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In a meaningless world, does truth always have value over delusion?

I care about truth if there is a God. But why should I care about truth if there is no God? In fact if there is no God, maybe I shouldn’t care about truth because it would be too sad to know…I’d rather live out my life with the illusion of happily ever after in that case.

Two thousand years ago, someone echoed those sentiments:

What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Paul of Tarsus
1 Cor 15:32

There was an exchange between KeithS and I in another thread, and he fired off this comment:

Your comment epitomizes one of the biggest problems with Pascal’s Wager. It doesn’t ask the question “What is most likely to be true?” It only asks, “How can I get the best payoff?”

That’s anathema to anyone who truly cares about truth.

Holy Rollers, Pascal’s Wager;Comment 100

To which I responded:

But why should I care about truth if there is no God? In fact if there is no God, maybe I shouldn’t care about truth because it would be too sad to know…I’d rather live out my life with the illusion of happily ever after in that case.

Why, logically speaking should an atheist care about truth in a meaningless universe? Perhaps the logical answer is no answer. If you say, truth has a better payoff, well, then you’ve just put payoffs ahead of truth! Right back where you started.

Further KeithS wrote:

Because the value of truth doesn’t depend on the existence of God.

To which I responded:

Value means PAYOFF! What is the payoff if there is no God?

I recall Dawkins in a debate with Lennox was asked about how humans can live their lives in a meaningless world. Dawkins said, “we create our own meaning”. Other atheists have repeated that statement such KeithS:

Life is full of meaning even without God. We create our own meanings, whether you realize it or not.

Holy Rollers, Pascal’s wager; Comment 59

to which I responded:

[the phrase] “we create our own meaning” is pretty much to me “we concoct our own unproven falsehoods to make us feel better”.

this whole “we create our own meaning” is worse than the religious ideas you are criticizing. You “know” there is no meaning, but you’ll pretend there is anyway. Reminds me of Coyne who “knows” there is no free will but he’ll pretend there is anyway.

And that is what continues to puzzle me about the atheistic variety of Darwinists (not Christian Darwinists). They seem to find much purpose in life in proving life has no purpose!

[posted by scordova to assist News desk with content and commentary until 7/7/13]

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766 Responses to In a meaningless world, does truth always have value over delusion?

  1. 1
    CentralScrutinizer

    C.S. Lewis wrote about all this in The Abolition of Man.

    If atheists really believe their philosophy, then one should think they would be promoting it at public schools and universities. Oh, wait, they do. Some of them anyway. The humorous thing is, on the one hand they’ll tell you there is no ultimate meaning, and then straight-away tell you why you should believe this social model or that social model “for the betterment of society” as if society is something that should be improved or maintained contra my personal whims.

    Of course, the whole “morality argument” doesn’t prove there is a God, but if reality has no ultimate meaning and I’m free to concoct my own, don’t be surprised (or give me a bunch of subjective sentimental hogwash) why I shouldn’t slit your throat for whatever you may have in your wallet. Or kill you and eat your liver with fava beans.

  2. Interestingly enough, we’re discussing this topic in my congregation this week.

    Those who champion evolution declare that life came about without any intelligent direction. There is no Creator. Humans are just animals (according to Dr. Eugene McCarthy, we all came from a pig-chimp hybrid) so it shouldn’t surprise anyone if humans behave in an animalistic fashion. The strong overpowering the weak are simply following the laws of nature.

    It’s not surprising that many believe that injustice will always exist. There’s another thread that discusses the link (however tenuous) between Nazism and Darwinism. The theory of evolution is, without doubt, responsible for some of the human misery that we have seen over the past century or so. It hasn’t provided any good guidelines for living, nor has it provided hope for anything better.

    Instead, the results are as the apostle Paul stated: people are “in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God.” (Ephesians 4:17-19)

  3. KeithS wrote:

    That’s anathema to anyone who truly cares about truth.

    But it seems to me when KeithS says “we create our own menaing” even though he knows there is no meaning, that’s not consistent with caring about the truth, but more about caring about a delusion that makes KeithS feel better.

    Hence, in a meaningless world, it’s hard to say truth always has a better payoff than delusion.

    “We create our own meaning” is Dawkins Delusion.

  4. Sal,

    You quoted yourself:

    But why should I care about truth if there is no God? In fact if there is no God, maybe I shouldn’t care about truth because it would be too sad to know…I’d rather live out my life with the illusion of happily ever after in that case.

    Why, logically speaking should an atheist care about truth in a meaningless universe? Perhaps the logical answer is no answer. If you say, truth has a better payoff, well, then you’ve just put payoffs ahead of truth! Right back where you started.

    But then you left out my response:

    Of course “payoffs” are primary. It’s just that you don’t seem to think that the truth leads to better payoffs. I do.

    Selective editing seems to be a specialty of yours.

    Here’s my full comment:

    Sal,

    I care about truth if there is a God. But why should I care about truth if there is no God?

    Because the value of truth doesn’t depend on the existence of God. Why would it?

    In fact if there is no God, maybe I shouldn’t care about truth because it would be too sad to know…I’d rather live out my life with the illusion of happily ever after in that case.

    I think you may actually be living that way. Your attraction to Pascal’s Wager seems to be based on a belief that the truth isn’t very important to your “payoff”.

    Why, logically speaking should an atheist care about truth in a meaningless universe? Perhaps the logical answer is no answer. If you say, truth has a better payoff, well, then you’ve just put payoffs ahead of truth! Right back where you started.

    Of course “payoffs” are primary. It’s just that you don’t seem to think that the truth leads to better payoffs. I do.

    If we were actually better off not pursuing the truth, and if we somehow knew that with near certainty, then I would advocate not pursuing the truth.
    Of course, to find out that we were better off not pursuing the truth, we would have to pursue the truth of that statement itself. And we would want to keep questioning it in case we made a mistake. That would mean considering the truth of related ideas, and before we knew it, we’d be back in full pursuit of the truth again.

    Not to pick on your statement, but “we create our own meaning” is pretty much to me “we concoct our own unproven falsehoods to make us feel better”.

    Not at all. The fact that X does (or doesn’t) love me is an objective truth. The meaning I attach to her love is subjective (in the emotional sense of the word ‘meaning’, which is the relevant one here).

    I think your objections to the Bible are those I could sympathize with, and have shared myself, that’s not to say I think those are grounds to reject the Bible. There are a lot of truths I don’t like, but have to come to terms with.
    Obviously, with respect to evolution we’ll never find agreement, but at least for once, I could empathize deeply with your viewpoint, particularly the serial genocide in the Old Testament.

    I’d be curious to hear how you reconcile that with your faith. Your attraction to YEC seems to be motivated by a hope that the Bible is true and trustworthy and that YEC could help establish that, but if the Bible is true, then all of those nasty stories about God are also true.
    Wouldn’t that be bad news for you?

    (For the curious, the last part of that comment is a reference to my deconversion story.)

  5. Sal,

    But it seems to me when KeithS says “we create our own menaing” even though he knows there is no meaning, that’s not consistent with caring about the truth, but more about caring about a delusion that makes KeithS feel better.

    Anything that is meaningful to me has meaning, obviously. It’s real meaning, just as my thoughts are real thoughts. It just isn’t capital-M Meaning.

    But so what? Small-m meaning is enough, and I don’t have to lie to myself to see that.

  6. 6
    Kantian Naturalist

    There’s an unexamined assumption here that I cannot, for the life of me, understand why it would even so much as seem reasonable to make.

    The assumption is this: that if there is no ultimate or absolute __________ (meaning, value, purpose, significance), then there is no real __________ at all. The assumption here is that the reality or being of value/significance/purpose, etc depends upon their being absolute, ultimate, etc.

    I don’t understand this. For me, when Dewey says “But values are as unstable as the forms of clouds. The things that possess them are exposed to all the contingencies of existence, and they are indifferent to our likings and tastes,” he is expressing a profound truth.

    As I see it, accepting the contingency and fleetingness of moral and aesthetic values, or of epistemic and ethical norms, and of existential significance is fully consistent with finding things to be, really and truly, good or bad, true or false, beautiful or ugly, and so forth.

    And it ought to be pointed out that that view, which is as obvious to me as your view is to you, is as unintelligible to you as your view is to me. I don’t know if there’s a way out of this stalemate, and quite frankly, I doubt it. But it’s important to at least diagnosis the stalemate correctly.

    The stalemate is not about who is or isn’t “rational” or whatever; it’s about one’s ability and desire to say “yes!” to contingency and impermanence. It’s neither rational nor irrational to want something more than contingency and impermanence; it is neither rational nor irrational to love goodness, truth, and beauty even in the face of their contingency and fragility.

    To use Nietzsche’s terms, this is a contrast between the tragic sense of life and Socratic optimism. That’s not a contrast that can be decided by appealing to argument and evidence.

  7. KeithS in #4 – Your extended response hasn’t helped your case any. If anything, its made your case worse. You speak of finding Truth is some objective sense:

    Of course “payoffs” are primary. It’s just that you don’t seem to think that the truth leads to better payoffs. I do.

    If we were actually better off not pursuing the truth, and if we somehow knew that with near certainty, then I would advocate not pursuing the truth.
    Of course, to find out that we were better off not pursuing the truth, we would have to pursue the truth of that statement itself. And we would want to keep questioning it in case we made a mistake. That would mean considering the truth of related ideas, and before we knew it, we’d be back in full pursuit of the truth again.

    Now, since all of your cognitive faculties are the end result of the blind, purposeless forces of matter and energy interacting over eons of time through chance and/or necessity (the onlyoption you have as an atheist), then on what basis do you think they have as one of their primary functions to deliver sensory inputs that you can then know, in some objective sense, are true? In order for you to argue for that, you’d have to assume your cognitive faculties are capable of delivering you true perceptions about what Truth is, which becomes a very circular argument and question begging of the first order. You assume you’re being rationale with your arguments…but on what basis do you know with certainty that that is actually true?

    On your worldview, you have no rational or logical way to answer the question in any non-question begging way. Your thoughts, perceptions, actions, all of it are the result of material interactions, which themselves are the result of the blind, purposeless forces mentioned above.

    How do you live with that sort of cognitive dissonance? Even worse, I’m not sure you recognize that it is cognitive dissonance!

  8. Central Scrutinizer,

    The humorous thing is, on the one hand they’ll tell you there is no ultimate meaning, and then straight-away tell you why you should believe this social model or that social model “for the betterment of society” as if society is something that should be improved or maintained contra my personal whims.

    Of course, the whole “morality argument” doesn’t prove there is a God, but if reality has no ultimate meaning and I’m free to concoct my own, don’t be surprised (or give me a bunch of subjective sentimental hogwash) why I shouldn’t slit your throat for whatever you may have in your wallet. Or kill you and eat your liver with fava beans.

    If I recommend democracy to you over totalitarianism, it’s not because I believe democracy is better in some Ultimate sense. I simply think that I am better off in a democracy, that you are also, and that so are our compatriots. I am appealing to our shared interest and our shared concern for the well-being of our fellow citizens.

    That appeal wouldn’t sway a psychopath, of course, but then again neither would “ultimate morality”.

  9. KN in #6

    And it ought to be pointed out that that view, which is as obvious to me as your view is to you, is as unintelligible to you as your view is to me. I don’t know if there’s a way out of this stalemate, and quite frankly, I doubt it. But it’s important to at least diagnosis the stalemate correctly.

    The stalemate is not about who is or isn’t “rational” or whatever; it’s about one’s ability and desire to say “yes!” to contingency and impermanence. It’s neither rational nor irrational to want something more than contingency and impermanence; it is neither rational nor irrational to love goodness, truth, and beauty even in the face of their contingency and fragility.

    Your comment here assumesbut does not demonstrate that you have any way at all to determine what goodness, truth and even beauty actual mean, let alone how to recognize them when you see them. Adn therein lies the problem. There is no stalemate here. Either there really is objective truth or there isn’t. Your argument demonstrates that there is. Your comment “The stalemate is not about who is or isn’t “rational” or whatever; it’s about one’s ability and desire to say “yes!” to contingency and impermanence” is a statement of objective truth. It could be phrased thusly: It is objectively true that “The stalemate is not about who is or isn’t “rational” or whatever; it’s about one’s ability and desire to say “yes!” to contingency and impermanence.” If it isn’t objectively true, then the statement has no meaning. If is objectively true, then it contradicts itself, because the very statement isn’t contingent or impermanent.

    If you’re going to argue by logic and reason, you can’t just lay logic and reason aside with a sweep of the hand and pretend you’ve said something profound.

  10. I really don’t understand this idea that if there is no God life has no meaning unless we invent it.

    I didn’t understand it when I was a theist, and I don’t understand it now.

    Of course there is meaning without assuming or believing in God. We make propositions, and we can test the truth of those propositions. We can also make art, and move people. None of this requires we believe in God.

    I have spent most of my life as a musician, and now work as a scientist. Making music doesn’t seem “meaningless” to me – it is deeply satisfying, both to makers and listening, and also deeply moving.

    Nor does science seem “meaningless” to me – to hypothesise an explanation, and then test its predictions and find them confirmed is enormously meaningful – it means that I have probably found out something true about the world.

    So what does “meaningless” mean in the context of the OP?

    If I can “make a difference” in the world – that is meaningful, is it not? If not, what am I missing?

  11. DonaldM,

    Now, since all of your cognitive faculties are the end result of the blind, purposeless forces of matter and energy interacting over eons of time through chance and/or necessity (the onlyoption you have as an atheist), then on what basis do you think they have as one of their primary functions to deliver sensory inputs that you can then know, in some objective sense, are true?

    I can’t trust my senses absolutely, and neither can you. We know that optical illusions exist, for example.

    In order for you to argue for that, you’d have to assume your cognitive faculties are capable of delivering you true perceptions about what Truth is, which becomes a very circular argument and question begging of the first order.

    We cannot know, in an absolute sense, that our cognitive faculties are trustworthy. We just have to do our best with what we have. This applies to you as much as it does to me. Materialists and non-materialists alike face this problem.

    You assume you’re being rationale with your arguments…but on what basis do you know with certainty that that is actually true?

    I don’t know it with certainty. I do my best, which is all I can do.

    You are in the same boat. Invoking an immaterial mind doesn’t help at all. How do you know your immaterial mind is reliable?

  12. 12
    CentralScrutinizer

    Keiths: I simply think that I am better off in a democracy, that you are also, and that so are our compatriots. I am appealing to our shared interest and our shared concern for the well-being of our fellow citizens. That appeal wouldn’t sway a psychopath, of course, but then again neither would “ultimate morality”.

    So then, you agree with me.

  13. Central Scrutinizer,

    So then, you agree with me.

    No, because you wrote:

    The humorous thing is, on the one hand they’ll tell you there is no ultimate meaning, and then straight-away tell you why you should believe this social model or that social model “for the betterment of society”…

    I don’t see anything humorous or odd about that. It makes perfect sense.

  14. 14
    Kantian Naturalist

    A few comments:

    (1) I’m not a materialist, and if one insists that atheism is, or entails, materialism, then I’ll happily say that I’m not an atheist, either. I’ve said that many, many times, but for some reason I’m not taken seriously when I say that. I oppose ‘materialism’ on empirical, metaphysical, and political grounds. I’m not concerned to attack or defend atheism one way or the other. I’m much happier calling myself an “apatheist” than an “atheist.”

    (2) I’ve repeatedly affirmed my commitment to objective truth — indeed, to objective morality as well as objective ‘matter of fact’ knowledge. All I’ve denied is that objectivity the same thing as, or is logically connected with, absolutism. And I’ve given the argument for that view many, many times as well. I’m not going to bother doing so again.

    (3) It is no part of my view that knowledge is the same as, or is logically connected with, certainty. I think that Dewey was exactly right when he argued that “the quest for certainty” is something better given up than continued.

    (4) I think that Churchland is basically right is proposing that we explain the reliability of our cognitive capacities (our capacities for reliable perception, conceptualization, and action) in terms of sustaining a homomorphic relation between neurophysiological relations and somatic and environmental relations. (Notice, then, that it’s a second-order relation rather than a first-order relation.) And I think that Churchland’s response to Plantinga is exactly right. (For more on this, see: Churchland, P. (2009), “Is Evolutionary Naturalism Epistemologically Self-Defeating?”, Philo: A Journal of Philosophy 12:2.)

    (5) I think that Churchland’s views about the reliability of neurophysiological processes as mostly accurate maps of the practical environment works better in terms of a metaphysics of emergence than in terms of the metaphysics of materialism in which he embeds those views.

    (6) One major part of Churchland’s account which frustrates me is that he doesn’t do much to connect “the sub-personal story” — causal explanations about neuro-cognitive processes — with “the personal story” — conceptual explications of norm-governed inferential relations between judgments. In fact, the paper I’m working on now is an attempt to do just that — connect Churchland with Brandom. It’s pretty clear to me that reconciling the two “sons of Sellars” — Brandom and Churchland — will require distinguishing between the dimension of explication and the dimension of explanation.

  15. The etymology of “meaning” is closely related to that of “intention.” What one “means” is what one intends a listener to take from one’s utterance. Therefore “meaning” starts as a verb (to mean), and denotes a characteristically human acion. It is a component of the notion of human agency. It is only later that “that which one intends to convey” is reified into the noun “meaning.”

    “The world” is not an agent and doesn’t have intentions – therefore it doesn’t “mean” anything (doesn’t intend to convey messages). Nor it is “the world” itself a message.

    I don’t see why that would bother anyone, or have the slightest bearing upon whether human actions may be construed as reflecting intentions or “acts of meaning” (Jerome Bruner’s wonderful phrase).

  16. If I can “make a difference” in the world – that is meaningful, is it not? If not, what am I missing?

    One may feel something is meaningful, but how does that feeling accord with reality? If the universe is meaningless, how does it logically follow our feelings of meaning are logically correct versus being an illusion (like supposedly “free will” is an illusion).

    Fiction seems meaningful, moving, inspiring — but is it really meaningful? What logical basis is there for saying something can be meaningful in a universe that is pointless.

    Paraphrasing Weinberg: the more we know the more pointless the universe seems.

  17. Hi RB,

    I was wondering when you would show up. We’ve been having lots of discussions that are right up your alley.

    It’s interesting that Christians, who regard humans as important or even the focal point of the entire universe, are nevertheless so dismissive of human meaning. It apparently doesn’t count, and the only real meaning is God’s Meaning.

