that reality is more complicated than we are currently modeling; mere induction suggests this is likely.

            If your A. → B reasoning was simply, "I don't know" (its complicated) then we would agree (in many instances). We know the earth is not flat. We know about the germ theory of disease (despite Christian Scientists who claim A. → B is not satisfied because they believe disease is caused by sin). We may not agree on what consciousness is, or how to describe it. But we may agree there is a lot more we can learn. However, if you make a presupposition that there is something supernatural about consciousness, then the burden would be on you to satisfy that claim. Just like the burden is on the Christian Scientist to show how disease is caused by sin.

            Erm, your definition of 'reliable' seems 100% dependent upon 'pragmatic effectiveness'.

            Pragmatic effectiveness was the criteria YOU provided.

            I have discussed elsewhere that 'reliable' seems to depend on 'will', with 'will' being arbitrarily pathetically small. Pick a small enough 'will' and Ptolemaic astronomy will do the trick. Pick a bigger 'will' and all of a sudden there is a problem: can one's epistemology support it?

            I don't understand what you mean by this.

            If we're only supposed to reason based on "the facts", then a dangerous Catch-22 arises! I am very wary of imprisoning ourselves with bars which cannot be seen, tasted, touched, heard, or smelled.

            I am very wary of what happens when we can reason based on feelings and pretend stuff exists that cannot be verified via reliable means. History has shown us that humans tend to misunderstand correlation and causation and make stuff up, before this "cage of reason" existed. We locked out a bunch of superstition.

            So? I gave you an example of overturning previous authority in Christianity. You seemed to want to restrict that to happening only within science.

            Luther didn't overturn the previous authority. He created a new one to compete.

            Your "Anyone can overturn any scientific discovery at any time (with evidence)." is of rather dubious value

            I didn't say it was always easy. Just that the barrier is MUCH lower than overturning religious authority (which doesn't occur, since disagreements lead to schisms, not new knowledge).

            Authority matters very much in science, for it controls how resources are allocated.

            Your examples are not evidence of authority. You example shows that resources are limited, and those with resources have a process to determine how to spend their resources, which creates winners and losers.

            I am connecting this constancy with 'authority'. The 'authorities' over the course of such observation-collection would have to ensure that any epistemological (or ontological) change be properly connected to what came before, so that all the observations can be normalized before being analyzed.

            An intersubjective system of measurement could provide this, such as the metric system. However, it still wouldn't be "authority". I am guess you think the Bible does this, even though each author uses his own measuring stick. and often contradicts a previous author.

            The topic here is how θεός could be 'unchanging' and what is entailed by 'unchanging'

            So, you are no longer arguing about personhood in the context of this deity?

            GHF: How does any claim about Zeus provide a superior understanding of reality? As long as we are defining deities into existence, why stop at one imaginary friend?

            To your first question, see this comment to stoke your imagination.

            So, stories with moral guidance = superior understanding of reality? How is that related to claims about Zeus? Simply saying "Zeus says X" doesn't mean those stories are more than just someone's opinion on a social/moral issue.

            For your (6), what what would falsify it

            The same thing that would falsify 1- 5...EVIDENCE.
            Sadly there is no evidence that can falsify claims about Zeus, since Zeus is a non-falsifiable concept.

            This is an insult / bare assertion and not an argument, so there's nothing to address.

            We disagree what "unchanging" means. I say it means NEVER changing. If you want to call that mechanistic, so be it. I didn't define this deity into existence.

  • Ficino

    This seems as though it might be relevant for someone, maybe for more than one...

    "u nun 'o saie ca'nfin'int' a na chiesa
    Io so' trasuto e aggio priato a Dio, Catari
    E l'aggio ditto pure a 'o cunfessore
    I' sto a fuffrì
    Pe' chella llа
    Sto a suffrì
    Sto a suffrì, nun se po' credere
    Sto a suffrì tutte li strazie
    E 'o cunfessore ch'è persona santa
    M'ha ditto: figlio mio, lassala stà, lassala stà
    Core, core 'ngrato
    T'aie pigliato 'a vita mia
    Tutt'è passato
    E nun'ce pienze cchiu"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WckRfWe40J0

  • Phil Tanny

    Ok, good news everyone, I finally figured it out. YES!

    In order for this site to be rational, intellectually honest, medically accurate, and in compliance with all truth in advertising laws laid down by the European Union, it needs a slight name adjustment. And so, by the powers vested in me as a self appointed holy man of the highest possible spiritual attainment, I hereby rename this site....

    Strange Noggins

    Hereafter please refer to all posts as "Noggin Noise" and all posters as "Noggin Nuts". If you agree with this policy change, you are a nodding noggin, and if you disagree you are nana nopey noggin. And please note as well, this noggin noise would be hilarious if it wasn't so close to the truth.

  • michael

    Readers: What would it take to get you seriously questioning your religion? Don't say "Nothing" since that would imply you believe for no reason, and don't say "Strong enough evidence to change my mind" since that's 100% vague.

    • Phil Tanny

      You might be able to answer this yourself, given that your posts seem to mimic the mindset of some of the most ardent theists.

    • Mark

      My religion is what I "rechose" after I had left it for mostly apathetic and selfish reasons. I had a sort of "moral reckoning". For me I had to justify morality even exists and if so how is it determined. For if materialism is true then the social constructs of morality are as imaginary as the God of theist religion. So first I came to decide what is more rational: the classical God of theism or materialism? I can say that most people never spend 1% of the time I spent trying to answer that question. I can confidently say, even if I wasn't Catholic I'd be a Deist. Catholics are the most rational of any religion I've met. In Her I found a treasure of truth in knowledge about things that I'm guessing you'd describe as evolutionary social constructs. The former is binding (for me at least as a Catholic), the latter is what you decide personally (I tried that and wasn't very "good" at it).

      • michael

        So you need a malfeasant deity to tell you rape is wrong instead of figuring it out with your own intellect. Swell.

        • Mark

          You assume the antecedents of your own cultural norms. When western civilization came to the new world rape, sexual slavery, human sacrifice, murder, torture, slavery, and cannibalism were all cultural norms and moral by various indigenous peoples.

          • michael

            But what if God told you to rape?

          • Jim the Scott

            What if you for once in yer life asked a sensible question?

          • michael

            That's not an answer.

          • Jim the Scott

            Why should anybody answer a stupid question?

          • michael

            That's describes a lack of attention to morality in a culture, not a culture doing things they consider moral.

      • michael

        Is there nay order that, if god gave it to oyu, you would say, "NO, That's WRONG!"

        • Mark

          I disagree with the premise. God can't order a immoral act. He is not a moral agent. If you were Catholic, you should know that.

          • michael
          • Jim the Scott

            @disqus_Tp4SsRBXFl:disqus

            Mark I have only told Michael hundreds of times God is not a moral agent but he can't or won't think of God as anything other than some anthropomorphic Theistic Personalist "deity".

            He is full of crap at this point. Repeating to you the same nonsense I have blown appart a dozen times. He needs to find a nice message board filled with Young Earth Creationist fundamentalist Protestants who believe in Theodicies. There his non-starter arguments would thrive. But he can't even take that obviously correct advice.

          • michael

            I don't worship thosewho say they are above the law.

          • Jim the Scott

            Who cares? This issue here is yer disengenous polemics. Why do you refuse to make an argument against the God we believe in & keep boring the poop out of us polemicing the "god" you wished we believed in?

            Really dude ANSWERS IN GENESIS is over there. Knock yerself out.