  18. Sal,

    One may feel something is meaningful, but how does that feeling accord with reality?

    If I feel that something is meaningful, then it has meaning, by definition. It means something, because it means something to me.

    If the universe is meaningless, how does it logically follow our feelings of meaning are logically correct versus being an illusion (like supposedly “free will” is an illusion).

    The universe isn’t meaningless. See above.

  19. KN in #7

    (3) It is no part of my view that knowledge is the same as, or is logically connected with, certainty. I think that Dewey was exactly right when he argued that “the quest for certainty” is something better given up than continued.

    In other words, Dewey is absolutely certain that we can not be certain of anything. If he’s uncertain of that, then the statement really doesn’t mean much. If he is certain of it then, this is a logically self-refuting statement any way you want to look at it…and that is the problem with this whole line of thinking. They are logically untenable.

    (4) I think that Churchland is basically right is proposing that we explain the reliability of our cognitive capacities (our capacities for reliable perception, conceptualization, and action) in terms of sustaining a homomorphic relation between neurophysiological relations and somatic and environmental relations. (Notice, then, that it’s a second-order relation rather than a first-order relation.) And I think that Churchland’s response to Plantinga is exactly right. (For more on this, see: Churchland, P. (2009), “Is Evolutionary Naturalism Epistemologically Self-Defeating?”, Philo: A Journal of Philosophy 12:2.)

    And I think Churchland is basically wrong for all the reasons that Plantinga and Segal give here in their response to Churchland. Churchland’s argument really doesn’t work…Plantinga’s does. No one has really successfully refuted Plantinga. At best, they’ve poked around the edges, but the core of his argument is unscathed and unrefuted. You can’t get to rationality from chance and/or necessity alone.

    Which lead me to KeithS:

    We cannot know, in an absolute sense, that our cognitive faculties are trustworthy. We just have to do our best with what we have. This applies to you as much as it does to me. Materialists and non-materialists alike face this problem.

    And do you know that the above comment is absolutely correct? If so, how? If not, why bother with it? The problem here is claiming some form of “It is absolutely certain that nothing is absolutely certain”…which on its face is self-refuting. That is the upshot of your argument. The weaker form is “I’m fairly certain, but not quite sure, that nothing is certain.” That’s a nice concept, and it might be right, but then again it might not, and, on your view, we really can’t know. But, it could also be stated “I’m absolutely certain, that I’m fairly certain, but not quite sure that nothing is certain.” This isn’t meant to be sophistry, but to highlight the logical inconsistency with the claim in the first place. There’s no reason at all to even remotely entertain it as being true.

    And then there’s math. 2+2=4 True or false? Are you certain or uncertain? Why? If nothing is certain, then no mathematical formula is trustworthy either. No matter how you parse it, you have to assume a certainty to argue for uncertainty!

  20. Let me try that link to Plantinga again: Plantinga and Segal

  21. 21
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths: I don’t see anything humorous or odd about that. It makes perfect sense.

    I didn’t say it was odd. I said it was humorous. And it is humorous to me because there are tacit assumptions made which are rarely justified or even acknowledged. (And of course, nothing is objectively and ultimately justified.)

    Pulpit pounding by a group who holds there is no ultimate meaning is still pulpit pounding. I dunno. That seems pretty humorous to me.

  22. DonaldM:

    And do you know that the above comment is absolutely correct?

    Of course not. I can’t know with absolute certainty that any statement is correct, and that includes the cogito.

    If not, why bother with it?

    Because truth is worth pursuing even if we can’t be sure that we’ve attained it.

    The problem here is claiming some form of “It is absolutely certain that nothing is absolutely certain”…which on its face is self-refuting. That is the upshot of your argument.

    No, that is not what I have claimed. I don’t think absolute certainty is possible.

    The weaker form is “I’m fairly certain, but not quite sure, that nothing is certain.” That’s a nice concept, and it might be right, but then again it might not, and, on your view, we really can’t know. But, it could also be stated “I’m absolutely certain, that I’m fairly certain, but not quite sure that nothing is certain.”

    But I’m not absolutely certain that I’m fairly certain. I’m fairly certain that I’m fairly certain.

    Why overreach with absolute claims when provisional claims work just fine?

    And then there’s math. 2+2=4 True or false? Are you certain or uncertain?

    True, and I’m fairly certain. :) (Actually pretty damn certain — but not absolutely certain. There could be something systematically wrong with my brain that makes me perceive certain mathematical falsehoods as true.)

    Why? If nothing is certain, then no mathematical formula is trustworthy either.

    “Trustworthy” and “certain” aren’t synonymous. I think “2 + 2 = 4″ is trustworthy, but am I absolutely — absolutely — certain that it’s true? No.

    No matter how you parse it, you have to assume a certainty to argue for uncertainty!

    Not true, for reasons I’ve already given.

  23. CentralScrutinizer,

    Consider these two statements:

    1. Ultimate meaning and ultimate morality do not exist.

    2. We are better off as a democracy than we would be as a dictatorship.

    I assert the truth of both statements, and I see no contradiction.

    You find the juxtaposition humorous:

    The humorous thing is, on the one hand they’ll tell you there is no ultimate meaning, and then straight-away tell you why you should believe this social model or that social model “for the betterment of society”…

    Why do you find that humorous? Are you amused by the juxtaposition of perfectly compatible statements?

  24. 24
    CentralScrutinizer

    Keiths: Why do you find that humorous? Are you amused by the juxtaposition of perfectly compatible statements?

    I did not say they are “not compatible” nor did I say there are “contradictory.” What I said was that #2 “is humorous to me because there are tacit assumptions made which are rarely justified or even acknowledged. Pulpit pounding by a group who holds there is no ultimate meaning is still pulpit pounding. I dunno. That seems pretty humorous to me.”

    I have italicized certain words above to help clarify to you why I might think it humorous.

  25. CentralScrutinizer,

    I still don’t get it.

    Do you think that people can’t (or shouldn’t) be passionate about issues unless there is “ultimate meaning” in the universe?

    Perhaps it would help if you would state what “tacit assumptions” you think are being made in statement #2.

  26. KeithS

    True, and I’m fairly certain. :) (Actually pretty damn certain — but not absolutely certain. There could be something systematically wrong with my brain that makes me perceive certain mathematical falsehoods as true.)

    And with that we’ve entered the theater of the absurd. Are you kidding here? I hope so. Because if you’re being serious, then you are grasping at straws…and phantom straws at that, since you can only be “fairly certain” the straws are even there.

    Keith, how can you claim to be taking the road of logic and reason here? You left that road several miles back, and are now wandering in the desert of absurdity!

    But I’m not absolutely certain that I’m fairly certain. I’m fairly certain that I’m fairly certain.

    Why overreach with absolute claims when provisional claims work just fine?

    Because the “provisional” quotes, as you so quaintly put it, make no sense whatsoever. You can put as many “fairly certains” as you wish in front of whatever claim you want to make, but in the end what you actually mean is that you are absolutely certain of your “fairly” certain-ness. In fact your “fairly” certain-ness is quite resolute and absolute, and contradicts everything else you’re trying to say. Your entire line of argument is totally, and completely self-refuting, so why continue to cling to it? Give it up.

    What your whole argument boils down to is another form of “There’s no such thing as absolute certainty”. Even if you say “I’m fairly certain that there’s no such thing as absolute certainty” or “I’m fairly certain that I’m fairly certain that…” In the end it boils down to an absolute claim, because you are absolutely certain that your “fairly” certain. There’s no way to get around it Keith! Give it up!

  27. Elizabeth

    Nor does science seem “meaningless” to me – to hypothesise an explanation, and then test its predictions and find them confirmed is enormously meaningful – it means that I have probably found out something true about the world.

    So what does “meaningless” mean in the context of the OP?

    If I can “make a difference” in the world – that is meaningful, is it not? If not, what am I missing?

    I’m a musician too, so I an relate to that part anyway. What you’re missing as I see it is that just because you ascribe meaning to something doesn’t mean it actually has meaning. If the atheistic worldview is correct (and I am completely certain it is NOT) then Dawkins’s claim that “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” From The Blind Watchmaker In other words, the universe is ultimately meaningless. What then is gained by ascribing meaning to anything in a meaningless universe? It might make you feel better, but the truth is that the meaning is an illusion. Who needs allusions!

  28. 28

    Fascinating argument scordova and one I agree with completely.

    In atheism, truth has no more value than lies. What human has the authority to declare one moral and the other immoral, especially if their brain is just the product of random chance and without free will (as atheists allege)?

    Only God can do that. Only someone superior can give value to something. For example, would the Mona Lisa painting be valuable if nobody wanted it? Can it give value to itself as atheists contend humans have?

    Nothing makes sense without GOD.

  29. Donald M:

    I’m a musician too, so I an relate to that part anyway.

    Hey! What do you play?

    … just because you ascribe meaning to something doesn’t mean it actually has meaning

    This doesn’t make any sense to me. The way we create meaning is to ascribe meaning to something. At its most basic, because we both ascribe the meaning “small furry feline” to the word “cat” we can understand each other. More usefully, it means that I can say to you “I have two black cats” and it means something to you – you now have information that you did not have before. And if I demonstrate to you just why it must be true that the square on the hypoteneuse of a right angled triangle must be equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides” not only have a communicated my meaning to you, but you yourself can see what I have claimed to be true, must be, in fact true. And I could say to you “I love you”, and that might have enormously important meaning to you, especially if you knew that I meant it :)

    So you must be using a different meaning of “meaning” to the one I am using! I find it hard to think of a meaning of “meaning” that would not be possible in the absence of a god. Buddhist religion, for example, does not posit a deity, and yet I don’t see it regarded as “meaningless” generally.

    As for Dawkins’ quote – what he means is no more and no less than what he says – the universe does not appear to be much bothered about you and me, or what we do, whether good or evil. Yet it (in my view and Dawkins’) created us.

    But that doesn’t mean (heh) that we must have those properties as well, and clearly we do not. The universe may be pitiless, but you and I are not. The universe may have no opinion on what is good or evil, but you and I do.

    Dawkins makes the point that as far as we can tell, we were not created by the universe for the universe’s purpose,but emerged from it with the capacity to form our own purposes, and select our actions so as to give us the best chances of achieve them. And those purposes, rather wonderfully, can include the welfare of our fellow organisms.

  30. Blue Savannah:

    In atheism, truth has no more value than lies.

    This is, in my view, completely untrue, Blue Savannah, and as evidence for its untruth, I am an atheist and I care deeply about the fact that you have said something untrue about atheism!

    Truth is just as important “in atheism” as it is in anything else. If someone lies to me, that matters just as much to me as it would to you. Lying is just as destructive to relationships between atheists as it is destructive to relationships between non-atheists.

    And of course it matters to scientists that things are true, which is why we go to so much trouble to try to quantify the probability that a hypothesis is true. We may acknowledge that no certainty is possible but that does not mean that we do not care about the truth, or it has no value.

    I do find these claims about atheism are quite extraordinary.

  31. @Elizabeth B Liddle

    “Truth is just as important “in atheism” as it is in anything else. If someone lies to me, that matters just as much to me as it would to you. Lying is just as destructive to relationships between atheists as it is destructive to relationships between non-atheists.”

    I’m glad you think that truth is important and that lies can be destructive to an atheist, but who cares Elizabeth? Your worldview does not sustain objective morals, only subjective morals that are merely self-serving preferences. Which then begs the question; why should anyone (but yourself) care what you think?

    Subjective morals will always have their feet planted firmly in midair with no ultimate or objective value. Naturalism also offers humanity NO intrinsic worth or real value, so how then can truth (outside of the individual) have any “built in” value?

  32. 32
    Kantian Naturalist

    And I think Churchland is basically wrong for all the reasons that Plantinga and Segal give here in their response to Churchland. Churchland’s argument really doesn’t work…Plantinga’s does. No one has really successfully refuted Plantinga. At best, they’ve poked around the edges, but the core of his argument is unscathed and unrefuted. You can’t get to rationality from chance and/or necessity alone.

    I’ve re-read the Churchland article and the Plantinga-Segal response, and I’m prepared to return to that conversation.

    I think that Plantinga and Segal have evaded a quite crucial element of Churchland’s positive thesis, which is his concept of representation — what he calls, in his new book (Plato’s Camera), “Domain-Portrayal Semantics.” Here’s the key move:

    Consider a broader concept of representation, and of successful representation, than that embodied in the familiar framework of broadly sentence-like representations, and of their truth (2009, p. 139)

    and

    the dominant scheme of representation in biological creatures generally, from the Ordovician to the present, is the internal map of a range of possible types of sensorily accessible features . . . Now a map achieves its representational successes by displaying some sort of homomorphism between its own internal structure and the structure of the objective domain it purports to portray . . . [under natural selection] there will be a strong tendency for living creatures to develop cognitive feature-maps that are least roughly accurate partial portrayals of the practical environment in which the creature must make its way. (2009, p. 140)

    But when Plantinga and Segal take up the response, they seem to miss the point, because they take the relevant question to be

    is it all likely that our cognitive faculties, given naturalism and their evolutionary origin, would have developed in such a way at to be reliable, that is, to furnish us with mostly true beliefs? (2009, p. 202)

    It’s the “that is” which bothers me — that they take “to furnish us with mostly true beliefs” as a gloss on what “to be reliable cognitive faculties” means. What Churchland has done, in effect, is to give us a theory of semantic content according to which “reliable cognition” and “mostly true beliefs” are teased apart from one another. Plantinga and Segal fail to grasp this, and so their response to him doesn’t take the full measure of his criticism of the EAAN.

    What Churchland should have said, on my grasp of his work as a whole, is something like this:

    Unguided natural selection will tend to produce living creatures with cognitive feature-maps that are at least roughly accurate partial portrayals of the practical environments in which the creature must make its way. In the case of social creatures, there are vastly more resources for evaluating the adequacy of any individual’s cognitive representings of its environment, just because the creatures can ‘triangulate’ their mappings of the environment. The more sophisticated the forms of sociality involved, the more thoroughly they can grasp the objective layout of reality. And, in those cases of creatures that also have a language, those creatures will tend to have mostly true beliefs about their practical environments, because true beliefs just are what successful cognitive mappings become when they are expressed through language. If the creatures can extend their ‘practical environment’ through technology, then there will be a corresponding extension of the domains about which they can mostly true beliefs.

  33. DonaldM,

    You keep insisting that I must be absolutely certain about something, but why?

    To claim absolute certainty is to say that one could not possibly be wrong, that the probability of being incorrect is 0.0 and the probability of being correct is 1.0.

    I can’t think of any statement for which I would be willing to make such an extreme claim. Can you? The cogito doesn’t cut it, and neither does KF’s favorite example: Josiah Royce’s argument that “error exists”. Both of those depend on logic itself, and we can’t be 100.0 percent sure that we’re doing the logic correctly!

    Can you give us an example of something you believe that could not possibly, noway, nohow, be wrong?

    (I should note that in colloquial usage “I am absolutely certain” doesn’t mean “the probability of my correctness is 1.0″, it just means “I am so certain that I can reasonably ignore the chance that I am mistaken”. I wouldn’t advise you to dispute this since most ID arguments depend on it.)

  34. KeithS “Can you give us an example of something you believe that could not possibly, noway, nohow, be wrong?”

    Yes, I can. I can give you more than one.

    I am absolutely certain I am typing this sentence.

    I am absolutely certain I love my wife. I’m not “fairly” certain or even “quite fairly certain” of that. I am absolutely certain.

    I am absolutely certain that 1+1=2

    I am absolutely certain red is a color and not a fish.

    Its just absurd to pretend that there isn’t anything of which we can be certain. Even absurder to try form an argument to state it because the argument itself must assume a certainty to claim uncertainty. There is no way around it.

  35. Keiths

    Hi RB,

    I was wondering when you would show up. We’ve been having lots of discussions that are right up your alley.

    I’ve been meaning to comment for some time now.

  36. KN in #32

    Unguided natural selection will tend to produce living creatures with cognitive feature-maps that are at least roughly accurate partial portrayals of the practical environments in which the creature must make its way. In the case of social creatures, there are vastly more resources for evaluating the adequacy of any individual’s cognitive representings of its environment, just because the creatures can ‘triangulate’ their mappings of the environment. The more sophisticated the forms of sociality involved, the more thoroughly they can grasp the objective layout of reality. And, in those cases of creatures that also have a language, those creatures will tend to have mostly true beliefs about their practical environments, because true beliefs just are what successful cognitive mappings become when they are expressed through language. If the creatures can extend their ‘practical environment’ through technology, then there will be a corresponding extension of the domains about which they can mostly true beliefs.

    The problem with this argument, even your restated version of what Churchland should have said is it assumes but does not demonstrate the very point at issue. Churchland just assumes natural selection produces cognitive faculties in living creatures that more or less map to their environment. But whether or not NS is capable of accomplishing this feat is exactly the point at issue in the entire EAAN. Thus Churchland is guilty of assuming the consequent, or as we say here in the street, begging the question.

    And that doesn’t even touch on whether or not NS is even capable of doing anything noteworthy in terms of providing living organisms the right cognitive faculties required to survive in their environment. But I don’t want to sidetrack into a debate on NS…we can save that for another day. The point for now is Churchland just assumes it…but that is the point at issue.

  37. 37
    Kantian Naturalist

    No, I don’t think that Churchland is begging the question against Plantinga.

    He would be begging the question against Plantinga if he needed to first demonstrate his entitlement to evolutionary naturalism before proceeding further. But from what I understand, that’s not how the EAAN is supposed to work — the EAAN is supposed to work by granting evolutionary naturalism and then generating an incoherence — that if I believe that evolutionary naturalism is true, then I have a reason for doubting the reliability of my cognitive faculties, including all the beliefs formed by those faculties, including the belief in evolutionary naturalism. Compressed: if I believe that evolutionary naturalism is true, then I shouldn’t believe that evolutionary naturalism is true.

    [Here I'm following Churchland's lead and using "evolutionary naturalism" as a stand-in for "naturalism + evolution" -- I'm well aware that Plantinga would be more or less happy with theistic evolution. For that matter, I have no complaints against theistic evolution. I'm only taking issue with Plantinga's argument for theistic evolution on epistemological grounds.]

    I mean, the EAAN is not supposed to be a ‘starting out from first principles’ sort of argument, right? It’s supposed to be an internal critique of evolutionary naturalism — it’s supposed to show that evolutionary naturalism is self-refuting.

    And it’s not, because given our current grasp of evolutionary theory and of cognitive neuroscience, there’s no reason not to believe that unguided natural selection does, in fact, tend to produce organisms that have roughly accurate partial maps of their practical environments, and indeed lots of reasons to think that that is exactly what evolution tends to do.

    So then all Churchland needs is an account that shows how to get from reliable non-propositional representations (roughly accurate neurocognitive feature-maps) to propositional representings (mostly true beliefs) — and to do that, all he needs is an account of the origins of language.

    To reiterate: the reason why this works as a response (I wouldn’t say “refutation”) to the EAAN is because the EAAN is supposed to grant everything that the evolutionary naturalist wants to say, and then generate the incoherence — but Churchland has a way of getting around that, and the key move is to locate semantic content directly at the neurological level — so that the teasing apart of ‘belief’ and ‘behavior’, which is crucial to making the EAAN work, doesn’t go through.

    Churchland can effectively say, “yes, it’s true that natural selection has shaped our cognitive mechanisms for sustaining successful reproductive behavior rather than for tracking truth, but (i) successful reproductive behavior itself requires mostly accurate map-like representations of the practical environment, and (ii) successful representations of the practical environment, in conjunction with the acquisition of a language, produces mostly true beliefs about that environment.”

  38. DonaldM,

    I am absolutely certain I am typing this sentence.

    No, because you might be dreaming, or hallucinating, or in the Matrix.

    I am absolutely certain I love my wife. I’m not “fairly” certain or even “quite fairly certain” of that. I am absolutely certain.

    No, because it is possible for you to be systematically deceived about that. You might think that you are experiencing that emotion, but only because your brain is making a flawed inference matching your current state to the one referred to by the word “love”.

    I am absolutely certain that 1+1=2

    No, because your sense of certainty about that might be mistaken. Even a mathematical proof can’t give you absolute certainty, because it depends on the axioms and the rules of deduction, neither of which are absolutely certain!

    I am absolutely certain red is a color and not a fish.

    Again, your sense of certainty could be flawed. It may be that red is a fish in some way that you haven’t considered or can’t comprehend. It may be that the rules of logic you apply in deciding that red is not a fish are flawed in some way that you haven’t noticed.

    Don’t get me wrong — I am almost certain that you are right about all of those assertions. Just not absolutely certain.

    And I would be willing to bet an extremely large amount of money on the fact that 1 + 1 = 2 (in decimal arithmetic). Am I absolutely certain of it, without the tiniest room for doubt? No, of course not. I could be wrong, and so could you.

    To say that it is impossible for you to be mistaken about certain claims seems like hubris to me.

  39. keiths @ 38: “No, because you might be dreaming, or hallucinating, or in the Matrix.”

    Keiths, The Matrix was not a documentary.

  40. Barb:

    Keiths, The Matrix was not a documentary.

    Thanks for clearing that up, Barb. By the way, have you heard of Descartes?

  41. 41
    Kantian Naturalist

    Keiths, The Matrix was not a documentary.

    Cute, but besides the point — if “I am certain of p” means “it is logically impossible that not-p“, then any fantastic scenario is legitimate.

    Descartes did not really believe that he was being deceived by an evil demon — he wanted to show that, even if he were being deceived by an evil demon, it would still be logically impossible that he would not be thinking (since being deceived is itself a kind of thinking), and so he was entitled to assert that he was certain that he thinking; and that if he was thinking, then he must exist, in order to think. That’s the whole point of the Cogito argument.

  42. Keiths @ 40: considering that I have a book on the great philosophers on my bookshelf, it’s safe to say I’ve heard of Descartes.

    Putting aside philosophical arguments for a second, you stated that DonaldM might be dreaming (have you ever typed anything while dreaming? I haven’t. Sleepwalking would be a better argument), hallucinating (again, hallucinations cause us to see things, not do them), or in the Matrix.

    The logical knots that you tie yourself up with in an attempt to deny a simple truth (DonaldM is awake and conscious and typing) is astonishing.

  43. Barb,

    …have you ever typed anything while dreaming? I haven’t. Sleepwalking would be a better argument…

    Umm, Barb — I’m talking about typing something in the dream, not typing something in reality while dreaming.

    The logical knots that you tie yourself up with in an attempt to deny a simple truth (DonaldM is awake and conscious and typing) is astonishing.

    I wasn’t denying any of those things. I was denying that Donald could be absolutely certain of any of those things, beyond the slightest sliver of a shadow of a doubt.

    Do you have a counterargument?

  44. 44
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths: I still don’t get it.

    I understand. Some of my friends don’t understand why I think Seinfeld is funny. Don’t worry about it.

  45. CentralScrutinizer,

    From my most recent comment to you:

    Do you think that people can’t (or shouldn’t) be passionate about issues unless there is “ultimate meaning” in the universe?

    Perhaps it would help if you would state what “tacit assumptions” you think are being made in statement #2.

    ["2. We are better off as a democracy than we would be as a dictatorship."]

  46. 46
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths: Do you think that people can’t (or shouldn’t) be passionate about issues unless there is “ultimate meaning” in the universe?

    Sure you can. And I’m sure you are. Lions are passionate about gazelles too. No doubt about it.

    Perhaps it would help if you would state what “tacit assumptions” you think are being made in statement #2 (We are better off as a democracy than we would be as a dictatorship.)

    The tacit assumption involves what you think is “better.” I have no doubt you really believe some things are better than others for society. But the punch line is: so what?

    Still don’t get it?

  47. CentralScrutinizer,

    You didn’t answer the full question. I’ve bolded the part you skipped over:

    Do you think that people can’t (or shouldn’t) be passionate about issues unless there is “ultimate meaning” in the universe?

    Regarding your second point, this sounds like just another version of “If there is no ultimate meaning or morality, then everything is just mere preference“.

    Is that what you’re saying?

  48. 48
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths: Regarding your second point, this sounds like just another version of “If there is no ultimate meaning or morality, then everything is just mere preference“. Is that what you’re saying?

    Of course not. Re-read what I wrote. I’m saying it’s humorous to me. As in ironical.

    Still don’t get it? Like I said. Some of my friends don’t understand why I think Seinfeld is funny. I guess some people don’t understand why I would think moralizers are funny who have no ultimate morality underneath their moralizing. I guess that’s not humorous to you. It is to me. But don’t worry about it.

  49. Central Scrutinizer,

    It’s obvious that ultimate morality isn’t needed in order to make sensible moral arguments.

    Odd that you find it humorous when people acknowledge the obvious.

  50. 50
    CentralScrutinizer

    Keiths: It’s obvious that ultimate morality isn’t needed in order to make sensible moral arguments.

    How do you define “sensible?”

  51. Central Scrutinizer,

    How do you define “sensible?”

    Rational and justifiable, basically.

    Like you, William J. Murray posits an objective/ultimate/absolute morality. I state my case against his position in this thread.

  52. 52
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths: Rational and justifiable, basically.

    That tells me nothing. What’s the final basis of your “sensible moral arguments?” Your starting point, rationally, and well, scientifically?

    Like you, William J. Murray posits an objective/ultimate/absolute morality. I state my case against his position in this thread.

    I’m not positing any such thing here. So that thread is irrelevant. All I’m saying (again) is: “I guess some people don’t understand why I would think moralizers are funny who have no ultimate morality underneath their moralizing. I guess that’s not humorous to you. It is to me. But don’t worry about it.” (Italics added for emphasis.)

    But don’t sweat it, Keith. Like I said, some people don’t understand why I think Seinfeld is humorous.

  53. keiths:

    Like you, William J. Murray posits an objective/ultimate/absolute morality. I state my case against his position in this thread.

    Central Scrutinizer:

    I’m not positing any such thing here. So that thread is irrelevant.

    Central Scrutinizer, in the very first comment of this thread:

    Of course, the whole “morality argument” doesn’t prove there is a God, but if reality has no ultimate meaning and I’m free to concoct my own, don’t be surprised (or give me a bunch of subjective sentimental hogwash) why I shouldn’t slit your throat for whatever you may have in your wallet. Or kill you and eat your liver with fava beans.

  54. KeithS “Can you give us an example of something you believe that could not possibly, noway, nohow, be wrong?”

    I am absolutely certain that I think I think “I” am typing this.

    Vivid

  55. And it’s not, because given our current grasp of evolutionary theory and of cognitive neuroscience, there’s no reason not to believe that unguided natural selection does, in fact, tend to produce organisms that have roughly accurate partial maps of their practical environments, and indeed lots of reasons to think that that is exactly what evolution tends to do.

    “Given our current grasp … there’s no reason not to believe…”

    Circular reasoning assuming a consequent under debate. To restate: “Given naturalism produced thoughts (which produces widely contradictory and irreconcilable beliefs), there’s no reason to doubt those thoughts are not roughly accurate.”

    Of course there is; even if we are the product of naturalism-generated thoughts (arguendo), billions of people have believed wildly different things about almost everything for thousands of years. There is no reason to think naturalism produces roughly “accurate” maps in any sense other than “accurate for survival”, which is not necessarily the same as “correspondence to truth”.

  56. Krock:

    I’m glad you think that truth is important and that lies can be destructive to an atheist, but who cares Elizabeth?

    Anyone who values relationships, Krock, which is most of us.

    Your worldview does not sustain objective morals, only subjective morals that are merely self-serving preferences.

    I don’t see why, unless you think that doing something to make someone else happier is ultimately “self-serving” because making someone else happier also makes me happier.

    Which then begs the question; why should anyone (but yourself) care what you think?

    Nobody has to care. I simply offer it as my view.

    Subjective morals will always have their feet planted firmly in midair with no ultimate or objective value. Naturalism also offers humanity NO intrinsic worth or real value, so how then can truth (outside of the individual) have any “built in” value?

    I don’t understand what you are saying here. Can you rephrase? I am not clear of the distinction you are drawing between “intrinsic” worth and mere “worth” and why “intrinsic” worth is better.

    Also, how, in practice, you tell the difference between something that has “intrinsic” worth, and something that may only have “worth”.

    This is not a sarcastic request – I really want to know.

  57. Let’s note KN’s stolen concept (under presumed naturalism), where “roughly accurate” cannot mean “more or less true according to what really exists” as he implies. Under presumed naturalism, “true” and “what really exists” are concepts that mean something else, since they cannot refer to any absolute standard.

    Under naturalism, anything can be labeled “roughly accurate” by the physics computation. “Roughly accurate”, as a label under naturalism, can be put both on a thing and its opposite without issue, because “roughly accurate” means, and is applied to, whatever the computation happens to dictate, and there is no standard to say otherwise.

    So, among the many stolen concepts KN uses as he argues for naturalism from a necessarily idealist or theistic position, “roughly accurate” points to an absolute standard naturalism cannot offer, and the phrase “reason to believe” suffers from the same subjective meaning value and application if used from a naturalist perspective.

  58. This is, in my view, completely untrue, Blue Savannah, and as evidence for its untruth, I am an atheist and I care deeply about the fact that you have said something untrue about atheism!

    Because one refers to themselves as an “atheist” doesn’t mean that they live, order their thoughts from the ground up and argue as if atheism is actually true. Calling yourself an atheist doesn’t mean you actually exist in world that is the result of godless physics, nor does it mean your beliefs and arguments are in accordance with what such a world would produce.

  59. I suggest that far from stealing the concept of morality from theism, theistic morality is simply an anthropomorphic personification of human conclusions about what is moral, given, spurious authority by the label “deity”.

    In support of my thesis, I ask what additional reliable non-subjective information about morality is gained from the assumption that morality proceeds from a deity, as opposed to a deity being the personification of human morality.

  60. I don’t understand what you are saying here. Can you rephrase? I am not clear of the distinction you are drawing between “intrinsic” worth and mere “worth” and why “intrinsic” worth is better.

    I don’t know if you play video games, but there are online video games where you compete against others. There are people that use hacks and become unbeatable not because they are more skilled, but rather because they manipulate the code in a way it was not designed in order to win.

    I was once involved in an online game where there were local game “masters” that housed the base game code for a city, and various cities around the country would compete. It was a great game, where “winning” meant you beat others on a level playing field – you had superior tactics.

    Our local game master figured out how to hack the code so we would win every time. I immediately lost interest and stopped playing. At the time, I could not imagine how anyone could enjoy “winning” a game by cheating.

    “Meaning” beyond trivial descriptive references – like what liquid “means” – depends upon the assumed frame of reference. If one assumes that what one personally feels is a valid measurement of meaning, then if one feels gratified if they win by hacking the game, then that is a “meaningful” accomplishment. Their win, for them, has “meaning” – as much meaning, under materialist atheism, as winning without hacking, because it gave that person a sense of satisfaction that they “won”.

    To the rest of us, however, that “win” has no game-intrinsic value, because they did not win by playing the game – they hacked it. “Winning” is a concept they have no right to employ, nor is it a sensation they have any right to. “Winning”, as a concept and as a sensation, only applies to those that played the game fairly.

    The game, in this sense, is an absolute, objective construct within which there are absolute, objective rules as set forth in the authorized code. Winning the game fairly has a huge amount of meaning. Hacking it, and producing a faux “win”, has no objective meaning or value; it only has subjective value for the individual who is applying an ersatz definition of “winning” as opposed to the objective, value-laden definition.

    Under atheism, life is a game without any rules (other than the basic rules of physics (even our hacker cannot violate those). Beyond that, however, there are only subjectively invented goals and subjectively felt meaning, which all boils down to “what I feel personally benefits me, or makes me feel good or happy”, which is directly comparable to the hacker’s views and feelings. He invents his own rules to acquire whatever sensation he enjoys.

    The ultimate meaning of life, in a godless world, boils down to hedonism, no matter how that hedonism is played out. In a godless world, even Gandhi was a hedonist.

    This brings up an interesting opportunity to illustrate what I mean by a stolen concept. Note that the hacker’s concept of winning, and his/her sense of elation or enjoyment at having won, is genetically descended from the general assumption that the game is fair, and that the rules of the game are being obeyed;

    IOW, it’s that everyone else thinks the hacker won fair and square, or it’s his ability to beat everyone else who is obeying the rules he breaks, that gives him his sense of pleasure. His sense of “winning” is genetically rooted in the very thing that he considers inapplicable to his own play.

    IOW, Liz, in a truly godless world, and operating from a truly atheistic foundation, your “meaning” would have no frame of reference to give it any value – like our ersatz hacker without a pre-existent objective framework to hack and without a pre-existent concept of “winning” available for him/her to steal.

  61. In support of my thesis, I ask what additional reliable non-subjective information about morality is gained from the assumption that morality proceeds from a deity, as opposed to a deity being the personification of human morality.

    What an absurd question. ALL information is subjectively interpreted, whether it has to do with morality, gravity, or a brick wall.

  62. And that is precisely why my question is NOT absurd, William. If there is no way in which information about “objective” morality can be obtained, then there is nothing “objective” about any derivable morality.

    We are still stuck with our best subjective efforts.

  63. Liz,

    I’ve told you at least a dozen times now that the issue is not about discerning that the “morality information” is, in fact, objectively accurate; it’s about the ramifications of the premise of subjective morality vs objective (absolute) morality.

    When we gather information about anything, and construct a perspective on that thing, and how we go about making inferences to conclusions, entirely depends on if we premise (assume) that thing to be a subjective commodity or an objective (absolute, independently existent) commodity.

    Such as, gravity. We expect to be able to independently reach necessarily corresponding results and conclusions when we do things that involve gravity; this is because we hold gravity to be an objectively (absolute) commodity independent of our subjective interpretations and views. We expect our results and conclusions to apply to everyone, regardless of their culture or individual ideas.

    If anyone disagrees, we do not hold it as a matter of personal preference; we expect them to be able to justify their disagreement, or we hold them in error.

    However, all information about gravity is subjectively gathered, subjectively interpreted, and subjectively considered. No “objective” information is accessible from an individual, subjective perspective; but if we assume what we are talking about is objective (absolute), then we expect that our views on the thing in question – gravity – must conform as much as possible to what we assume is an independently objective commodity.

    Because we cannot gain any “more” (any at all, in fact) “objective” information about gravity does not limit us to assuming gravity must be a subjective phenomena. That is the path to solipsism, and everything falls back into Plato’s cave under your “no additional objective information” argument.

  64. Anyone who values relationships, Krock, which is most of us.

    We value relationships because we were designed to do so.

  65. 65
    Kantian Naturalist

    In re: William Murray:

    In re: (55): I already noted that this is not circular reasoning (see my (37)), precisely because of the exact nature of the debate between Plantinga and Churchland. Plantinga’s EAAN takes the question, “If one begins by assuming evolutionary naturalism, do we have any reasons for thinking that our cognitive capacities are reliable, i.e. that our beliefs are mostly true?” And to this Churchland gives a perfectly cogent answer:

    If one begins by assuming evolutionary naturalism, then our present knowledge of evolutionary theory and cognitive neuroscience gives us very good reasons for thinking that cognitive capacities are mostly accurate, partial maps of the practical environment, and also very good explanations for why we tend to go so wildly awry when it comes to understanding the world in more comprehensive terms.

    And he further makes the very interesting point that science works by augmenting our perceptual and motor capacities through technology — effectively turning what was formerly the domain of myth and story into extensions of our practical environment. Now, I am not quite as gung-ho neo-positivistic at Churchland, but it’s a compelling account.

    (One point of difference between Churchland and myself: he sometimes writes as if he wants to complete the positivist replacement of metaphysics with science, whereas I want to continue the pragmatist transformation of pre-scientific metaphysics into scientific metaphysics.)

    So I don’t see Churchland (or myself) as begging any questions. The EAAN, remember, is supposed to conclude that one is not entitled to evolutionary naturalism — but it reaches that conclusion by granting that one is, and then explicating the incoherence of that position. Churchland’s response is that, once granted, the position is not incoherent. And the key difference between Churchland and Plantinga — a subtle difference but really ‘the difference that makes the difference’ — lies in their respective conceptions of representation.

    Plantinga frames the EAAN in terms of “mostly true beliefs”, and takes it that it is beliefs which represent the world. And with that assumption in place, all Plantinga bothers to do is through in some fanciful scenarios that pry apart ‘belief’ and ‘behavior.’ And since natural selection only acts on behavior, not on belief . . . QED.