          • michael

            Because your arguments are submissive, sycophantic nonsense. NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW!

          • Jim the Scott

            God is Law Itself so how is He above Himself and how is claiming He is above Himself coherent? Can the Law break the Law?

            Mike I am serious. Yer horse crap low brow Richard Dawkins level polemics would absolutely Kill over at ANSWERS IN GENESIS. They are meaningless here. Stay in yer own lane son.

            >NO ONE IS ABOVE......

            God is not "ONE" of us. Now what? Alanis Morissette is wrong even if it is a catchy song.

          • michael

            He ought to be judged and acquitted by human standards, otherwise I won't bother to respect him

          • Jim the Scott

            Which is irrational and unjust by nature. God is not human or any type of creature or a being which is an irreducible composite of essence and being.
            Mike you are what Atheist Philosopher Dave Stove called an irrationalist.
            You can't even read intelligent Atheists. Only idiots who make stupid U toob videos that can't go beyond Theistic Personalism and Fundamentalism.

          • michael

            Not being a human or created does not exempt him from blame for rapes, etc. that he refuses to prevent.

          • Jim the Scott

            It pretty much does. It like saying "The Divine Essence has to wear paints and shoes or He gets no service in this establishment". Yeh the divine essence is not a physical thing that can wear paints or shoes or be seen in them. So such a rule is absurd. Also the divine essence is not a moral agent with obligations to His Creatures and cannot coherently be conceived as such.
            So blaming Him for not preventing other rational being from harming other rational beings is absurd.

          • michael

            The divine essence might not have legs or feet, but he would have power to prevent rapes. So saying it's absurd to blame him would be like saying a cop who sits by and let's a bank get robbed while having the means to stop it isn't to blame for the robbery, moral agent or not, since he had the means to stop it, unlike the legless, footless being who lacks the means to wear pants and shoes.

          • Jim the Scott

            But He doesn't by nature have the obligation to do so anymore than by nature he has the ability to wear shoes . If God stops a rape He does it as a gratuitous act of goodness not an obligatory one. It wouldbe the obligation that would have to compel Him the Power is only secondary. Gratuitous acts of goodness by definition are no obligatory.

            > So saying it's absurd to blame him would be like saying a cop who sits by and let's a bank get robbed...

            A cop is a moral agent unlike God so yer analogy is invalid.

            No Moral Agent "god" exists. Get over it. This has been explained to you before & you have no intelligent response to it. Only arguments by special pleading.

            Enough of this boo hoo no fair you aren't a Theistic Personalist Fundamentalist.

          • michael

            Then your Thomistic god doesn't deserve my respect, little sheep.

          • Jim the Scott

            My God isn't yer Theistic Personalist Anthopomorphic Magic Man with a white beard "god". But I can't stop you if you want to pretend otherwise.

            Enjoy hating on yer imaginary friend/enemy.

          • michael

            Enjoy being a sycophant.

          • Jim the Scott

            A childish insult from someone's with a small child's conception of God. Grow up son.

          • michael

            So bowing to and respecting the being who created Hell and Cholera doesn't fit the definition of sycophantic? Define sycophantic for me, please. I asked politely.

          • Jim the Scott

            By that definition I am a sycophant for swearing allegiance to a State that sets up a prison system for law breakers.

            I am not going to define sycophant. Yer word games are tedious and yer arguments are pure crap even if there are no gods.

            I tried as hard as I could to shame the crap out of you into getting off yer butt to do some reading and learning. But in the end you have embraced the lowest form of Atheism. Irrationalism.

            If I lost my faith tomorrow I would never do that. I have my pride. You apparently have none.

          • michael

            But our prison system actually serves a useful purpose of deterrence, so thats a false comparison.

          • Jim the Scott

            Then yer argument makes no sense. But I forget this is you.

          • michael

            If my view is that of a child I imagine most catholics are childlike. What percentage of catholics do you think have memorized all 5000 pages of Aquinas' Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics? Or heard of it?

          • Jim the Scott

            What does that have to do with anything? How many Catholics and Atheists have memorized 5000 pages of evolutionary science? BTW it is invalid to believe in the likely truth of evolution.

            Like I said Mike. The Young Earth Creationist Forum is over there. Have at it.

          • michael

            Even if the cop were NOT a moral agent he'd still share in the blame since he could've stopped it but didn't.

          • Jim the Scott

            The Cop being a human being is a moral agent by definition. He cannot be otherwise.

            You cannot morally blame that which is not a moral agent. That is absurd.

          • michael

            Not MORALLY blame, but still blame, since he could've stopped it..

          • Jim the Scott

            That is moral blame. To fail to do one's duty is a moral failure. You are treating God as if He has an obligation or duty to stop these horrors immediately and well He doesn't given His Nature and relation to creation.

            Consider the following valid analogy (note it is an analogy not an unequivocal comparison so don't bore me to death by treating it as such).

            Donald Trump is a moral agent, as a fellow human being & has duties to others but not across the board. For example we can say even thought he has the ability to pay my phone bill & yours with his personal wealth he is not obligated to do so.

            It is not his duty to do so but if he elected to do so we can praise him for his charity and generosity toward us but we could not lay at his feet blame for failing to do so as he has no duty to pay our phone bills. if he elected not to pay my phone bill or yours there can be no blame event thought it is within his ability.

            God by nature across the board has no such duty to grant us immediate relief from evil because He was not required to create us in the first place. God has no duties save to Himself.

            So "blaming" God for failing to stop a particular short term evil is about as meaningful as blaming the weather.

            You really can't accept the indisputable fact that God in the classic sense doesn't required Theodicy since God is not a moral agent in the first place and needs no greater moral justification for failing to stop evil in the short term.

          • michael

            I did not say moral blame. I said blame, period.

          • Jim the Scott

            Then yer use of proper language is incoherent and equivocal.

          • michael

            You can't blame weather because the weather is inanimate and lacks the means to change.

          • Jim the Scott

            You can't blame God for not intervening since God is not a moral agent unequivocally comparable to a created rational moral creature and thus has no obligation to intervene.

            Means of change is not the issue. Obligation is the issue. God is not obligated to intervene ergo he cannot be blamed for not doing His duty.

            The concept of "blame" is a moral concept when attributed to rational agents. You can equivocally "blame" the weather but it is not significant.

            All yer objections are recycled criticisms of theodicies. Classic Theism doesn't need no theodicy compadre.

          • michael

            "God by nature across the board has no such duty to grant us immediate relief from evil because He was not required to create us in the first place. God has no duties save to Himself.". That does'nt make sense or make him less of a big meanie for not preventing crimes.

          • Jim the Scott

            That makes perfect sense if you study the philosophy and familiarize yerself with classic theism and natural theology and make it a point to forget any and all theistic personalist views of God you learned.

            BTW being "Mean" is a moral failing. God is not a moral agent in the first place so....

            Mike I tried in vain to explain all this crap too you before. What good are you son? You don't learn.

            The Young Earth Creationist Answers in Genesis forum is over there buddy. Have at it. Stay in yer lane son.

          • michael

            OK. Name which chapter in which book Aquinas wrote where he uses logical to demonstrate form premise to conclusion why it's Ok to smite people unending torment.

          • Jim the Scott

            Get lost I am threw assigning you books to read that you don't read.
            Also we went over this and Dr. B went over it with you.

            All yer polemics without exception presuppose a moral agent "deity". That is obvious.