    To this Churchland responds by saying, implicitly, “OK, if you want to generate the supposed incoherence, then you’ve got to let me start off with everything that evolutionary naturalism is committed to — so don’t saddle me with your old-school concept of “belief” as the basic cognitive unit. Instead, here’s an naturalistic theory of what representation really is: synaptically-encoded feature-space maps. And now, with a naturalistic theory of semantic content, grounded in cognitive neuroscience, to complement what we know about evolutionary processes, the supposed incoherence doesn’t arise.”

    In re: (57): let us note that, in a previous thread, I gave an argument for why “the stolen concept fallacy” is itself a fallacy — because it rests on a conflation of validity and genesis. In reply, Murray accused me of “sophistry” but did not reply further, and did not notice that I had, in fact, given an argument against the very idea of a “stolen concept fallacy”. Given that Murray has continued to use this same notion without any engagement with my criticism, it’s clear that Murray is the real sophist.

  66. William:

    Liz,

    I’ve told you at least a dozen times now that the issue is not about discerning that the “morality information” is, in fact, objectively accurate; it’s about the ramifications of the premise of subjective morality vs objective (absolute) morality.

    Yes, I know you have. And I think that the “ramifications” are irrelevant, if they don’t make any difference to how we discern what is moral. It might be of mild philosophical interest to wonder whether, if we figure out that action X is probably the right thing, whether God does too, but without any way of telling, it doesn’t help us figure it out. No concept has been “stolen” because either way, we have to figure it out.

    When we gather information about anything, and construct a perspective on that thing, and how we go about making inferences to conclusions, entirely depends on if we premise (assume) that thing to be a subjective commodity or an objective (absolute, independently existent) commodity.

    I don’t see why. Morality is an abstract concept, like love, or justice. We don’t have to think that they exist as a force in the universe that can be objectively tested for us to regard them as having validity as constructs. Especially, as we can’t objectively test them, unlike:

    gravity.

    which we can,because independent observers can do the same measurements and verify that they get the same answers.

    We expect to be able to independently reach necessarily corresponding results and conclusions when we do things that involve gravity; this is because we hold gravity to be an objectively (absolute) commodity independent of our subjective interpretations and views.

    No, it’s because we can do actual measurements to test the concept.

    We expect our results and conclusions to apply to everyone, regardless of their culture or individual ideas.

    Precisely, because the very fact that our measurements converge indicates that gravity is part of objective reality. Morality may or may not be, but as we can’t test it, asserting it to be so doesn’t help us find out anything about it.

    If anyone disagrees, we do not hold it as a matter of personal preference; we expect them to be able to justify their disagreement, or we hold them in error.

    Precisely, and we can check their work, and if they get a wildly discrepant answer, we can figure out why.

    This is not the case with morality, as I think you agree.

    However, all information about gravity is subjectively gathered, subjectively interpreted, and subjectively considered. No “objective” information is accessible from an individual, subjective perspective;

    Yes, indeed, but we can converge on a result, and estimate our measurement error from the variance in those results.

    This is why we can regard gravity as an “objective” entity – because the answers we get are only minimally dependent on the observer. This is not the case with morality.

    but if we assume what we are talking about is objective (absolute), then we expect that our views on the thing in question – gravity – must conform as much as possible to what we assume is an independently objective commodity.

    No, what we must expect is that our measurements will give us very similar answers, regardless of what our prior beliefs are about gravity.

    And they do.

    If morality really was as objective as you say, then most observers would reach very similar answers. In fact, I’d say that there is a fair degree of consensus.

    So it may be true that there really is an “objective morality” that we can measure. But if so, why should that objective morality have anything to do with whether we believe in God or not? Why should that “objective morality” not simply be a truth about the way people tend to think they should behave with regard to one another?

    Because we cannot gain any “more” (any at all, in fact) “objective” information about gravity does not limit us to assuming gravity must be a subjective phenomena. That is the path to solipsism, and everything falls back into Plato’s cave under your “no additional objective information” argument.

  67. KN

    mean, the EAAN is not supposed to be a ‘starting out from first principles’ sort of argument, right? It’s supposed to be an internal critique of evolutionary naturalism — it’s supposed to show that evolutionary naturalism is self-refuting.

    And it’s not, because given our current grasp of evolutionary theory and of cognitive neuroscience, there’s no reason not to believe that unguided natural selection does, in fact, tend to produce organisms that have roughly accurate partial maps of their practical environments, and indeed lots of reasons to think that that is exactly what evolution tends to do.

    So then all Churchland needs is an account that shows how to get from reliable non-propositional representations (roughly accurate neurocognitive feature-maps) to propositional representings (mostly true beliefs) — and to do that, all he needs is an account of the origins of language.

    Not quite. Plantinga makes a clear distinction between behavior that ensures survival and whether or not that behavior is grounded in true beliefs. He makes quite clear that true beliefs are not required to ensure behavior that enhances survival. Survival will occur as long as one gets one body parts to a safe place. But one believes about the world that causes the behavior that results in survival does not entail that the belief be actually true.

    The leap that Churchland makes is he already assumes that NS has given us “true” beliefs…and that IS the point at issue. He tries to get at it a clever, but ultimately inaccurate way, because he conflates behavior that ensures survival with true beliefs. The two are not the same, and need not be. And further to Plantinga’s argument, Churchland et.al., have no way to discern what the true belief is under Naturalism.

    Churchland jumps from NS as explanation for our existenece to it also being the explanation for our true beliefs…and that is begging the question. Granting NS as he does, Plantinga is not granting that entails the formation of true beliefs. His point is that there is no way to claim that it does. Churchland’s argument assmues but does not demonstrate it. That is fatal to his critique of the EAAN.

    I’m out of the loop the next couple of days, so won’t be able to engage further on this until later this week. Skeet shooting and a Cubs game! (not at the same time!)

  68. Keiths in #38

    No, because your sense of certainty about that might be mistaken. Even a mathematical proof can’t give you absolute certainty, because it depends on the axioms and the rules of deduction, neither of which are absolutely certain!

    You keep missing the point. No matter how you parse this, Keith, you entire argument comes down to “I’m absolutely certain that nothing is absolutely certain”. You can put all the “fairly certain” qualifiers you wish in front of that, you still can’t avoid the “I’m absolutely certain…” implied in front of all of it. The argument is entirely self-refuting. And of that, I am absolutely certain.

  69. DonaldM,

    No matter how you parse this, Keith, you entire argument comes down to “I’m absolutely certain that nothing is absolutely certain”.

    No, because I’m not absolutely certain that nothing is absolutely certain.

    If I were absolutely certain about that, then I would be saying that it is impossible — probability 0.0 — for anyone, anywhere to come up with a statement that is absolutely certain.

    I’m not that hubristic.

    Why is that so hard for you to grasp?

  70. Yes, I know you have. And I think that the “ramifications” are irrelevant, if they don’t make any difference to how we discern what is moral.

    It doesn’t make any difference to you because you are stealing an entire conceptual framework that you have no right to. Under naturalism/materialism, you do not “discern” what “is” moral; you just make it up according to however you happen to feel.

    I don’t see why. Morality is an abstract concept, like love, or justice.

    Is? You believe it is. Most of us do not. Most of us hold morality to be a concept that describes an actuality.

    We don’t have to think that they exist as a force in the universe that can be objectively tested for us to regard them as having validity as constructs. Especially, as we can’t objectively test them, unlike:

    Nothing can be “objective” tested, Liz. Not even gravity. Gravity can only be subjectively tested and then subjectively agreed upon by a consensus. Nothing is “objectively” tested. You are apparently slipping/sliding on the use of the term “objective”, instead referring to “objective” as what it appears to an individual that the consensus agrees upon. That is also still a subjective interpretation.

    We can ascertain the properties of morality in much the same way – by finding self-evidently true properties of morality and building upon that. Just because morality cannot be seen, but must be experienced another way, doesn’t mean it is not as objectively real as gravity.

    Morality may or may not be, but as we can’t test it, asserting it to be so doesn’t help us find out anything about it.

    Why can we not test morality? You then go on to say:

    If morality really was as objective as you say, then most observers would reach very similar answers.

    and then, bizarrely, :

    In fact, I’d say that there is a fair degree of consensus.

    So on the one hand you rate consensus agreement as that which defines the objective reality of a thing, but even though there is, and has been through many cultures and over centuries if not thousands of years, a fair consensus about basic moral principles (as shown by so many versions of the Golden Rule in so many cultures), you reject the idea that morality is based upon an objective (absolute) commodity, like gravity?

    You’ve undermined your own argument.

    But if so, why should that objective morality have anything to do with whether we believe in God or not? Why should that “objective morality” not simply be a truth about the way people tend to think they should behave with regard to one another?

    If you’re okay with calling slavery, child abuse and ethnic genocide, in principle, as moral as any other behavior if that is the way people tend to think they should behave, then … there’s no reason at all.

  71. 71
    CentralScrutinizer

    Keiths: Central Scrutinizer, in the very first comment of this thread: Of course, the whole “morality argument” doesn’t prove there is a God, but if reality has no ultimate meaning and I’m free to concoct my own, don’t be surprised (or give me a bunch of subjective sentimental hogwash) why I shouldn’t slit your throat for whatever you may have in your wallet. Or kill you and eat your liver with fava beans.

    I read the entire TSZ thread you cited. I don’t see how it’s relevant to my statement. If it helps, I’ll drop the conditional nature from my from my original statement and add an italic:

    Reality has no ultimate meaning. I’m free to concoct my own. So don’t be surprised (or give me a bunch of subjective sentimental hogwash) why I shouldn’t slit your throat for whatever you may have in your wallet. Or kill you and eat your liver with fava beans.

    OK, so how is that other thread relevant?

  72. No, because I’m not absolutely certain that nothing is absolutely certain.

    Then your entire argument about the necessary moral uncertainty of others fails. You can’t have it both ways. Either you can argue that others cannot be certain of their moral position, which necessarily implies certainty that they are not certain, or you agree that they might be certain, which destroys the basis for your argument.

  73. I’m absolutely certain that in all cases anywhere and in any culture, torturing children for one’s personal pleasure is immoral.

    There is nothing subjective about that; if you agree, you are tacitly agreeing that morality refers to something absolute. You cannot have your subjective cake and eat it too.

  74. William:

    Nothing can be “objective” tested, Liz. Not even gravity. Gravity can only be subjectively tested and then subjectively agreed upon by a consensus. Nothing is “objectively” tested. You are apparently slipping/sliding on the use of the term “objective”, instead referring to “objective” as what it appears to an individual that the consensus agrees upon. That is also still a subjective interpretation.

    We can ascertain the properties of morality in much the same way – by finding self-evidently true properties of morality and building upon that. Just because morality cannot be seen, but must be experienced another way, doesn’t mean it is not as objectively real as gravity.

    My position is that the best evidence we have that an objective reality is “out there” as it were, is that independent observers can get substantially the same answers to within a small amount of variance.

    Of course all measurements are “subjective” in that that each person interprets sensory information through their own sensory apparatus, and two people reading the same thermometer will not read it in exactly the same way.

    But the point is that independent observers read thermometers to within a very small degree of variance.

    This tells us that thermometer reading gives us a very “objective” measure of temperature, even though there is still a small amount of “measurement error”.

    The same is NOT true of morality. Non-independent observers may get similar results, while a second set of non-independent observers may get different results. Therefore we know that morality is not something that we can get a reliable measure of.

    That said, there is still a broad consensus about some fundamental principles, such as the value of altruism for maintaining a society that works well for everyone. That may indeed represent an “objective truth” – that societies of intelligent social animals like us thrive when moral principles such as “do as you would be done to” are upheld, and when those who don’t are penalised.

    But that conclusion is not altered depending on whether or not we believe that there is a God. Indeed, I’d say the opposite is the case. We can conclude that regardless of whether there is a God, and moreoever, draw from that conclusions the inference that if there is a good God who made us able to discern that morality, that God must endorse those principles.

    In other words, it makes more sense to recognise God as present in that which is good, than to define good as that which is commanded by God, given that there is no objective way of determining what those commands are.

    As I said, it seems to me that any concept stealing is being done by the theists, rather than secular society, although I do not grudge it. You can gladly have it for free :)

  75. 75
    Kantian Naturalist

    Not quite. Plantinga makes a clear distinction between behavior that ensures survival and whether or not that behavior is grounded in true beliefs. He makes quite clear that true beliefs are not required to ensure behavior that enhances survival. Survival will occur as long as one gets one body parts to a safe place. But one believes about the world that causes the behavior that results in survival does not entail that the belief be actually true.

    I agree with that take on Plantinga — so far, so good.

    The leap that Churchland makes is he already assumes that NS has given us “true” beliefs…and that IS the point at issue. He tries to get at it a clever, but ultimately inaccurate way, because he conflates behavior that ensures survival with true beliefs. The two are not the same, and need not be. And further to Plantinga’s argument, Churchland et.al., have no way to discern what the true belief is under Naturalism.

    Churchland does not “assume that natural selection has given us ‘true’ beliefs”. Instead he makes the following counter-moves:

    (1) he grants Plantinga’s point that we will have a lot of wildly false beliefs, and indeed thinks that evolutionary naturalism explains why our cognitive capacities tend not to do very well when it comes to “worldview-level” questions;

    (2) but, while we human beings are prone to all sorts of wild speculation and fantasizing about worldview-level stuff, what we do have is reliable cognition about our practical environment, because;

    (3) on a naturalistic account of semantic content, semantic content just is synaptically-encoded feature-space mappings of the environment; therefore

    (4) whereas Plantinga simply gives us fanciful scenarios for how belief and behavior can be conceived as coming apart (“Perhaps Paul believes that tigers are friendly, but that running away from the tiger will make it like him”), Churchland gives us a theory about how exactly representations of the world — construed as naturalism construes themare tightly bound up with successful reproduction.

    (5) and that, with language, culture, and technology, the collective scientific enterprise boot-straps our ‘native’ cognitive capacities into forming better and better theories about the world — including the theories of evolution and of cognitive neuroscience that are used to ground (a)-(d).

    [In short, Churchland is using our best current scientific theories to explain our ability to do science -- while also explaining why science is such a recent development in the history of our species. If nothing else, this should at least show how much Churchland is an anti-foundationalist in the tradition of Hegel, Peirce, and Sellars. In fact Churchland wrote his undergrad senior thesis on Peirce and did his PhD under Sellars.]

  76. @Elizabeth #74

    it seems to me that any concept stealing is being done by the theists

    Theists and religious people are not the same, since not all theists believe in the God of the Bible (or any god written on paper), and therefore are not biased by predetermined concepts of morality and good and evil that are independent from the material world.

    In other words, it makes more sense to recognise God as present in that which is good, than to define good as that which is commanded by God, given that there is no objective way of determining what those commands are.

    I agree. We should learn about the Creator by looking at the creation, not by reading religious text about it/him/her.

  77. keiths:

    No, because I’m not absolutely certain that nothing is absolutely certain.

    Are you absolutely certain that you are not absolutely certain?

  78. CentralScrutinizer:

    why I shouldn’t slit your throat for whatever you may have in your wallet. Or kill you and eat your liver with fava beans.

    Can you use a little less personal language when talking to KeithS, please? This is creeping me out. A better phrasing:

    why someone should slit someone else’s throat

    That makes the same point without making it too personal.

  79. I’m absolutely certain that I won’t live forever (not that I would want to). Does that violate the law of absolute uncertainty?

  80. In other words, it makes more sense to recognise God as present in that which is good, than to define good as that which is commanded by God, given that there is no objective way of determining what those commands are.

    I never said or implied that good is that which is commanded by god. In fact, I’ve told you explicitly, several times, as have others, that good is not “commanded” by god, but rather it is a fundamental characteristic of what god is. God cannot change what is good.

    You’re equivocal usage of the term “objective” only serves to accept what you want, when you want, and deny what you want, when you want.

    Under your paradigm, then, a person can equally “recognize” the God in a good act of abuse and oppression, murder and theft – if that is how they tend to think that other people should be treated. It has no meaning to say something is good – it has no more value than saying that you like cherry pie.

  81. Mr Fox. your statement reminded me of this statement:

    “I knew for certain there was no such thing as life after death. Only simple minded people believed in that sort of thing. I didn’t believe in God, Heaven, or Hell, or any other fairy tales. I drifted into darkness. Drifting asleep into anihilation.,,(Chapter 2 – The Descent),, I was standing up. I opened my eyes to see why I was standing up. I was between two hospital beds in the hospital room.,,, Everything that was me, my consciousness and my physical being, was standing next to the bed. No, it wasn’t me lying in the bed. It was just a thing that didn’t have any importance to me. It might as well have been a slab of meat in the supermarket”
    Howard Storm – former hard-core atheist – Excerpt from his book, ‘My Descent Into Death’ (Page 12-14)
    http://books.google.com/books?.....38;f=false

  82. keiths:

    Umm, Barb — I’m talking about typing something in the dream, not typing something in reality while dreaming.

    Then, logically, DonaldM could pinch himself to make sure he’s awake, alert, and conscious and not dreaming. Problem solved.

    I wasn’t denying any of those things. I was denying that Donald could be absolutely certain of any of those things, beyond the slightest sliver of a shadow of a doubt.

    DonaldM can be absolutely certain he is not sleeping, especially if he is sitting up in front of a computer at a desk.

    I can be sure that I am also not sleeping, since I am sitting up at a desk. I pinched myself, so I know without a doubt that I am awake.

    As StephenB pointed out, your position violates one of the most basic rules of philosophy and logic. It’s unjustified and basically self-defeating. William Lane Craig answers this question handily: ““Since every possible option has not been explored, nothing can be said for certain.” That statement is itself a claim to knowledge! (A claim that is patently false, but never mind!”

    Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org.....z2YOCTwkYP

  83. …your statement reminded me of this statement…

    Oh dear, I should have known better. I said I don’t expect to live forever, Phil. As it happens, I do doubt I, or anyone else, will have a life beyond reality after dying but I am not absolutely certain of that.

    I am absolutely certain that I will not live forever in the sense that the body that is me will die (that is irreversibly and irrevokably cease to function) one day

  84. Mr. Fox, sounds like you are weaseling from what is truly important in the matter.,,, Instead of pating a dozen links showing why we know for a fact that we will live past death, let me suffice to say Mr. Fox that honesty would become you if you should ever decide on not deceiving yourself as you do.

  85. Phil

    I said I am certain I will die one day. I am not absolutely certain what might happen subsequently.

    hat’s “pating”? Unfamiliar with that word.

  86. Ah a pate is under a hat so never mind!

  87. Barb,

    You’re completely missing the point.

    Try this article: Brain in a vat

    Donald can’t be absolutely certain that he’s sitting up in front of a computer at a desk”, and neither can you.

    I don’t blame you for believing it, and it’s a good provisional hypothesis. But you can’t be absolutely certain of it, because you can’t completely rule out the possibility that you are a brain in a vat.

    Think about it. What could you possibly do that would prove beyond any doubt whatsoever that you are not a brain in a vat?

  88. Mr. Fox, the word was ‘posting’, sorry,,

    “Speculations? I have none. I am resting on certainties. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
    [When asked about his speculations on life beyond death, as quoted in The Homiletic Review (April 1896), p. 442]
    ?Michael Faraday – He was one of the greatest experimenters ever – credited with inventing the electric motor.
    http://scienceworld.wolfram.co.....raday.html

    And in the spirit of Faraday what experimental evidence can we offer for life after death? It turns out, contrary to what many materialists may believe, that we can offer a lot more sure evidence than Darwinists can ever offer for material processes ever generating functional information (which is none and never)!

    As to establishing the transcendent soul
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-459110

    ,,But since we are dealing in certainties Mr. Fox, let’s back up a bit and ask ‘how can you be so unwaveringly certain that material processes can produce molecular machines even though you have not even one example of material processes doing as such?’

    “Orr maintains that the theory of intelligent design is not falsifiable. He’s wrong. To falsify design theory a scientist need only experimentally demonstrate that a bacterial flagellum, or any other comparably complex system, could arise by natural selection. If that happened I would conclude that neither flagella nor any system of similar or lesser complexity had to have been designed. In short, biochemical design would be neatly disproved.”
    - Dr Behe in 1997

    Michael Behe on Falsifying Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8jXXJN4o_A

    and since you can’t demonstrate just one molecular machine arising by Darwinian processes, why should I believe you can explain entire factories arising in such a fashion?

    Venter: Life Is Robotic Software – July 15, 2012
    Excerpt: “All living cells that we know of on this planet are ‘DNA software’-driven biological machines comprised of hundreds of thousands of protein robots, coded for by the DNA, that carry out precise functions,” said (Craig) Venter.
    http://crev.info/2012/07/life-is-robotic-software/

    Much less entire factories that operate on the fly,,

    Problems with the Metaphor of a Cell as “Machine” – July 2012
    Excerpt: Too often, we envision the cell as a “factory” containing a fixed complement of “machinery” operating according to “instructions” (or “software” or “blueprints”) contained in the genome and spitting out the “gene products” (proteins) that sustain life.
    Many things are wrong with this picture, but one of the problems that needs to be discussed more openly is the fact that in this “factory,” many if not most of the “machines” are themselves constantly turning over — being assembled when and where they are needed, and disassembled afterwards. The mitotic spindle…is one of the best-known examples, but there are many others.
    Funny sort of “factory” that, with the “machinery” itself popping in and out of existence as needed!,,,
    - James Barham
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62691.html

    Mr. Fox, that should literally send a chill down your spine as to entertaining any quote unquote ‘certainty’ that any of that can be explained without reference to Intelligent Design. Yet, here you, and other Darwinists, sit, day after day, pretending as if you are ‘certain’ that unguided material processes can produce such staggering complexity.,, One certainty that such irrational actions give me is the absolute certainty that I am not dealing with rational people when I deal with Darwinists!

  89. StephenB,

    Are you absolutely certain that you are not absolutely certain?

    No.

  90. KeithS “Can you give us an example of something you believe that could not possibly, noway, nohow, be wrong?”

    “I” am absolutely certain that “I” think I think “I” am typing this. Now there may be no I, the I maybe an illusion, an hallucination, a dream, in the matrix, a brain in the vat, whatever,it does not matter. It does not change that I am absolutely certain that “I” think I think “I” am typing this.

    Vivid

    Vivid

  91. One certainty that such irrational actions give me is the absolute certainty that I am not dealing with rational people when I deal with Darwinists!

    You deal with Darwinists? By spamming this site and a few others? I think you have an inflated impression of the scope of your influence! :)

  92. DonaldM, Barb, StephenB,

    Are you beginning to see the pattern? I am not absolutely certain of anything, including this very statement.

    My sensory information isn’t absolutely trustworthy, because I know that human senses aren’t perfectly reliable (cf optical illusions). And even if they were perfectly reliable, I’d still face the brain-in-a-vat problem.

    What about the cogito? No, I can’t be certain of that, because a) the cogito depends on logic, and I can’t be absolutely certain that the rules of logic are correct, or that I am applying them correctly; and b) it depends on a premise — thoughts require a thinker — that I can’t be absolutely certain of.

    The last resort would be to claim that thought itself (or even just experience itself) exists, and that if nothing else, I can at least know that with absolute certainty. But can I? If I can’t be absolutely certain that my cognitive apparatus is reliable, then even this conclusion drops below absolute certainty.

    I can defend near certainty, but I can’t defend absolute certainty.

    And no, I’m not absolutely certain about that. Of course.

  93. vividbleau,

    My previous comment applies to your objection, too.

  94. No actually Mr. Fox, I am painfully aware that I have very limited influence, did not claim otherwise contrary to your accusation to the contrary, whereas my impression of Darwinists is that they, almost without fail, think that they are smarter than everybody else. In fact, so arrogant is the typical atheist in his beliefs that he thinks he knows how God ought best run the universe. In fact that arrogance about atheists thinking that he knows for certain how God ought and ought not run the universe is woven into the Theodological foundation of neo-Darwinism,,,

    “One of the great ironies of the atheist mind is that no-one is more cock-sure of exactly what God is like, exactly what God would think, exactly what God would do, than the committed atheist. Of course he doesn’t believe in God, but if God did exist, he knows precisely what God would be like and how God would behave. Or so he thinks”,,,”
    Eric – UD Blogger

    Charles Darwin, Theologian: Major New Article on Darwin’s Use of Theology in the Origin of Species – May 2011
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....46391.html

    The Descent of Darwin – Pastor Joe Boot – (The Theodicy of Darwinism) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKJqk7xF4-g

    The role of theology in current evolutionary reasoning – Paul A. Nelson – Biology and Philosophy, 1996, Volume 11, Number 4, Pages 493-517
    Excerpt: Evolutionists have long contended that the organic world falls short of what one might expect from an omnipotent and benevolent creator. Yet many of the same scientists who argue theologically for evolution are committed to the philosophical doctrine of methodological naturalism, which maintains that theology has no place in science. Furthermore, the arguments themselves are problematical, employing concepts that cannot perform the work required of them, or resting on unsupported conjectures about suboptimality. Evolutionary theorists should reconsider both the arguments and the influence of Darwinian theological metaphysics on their understanding of evolution.
    http://www.springerlink.com/co.....34/?MUD=MP

    Dr. Seuss Biology | Origins with Dr. Paul A. Nelson – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVx42Izp1ek

    And in the following quote, Dr. John Avise explicitly uses Theodicy to try to make the case for Darwinism:

    It Is Unfathomable That a Loving Higher Intelligence Created the Species – Cornelius Hunter – June 2012
    Excerpt: “Approximately 0.1% of humans who survive to birth carry a duplicon-related disability, meaning that several million people worldwide currently are afflicted by this particular subcategory of inborn metabolic errors. Many more afflicted individuals probably die in utero before their conditions are diagnosed. Clearly, humanity bears a substantial health burden from duplicon-mediated genomic malfunctions. This inescapable empirical truth is as understandable in the light of mechanistic genetic operations as it is unfathomable as the act of a loving higher intelligence. [112]” – Dr. John Avise – “Inside The Human Genome”
    There you have it. Evil exists and a loving higher intelligence wouldn’t have done it that way.
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....it-is.html

    What’s more ironic is that Dr. John Avise’s theological argumentation from mutations for Darwinism turns out to be, in fact (without Darwinian Theological blinders on), a very powerful ‘scientific’ argument against Darwinism:
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....7430067209

  95. In fact, so arrogant is the typical atheist in his beliefs that he thinks he knows how God ought best run the universe.

    I doubt any atheist “thinks he knows how God ought best run the universe”. Why would he? Being a practical atheist myself, the very idea of “God” is incompehensible to me, so what such an imaginary concept might involve does not enter my consciousness.

  96. vividbleau,

    My previous comment applies to your objection, too.

    I did not offer an objection I answered your question. The best you could do is that you cannot be absolutely certain that your cognitive abilities are reliable. So what? Even if my cognitive abilities are not reliable my answer stands.

    Vivid

  97. Well Mr. Fox, the truth of the matter, despite your denialism, is that theodicy is woven throughout your beloved theory,, here are a few recent examples. Panda’s Thumb is itself named after such arrogant thinking (that they know better than God).

    From Discovering Intelligent Design: Two Thumbs Up – May 27, 2013
    Excerpt: evolutionary paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould argued that “odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution — paths that a sensible God would never tread.” Likewise Miller claims that an intelligent designer would have “been capable of remodeling a complete digit, like the thumb of a primate, to hold the panda’s food.”
    It turns out that the panda’s thumb is not a clumsy design. A study published in Nature used MRI and computer tomography to analyze the thumb and concluded that the bones “form a double pincer-like apparatus” thus “enabling the panda to manipulate objects with great dexterity.”
    The critics’ objection is backed by little more than their subjective opinion about what a “sensible God” should have made.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....72531.html

    Here, at about the 55:00 minute mark in the following video, Phillip Johnson sums up his, in my opinion, excellent lecture by noting that the refutation of his book, ‘Darwin On Trial’, in the Journal Nature, the most prestigious science journal in the world, was a theological argument about what God would and would not do and therefore Darwinism must be true, and the critique from Nature was not a refutation based on any substantiating scientific evidence for Darwinism that one would expect to be brought forth in such a prestigious venue to support such a, supposedly, well supported scientific theory:

    Darwinism On Trial (Phillip E. Johnson) – lecture video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwj9h9Zx6Mw

    In this following video Dr. William Lane Craig is surprised to find that evolutionary biologist Dr. Ayala (a former priest) uses theological argumentation in his book to support Darwinism and invites him to present evidence, any supporting evidence at all, that Darwinism can actually do what he claims it can:

    Refuting The Myth Of ‘Bad Design’ vs. Intelligent Design – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIzdieauxZg

    Further quotes on the theological premises of Darwinists from the now falsified ‘Junk’ DNA argument:

    “The human genome is littered with pseudogenes, gene fragments, “orphaned” genes, “junk” DNA, and so many repeated copies of pointless DNA sequences that it cannot be attributed to anything that resembles intelligent design. . . . In fact, the genome resembles nothing so much as a hodgepodge of borrowed, copied, mutated, and discarded sequences and commands that has been cobbled together by millions of years of trial and error against the relentless test of survival. It works, and it works brilliantly; not because of intelligent design, but because of the great blind power of natural selection.”
    – Ken Miller

    “Perfect design would truly be the sign of a skilled and intelligent designer. Imperfect design is the mark of evolution … we expect to find, in the genomes of many species, silenced, or ‘dead,’ genes: genes that once were useful but are no longer intact or expressed … the evolutionary prediction that we’ll find pseudogenes has been fulfilled—amply … our genome—and that of other species—are truly well populated graveyards of dead genes”
    – Jerry Coyne

    “We have to wonder why the Intelligent Designer added to our genome junk DNA, repeated copies of useless DNA, orphan genes, gene fragments, tandem repeats, and pseudo¬genes, none of which are involved directly in the making of a human being. In fact, of the entire human genome, it appears that only a tiny percentage is actively involved in useful protein production. Rather than being intelligently designed, the human genome looks more and more like a mosaic of mutations, fragment copies, borrowed sequences, and discarded strings of DNA that were jerry-built over millions of years of evolution.”
    – Michael Shermer

    And, to point out once again, the theological ‘bad design’ argument, which Darwinists unwittingly continually use to try to make their case, is actually its own independent discipline of study within Theology itself called Theodicy:

    Is Your Bod Flawed by God? – Feb. 2010
    Excerpt: Theodicy (the discipline in Theism of reconciling natural evil with a good God) might be a problem for 19th-century deism and simplistic natural theology, but not for Biblical theology. It was not a problem for Jesus Christ, who was certainly not oblivious to the blind, the deaf, the lepers and the lame around him. It was not a problem for Paul, who spoke of the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain till the coming redemption of all things (Romans 8).
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20100214a

  98. vividbleau,

    Even if my cognitive abilities are not reliable my answer stands.

    No, because if your cognitive abilities are not reliable then you can’t be absolutely certain that your thoughts are correct, including that one.

  99. No, because if your cognitive abilities are not reliable then you can’t be absolutely certain that your thoughts are correct, including that one.

    Doesn’t change anything. I don’t know whether my thoughts are correct, they may not be my thoughts, there may be no such thing as thoughts,doesnt change a thing about what “I” think “I” think.

    Vivid

  100. vividbleau,

    If your cognitive abilities are unreliable, then you can’t be absolutely certain of the truth of any thought.

    “I think I think “I” am typing this” is a thought. Therefore you can’t be absolutely certain of it.

  101. 101

    “I think I think “I” am typing this” is a thought. Therefore you can’t be absolutely certain of it.

    Ok I will take your word for it. Just so I am perfectly clear what you are saying. If “I” think “I” think is a thought then I am actually thinking a thought so I can get rid of the “I” think “I” think and just say “I” think.

    Vivid

  102. vividbleau,

    No rebuttal, eh?

  103. 103

    No rebuttal, eh?

    Whats there to rebut?

    Vivid

  104. SB: Are you absolutely certain that you are not absolutely certain?

    keiths:

    No.

    If you are not absolutely certain that you are not absolutely certain, then you are acknowledging the possibility that you may be absolutely certain.

  105. Hi StephenB,

    If you are not absolutely certain that you are not absolutely certain, then you are acknowledging the possibility that you may be absolutely certain.

    Rather than play that game about how certain “absolutely certain” is, why not address the central questions of Intelligent Design Theory?

    These questions help clarify ID quite a bit. The “iCause” is just a neutral term I’m using here to mean “That which ID proposes as the best explanation for life and the universe”.

    1) What, if any, evidence does ID provide to support a claim that the iCause experiences conscious awareness?

    2) What, if any, evidence does ID provide to support a claim that this iCause could explain in grammatical language how biological systems operate?

    3) What, if any, evidence does ID provide to support a claim that the iCause can do anything else aside from produce the very features we are trying to explain (biological complexity, fine-tuned constants, etc), and if there is such evidence, what other things does this evidence lead us to believe the iCause could do?

    Can you answer these questions?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  106. StephenB:

    Are you absolutely certain that you are not absolutely certain?

    keiths:

    No.

    StephenB:

    If you are not absolutely certain that you are not absolutely certain, then you are acknowledging the possibility that you may be absolutely certain.

    Exactly! I think you’re starting to get it!

    If you can’t be certain that your cognitive apparatus is reliable, then you can’t even be certain that you’re correct about your state of certainty!

  107. @Elizabeth

    I’m glad you think that truth is important and that lies can be destructive to an atheist, but who cares Elizabeth?

    “Anyone who values relationships, Krock, which is most of us.”

    I think you’re missing the point Elizabeth. If there’s no ultimate purpose for humanity and if we’re merely the product of time + chance + matter then why should I care about what happens to another atheist or anyone for that matter? Yes, we all long for and value relationships, but that doesn’t explain why I ought to, with a naturalistic worldview.

    If you had to choose between a valued relationship and your survival as a human being, which would you chose Elizabeth? Your worldview does not sustain objective morals, only subjective morals that are merely self-serving preferences.

    “I don’t see why, unless you think that doing something to make someone else happier is ultimately “self-serving” because making someone else happier also makes me happier.”

    Why wouldn’t it be? Maybe you’re doing this good deed to provide yourself with an artificial purpose to your life. In other words, your own happiness would still be self-serving, regardless of the random acts of kindness you perform.

    Which then begs the question; why should anyone (but yourself) care what you think?

    “Nobody has to care. I simply offer it as my view.”

    I guess what I was trying to say Elizabeth, was that in the end, it doesn’t matter what you think, its subjective.

    Subjective morals will always have their feet planted firmly in midair with no ultimate or objective value. Naturalism also offers humanity NO intrinsic worth or real value, so how then can truth (outside of the individual) have any “built in” value?

    “I don’t understand what you are saying here. Can you rephrase? I am not clear of the distinction you are drawing between “intrinsic” worth and mere “worth” and why “intrinsic” worth is better.”

    Sorry, my apologies. What I am trying to say is that in an atheistic/naturalistic worldview, worth has no meaning, let alone any real value, its subjective.

    A Neo Darwinian has a subjective value system. In an atheistic/naturalistic worldview there’s no difference between an animal and a human being; on the other hand, the theistic worldview holds that man is more valuable than animals. So to answer your question as to why intrinsic worth would be better; it’s because we have purpose and value outside of ourselves. What’s mere worth is a world where values are subjective?

    “Also, how, in practice, do you tell the difference between something that has “intrinsic” worth, and something that may only have “worth”.”

    For starters, understanding your worldview and what it logically holds too.
    But I want to add that Naturalism doesn’t offer man intrinsic worth, it doesn’t even offer worth, so why waist your time even asking the question, of how one, in practice, can tell the difference between the two, let alone, ponder it.

    I’m mostly a reader at UD so excuse my ignorance to the proper format of responding back.

  108. 108

    Hey KeithS what was there to rebut?

    Vivid

  109. CentralScrutinizer,

    I read the entire TSZ thread you cited. I don’t see how it’s relevant to my statement.

    You evidently didn’t read it very carefully. Note the similarity:

    CentralScrutinizer:

    Of course, the whole “morality argument” doesn’t prove there is a God, but if reality has no ultimate meaning and I’m free to concoct my own, don’t be surprised (or give me a bunch of subjective sentimental hogwash) why I shouldn’t slit your throat for whatever you may have in your wallet. Or kill you and eat your liver with fava beans.