          • michael

            Get me reading then: Which book and which chapter did Aquinas objectively demonstrate beyond all possible doubt that it is righteous and also exactly why it is righteous for the damned to be in unfathomable anguish? Where does he explain AND DEMONSTRATE why it'd be wrong for them not be in unfathomable anguish?

          • Jim the Scott

            I told you to read Davies and you didn't do it so smeg off. You STILL think Hell is some Clive Barker film and it is beyond tedious to explain it too you that it isn't.

          • michael

            Does Davies not cite Aquinas? Why not just go straight to the original source? Besides, when bringing up Davies, weren't you talking about "The Mystery of Evil", not damnation?

          • Jim the Scott

            So you don't want to do the homework? I was right. Smeg off!

            Like I said ANSWERS IN GENESIS is over there. Have at them.

          • michael

            I didn't say that, I said I want to do the homework from the original source...

          • Jim the Scott

            More games....

          • michael

            I didn't ask whether or not Hell is a horror movie, I asked where does Aquinas explain form premise to conclusion why it is right for anyone to be in Hell.

          • Jim the Scott

            We already explained it to you. Both Dr. B and myself and you ignored us.

            Again the Young Earth Creationists and Theodicy advocates are over there. Have at them. Stay in yer lane.

          • michael

            "he's not doing what he was designed for/following his nature, so he deserves pain" is a statement, not an explanation. I'm asking for an explanation directly from Aquinas works, with the specific chapters/works named so I can see them, please.

          • Jim the Scott

            So you won't accept an explanation given by Davies or Dr.B or myself but you will only accept it if it is given by Aquinas? But if I found something in Aquinas you would move the goal posts again and demand I produce a text of scripture.

            Really Mike I am tied of yer intellectually dishonest games. We explained to you why punishment is eternal. I am not repeating myself.

          • michael

            Davies' works, unlike Aquinas, are not in public domain or available on the internet to read for free with a push of a few buttons. Aquinas' works are all public domain and readily available free of charge online. Therefore I am not obligated to go and a book to get this information. Please be polite. I am being extremely patient with you and your redneck-style insults. Please, tell me which book and which chapter Aquinas uses logic to demonstrate from premise to conclusion the reason for why "Anyone who doesn't do what they were designed for/follow their nature ought to suffer and it would be wrong if they didn't". Please. I am asking politely. Have I ever called you a smeghead or something?

          • michael

            It's one thing to say something, it's another to demonstrate it.

          • Jim the Scott

            Still more games....

          • michael

            Obligations aren't about who created who. They're about being benevolent and not a malfeasant bully or an accomplice. Morality is about doing what's kindhearted and decent, rather than being about doing what we are created to do. That'd be a slavish, psychopathic view of morality.

          • Jim the Scott

            No morality is about duty and obligation not sentimentality. If you have no duty or obligation to do X you cannot be blamed for not doing X. Any act of doing X therefore is supererogative which are what all of God's good actions toward us are by definition.

          • michael

            Being blameworthy doesn't require being a moral agent. It requires being able to stop an inherently bad thing and deliberately not doing it.

          • Jim the Scott

            Then yer use of the term blame is equivocal and trivial. Like "blaming" the weather or "blaming" a dog for biting me.

          • michael

            I already explained why that's false, weather can't help itself.

          • Jim the Scott

            Yer use of the term "blame" is clearly equivocal. You are trying to make a moral case and you won't own it. We have been down this road before.

            God cannot be morally blamed because He is not a moral agent so blaming God for failing to stop an immediate evil is a trivial objection if it is as you claim not an act of moral blame. Weather applies here because you can blame the weather equivocally but not morally since neither God nor Weather is a moral agent.

      • michael

        How does worshipping being who tortures people forever and who created Ebola and Cholera "make sense" to you?

        • Mark

          straw man

          • michael

            You're saying humans made Ebola? That God doesn't smite people like Isaiah 11:4 says? Or torture them while they tryto get into heaven lie Luke 13:24-25?

      • michael

        How would you react if I, as one who has read The Bible from cover to cover, told you that in The Bible, Jesus does not demonstrate fulfillment of any of the Messianic prophecies found in the Old Testament in his lifetime at all?

        How would you react if I told you I have NEVER understood the non-sequitur claim that "without God, moral facts cannot exist". BTW I was catholic until age 24. I was the person who had to stay quiet in Confirmation class because I already knew so much.

        • Mark

          How would you react if I, as one who has read The Bible from cover to cover, told you that in The Bible, Jesus does not demonstrate fulfillment of any of the Messianic prophecies found in the Old Testament in his lifetime at all?

          I'd be about as surprised as if your told me you had a head on collision driving on the wrong side of the road. That's not how you read the Bible, (NT through the lens of the OT), you read it the other way around: (The OT through the lens of the NT). If you were Catholic, you should know that.

          How would you react if I told you I have NEVER understood the non-sequitur claim that "without God, moral facts cannot exist". BTW I was catholic until age 24. I was the person who had to stay quiet in Confirmation class because I already knew so much.

          I never said "moral facts". That's your term, but I'm curious what that means and how you objectively know them. Second, I teach Confirmation so I'd say not raising questions of the faith to some poor sinner like I volunteering to teach it is either sad, silly, or weak. I want my students to question everything and I trust truth, wherever that leads. There are right ways to question things, the first is that you make sure you understand, to the best of your ability, exactly what is being considered and do so charitably.

          • michael

            By moral facts I mean logically confirmable truths about good and evil behavior.

          • Mark

            What's a good behavior?

          • michael

            For example, not stealing, since the person would lose their stuff and summon the cops on your o ring you to jail, and then no one would get anywhere. Best for everyone including yourself to just get your own stuff.

          • michael

            Also, what's the point of choosing to love God for his own sake, when he already has infinite beatitude regardless of anything we do or fail to do? Seems redundant.

          • Mark

            Again, what is a good or evil behavior? It seems you have an objective source I'm unaware of.

          • michael

            I already answered your question.

          • Mark

            Sorry Michael, you responded twice, and I didn't follow far enough down.

            You gave me the example "not stealing". You're just stating an example of a behavior you believe to be bad. What if stealing was a cultural good to strengthen the undeserved weak? That'd be "best for everyone"; the strong would possess the valuable, the weak would be strengthened or at least not be responsible fore that which is of value.

            I'm not letting you assume the antecedents of your cultural norms like they "just exist". Judeo-Christian cultures view stealing as "bad" because it would be a violation of the ten commandments and individual property rights.

          • michael

            Stealing would still be bad for the ones stolen from, and the thieves would enter get any work done or contribute to society.

          • Mark

            Robin Hood would disagree. You're just picking a moral behavior deeply ingrained into your culture and presenting it as a "fact". It's not a fact and in this particular case is relative at best: one that can even be made "moral" given certain circumstances. You've done nothing to dissuade me from my original point. Actually, I more and more skeptical you even have considered the dilemma.

          • michael

            In the actual Robin Story is nt truly stealing, just taking back stolen wealth and returning it to the victims.

          • Mark

            Now you've taken a moral behavior you think is a "fact" and made it more relative. Stealing is only this (for you). For the sake of charity, I'd let you define it to the narrowest of ways, but you'd still have a behavior you haven't demonstrated is a logical moral "fact". Taking something that is "not yours" is an injustice in your society. It presumes ownership, which is a social contract/construct, not a moral "fact". The grand irony is your society operates on property stolen from indigenous people who didn't believe in or understand the very concept of property ownership.

          • michael

            On the contrary native americans were already quite familiar with the idea of trading and treaties.