    William J. Murray:

    If I’m just making up my own purposes – like, “don’t harm others” or “do whatever I want” or “altruism”, then my purpose, and thus my morality, is based on “because I say so”, and we have a “because I say so” morality.

    If, however, my purpose is generate by the God I’ve outlined (source of logic, math, good, etc., omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient (inasmuch as other qualities allow), then I have an absolute, objective purpose. Only with such an objective (absolute) purpose can my morality escape being based on “because I say so”.

  110. vividbleau:

    Hey KeithS what was there to rebut?

    This.

  111. Thank God the atheists have found a purpose in their lives, now that posting at UD is open.

  112. 112

    KeithS

    “I think I think “I” am typing this” is a thought.

    Are you absolutely certain it is a thought?

    Vivid

  113. keiths:

    Are you beginning to see the pattern? I am not absolutely certain of anything, including this very statement.

    You’re not absolutely certain that you are keiths? Or that you are alive? Or that 1+1=2? Really?

    My sensory information isn’t absolutely trustworthy, because I know that human senses aren’t perfectly reliable (cf optical illusions). And even if they were perfectly reliable, I’d still face the brain-in-a-vat problem.

    You might be a brain in a vat. Then again, you might be falling victim to illogical thinking. Which is more likely, given the evidence?

    What about the cogito? No, I can’t be certain of that, because a) the cogito depends on logic, and I can’t be absolutely certain that the rules of logic are correct, or that I am applying them correctly; and b) it depends on a premise — thoughts require a thinker — that I can’t be absolutely certain of.

    If you’ve abandoned logic and rational thinking, then there’s no point in continuing any discussion with you.

    Seriously? You are now arguing that logic and its rules are wrong because…you don’t know? Yeah, I guess you don’t.

    The last resort would be to claim that thought itself (or even just experience itself) exists, and that if nothing else, I can at least know that with absolute certainty. But can I? If I can’t be absolutely certain that my cognitive apparatus is reliable, then even this conclusion drops below absolute certainty.

    I can defend near certainty, but I can’t defend absolute certainty.

    Can you defend knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt? That’s how most of us rational people operate on a daily basis.

    Your argument is illogical and self-defeating. The fact that you cannot or will not see this simple fact is telling.

  114. Barb,

    You’re not absolutely certain that you are keiths? Or that you are alive? Or that 1+1=2? Really?

    Yes, really. I am extremely confident that all of those things are true, but absolutely certain, with no chance whatsoever of error? Of course not.

    You might be a brain in a vat. Then again, you might be falling victim to illogical thinking. Which is more likely, given the evidence?

    Since you mentioned logic, you might want to ask yourself if those two options are mutually exclusive and exhaust the possibilities. Maybe even draw yourself a little grid, or a Venn diagram.

    If you’ve abandoned logic and rational thinking, then there’s no point in continuing any discussion with you.

    Who said I had abandoned logic and rational thinking? They’re incredibly important!

    Seriously? You are now arguing that logic and its rules are wrong because…you don’t know? Yeah, I guess you don’t.

    Barb, you keep forgetting what we are discussing here — certainty. I’m not arguing against logic. I’m pointing out that we can’t be absolutely certain of its correctness.

    I think it’s correct, I use it continually, but there is a chance — a very small one, in my opinion, but nonzero nonetheless — that I am wrong.

    Can you defend knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt? That’s how most of us rational people operate on a daily basis.

    Sure, I can defend it. That’s how I operate, too. I just don’t claim absolute certainty, because that would be foolish.

    Your argument is illogical and self-defeating. The fact that you cannot or will not see this simple fact is telling.

    The fact that you haven’t identified a single logical flaw in my argument, while I’ve identified several in yours, is quite telling.

  115. keiths:

    Sure, I can defend it. That’s how I operate, too. I just don’t claim absolute certainty, because that would be foolish.

    Why would it be foolish to be certain that 1 + 1 = 2?

  116. StephenB:

    Why would it be foolish to be certain that 1 + 1 = 2?

    It would be foolish to be sbsolutely, 100.0% certain of that because we could be mistaken. Our minds might have a systematic bias, for example, or a Cartesian evil demon might be fooling us.

    In fact, I would expect that you, as a theist, would find it hard to rule out absolutely the possibility that we are under the influence of some Entity that causes us to make such mathematical errors.

    However, as I said earlier:

    And I would be willing to bet an extremely large amount of money on the fact that 1 + 1 = 2 (in decimal arithmetic). Am I absolutely certain of it, without the tiniest room for doubt? No, of course not. I could be wrong, and so could you.

  117. KRock

    Thanks for your responses.

    I guess my point is that I’m happy to do without “ultimate” meaning – I know that my life has meaning, and is valuable to me, and that I value not only my life but the lives of others and their happiness, and my relationship with other, and thus deplore behaviour like lying that tends to subvert such relationships.

    Why I should do so might be a mystery, but there might be very good answers too. The fact that I do not know for sure what it is that makes me value these does not alter their value to me.

  118. keiths

    It would be foolish to be sbsolutely, 100.0% certain of that because we could be mistaken.

    Why would it be foolish to be certain that 1 + 1 = 2 and be mistaken?

    SB: If you are not absolutely certain that you are not absolutely certain, then you are acknowledging the possibility that you may be absolutely certain.

    keiths:

    Exactly! I think you’re starting to get it!

    So you are not absolutely certain that the position you hold is the position you hold? You mean that you may hold a position that is different from the one that you hold?

  119. keiths:

    I could be wrong, and so could you.

    Are you absolutely certain that I could be wrong in being certain that 1 + 1 = 2?

  120. I beg to differ with keiths (unusually!) on the 1+1=2 question. I don’t think it’s a truth statement at all, I think it’s a premise. Or possibly a conclusion given another premise.

    On the other hand I can’t be absolutely certain that 1 apple plus 1 apple gives me two apples, because all kind of things can interfere with the physical process of addition, which is why supermarkets talk about “shrinkage” :)

    And two hydrogen atoms added together make slightly less than two hydrogen atoms, which is why they also make a very large bang!

  121. StephenB,

    So you are not absolutely certain that the position you hold is the position you hold? You mean that you may hold a position that is different from the one that you hold?

    Yes, because even the law of non-contradiction might be wrong. I’m not saying that it is, and I use it all the time, of course. I’m just saying that we can’t be absolutely certain, beyond the tiniest scintilla of a sliver of a shadow of doubt, of its truth.

    Are you absolutely certain that I could be wrong in being certain that 1 + 1 = 2?

    Of course not. Haven’t you been following the discussion?

    My argument, boiled down, is quite simple: If we can’t be absolutely sure that our cognition is reliable on any given question, or that the rules of logic that we are using are correct, or that we are applying them correctly with absoutely no chance of mistakes, then we can’t be absolutely sure that we’ve gotten the right answer!

    Why is that so hard for you, DonaldM and Barb to accept?

  122. Lizzie,

    I beg to differ with keiths (unusually!) on the 1+1=2 question. I don’t think it’s a truth statement at all, I think it’s a premise. Or possibly a conclusion given another premise.

    Don’t forget — premises can be truth statements too! So can conclusions based on premises. We generally want both our premises and conclusions to be true, after all.

    The reason I think “1+1=2″is a truth statement (though not an absolutely certain one!) is that cultures all over the world agree on its truth, the reasoning appears to be valid, and the result doesn’t appear to be due to a cognitive bias in humans.

    The same can be said of scientific truths.

  123. 123

    Hi Keith if I did not know better I would think you are avoiding me. I have not seen a response to my question “Are you absolutely certain that I think I think is a thought”?

    No matter we know the answer, you are not absolutely certain. You admit that there is a chance that the above may be wrong that indeed there may be no such thing as thoughts. Really all you are saying is that you think you think that there are thoughts.

    Not a very good argument is it? Well I am not much for arguments from authority how about you? Oh but I forgot you don’t know with absolute certainty that you think you think! Perhaps that explains some of the things you write, you are just not thinking.

    I am going to double down here. Not only am I absolutely certain that “I” think “I” think, I am absolutely certain , (assuming solipsism is false, that your name is keith and you are not a bot,) that you think you think you are typing the stuff you type on this blog. Tell me Keith if you don’t think you think you are doing the typing why do you sign your name?

    One other question Keith how would you go about proving to me that I am not absolutely certain that “I” think “I think? This time no argument from authority ok?

    Vivid

  124. 124

    Tell me Keith if you don’t think you think you are doing the typing why do you sign your name?

    Should read go by your name?

    Vivid

  125. I’ve just spent 30 minutes catching up on most of this thread. It’s good to see that nothing has changed around here. There are still a bunch of people claiming to be rational who are anything but. It’s tough to argue with someone who isn’t “certain” that he’s right but does not budge one iota from his “uncertain” positions, even when they involve mathematical or purely logical truths. I wonder if keiths is certain that he exists or if he is really keiths and not someone else? And if he ponders how he “knows” those things? Probably not…

  126. vividbleau,

    Hi Keith if I did not know better I would think you are avoiding me. I have not seen a response to my question “Are you absolutely certain that I think I think is a thought”?

    I’m not avoiding you, vividbleau, but I thought that you would read the thread and realize that I have already answered similar questions from others.

    …I am absolutely certain , (assuming solipsism is false, that your name is keith and you are not a bot,) that you think you think you are typing the stuff you type on this blog. Tell me Keith if you don’t think you think you are doing the typing why do you sign your name?

    You’re not paying attention. I do think that I am keiths, I do think that I am doing the typing, so I do sign my name as keiths.

    I think all of those things. I’m just not absolutely certain, beyond any possible doubt that they are true.

  127. ta da… I couldn’t have timed that better if I’d tried. What a riot…

  128. Liz:

    I guess my point is that I’m happy to do without “ultimate” meaning – I know that my life has meaning, and is valuable to me, and that I value not only my life but the lives of others and their happiness, and my relationship with other, and thus deplore behaviour like lying that tends to subvert such relationships.

    But how is this a “point?” Points are meant to convince, aren’t they? Why would you try to convince someone as to your own, subjective personal preferences? This is kind of like saying, “My point is that I like chocolate ice cream.” If you are merely stating a personal preference, then a response of, “Um, OK. So? How is that a point in the discussion?” would seem entirely appropriate. If, however, you are expecting something more in the way of a response to a point in an argument, one might start to suspect that you really mean, “My point is that I like chocolate ice cream and so should you.

    The thing is: When the rubber hits the road, morality always ends up being about the kind of behavior we expect of others, which makes absolutely no sense in the context of merely subjective personal preferences such as, “I like chocolate ice cream.” How can my preference for chocolate ice cream ever cash out as a rational expectation for how someone else behaves? Isn’t the very notion of punishing someone for not liking chocolate ice cream itself morally repugnant? Why should my preferences regarding morality hold any more weight than my preferences about ice cream? Other than might makes right, what could possibly warrant an expectation that others modify their own behavior because I personally prefer something or other?

  129. hi tgpeeler,

    There are still a bunch of people claiming to be rational who are anything but.

    You are certainly (but not absolutely certainly :)) welcome to point out exactly why I am mistaken. Please quote the statement of mine that you disagree with, explain why you disagree with it, and justify your position.

    It’s tough to argue with someone who isn’t “certain” that he’s right but does not budge one iota from his “uncertain” positions, even when they involve mathematical or purely logical truths.

    I’m not absolutely certain, but I’m pretty confident of the arguments I’m making. Otherwise I wouldn’t make them, or else I would qualify them (e.g. “I don’t know much about black hole entropy, but it seems…”).

    As for it being “tough to argue” with me, see my instructions above for how to go about it.

    I wonder if keiths is certain that he exists or if he is really keiths and not someone else?

    Almost certain but not absolutely certain. Of course.

    And if he ponders how he “knows” those things?

    Absolutely :) ! That’s how I reached the conclusions that you seem to find so ridiculous.

  130. Keiths: I’m sure you have a point. I’m no philosopher :)

    Phinehas: because I think that reciprocal altruism plus justice tempered with mercy is the nearest we are going to get to an “objective” morality, by which I mean one that independent observers can independently agree on (if only because the chances of getting agreement on something that benefits everyone are higher than the changes of getting agreement on something that benefits one person).

  131. keiths:

    My argument, boiled down, is quite simple: If we can’t be absolutely sure that our cognition is reliable on any given question, or that the rules of logic that we are using are correct, or that we are applying them correctly with absoutely no chance of mistakes, then we can’t be absolutely sure that we’ve gotten the right answer!

    Why is that so hard for you, DonaldM and Barb to accept?

    On the other hand, if we can be absolutely sure that our cognition is reliable on any give question, and that the rules of logic that we are using are correct, then we can be absolutely sure that we have the right answer. As it turns out, I am absolutely sure that the Law of Non-contradiction is true.

    Why is that so hard for you to accept?

    You seem not to realize that you appeal to an unconditional Law of Non-contradiction each time you try to make your case against it. By allowing for only two possibilities i.e. either [a] we can have absolute certainty or [b] we cannot have absolute certainty, you are conceding the Law of the Excluded Middle.

    Of course, if you want to disavow that law and allow for the possibility of contradictions, then that opens up the illogical proposition that we can both be right. Under those circumstances, you should not be saying that your denial of absolute certainty is any more realistic than my affirmation of it.

  132. 132

    You’re not paying attention. I do think that I am keiths, I do think that I am doing the typing, so I do sign my name as keiths.

    I think all of those things. I’m just not absolutely certain, beyond any possible doubt that they are true.

    No you are the one not paying attention. I did not double down and say that keith is absolutely certain I said I was absolutely certain and I was absolutely, certainly right!!!

    I’m not avoiding you, vividbleau, but I thought that you would read the thread and realize that I have already answered similar questions from others.

    Similar but not mine. I want you to address my statement with something other than an argument from authority. To quote StephenB “you should not be saying that your denial of absolute certainty is any more realistic than my affirmation of it.” Your argument is reduced to “I think I think you are wrong” Come on Keith cant you do a little better than that?

    Vivid

  133. 133

    ta da… I couldn’t have timed that better if I’d tried. What a riot…

    tg good to see you!! Welcome to the madhouse.

    Vivid

  134. Liz:

    Phinehas: because I think that reciprocal altruism plus justice tempered with mercy is the nearest we are going to get to an “objective” morality, by which I mean one that independent observers can independently agree on (if only because the chances of getting agreement on something that benefits everyone are higher than the changes of getting agreement on something that benefits one person).

    And I think that chocolate ice cream tastes better than liver. I’m quite certain that a lot of independent observers independently agree with me on this. Can I now call it “objective” morality? Can I expect others to behave differently because I’ve done so?

    If we are talking about punishing someone or locking them away in a jail cell, is it really fair to keep the quotes around your “objective” morality? Again, other than might makes right, what could possibly warrant an expectation that others modify their own behavior because I personally prefer something or other? It seems like we all want to treat others as though morality is OBJECTIVE. So how can you then appeal to some fuzzy “objective” morality at the philosophical level. Doesn’t that seem a bit inconsistent to you?

    - Naturalism/atheism can only every get you to subjective morality.
    - We all tend to expect others to behave as though morality is OBJECTIVE.

    I don’t really think you can solve this with quote marks and appeals to some sort of agreement, no matter how independent or how great the majority. At least, I wouldn’t find that particularly satisfying as an attempt to reconcile the issue. And as a basis for locking someone else up, I find it exceptionally lacking in persuasive power.

  135. I think Keiths would agree with me that there are levels of certainty that, for any practical human purpose, are indistinguishable from “absolute” certainty. For example, there are propositions upon which I would bet my life, and the lives of my loved ones – we all do this every day. I don’t see what the intensifier “absolute” adds to a proposition I hold with that level of certainty.

    I was impressed by Wittgenstein’s little book “On Certainty.” The essence of his argument is that what should be said of a proposition about which we are tempted to attribute “certainty” is that: were one to discover it untrue, then it would follow that one’s other closely held beliefs about the world may also be untrue.

  136. StephenB,

    On the other hand, if we can be absolutely sure that our cognition is reliable on any give question…

    Which we can’t.

    …and [be sure] that the rules of logic that we are using are correct…

    Which we can’t.

    …then we can be absolutely sure that we have the right answer.

    Not unless we can be absolutely sure that our premises are true and our logic is correct. Which we can’t.

    As it turns out, I am absolutely sure that the Law of Non-contradiction is true.

    How do you know, beyond any doubt, that it is true? Are you perfect? Incapable of making an error?

    You seem not to realize that you appeal to an unconditional Law of Non-contradiction each time you try to make your case against it.

    I am appealing to lots of rules of logic in making my argument. That doesn’t mean I’m absolutely certain of them.

    By allowing for only two possibilities i.e. either [a] we can have absolute certainty or [b] we cannot have absolute certainty, you are conceding the Law of the Excluded Middle.

    No. I’m not absolutely certain that there are only two possibilities. How could I know that with certainty, given that human cognition is not perfect?

    Of course, if you want to disavow that law and allow for the possibility of contradictions, then that opens up the illogical proposition that we can both be right.

    I don’t want to “disavow that law.” I use it all the time! I just don’t think we can be absolutely certain of it.

    Under those circumstances, you should not be saying that your denial of absolute certainty is any more realistic than my affirmation of it.

    Sure I should. We both agree that logic is almost certainly correct. My denial of absolute certainty is based on logic, and you haven’t been able to find a flaw in it.

    Meanwhile, your affirmation of absolute certainty is flawed, because it depends on the assumption that your cognition is guaranteed to be perfect, with a 0.0% possibility of error.

    What hubris! You’re not being very rational.

  137. vividbleau,

    I want you to address my statement with something other than an argument from authority.

    If you think I’m making an argument from authority, then you haven’t understood my argument. Please reread my comments more carefully.

    After you’ve done so, if you still think I’m making an argument from authority, then please provide a quote along with an explanation of why you think it’s an argument from authority.

  138. 138

    If you think I’m making an argument from authority, then you haven’t understood my argument. Please reread my comments more carefully.

    After you’ve done so, if you still think I’m making an argument from authority, then please provide a quote along with an explanation of why you think it’s an argument from authority.

    Talk about hubris you are the last one that should admonishing others regarding hubris!!!! How about you rereading my comments carefully. I have already spelled out for you my explanation. If you don’t understand it you let me know.

    Vivid

  139. Reciprocating Bill,

    I think Keiths would agree with me that there are levels of certainty that, for any practical human purpose, are indistinguishable from “absolute” certainty.