          • Mark

            Treaties that take advantage of one group or are abandoned when the more powerful party decides it is their own best interest to "own" the resources don't really help your argument that stealing is a moral "fact". Also I'm not even sure that would be stealing according to your own stealing criteria. You're consistent with your relativity, which is the exact opposite of the point you're making. You still have a behavior you arbitrarily assign "good" and call it a moral "fact" with reasoning you've yet to demonstrate.

          • michael

            What do you mean by undeserved weak, anyway? Maybe you should try rephrasing all that.

          • michael

            Your answer does not negate that HT bible fails to demonstrate that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of "The Messiah will be descended matrilineally form David via Solomon. Luke and Matthew give wildly differing genealogies of Jesus from David, with apologists a hundred or moray years late making up non-biblical irrational Ad Hoc fallacies to try (and fail) to solve this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogy_of_Jesus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shealtiel

  • Dennis Bonnette

    It is a pleasure to see you working your way through the intellectual problems that God's relationship to a temporal world entails. Still, there have been a couple millennia for classical philosophers to work out the details of the kinds of problems you describe.

    Perhaps, this will help:
    https://strangenotions.com/god-eternity-free-will-and-the-world/

    • Phil Tanny

      It is a pleasure to see you working your way through the intellectual
      problems that God's relationship to a temporal world entails.

      With the exception that such efforts are largely a waste of time. Entertaining perhaps, but not serious or practical.

      The "intellectual problems" are just a pile of symbols in our brain, tiny items of our own human invention. Focusing on such is like going in to a human built church building to look for God, when the immeasurably vast reality God created is outside.

      All this fancy talk noise in our heads is not a path to God, but rather the primary obstacle to experience of God. A serious person will focus on experience, not explanations.

  • Phil Tanny

    Sorry, off topic, but no where else to put this.

    Here's a site that might make an excellent partner to Strange Noggins.

    http://catholicmoraltheology.com/

    It's written by Catholic academics. They have solid articles but no discussion. This site has lots of discussion and needs more articles.

    Perhaps someone in the know could forward this post on to those in charge here?

  • "So, the idea that some things are brought about at different moments of time, and that God is the ultimate cause that brings those things about at their distinct moments of time, in no way shows God must undergo change when he acts as a cause.

    I really enjoyed reading this. Though my simpler brain resolves the question by not emphasizing "time". But rather, the instantaneous simultaneity of NOW. There being no inside or outside, no distinction at all.

    That being the nature of MIND. Of course the logic supporting this, is that which points to the intuition of, and realization of samādhi.

    The rudimentary articulation of it is in the monist understanding that there is only God. The absolute infinitude of Reality.

  • michael

    Why aren't catholics miserable and depressed all the time due to believing that there are people shrieking in unfathomable agony forever and ever in hell?

    • Mark

      Proper reasoning allows us not to think like you. The obtuse questions you ask, like "What if God told you to rape?" isn't awkward in any sense to my Catholic theology. It seems somehow self-pleasing to you to prod theists with degenerate sophistry. At this point I'm mostly sad for you because I sense an inner hate that isn't healthy. I don't think that is what you're trying to accomplish here.

      • michael

        What I'm trying ot accomplish is make you a happier person!

        Please type in "Sam Harris atheist manifesto", "list of reasons why atheists are angry", "evil bible.com", and "exhcristian.net final frontier" for reasons religion needs to be abolished.
        Also type in "Dan barker Easter challenge", "The case against the resurrection", "Bible mathematical contradictions' Bible Scientific errors" and "Quranic scientific errors".

        exchristian.net is a site about former christian's conversions and the sense if sanity and the joy it has brought to their lives. :) Please share it and spread atheism to as many people a possible, and tell others to share it too!

        Richard Dawkins says religion slanders the beauty in nature. Ever since converting from catholicism to atheism I have found an incomparably greater admiration for beauty in nature!

        • Mark

          Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are both a philosophical face plant. Like watching a sumo wrestler tryout for the
          Salle Le Peletier. I'd only share that as a joke.

          • michael

            They don't need philosophy, they have common sense decency. Any being who created Hell is not worthy of respect. That is not a philosophical statement, it's basic common sense.

          • Mark

            Any being who created Hell is not worthy of respect. That is not a philosophical statement, it's basic common sense.

            That is a fallacious philosophical statement. The common sense you speak of is neither common nor a sense. Common sense is an obvious valid judgement to everyone in a common group. For example, turn your windshield wipers on when driving in the rain. What you're speaking of is an invalid perception by an ideologue. It's an ordinary kind of stupid. Dawkins has never been hurt by religion. In fact Catholics invented both higher education and the natural sciences. He stands on a pedestal build by Catholicism debasing religion and you're cheering. I don't know if it is sad or funny, maybe both. Common sense would have Phd educated non-philosopher consult a Phd educated (atheist) philosopher to proof his philosophical work before publishing it rather than exposing himself as an ignorant philosophical fraud.

          • michael

            Logic isn't focused on philosophy. you don't use philosophy to say "There is no such thing s a married bachelor". You use logic.

          • Mark

            Logic is a subset of philosophy michael. Yes you misuse philosophy when you say that.

          • michael

            No, Logic and observation are the end-all-be-all criterion for identifying truth and untruth.

          • Mark

            And I'm observing you denying the untruth of your bad philosophy even if there isn't a God.

          • David Nickol

            Would you, personally, be comfortable consigning the worst person who ever lived (e.g., Adolf Eichmann, Hitler, Pol Pot, Judas) to eternal suffering? I wouldn't. It might be some kind of justice for Eichmann to spend 6 million human lifetimes in a hellish concentration camp, but that is far from eternity.

            It almost seems to me sometimes that some people actually like the idea of hell because (a) they are sure they aren't going, and (b) they are pleased with the idea of people who disagree with them suffering gruesome tortures. God (says the Catechism, somewhere) wants everyone to be saved, but apparently not all Catholic apologists agree.

            By the way, eternity—if the understanding of it is time without end—is basically unimaginable. Given eternal life, one will have the opportunity to read every book ever written, watch every movie ever made, watch every television program that ever aired, spend unlimited time with every person ever born, visit every star and planet in the universe, and still not put a dent in eternity. To anyone who has ever suffered even the least bit, the knowledge that the suffering will eventually end is a comfort. And this is all the more true for great suffering. The idea of great suffering that never ends is the worst horror imaginable. It does not surprise or disturb me at all that people have a very difficult time accepting that an all-good God would impose eternal suffering on anyone.

            Of course, michael doesn't seem so much to doubt hell as to believe in its reality and imagine himself denouncing Jesus to his face, as if he (michael) could shame God into mending his evil ways. That is, of course, madness.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I share with you the unimaginable character of hell as we think we understand it in this life.

            I sense that you fall more into the agnostic camp than the militant atheist camp, like Michael. And I know you are far more reasonable. Sometimes, I suspect you even wish Catholicism is all that you once thought it to be.

            Please don't think that I relish the thought of hell for anyone. But sometimes we have to think rationally and resist letting emotion rule our conclusions.

            When asked about the nature of the afterlife, somewhere I read that St. Thomas finally simply said that it is "other." He did not try to describe it, perhaps, because we really do not have proper concepts of it.

            When we say we cannot imagine anyone deserving what we call hell, may I point out that we also really cannot imagine being a serial murderer. That is, if we really could imagine being one, we would BE ONE -- which I am not and I am sure you are not. So, trying to imagine some things is pretty hard.

            As for eternity, my understanding is that, for the saved, it entails a participation in the eternal NOW of God. So, it may not be so much a matter of getting to watch endless good movies on TV or some other such serial experience.

            If that is true of the saved, perhaps, it is also true of those who reject God eternally. But, try to imagine it? Maybe we simply cannot, and thereby trip up our logic in the emotion of the imagination led awry by images from this life.

            I am not trying to be doctrinaire here at all. Simply put, I can see how logic and metaphysics forces my intellect to assent to God's existence and goodness. How to reconcile this with a concept like hell then becomes a challenge, but logic tells me that there must be a way to do it -- since the first two premises (God's existence and goodness) are givens -- even if I cannot fully understand them either.

            This is not intended to be some kind of rebuttal to anything -- just some musings that make me wonder whether those attacking God because of hell are not overreaching with their emotions and imaginations into regions where we may have a few real truths, but do not fully understand what they really mean anyway.

          • BTS

            Here's my musings:
            1) St. Thomas also said something about the elect taking some sort of joy in the sufferings of the damned. That's messed up.

            2) St. Thomas speaks in oddly binary terms, the elect and the wicked. So he misses most of humanity.

            3) When Jesus dies he cries out to god about being forsaken. That sounds like a bitterly emotional response to me. I personally cannot think of a better topic to approach emotionally. You're always saying there's ways of knowing and learning other than science. If the topic of hell is not a topic for which one can trust one's emotional response, what is? Is not human life one continual cry to god asking where are you?

          • Rob Abney

            Here's what he actually says:
            I answer that, A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways. First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy. And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly.
            And
            Reply to Objection 3. It is not praiseworthy in a wayfarer to rejoice in another's afflictions as such: yet it is praiseworthy if he rejoice in them as having something annexed. However it is not the same with a wayfarer as with a comprehensor, because in a wayfarer the passions often forestall the judgment of reason, and yet sometimes such passions are praiseworthy, as indicating the good disposition of the mind, as in the case of shame pity and repentance for evil: whereas in a comprehensor there can be no passion but such as follows the judgment of reason.

          • BTS

            That's pretty much the same thing as I what I said. The saints are whooping it up celebrating the fact that they made it and others didn't.

          • Rob Abney

            As Thomas also says, not all have the inclination to understand.
            I don't think you'll find many arguing for the existence of hell based upon the saints' reactions anyway.

          • Mark

            Would you, personally, be comfortable consigning the worst person who ever lived (e.g., Adolf Eichmann, Hitler, Pol Pot, Judas) to eternal suffering?

            That question is above my paygrade, however, as you're always charitable I'll answer it to the best of my ability. I think when I witness the heroic forgiveness of Immaculée Ilibagiza that defies human reason. It can only be the grace of God. I think He gave that to her to bring about greater goodness of mankind. I think it is His nature. I think she is a saint. When she is reunited with her murdered family in the afterlife are she and her family rewarded with the sharing of timeless and eternal communion with their unrepentant murderer? That is sort of the opposing side of the coin question. I say no.

            The alternate solution of universalism must have a purification for all or it doesn't work. If such a thing exists, the Begotten Son didn't expressively tell us about it. If such a thing exists, it occurs to a human will that refuses cooperation and a relationship with the divine will. I'm not denying it's possibility, because philosophically it seems to work. Theologically it's a stretch. At the end of the day I don't know, but I leave my faith in a just Judge advocating proportionate justice and mercy.

            In that sense I don't think God creates hell, insomuch as he creates free will and as such darkness is the eternal consequence of hiding from the light. The just Judge will reward Immaculee for her suffering. He will also reward the unrepentant murderer for her suffering. Whatever human concept you or I come up with to describe His response our free will is inadequate and flawed. Only after death will we participate the mystery of divine mercy and justice.

            That's not much of an answer but I don't think I fit in to your a) or b) but I do agree many Christians do. I have enough of my own problems I needn't worry about theirs except to witness my own failures, contrition, and loving forgiveness.

          • BTS

            Hi Mark, I'm going to butt in and then quickly butt out.

            If such a thing exists, it occurs to a human will that refuses cooperation and a relationship with the divine will.

            As I said earlier, I'm going to go with DBH here and hope that, stripped of all physical impediments, all humans will eventually choose the light.

            When she is reunited with her murdered family in the afterlife

            Allow me to suggest this is binary thinking. All of her family goes to heaven? Immaculée Ilibagiza's reward will be incomplete if one of her family members doesn't make the cut. Surely not all her family members will merit heaven. Then what? She will spend eternity pining for a lost brother or cousin who was murdered but who was not good enough for heaven. What about the dastardly uncle who would have turned his life around had he not been murdered?

            If such a thing exists, the Begotten Son didn't expressively tell us about it.

            Catholics believe in a vast number of things Jesus never said anything about. He never said anything about purgatory or limbo. Or mass, or Catholic priests, or any number of things. Forgive my flippancy here, for I enjoy engaging with you, but I find it hard to keep up with the doctrines that I am supposed to believe because Jesus said so vs. the ones I am supposed to believe because the Pope said so.

          • Rob Abney

            You are building straw men here, if you are going to debate Catholic teaching then you should debate the actual teachings.

            Immaculée Ilibagiza's reward will be incomplete if one of her family members doesn't make the cut.

            23 In the resurrection, whose wife will she be? For all seven were married to her.” 24 Jesus said to them, “Aren’t you mistaken because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Instead, they will be like the angels in heaven.…
            Something so great that supersedes marriage is going to be there, and you will have a holy detachment from all created things --including your wife and family.

            Surely not all her family members will merit heaven. .... who was not good enough for heaven.

            Heaven is attained by those who have faith at the moment of earthly death not for those who are good rather than bad.

          • BTS

            Rob, Catholic teaching is that no one attains heaven. It is a gift. God's grace is the only thing that can save you. Oh, and works. If you're catholic, you gotta have works.

            It's right there in the catechism!
            021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.592 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith.

          • Rob Abney

            I'm fine with another word other than attains, gift is more precise.

            each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith.

            do you think we can be rewarded for works without faith?

          • BTS

            I sure hope so.
            And so does the Aboriginal who lived and died 15,000 years ago. And so do Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and many others.

            I supposed that makes me a Pelagian heretic.

            “You will realise that doctrines are the invention of the human mind, as it tries to penetrate the mystery of God. You will realise that scripture itself is the work of human recording the example and teaching of Jesus. Thus it is not what you believe (in your head) that matters; it is how you respond with your heart and your actions. It is not believing in Christ that matters, but becoming like him.” - Pelagius, a heretic!

            If someone ends up in hell because they acted like Jesus but weren't too sure about all the rest, that is just a raw deal. It's hard to even find Christians these days who act like Jesus.

          • Rob Abney

            Why do you presume that Aborigines and Hindus and Buddhists and Jews don’t have faith?
            The only way to end up in hell is by not having faith, I’m not sure what you refer to “all the rest”.

          • BTS

            How could an aboriginal from pre-history have faith in Jesus?
            "all the rest" = all the doctrine.
            I think if you act like Jesus you get in. We are, of course, assuming for the sake of discussion that god is the christian god.

            You can't really control what you believe. You can educate yourself but you cannot force yourself to believe something even if you want to. You can certainly fake it. Does that count?

          • Rob Abney

            Why do you differentiate between Jesus and God? Did you ever believe that Jesus is God and has been from the beginning, even pre-historical? And just out of curiosity, why do you capitalize Jesus but not God?

            I agree that if you act like Jesus that you'll "get in", but that will include faith in God.