    I do agree with you, and that’s what I was getting at in this comment to DonaldM:

    (I should note that in colloquial usage “I am absolutely certain” doesn’t mean “the probability of my correctness is 1.0?, it just means “I am so certain that I can reasonably ignore the chance that I am mistaken”. I wouldn’t advise you to dispute this since most ID arguments depend on it.)

  140. Keiths writes,

    Yes, really. I am extremely confident that all of those things are true, butabsolutely certain, with no chance whatsoever of error? Of course not.

    I think I found your logical flaw. You claim that you are confident that you are keiths but you are not absolutely certain? Then, pray tell, who else might you be?

    And we’re going to have to re-write all the elementary school math textbooks if you claim that 1+1 doesn’t equal 2. Because pretty much everyone else is absolutely certain that it does.

    This is what I mean by abandoning rational thinking. Not being absolutely certain of who you are—do you really need to pull out your birth certificate and read it? Oh, right, you can’t—because you’re a brain in a vat. Gotcha.

    Who said I had abandoned logic and rational thinking? They’re incredibly important!

    Says the man who claims to not be absolutely certain of who he is.

    Barb, you keep forgetting what we are discussing here — certainty. I’m not arguing against logic. I’m pointing out that we can’t be absolutely certain of its correctness.

    There are things that we can be absolutely certain about, though. I am absolutely certain that 1+1=2. I am absolutely certain that I am Barbara, and no one else.

    I think it’s correct, I use it continually, but there is a chance — a very small one, in my opinion, but nonzero nonetheless — that I am wrong.

    There’s a very large chance that you’re wrong. However, you are wedded to your philosophy and will not brook any dissention.

    Sure, I can defend it. That’s how I operate, too. I just don’t claim absolute certainty, because that would be foolish.

    No, foolishness is stating that 1+1 does not equal 2. A first grader will correct you on that one.

    The fact that you haven’t identified a single logical flaw in my argument, while I’ve identified several in yours, is quite telling.

    Your argument violates the law of noncontradiction. Truth about reality is knowable. Truth is not relative but absolute; it’s true for everyone, everywhere, and at all times. Your statement, “There is no such thing as absolute certainty” (are you absolutely certain of that?) is self-refuting and fails its own criteria.

  141. vividbleau,

    Talk about hubris you are the last one that should admonishing others regarding hubris!!!! How about you rereading my comments carefully. I have already spelled out for you my explanation. If you don’t understand it you let me know.

    Easy, vivid. You’re getting all wound up.

    I see this statement from you:

    I want you to address my statement with something other than an argument from authority. To quote StephenB “you should not be saying that your denial of absolute certainty is any more realistic than my affirmation of it.”

    I’ve addressed StephenB’s comment. Did you miss that? Click here.

  142. 142

    Easy, vivid. You’re getting all wound up.

    Hardly I am just pointing out your hypocrisy.

    I see this statement from you

    You are the one that admonished me to

    Please reread my comments more carefully.

    Its hubris on your part to think I haven’t read your comments carefully when you are the one that has not read my comments carefully because if you did you would see I have already given you my explanation why you are only giving an argument from authority. I have done that already so take your own advice and read carefully this time.

    Vivid

  143. vividbleau,

    Let me repeat:

    I’ve addressed StephenB’s comment. Did you miss that? Click here.

    Follow that link, and you will see that I am not making an argument from authority.

    It’s quite ironic that you would accuse me of making an argument from authority, when it’s StephenB who is claiming absolute certainty, not me.

    I am acknowledging that any statement that any of us makes might be mistaken. You are the ones who claim to have perfect, infallible knowledge of certain things.

    As I said, what hubris!

  144. SB: On the other hand, if we can be absolutely sure that our cognition is reliable on any give question…

    keiths:

    “Which we can’t.”

    You have already insisted that you can’t be sure about anything, so you probably ought to change the words “which we can’t” to “I don’t think we can.” You have made this same logical error several times.

    Not unless we can be absolutely sure that our premises are true and our logic is correct. Which we can’t.

    There you go again. You keep making unqualified statements like that, but then when we examine them further, you always amend them with a qualification. Again, you need to reform “which we can’t” into, “I am not sure that we can.”

    You did it two more times on this correspondence, but two examples will suffice.

    SB: As it turns out, I am absolutely sure that the Law of Non-contradiction is true.

    How do you know, beyond any doubt, that it is true? Are you perfect? Incapable of making an error?

    I am absolutely certain about the validity of the law non-contradiction because it is a self-evident truth about which I cannot be mistaken. The law of non-contradiction is ontologically certain. What is your rational justification for saying that I am not certain about it? (other than to say that you are not certain about it yourself). Why would you presume to say that I don’t know what I do, in fact, know?

    I don’t want to “disavow that law.” I use it all the time! I just don’t think we can be absolutely certain of it.

    You haven’t explained, on the one hand, why you don’t accept it unconditionally or, on the other hand, why you have any confidence in it at all. You have simply taken a position with no rational justification to support it.

    Sure I should.

    What is your rationale for saying that your argument against certainty is better than my argument for certainty?
    To be consistent, you should say that I am just as likely to be right as you are.

    Meanwhile, your affirmation of absolute certainty is flawed, because it depends on the assumption that your cognition is guaranteed to be perfect, with a 0.0% possibility of error.

    It doesn’t depend on any assumptions at all. I know, for example, that I exist. I have no doubts at all about the matter. You, on the other hand, don’t even know for sure that you exist.

    What hubris! You’re not being very rational.

    That’s cute.

    Someone who doesn’t know for sure that he exists is claiming that I am not being very rational.

    Someone who continually makes unqualified statements only to amend them later with a qualification is claiming that I am not being very rational.

    Someone who tells me that I don’t know what I say I do know, though he has no way of knowing what I know and don’t know, is claiming that I am not being very rational?

  145. Barb,

    I think I found your logical flaw. You claim that you are confident that you are keiths but you are not absolutely certain? Then, pray tell, who else might you be?

    Anyone.

    And we’re going to have to re-write all the elementary school math textbooks if you claim that 1+1 doesn’t equal 2.

    Barb, why do you keep ignoring what I write? I don’t claim that 1 + 1 doesn’t equal 2. It’s just that I’m not 100.0% certain of it. Why are you?

    This is what I mean by abandoning rational thinking. Not being absolutely certain of who you are—do you really need to pull out your birth certificate and read it?

    No. Who said I did?

    Oh, right, you can’t—because you’re a brain in a vat. Gotcha.

    I haven’t claimed that either. You’re flailing, Barb. How about slowing down and really thinking things through before your next comment? Reread the thread if you have to.

    There are things that we can be absolutely certain about, though. I am absolutely certain that 1+1=2. I am absolutely certain that I am Barbara, and no one else.

    See my reply to Reciprocating Bill above. If you merely mean that you are so certain that you can reasonably ignore the chance that you are mistaken, then of course I would agree. If you mean that you cannot be wrong — that there is literally no chance that you are mistaken — then I vehemently disagree. How could you possibly justify such a claim, given that human cognition is not perfect?

    There’s a very large chance that you’re wrong. However, you are wedded to your philosophy and will not brook any dissention.

    If my argument is wrong, I invite you to demonstrate that. So far you haven’t found a single flaw in it. Read through the thread again if you don’t believe me.

    Your argument violates the law of noncontradiction.

    No. But even if it did, the problem is that you can’t be absolutely certain that the law of noncontradiction is correct.

    Truth is not relative but absolute; it’s true for everyone, everywhere, and at all times.

    I believe that too. It’s just that I’m not absolutely certain of it.

    Your statement, “There is no such thing as absolute certainty” (are you absolutely certain of that?) is self-refuting and fails its own criteria.

    I didn’t make that statement. You’re making things up.

    Please address my actual arguments — if you can.

  146. 146

    I’ve addressed StephenB’s comment. Did you miss that?

    Keith I am vividbleau not StephenB did you miss that? I have already given my explanation it is obvious that you do not read what I write very carefully or you would not be confusing me with StephenB.

    Vivid

  147. Keiths continues,

    Anyone.

    What’s the name on your driver’s license? Does that tell you anything? Seriously, you’re not even trying to make an argument here. You’re continuing a line of reasoning that failed a long time ago.

    Barb, why do you keep ignoring what I write? I don’t claim that 1 + 1 doesn’t equal 2. It’s just that I’m not 100.0% certain of it. Why are you?

    Because I passed the first grade.

    No. Who said I did?

    You’re the one claiming that you’re not absolutely certain you’re Keiths. Better make sure.

    I haven’t claimed that either. You’re flailing, Barb. How about slowing down and really thinking things through before your next comment? Reread the thread if you have to.

    You mentioned the “brain in a vat” example earlier. Your line of reasoning, not mine. And you’re the one who’s flailing.

    See my reply to Reciprocating Bill above. If you merely mean that you are so certain that you can reasonably ignore the chance that you are mistaken, then of course I would agree. If you mean that you cannot be wrong — that there is literally no chance that you are mistaken — then I vehemently disagree. How could you possibly justify such a claim, given that human cognition is not perfect?

    Because I possess and utilize common sense.

    If my argument is wrong, I invite you to demonstrate that. So far you haven’t found a single flaw in it. Read through the thread again if you don’t believe me.

    I’ve shown that your argument is wrong. You refuse to acknowledge that there’s anything wrong with abandoning common sense and rational thinking.

    No. But even if it did, the problem is that you can’t be absolutely certain that the law of noncontradiction is correct.

    .
    Yes, it does. Try Googling it sometime.
    If the law of noncontradiction is wrong, then everything we know about everything else is wrong. Including evolution and philosophy and physics and astronomy. Are you willing to throw all that out for an untenable argument?

    I believe that too. It’s just that I’m not absolutely certain of it.

    If truth is absolute, then you can be absolutely certain of it. Your argument is hereby invalidated.

    I didn’t make that statement. You’re making things up.
    Please address my actual arguments — if you can.

    I am not making things up, keiths, I am proving you wrong. And, like Jack Nicholson once said, “You can’t handle the truth!”

  148. DonaldM, StephenB, Barb, vividbleau, tgpeeler,

    Do any of you think that human cognition is perfect, and that mistakes are impossible?

    I suspect that the answer is no. We’ve all made mistakes, so we all know that it’s possible.

    If so, then all of you are in the awkward position of saying “Yes, I’m capable of making mistakes. No, I’m not perfect. But on this point, I am perfect. I can’t possibly be making a mistake. There is literally no chance that I’m wrong, not even one chance in a trillion raised to the trillionth power raised to the trillionth power.”

    That’s irrational and totally unjustified.

  149. @Phinehas, post #128

    Thanks Phinehas, I guess this was precisely what I was trying to convey to Elizabeth.

  150. Thanks KRock. It appears Liz may have lost interest in making further points.

  151. Since all of you are theists, as far as I know, let me ask a simple question:

    Do you think that God has the power to create a being who feels absolutely certain of something that is false?

    I am not asking if you think he has done so, only whether you agree that he has that power.

    If you believe in an omnipotent God, the answer must be yes.

    If God has that power, then how can you be 100.0% certain, with literally no chance of being mistaken, that he hasn’t used that power to make you believe that you are sitting in front of your computer, reading this, when in reality you are somewhere else entirely?

    Again, I know you don’t think he’s deceiving you, but that’s not the issue. The question is how you could ever — ever — be 100.0 percent certain of that.

    I look forward to your answers.

  152. Phinehas,

    It appears Liz may have lost interest in making further points.

    She lives in the UK, where it is 3:30 AM. I suspect she decided to sleep rather than staying up all night debating you.

  153. keiths, as has been pointed out to you, we utilize common sense. We realize that there are things we can be absolutely certain of (1+1=2), and to suggest otherwise is ludicrous.

    To suggest that because we might not be sure of some things, this necessarily leads to the conclusion that we can’t be sure of all things is a logical fallacy (post hoc, ergo prompter hoc).

    You haven’t begun to answer my last post. I suggest you try.

  154. Its strange that even prominent evolutionary psychologists admit certainty cannot be had in their Darwinian worldview:

    The following interview is sadly comical as a evolutionary psychologist realizes that neo-Darwinism can offer no guarantee that our faculties of reasoning will correspond to the truth, not even for the truth that he is purporting to give in the interview, (which begs the question of how was he able to come to that particular truthful realization, in the first place, if neo-Darwinian evolution were actually true?);

    Evolutionary guru: Don’t believe everything you think – October 2011
    Interviewer: You could be deceiving yourself about that.(?)
    Evolutionary Psychologist: Absolutely.
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....think.html

    Evolutionists Are Now Saying Their Thinking is Flawed (But Evolution is Still a Fact) – Cornelius Hunter – May 2012
    Excerpt: But the point here is that these “researchers” are making an assertion (human reasoning evolved and is flawed) which undermines their very argument. If human reasoning evolved and is flawed, then how can we know that evolution is a fact, much less any particular details of said evolutionary process that they think they understand via their “research”?
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....their.html

    Scientific Peer Review is in Trouble: From Medical Science to Darwinism – Mike Keas – October 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Survival is all that matters on evolutionary naturalism. Our evolving brains are more likely to give us useful fictions that promote survival rather than the truth about reality. Thus evolutionary naturalism undermines all rationality (including confidence in science itself). Renown philosopher Alvin Plantinga has argued against naturalism in this way (summary of that argument is linked on the site:).
    Or, if your short on time and patience to grasp Plantinga’s nuanced argument, see if you can digest this thought from evolutionary cognitive psychologist Steve Pinker, who baldly states:
    “Our brains are shaped for fitness, not for truth; sometimes the truth is adaptive, sometimes it is not.”
    Steven Pinker, evolutionary cognitive psychologist, How the Mind Works (W.W. Norton, 1997), p. 305.
    http://blogs.christianpost.com.....ism-12421/

    Alvin Plantinga – Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r34AIo-xBh8

    Why No One (Can) Believe Atheism/Naturalism to be True – video
    Excerpt: “Since we are creatures of natural selection, we cannot totally trust our senses. Evolution only passes on traits that help a species survive, and not concerned with preserving traits that tell a species what is actually true about life.”
    Richard Dawkins – quoted from “The God Delusion”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4QFsKevTXs

    “One absolutely central inconsistency ruins [the popular scientific philosophy]. The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears… unless Reason is an absolute, all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based.”
    —C.S. Lewis, Is Theology Poetry (aka the Argument from Reason)

    Ironically, certainty can be attained for the truthfulness Theism by exploiting the uncertainty of the Darwinists/Materialists inherent within their multiverse conjecture:

    i.e. The materialistic conjecture of an infinity of universes to ‘explain away’ the fine tuning of this universe also insures, through the ontological argument, the 100% probability of the existence of God:

    God Is Not Dead Yet – William Lane Craig – Page 4
    The ontological argument. Anselm’s famous argument has been reformulated and defended by Alvin Plantinga, Robert Maydole, Brian Leftow, and others. God, Anselm observes, is by definition the greatest being conceivable. If you could conceive of anything greater than God, then that would be God. Thus, God is the greatest conceivable being, a maximally great being. So what would such a being be like? He would be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, and he would exist in every logically possible world. But then we can argue:

    1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
    2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
    3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
    4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
    5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
    6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
    7. Therefore, God exists.

    Now it might be a surprise to learn that steps 2–7 of this argument are relatively uncontroversial. Most philosophers would agree that if God’s existence is even possible, then he must exist. So the whole question is: Is God’s existence possible? The atheist has to maintain that it’s impossible that God exists. He has to say that the concept of God is incoherent, like the concept of a married bachelor or a round square. But the problem is that the concept of God just doesn’t appear to be incoherent in that way. The idea of a being which is all-powerful, all knowing, and all-good in every possible world seems perfectly coherent. And so long as God’s existence is even possible, it follows that God must exist.
    http://www.christianitytoday.c.....ml?start=4

    Ontological Argument For God From The Many Worlds Hypothesis – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4784641

    Where this argument has gained purchase is in the materialist/atheist appeal to the multiverse (an infinity of possible worlds) to try to ‘explain away’ the extreme fine tuning we find for this universe. The materialist/atheist, without realizing it, ends up conceding the necessary premise to the ontological argument and thus guarantees the success of the argument and thus insures the 100% probability of God’s existence!

    I like the concluding comment about the ontological argument from Dr. Plantinga:

    “God then is the Being that couldn’t possibly not exit.”

    supplemental note:

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: What is worse, multiplying without limit the opportunities for any event to happen in the context of a multiverse – where it is alleged that anything can spontaneously jump into existence without cause – produces a situation in which no absurdity is beyond the pale. For instance, we find multiverse cosmologists debating the “Boltzmann Brain” problem: In the most “reasonable” models for a multiverse, it is immeasurably more likely that our consciousness is associated with a brain that has spontaneously fluctuated into existence in the quantum vacuum than it is that we have parents and exist in an orderly universe with a 13.7 billion-year history. This is absurd. The multiverse hypothesis is therefore falsified because it renders false what we know to be true about ourselves. Clearly, embracing the multiverse idea entails a nihilistic irrationality that destroys the very possibility of science.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

    Thus I guess it should be no surprise that a committed materialists would be shocked that certainty exists for Theists, since in his worldview certainty cannot exist, moreover the uncertainty inherent within his worldview can be used to guarantee the 100% certainty of God’s existence. Sort of a deep poetic justice in how it all works out!

  155. keiths:

    It appears Liz may have [temporarily] lost interest in making further points.

    Better?

  156. 156
    CentralScrutinizer

    CentralScrutinizer: I read the entire TSZ thread you cited. I don’t see how it’s relevant to my statement.

    Keiths: You evidently didn’t read it very carefully. Note the similarity:

    I did. No sililarity whatsoever. If you think so, then, well, what can I say. At any rate, I never got and “ought” from an “is” in anything you said. Not any reason to think any thing I have written is logically or rationally equivalent to anything Mr. Murray has stated. (Not that I necessarily disagree with him. I like ya, Bill!) Oh well.

    So where does that leave us?

  157. 157

    If so, then all of you are in the awkward position of saying “Yes, I’m capable of making mistakes.

    I have no idea why you think I am in an awkward position. Besides one would most certainly must exist to make a mistake. OOps

    Do any of you think that human cognition is perfect, and that mistakes are impossible?

    I have no idea why your asking me this. Please read carefully my post # 90.