            I don't agree that you can't control what you believe, that's called human will. I agree that you can't make yourself believe something that you don't consider to be true.

            You can fake being a person of faith, as long as you are not knowingly considering your actions to be false, then as you learn more and benefit from charitable and righteous living you won't have to fake it.

          • Sample1

            Faith in a few philosophical logical axioms or something else?

            Mat. 3-5, Sermon On The Postulates? Lol.

            More easy-to-vary mumbo jumbo.

            Mike, faith free

          • Rob Abney

            Your faith is in the Truth, you just describe it, redundantly, as hard-to-vary.

          • Sample1

            Yes, I try to believe more true things than false things.

            So no eternal torment for people like me. Thanks for the catechism.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            It depends, what false things do you believe?

          • Sample1

            Seeking to believe more true things than false things denotes a position of personal engagement with experience that harkens back to Socrates who is credited as saying the unexamined life is not worth living.

            We all make errors in some form. Errors that may have their origin of fuel from indoctrination, cognitive limitations, ignorance, stress, laziness, or any number of factors too long to list. Humans are undeniably a fallible species. Evolution’s twists and turns through time has left our brains susceptible to making incorrect explanations about our sense experiences.

            So when you ask what false things I currently believe in you’ve missed the point of the saying. Ask yourself the same question and maybe the absurdity of it should surface for you. The point being our fallibilism is a given, while our pruning of error is not. I seek to prune errors as they become recognized, thereafter placing them in the psychological bin of lessons learned. And that is a lifelong project for an examiner of one’s life where truth is valued. This began, in me, with the likes of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy in my youth (errors I once believed true) to all manners of errors in subjects as I aged. A work in progress that uses tough reason against easy cultural conformity.

            I do not know what I currently believe in that is also an error. But I also don’t claim to know or believe in anything to an absolute certainty, only with varying degrees of confidence. I trust climate scientists when they express worry about human-caused climate change or constitutional scholars who say abuse of power is an impeachable offense or same sex couples who say they share fulfilling love. But I’m happy to be corrected. I trust the Everettian interpretation of QM a bit more than the Standard Model but again, happy to be corrected. I trust my spaniel is happy to be around me but would welcome criticism should that claim confound others.

            Tl;dr: Reason allows one to thwart the cognitive limitations resulting from evolution which can lead to less wrong explanations for what human beings experience.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I agree that humans are fallible but I don’t believe that revelation is fallible. So some things that I know I can know with many more degrees of confidence based upon that.

          • Sample1

            Yeah I know that about you. Obviously I believe that you’re succumbing to a mode of pre-Enlightenment thinking that is not as reliable, predicable, in short reasonable, as what can be attained with different training. Mental training that uses criteria (testability for one) for fact-based explanations currently absent or even forbidden in dogma-generating philosophies and religions. And that’s your prerogative but one that has remained unattractive, superstitious and cognitively violent to me since about 2011 when I decided to go natural.

            But you seem like a nice person who hasn’t had the dreadful experience of cognitive dissonance. You’ll probably continue to have a peaceful and community supported existence. Nothing to sneeze at. You’re simply behaving in an evolutionary successful way. But the process of evolution doesn’t necessarily equate success with truth. May your appendix never inflame, for it too is also evidence of past success in evolution from our transition from herbivores to omnivores but now that “success” leaves us susceptible to disease.

            Mike, au naturale

          • Rob Abney

            I've been wanting to get your thoughts about this essay, does it cause you any cognitive dissonance?
            https://claremontreviewofbooks.com/giving-up-darwin/

          • Sample1

            O Rob...

            How shall I reply? Rehash a previously explained apologetic tactic played amongst the faithful? SN Catholics employing the same playbook against Protestants and what Protestants use against Catholics? namely the attempts to weaken what each camp perceives as the other’s source of confidence such as Sola Scriptura vs Apostolic Tradition respectively? Translated in that article’s case, using some bad philosophy (fallacies abound) mixed with scientifically naïve understandings (Newton and Darwin) in an effort to create doubt in how reason creates reliable knowledge?

            Nope. I’ll go one dimension further. Darwin and Newton are not popes. Their authorities remain, essentially, provisional honorifics rather than dogmatic absolutes. Remember, the scientific world literally supports and rewards those who show their colleagues to be mistaken. Science is a special case, a subset discipline about the physical world, within the larger field of knowledge acquisition called reason. Philosophy from the likes of Popper, Quine and many others provides the criteria for what we deem scientific knowledge. Philosophy is therefore another mode of knowledge seeking with many of those same criteria also helping to dispatch bad philosophies.

            So even if there are accurate points to be made in the article (though it’s a mess and what someone like an O’Neill would call a sack of garbage) it would not do what aggressive apologists hope for: dismantle the authority (in this case Darwin) and destroy the confidence of the scientific disciple. That’s simply not how science or reason works. The apologist must try to destroy reason itself for any hope of getting through to the naturalist. And that is more than enough knowledge to be wary of someone who is basically holding out one hand of welcome while clutching a brain plunging knife in the other.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "To be successful, the apologist must destroy reason itself for any hope of getting through to the naturalist. "

            What you admit here is what we have known all along.

            Naturalism is simply a philosophical position -- one of the many atheist ones, only one that wraps itself in the popular guise of natural science -- but then abandons science itself when the truth that science achieves no certitudes in its theories becomes manifest.

            But naturalists do accept certain philosophical principles: those that are presumed by the scientific method, for example, that we live in a real physical world in which we can make objective observations and take measurements, and where phenomena demand explanations.

            Bottom line is that naturalism is no less philosophical in its nature than, say, Aristotelianism or Thomism.

            It is all a question as to which philosophy one finds credible.

            But it is a bit disingenuous to claim that naturalism is inherently superior to classical philosophy because, somehow, it has credentials verified by natural science.

          • Sample1

            I think you’re crediting Naturalism with some kind of preeminent relationship to science rather than a broader relationship to reason itself. Or claiming, again incorrectly, that scientists place their discipline above all. As such, you’re creating the strawman that science is limited and therefore naturalism is deficient. Of course science is limited. As Deutsch and others acknowledge, there are many limits to science: for instance, science can’t predict what future knowledge remains to be discovered. It also can’t predict what questions will result from future, currently unknown, discoveries.

            But naturalism, broadly and more correctly understood, is the direct result of reason itself and it’s the position of many that reason has no such limitations that science incurs. You’ve done fairly well at focusing on some sort of gorilla glue between science and naturalism but that’s not compelling anymore and it took me a while to understand why. Reason, not science, is the glue for naturalism and I haven’t seen anything from your contributions that acknowledges one simple fact to prove it isn’t. Why is reason the parent and not the child in this relationship? Because a naturalist will abandon science should reason uncover a better method of correlating explanations with observations.

            And so you’re left with a problem. How do you destroy reason itself without being stuck in logical contradiction?

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            All you are doing is agreeing with what I already said.

            Naturalism is a philosophy, just like any other philosophy. This means that it method and instrument is the use of unaided natural reason. And I have no problem with that.

            Obviously, you do not feel that any of my twenty-six articles on Strange Notions demonstrates that your Naturalism is false, even in its denial of the existence of the God of classical theism. (I do have a couple articles designed to prove exactly that some transcendent non-physical cause must exist, but evidently I did not convince you.)

            For onlookers, I am referring to this:
            https://strangenotions.com/how-cosmic-existence-reveals-gods-reality/

            and this:
            https://strangenotions.com/how-new-existence-implies-god/

            Since then, you do appear to accept the fact that natural science is not an ultimate trump card in favor of Naturalism, I have no momentary quarrel with you.

            We appear back to just a matter of whose philosophy is correct.

          • Sample1

            If I’m coming across as agreeing then I’m doing a poor job of helping you understand me. Let’s look at what you said:

            Naturalism is simply a philosophical position -- one of the many atheist ones, only one that wraps itself in the popular guise of natural science -- but then abandons science itself when the truth that science achieves no certitudes in its theories becomes manifest.

            That sentence, while containing elements of accuracy nevertheless doesn’t hold together by the end of it. It is not something I would say. I think you’re outright mistaken, confused or something else when you describe science as achieving truth. You’re a philosopher so I’m reading you as using truth as you understand the word from your philosophical training. Namely, that truth, per se, describes something objective, perhaps platonic-esque. A knowable, unchanging and foundational subject linked to explanations about reality. Surely you know that science isn’t about philosophical truth but is rather a method of conditional explanatory models, all fallible by degree. If the latter is what you meant to convey, then fine but if so, it doesn’t fit with what you further say about naturalism abandoning science. Naturalism abandons poorer explanations derived in part through science (when it’s physical reality being described) but that is appropriated through reason whereby Naturalism reaches modes of understanding historically known to be limited by science (philosophy for example). Do you want to rephrase it for me?

            In other words, to demonstrate that naturalism is false you appear to claim that because science isn’t a tool of absolute certainty, naturalism is false. If that’s your claim, we mightily disagree. Naturalism isn’t immutably bound to science, it is axiomatically dependent upon reason. Science is currently, and granted, conjectured to be a strongly held subset within reason that is celebrated as our finest known tool for what it purports to explain, but it is not absolutely held to be some eternally known and unchanging subset immune from skepticism. Reason is the starting point here, not science. Science flows from reason.

            To meet your burden, for me, of your claim that Naturalism is false, you have to demonstrate that reason itself is subject to some other superior method of knowing. Mentioning science is a strawman. It’s reason you must replace. And I would like to know how you’d attempt to do that without logical contradictions popping up. Perhaps you hold that faith is superior to reason? Seems to me that is your only option, other than some version hard solipsism or agnosticism.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "In other words, to demonstrate that naturalism is false you appear to claim that because science isn’t a tool of absolute certainty, naturalism is false."

            No, that is not what I said at all. I was just pointing out that naturalism is a philosophical position, like many others, including Thomism. While naturalists do a lot of talking about science, as you point out, reason is the ultimate criterion of reality. Natural science has its limits. You appear to recognize them. So, where is the problem?

            Do I hold that faith is superior to reason? Well, the Catholic Faith holds that there is such a thing as the preambula fidei: the preambles to faith -- and these are the rational foundations on which faith is built and with which faith is in harmony. For example, that we can know historical facts in the physical world, such as the historicity of Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ, and the fact that God's existence can be known by the light of unaided reason.

            So, we Catholics are not fideists in disguise.

            I did not mean to convey that naturalism abandons science as a methodology, but you yourself were willing to toss Darwin and Newton overboard in favor of what would, for now, be seen as better explanatory descriptions of the physical world. In other words, as I said, science does not trump reason or philosophy, but rather, reason is regulative of science -- which is exactly what classical philosophers, such as St. Thomas, would say.

            So, no, I don't have to hold that faith is superior to reason, or fall into some form of solipsism or agnosticism. I am perfectly happy with using the Aristotelian method of beginning with sense experience and applying the tools of reason so as to reach objective truth, which, as you admit, is not the function of natural science, which is, as you admit, "... isn’t about philosophical truth but is rather a method of conditional explanatory models, all fallible by degree."

          • Sample1

            With all due respect do you find this a particular conversation worth continuing?

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            No.

          • Ellabulldog

            naturalism is not a philosophy.

            it is simply reality.

            theists simply need a term that is the opposite of supernaturalism and want to act like people subscribe to a "philosophy" when they actually do not.

            science is a process. it is a system to learn more about our environment.

          • Rob Abney

            using some bad philosophy (fallacies abound) mixed with scientifically naïve understandings (Newton and Darwin) in an effort to install doubt in the naturalist’s methodology

            Do you mind pointing out some examples because the article seemed to have pretty convincing reasoning?

          • Mark

            all humans will eventually choose the light

            this assumes a form of time or process occurs after life. There is no reason to believe such a thing exists for immaterial. It is a infinite now of perfect Knowing. If such a thing exists God is more gracious than I deserve.

            Surely not all her family members will merit heaven.

            Surely she'll have an perfect understanding why her dastardly uncle who refuses a relationship doesn't have a relationship.

            Catholics believe in a vast number of things Jesus never said anything about.

            Well this sounds like Protestant polemics, in which we all get our own take on what Christ said or didn't say and apply it with or without regard to the Authority He gave Her. Having been against many of Her teachings in my pre-philosophical, "cafeteria" years I know first hand the dangers my authority poses. Admittedly there are some I still struggle with; for them I simply suspend judgement. They don't go against my moral conscious or are beyond human intellect so no need to make a mountain out of a molehill. I acknowledge them in prayer and hand the dissonance to Christ.

          • BTS

            this assumes a form of time or process occurs after life.

            No one knows anything about what happens after life.

            Edit: But the process you suspect does not exist is directly in the catechism.

            1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

            Well this sounds like Protestant polemics,

            So frustrating, my friend. You are the one who drew a conclusion solely based on what Jesus said (or did not say), not me.

            Here's your exact quote:

            The alternate solution of universalism must have a purification for all or it doesn't work. If such a thing exists, the Begotten Son didn't expressively tell us about it.

          • Mark

            I'm sorry for the frustration. Not my intent.

            I don't agree we don't know anything. I would say, what is necessary we know is revealed to us (not solely Scriptural) by Revelation.

          • michael

            How about typing in "Dan Barker easter Challenge"? And my points in quoting harris and Dawkins were to point out the harm religion causes, not describe their arguments.

          • michael

            Where in thomas Aquinas works does he prove that it's OK nad right for anyone to be in Hell?

    • BTS

      @disqus_Tp4SsRBXFl:disqus
      @mark
      Legitimate question, though, that I have been grappling with heavily the last month. David Bentley Hart has a book about this topic. If there is a god, I agree with DBH that probably all will be saved.

      https://www.christiancentury.org/review/books/david-bentley-hart-s-polemic-against-alleged-doctrine-eternal-hell?fbclid=IwAR0qCcKFPAV3rjeKbGUkoMxNmwKsD7S6DYQArSBnxeIYLpsUoGP6la5lRJA

      Some videos of note on this:
      Those darn young conservatives sure do love hell. They seem to know more than the good Bishop.
      https://youtu.be/YaJaJL6hCjA

      https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/pints-with-aquinas/e/65744716
      (Matt Fradd "Pints with Aquinas")

      Bishop Robert Barron on Hell
      https://youtu.be/dmsa0sg4Od4

      • Mark

        I sorry if it seems unreasonable I'm not empathetic to the pain a lactose intolerant person feels that refuses to stop eating dairy. The misery I would experience would be if I had refused to counsel or be indifferent to said person about the effects of dairy on their health or it was a psychological compulsion. However if they comprehend the effects and continue their disordinate attachment to dairy aside from a psychological compulsion it rationally follows the misery is of their of own free when their health suffers.

        It's hard to convince me I'm not culpable for my moral decisions; eternally or otherwise. It'd be easier to convince me all morality is an illusory, but that's not what michael wants to do. You can't have your cake and eat it both. I like DBH very much. I very much would wish that every soul could somehow participate in the beatific vision. Maybe God is that charitable. Maybe the mystery of His infinite mercy and justice is availed to all of us. However, so much of what we know about heaven is revealed through his Son. The Begotten Son was very clear on culpability with Judas Iscariot and his recorded words and the Magisterial teachings are in stark opposition to what DBH philosophically proposes. If you paint me into a corner I'll chose Christ. I think it's great you're listening to Matt Fradd and Gregory Pine.

        • BTS

          I listen to Matt Fradd but often disagree with his simplistic take on things. Also, I think his desire to be Catholic and "cool" is off-putting. But, I need to hear what conservatives are saying.

          You can hear Fr. Gregory Pine's discomfort in that episode of Fradd's podcast when he has admit that Augustine's position was that most are damned.

          However if they comprehend the effects and continue their disordinate attachment to dairy aside from a psychological compulsion it rationally follows the misery is of their of own free when their health suffers.

          You hit the crux right there. *Mental Health* in letters writ large. Human flesh alone is the reason (mitigating factor) I believe all are saved. If jesus truly became human then he knew how hard it was to rise above the flesh. The game is rigged like a carnival game. No one can win. I would argue that your lactose intolerant example, if they don't stop, has mental health issues. Mass murderers have mental health problems, big ones.
          The rest of us fall somewhere in the middle.

          My wife and I listened to the Brian Holdsworth podcast about Hell. She was furious after hearing it. His view is similar to yours.

          Here was the response that she and I came up with. It's a little caustic, and that heat is not meant for you. Just posting this for interest's sake.

          As for Judas, Jesus said it would have been better had he never been born. Nothing about hell. As David Nickol repeatedly points out, lots of fertilized eggs that the Church would say have souls never get born.

          My wife watched this video with me and said it sounds like something you would say to a second grader. Simplistic.
          This is our combined response:
          One who spends time pontificating about the ultimate destination of his earthly brothers and sisters, should, in my estimation, justly consider reserving judgment and keeping close counsel on his tongue.

          You said it yourself, Brian. The early Church did not see hell as an ultimate punishment, but more as a purifying fire. The best we can say is no one knows. Anything else is utter judgmental hubris.

          For you to pontificate about those who have chosen the path to hell is to ignore everything we know about being imperfect humans. Please point directly at one of these individuals who you deem have closed themselves off from god and others, and tell me - and say to them as well - that circumstances have not or will not mitigate their final destinations. People close themselves off for REASONS like psychological and physical abuse, mental health struggles, unresolved issues that reappear in adulthood, addiction, health problems, misfortune, accidents. I could go on and on.

          You make it sound like people all start from the same high perch of perfect mental health and then decide to just start closing doors on others. The daily struggles of people are personal, interconnected, and fraught with being trapped in these human bodies that cause so much trouble. Instead of sending people to hell why don't you send them to a mental health professional?

          The truth is that most of us make good and bad decisions every day. Every darn day. This video made me very, very angry. I find myself yelling at the TV/news/internet so often these days that Christians should just shut up and start acting like Christians and let the darn chips fall where they may.

          • Mark

            It seems as if you're wanting to reduce sin to mental health disorders. I find that untenable. I was a very good sinner. I was raised differently. Did I suffer from compulsions or mental health disorder? Yes. Mostly, however, I just chose to be indifferent about how my selfish actions affected God's creation. At what point are you trying to make every human, including Mary, kecharitomene, a mental health case? God made us nuts so we all get a pass? I'm not judging you or your actions, I have plenty of my own faults I can reference. I knew damn well what I was doing was immoral and I was indifferent and I can't take it back. I deserve my punishment and the victims (including God) deserve my penance. I'm trying to figure out what would motivate me to stop using people when my God forgives everyone for everything no matter what. I'm trying to figure out why anyone would want to put their faith in an unjust Judge.

            As for Judas, Jesus said it would have been better had he never been born. Nothing about hell.

            Judas' soul exists eternally with the stain of his mortal decision to betray the Begotten Son for 30 pieces of silver. If you don't want to call that hell we're not talking about the same thing. I don't think you're saying that mortal stain co-exists eternally with the beatific vision, but universalism is unclear on how that is avoided. Purgatory for all? The parable of the tax collector and pharisee might be more fitting here.

            Christ asks you not to judge others but yourself (and that goes for Augustine as well). I believe Christ is the source of the heroic forgiveness I witness in Immaculee Ilibagiza or Josephine Bahkita. If He is that forgiving it's not because a sinner deserves that charity.

          • BTS

            I'm not reducing it to mental health. A better word is "impediments" as shown in my last bit at the end here. (the amazon quote below).

            I deserve my punishment and the victims (including God) deserve my penance.

            The god I hope exists is a rehabilitative god who won't punish you for eons because of finite sins. If forgiveness exists in this life, why not the next? Why does it have to be eternal torture, and not a temporary period of penance? Maybe you're already had your punishment?

            Judas' soul exists eternally with the stain of his mortal decision to betray the Begotten Son for 30 pieces of silver. If you don't want to call that hell we're not talking about the same thing.

            There was much more going on with Judas than is evident in the Gospels. We don't have the full story. Even so, god can forgive in the afterlife. Again, you're focusing on the stain, the scarlet letter. I'm not saying people get a pass, but that it's probably not punishment, but a purification.
            Personally I think god lets people change their minds at any point.

            I don't think you're saying that mortal stain co-exists eternally with the beatific vision, but universalism is unclear on how that is avoided.

            Everything god does is a mystery, according to Christians, so why not tack on one more thing. Jesus never mentioned a beatific vision. Medieval scholars came up with that.

            This fella below (Reviewer "Patrick C") who reviewed DBH's book says it much better than I can. So much better:

            Hart offers a series of four meditations to advance his point, each presenting a different argument. The first relies upon the moral implications of creatio ex nihilo, the second draws upon Scripture, the third makes an argument on the basis of personhood, and the fourth challenges the view that hell is a necessary possibility incurred by human freedom.

            Each of his meditations was earth-shattering in its deconstruction of the prevailing theological wisdom, but it was the last that really shook me. In the theological circles that I frequent, the existence of an eternal hell is typically justified on the basis of God's respecting human freedom—on this view, hell is possible because it is the logical consequence of human freedom, which entails the possibility of rejecting God.

            Thus, given human immortality, there must be some place to which those who have rejected God descend after death. However, as Hart so gloriously points out, this argument is incompatible with another theological/philosophical idea that those in full possession of their rational faculties will choose the good. Someone with perfect information and free of neuroses and other impediments will choose the good, because rationality is inescapably oriented toward goodness—if a person dying of thirst rejected water, we would not say that that person had made a free, rational choice to do so, but rather that the person was insane.

            The choice to reject God must only be possible in the context in which some impediment exists to either freedom or rationality, and therefore, the choice to reject God utterly can never be free; it must always be the consequence of some imperfection that, in fact, restricts freedom. Our freedom is oriented toward the all-pervading and transcendent Good, toward God himself; no 'free' choice to reject God can logically ever be made, and thus nobody can ever freely choose hell.

      • Rob Abney

        If there is a god, I agree with DBH that probably all will be saved.

        Small g gods can do anything.

  • George

    Ever going to touch on politics again here?

    "Why It's Okay To De-Regulate Fossil Fuel Companies (And Suppress Climate Data)" or maybe "Why Winning is All That Matters".

    • BTS

      Made me laugh, thanks.