    There is literally no chance that I’m wrong, not even one chance in a trillion raised to the trillionth power raised to the trillionth power

    There is no chance that I am wrong that “I” think “I” think that I am typing this.

    That’s irrational and totally unjustified.

    Says who? Whats more rational, that I think I think I am typing this or I don’t think I think I am typing this? Sheesh you are one confused individual.

    Vivid

  158. Phinehas,

    Slightly better, but still needs improvement. :)

    She may not have lost interest at all, but simply needs to sleep.

    I sleep every night, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost interest in the things I do while awake.

    (In fact, I sometimes think about the discussions I’m having here at UD as I drift off to sleep.)

  159. 159

    BTW Keith I am not DonalM, Barb, tgpeeler or StephenB. They state their case and I have put forth mine which is “I” an absolutely certain that “I think “I” think I am typing this.

    Vivid

  160. I beg to differ with keiths (unusually!) on the 1+1=2 question.

    Agreed, that statement is meaningless in modulo-2 vector spaces used in communication engineering. In the modulo-2 world:

    1 + 1 = 0

    And that is the operating assumption when using:
    Error Correction Polynomials

    Math systems capable of Arithmetic are based on a small set of unprovable axioms. They are a superset (I think) of the field axioms which also include the modulo-2 world of fields.

  161. Way ahead of you, Sal.

    From two days ago:

    And I would be willing to bet an extremely large amount of money on the fact that 1 + 1 = 2 (in decimal arithmetic). Am I absolutely certain of it, without the tiniest room for doubt? No, of course not. I could be wrong, and so could you.

  162. I’m very interested in hearing all of you respond to this:

    Since all of you are theists, as far as I know, let me ask a simple question:

    Do you think that God has the power to create a being who feels absolutely certain of something that is false?

    I am not asking if you think he has done so, only whether you agree that he has that power.

    If you believe in an omnipotent God, the answer must be yes.

    If God has that power, then how can you be 100.0% certain, with literally no chance of being mistaken, that he hasn’t used that power to make you believe that you are sitting in front of your computer, reading this, when in reality you are somewhere else entirely?

    Again, I know you don’t think he’s deceiving you, but that’s not the issue. The question is how you could ever — ever — be 100.0 percent certain of that.

    I look forward to your answers.

  163. keiths

    Do any of you think that human cognition is perfect, and that mistakes are impossible?

    This is such a silly strawman. No one is claiming to be mistake free. It is only by being certain about first principles that we can even recognize a mistake for what it is. That you would represent certainty about first principles as a claim to be mistake free is an indication that you are either not following the argument–or that you do not want to follow the argument.

  164. This following video is very interesting for revealing how difficult it was for mathematicians to actually ‘prove’ that mathematics was even true in the first place:

    Georg Cantor – The Mathematics Of Infinity – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4572335
    entire video: BBC-Dangerous Knowledge – Part 1
    https://vimeo.com/30482156
    Part 2
    https://vimeo.com/30641992

    Kurt Godel’s part in bringing the incompleteness theorem to fruition can be picked up here

    Kurt Gödel – Incompleteness Theorem – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/8462821

    Taking God Out of the Equation – Biblical Worldview – by Ron Tagliapietra – January 1, 2012
    Excerpt: Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) proved that no logical systems (if they include the counting numbers) can have all three of the following properties.
    1. Validity . . . all conclusions are reached by valid reasoning.
    2. Consistency . . . no conclusions contradict any other conclusions.
    3. Completeness . . . all statements made in the system are either true or false.
    The details filled a book, but the basic concept was simple and elegant. He summed it up this way: “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle—something you have to assume but cannot prove.” For this reason, his proof is also called the Incompleteness Theorem.
    Kurt Gödel had dropped a bomb on the foundations of mathematics. Math could not play the role of God as infinite and autonomous. It was shocking, though, that logic could prove that mathematics could not be its own ultimate foundation.
    Christians should not have been surprised. The first two conditions are true about math: it is valid and consistent. But only God fulfills the third condition. Only He is complete and therefore self-dependent (autonomous). God alone is “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28), “the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). God is the ultimate authority (Hebrews 6:13), and in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
    http://www.answersingenesis.or...../equation#

  165. i.e. without God you cannot be certain of anything, even that 1+1=2, but with God you can rest in a certainty far greater than 1+1+2

    “Speculations? I have none. I am resting on certainties. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
    - Michael Faraday – [When asked about his speculations on life beyond death, as quoted in The Homiletic Review (April 1896), p. 442]
    – He is considered one of the greatest experimenters ever – credited with inventing the electric motor.

  166. 166

    I’m very interested in hearing all of you respond

    Rabbit trail alert.

    Vivid

  167. CentralScrutinizer:

    So where does that leave us?

    It leaves us with you pretending not to see the obvious similarity between these two comments:

    CentralScrutinizer:

    Of course, the whole “morality argument” doesn’t prove there is a God, but if reality has no ultimate meaning and I’m free to concoct my own, don’t be surprised (or give me a bunch of subjective sentimental hogwash) why I shouldn’t slit your throat for whatever you may have in your wallet. Or kill you and eat your liver with fava beans.

    William J. Murray:

    If I’m just making up my own purposes – like, “don’t harm others” or “do whatever I want” or “altruism”, then my purpose, and thus my morality, is based on “because I say so”, and we have a “because I say so” morality.

    If, however, my purpose is generate by the God I’ve outlined (source of logic, math, good, etc., omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient (inasmuch as other qualities allow), then I have an absolute, objective purpose. Only with such an objective (absolute) purpose can my morality escape being based on “because I say so”.

  168. 168
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths,

    OK. But I disagree. I make no affirmative argument for any particular morality or that any absolute morality exists (whatever that means.) That you do not apprehend that fact is puzzling to me. But, hey, don’t sweat it.

  169. I would be willing to bet an extremely large amount of money on the fact that 1 + 1 = 2 (in decimal arithmetic).

    But decimal arithmetic is based on faith axioms.

    Taking 1 of something and 1 of something doesn’t always mean you end up with 2 something.

    1 rabbit plus 1 rabbit could yield a litter of several rabbits. Thus, what 1+1=2 actually means is a matter of faith and convention, it’s true if the premises it is based on are true, but the premises are unprovable.

    And in terms of pure math, the Banach-Tarski paradox adds a twist where 1 of something can be made into lots of that something:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B.....ki_paradox

  170. vividbleau:

    Rabbit trail alert.

    Yes, if “rabbit trails” are “questions that vividbleau is afraid to answer”.

    I understand why you and the others are afraid to answer them.

    You don’t want to deny God’s omnipotence, so you would have to answer “yes” to this question:

    Do you think that God has the power to create a being who feels absolutely certain of something that is false?

    I am not asking if you think he has done so, only whether you agree that he has that power.

    But if you answer yes, then it’s possible that God is using that power to deceive you about anything that you currently believe, even if you are “absolutely certain” of it:

    If God has that power, then how can you be 100.0% certain, with literally no chance of being mistaken, that he hasn’t used that power to make you believe that you are sitting in front of your computer, reading this, when in reality you are somewhere else entirely?

    Again, I know you don’t think he’s deceiving you, but that’s not the issue. The question is how you could ever — ever — be 100.0 percent certain of that.

    If any of you try to claim that you are absolutely certain that God isn’t deceiving you, then the question becomes “Who are you to say what God is or isn’t doing? He may have his own reasons for deceiving you. God works in mysterious ways.”

    And this argument doesn’t just apply to theists. Being an atheist, I doubt that God exists or that any of this is true. But atheists can’t be absolutely sure that God doesn’t exist (and I’m not — I just think the evidence for his existence is poor). Thus, it is at least possible that God exists and is deceiving me. I can’t rule it out, even though I doubt that it’s true. And if I can’t rule out the possibility that God is deceiving me, then I can’t be absolutely sure of anything.

    All of us, theist or atheist, are in the same boat. We can’t be absolutely certain of anything.

    I look forward to your responses.

  171. 171

    Yes, if “rabbit trails” are “questions that vividbleau is afraid to answer”.

    Like a grade school yard bully you are resorting to taunt’s. Sad really. If I resorted to grade school taunts I would be embarrassed.

    The questions have no bearing whatsoever on my position that “I” am absolutely certain that “I” think “I” think “I” am typing this. One need not be a theist to hold this position, it is god neutral. Thus the Rabbit Trail alert

    Vivid

  172. vividbleau,

    My questions are entirely relevant, because they show that you cannot claim absolute certainty without contradicting some of your theistic beliefs.

    Will you continue to dodge the questions? Believe me, you’re not fooling anyone if you do so.

    P.S. As I explained, my argument applies to both theists and atheists. It also doesn’t require invoking God (or the possibility of God); the mere fact that our cognition isn’t guaranteed to be reliable is enough to show that absolute certainty can’t be justified.

  173. keiths

    Do you think that God has the power to create a being who feels absolutely certain of something that is false?

    Of course.

    But if you answer yes, then it’s possible that God is using that power to deceive you about anything that you currently believe, even if you are “absolutely certain” of it:

    That doesn’t follow at all. Your second formulation is not parallel to your first formulation. One can “feel” absotlutely certain about something that is false, but one can “be” absolutely certain about something only if it is true.

  174. 174

    Will you continue to dodge the questions? Believe me, you’re not fooling anyone if you do so.

    Your making things up I am starting to think that you are delusional. None of the questions you asked are relevant since I have already addressed these issues thus I see no need to take a trip to see the Queen.

    From previous posts:

    “I” am absolutely certain that “I” think I think “I” am typing this. Now there may be no I, the I maybe an illusion, an hallucination, a dream, in the matrix, a brain in the vat, whatever, it does not matter. It does not change that I am absolutely certain that “I” think I think “I” am typing this.

    I will add for your benefit “God may be tricking me”

    I don’t know whether my thoughts are correct, they may not be my thoughts, there may be no such thing as thoughts,doesnt change a thing about what “I” think “I” think.

    Vivid

  175. StephenB,

    Your quibble doesn’t affect my argument at all. Change “are” to “feel” in the second part and the argument still holds:

    But if you answer yes, then it’s possible that God is using that power to deceive you about anything that you currently believe, even if you feel “absolutely certain” of it:

    That’s my point: you aren’t justified in feeling absolutely certain of anything, because you can’t rule out the possibility that God is deceiving you.

    So this statement of yours…

    As it turns out, I am absolutely sure that the Law of Non-contradiction is true.

    …is unjustified, because it is possible that God is deceiving you about the Law of Non-contradiction. You can’t rule it out, even if you feel pretty sure that he isn’t deceiving you.

    After all, you could be wrong about that.

  176. vividbleau,

    I will add for your benefit “God may be tricking me”

    But then the game is over. If God may be tricking you, then what you believe may be wrong.

    If what you believe may be wrong, then it is foolish to claim absolute certainty.

  177. CentralScrutinizer:

    OK. But I disagree. I make no affirmative argument for any particular morality or that any absolute morality exists (whatever that means.)

    Sure you do:

    Sal and Keiths,

    If God exists, it is incumbent on us to do what he says or else.

    If God doesn’t exist, then why shouldn’t it be an “eat, drink and be merry” pragmatism?

    I can’t see why it’s a complicated matter.

    That’s extremely similar to what William says about God, objective morality, and “necessary consequences”. I’m not sure why you keep denying the obvious similarities.

    The TSZ thread is relevant, and so are the arguments that I and others make against William’s position.

  178. Sal,

    But decimal arithmetic is based on faith axioms.

    They’re not purely arbitrary. They’re selected based on our experiences in the real world.

    As I wrote to Lizzie:

    Don’t forget — premises can be truth statements too! So can conclusions based on premises. We generally want both our premises and conclusions to be true, after all.

    The reason I think “1+1=2?is a truth statement (though not an absolutely certain one!) is that cultures all over the world agree on its truth, the reasoning appears to be valid, and the result doesn’t appear to be due to a cognitive bias in humans.

    The same can be said of scientific truths.

  179. Anyone willing to defend the immaterial soul on the other thread?

  180. Since all of you are theists, as far as I know, let me ask a simple question:

    Do you think that God has the power to create a being who feels absolutely certain of something that is false?

    I am not asking if you think he has done so, only whether you agree that he has that power.

    Power and ability are two different things. For instance, the Bible says that God cannot tell a lie. This is not a statement about His omniscience, but about His character. It also says that there is no shadow of turning (or deceit) in Him. Again, this isn’t about what He can do from a power standpoint, but what He can do from a character standpoint. The Bible also speaks to God’s immutability or His consistency in acting according to His own character.

    Given the above, though God has the power to deceive, it is simply not possible that He could act against His own character to do so. Saying so is in no way inconsistent with Biblical theism.

  181. Phinehas,

    The Bible also speaks to God’s immutability or His consistency in acting according to His own character.

    Given the above, though God has the power to deceive, it is simply not possible that He could act against His own character to do so. Saying so is in no way inconsistent with Biblical theism.

    But you can’t be absolutely certain, without the slightest possibility of error, that the Bible is true. And even if you could be certain of that, you couldn’t be absolutely certain that your interpretation of it was correct.

    God might be deceiving you about anything. You may think that he isn’t, and you may think that it would be out of character for him to do so, but you can’t be absolutely certain, with a 0.0 percent possibility of error, that he isn’t deceiving you.

    Therefore you cannot be absolutely certain of anything, because it is always possible that God is deceiving you about that thing, even if you think that it is unlikely.

    And as I pointed out above, this argument applies to both theists and atheists, because atheists cannot be absolutely certain that God doesn’t exist. We just think the evidence is poor. As long as the probability is nonzero, this argument applies.

    Now you can see why my interlocutors aren’t rushing to answer my questions.

    P.S. By the way, the Bible does say that God deceives people. But let’s not get into a discussion of that. It’s irrelevant because, as I pointed out above, you could never be absolutely, 100.0% sure that the Bible is true anyway.

  182. 182

    But then the game is over. If God may be tricking you, then what you believe may be wrong.

    Of course I already said that, doesnt change anything. I am absolutely certain that “I” think “I” think “I” am typing this.

    If what you believe may be wrong, then it is foolish to claim absolute certainty.

    But you cant be absolutely certain that I am wrong. All you can say is that you think you think I am wrong.As StephenB has already pointed out you are telling me that I dont know with absolute certainty what I say I do know even you have no way of knowing what I know and don’t know.Thats hubris! and nothing but an argument from authority. Because you think you think I am wrong that I am wrong.

    Vivid

  183. vividbleau,

    It’s staring you in the face. If God might be tricking you, then this thought of yours…

    “I” think “I” think “I” am typing this.

    …might be false, because God might be tricking you into believing it, even though it is not true.

    Absolute certainty of anything, including that thought, is a mistake.

    But you cant be absolutely certain that I am wrong.

    Of course I can’t! For the umpteenth time, I am not absolutely, 100.0% certain of anything, because I think such certainty is profoundly irrational.

    All you can say is that you think you think I am wrong.

    No, I can also show why I think you are wrong. That’s what this discussion has been about.

    As StephenB has already pointed out you are telling me that I dont know with absolute certainty what I say I do know even you have no way of knowing what I know and don’t know.Thats hubris!

    That’s not what StephenB is saying. Don’t saddle him with your bad argument.

    It isn’t about what you do or don’t know. It’s about what you can and can’t know. If God might be tricking you about X, then even if you think he probably isn’t tricking you, you still cannot be absolutely certain of X. God might be tricking you, after all.

    …and nothing but an argument from authority. Because you think you think I am wrong that I am wrong.

    No, because I’m not saying “You’re wrong because I say so.” I’m saying “You’re wrong, and here is my argument in support of that claim.”

    If you accept logic, and I hope you do, then you must accept the correctness of a logical argument, unless you can identify a flaw in it. None of this requires being absolutely certain of anything.

  184. keiths:

    But you can’t be absolutely certain, without the slightest possibility of error, that the Bible is true. And even if you could be certain of that, you couldn’t be absolutely certain that your interpretation of it was correct.

    Are you absolutely certain that I can’t be absolutely certain?

    P.S. By the way, the Bible does say that God deceives people.

    How certain are you of your interpretation of the Bible? :)

    God certainly(sorry) chooses to hide some things. I personally believe that God values faith over knowledge (without faith it is impossible to please God), that humility is a prerequisite for doubt, and that doubt is a prerequisite for faith. Thus, God gives grace to the humble, but allows the proud to continue in their own self-deceit.

  185. Phinehas,

    Are you absolutely certain that I can’t be absolutely certain?

    No, and we’ve been through this a thousand times in the thread already. I can’t be absolutely certain of anything, but I can make a better argument against absolute certainty than you can make for it.

    How certain are you of your interpretation of the Bible? :)

    Pretty certain, at least of the parts that mention God’s deceit.

    God certainly(sorry) chooses to hide some things.

    I’m talking about deceit.

    In any case, as I said, we can’t be absolutely certain that the Bible is true or that our interpretations of it are correct, so the Bible is irrelevant to the issue of absolute certainty.

  186. 186

    It’s staring you in the face. If God might be tricking you, then this thought of yours might be false,…

    But you don’t know its a thought you just think you think it is a thought so you might be wrong. But even if the thought is false I am still absolutely certain that “I” think “I” think I am typing this. What is staring you in the face is that it does not change what I think I think!

    Of course I can’t! For the umpteenth time, I am not absolutely, 100.0% certain of anything,

    Then your not absolutely certain that I am wrong yet your telling me that

    Absolute certainty of anything, including that thought, is a mistake.

    WOW WOW

    No, because I’m not saying “You’re wrong because I say so.” I’m saying “You’re wrong, and here is my argument in support of that claim.”

    But your argument that you make you admit may be wrong.Once again you think you think you are right but you may be wrong and I am supposed to accept your argument even though you are not certain it is a correct argument.Got it!

    If you accept logic, and I hope you do, then you must accept the correctness of a logical argument, unless you can identify a flaw in it. None of this requires being absolutely certain of anything.

    But you are not sure that a logical argument is correct, any logical argument you present could be wrong. So I am to accept an argument that may be wrong because you think you think it is correct. Got it.

    No, I can also show why I think you are wrong

    But your not sure that you think. If your not sure if you think you can only think you think.

    because I think such certainty is profoundly irrational.

    What is more irrational someone who is not absolutely certain that they typed the above or someone who is absolutely certain that they think they think they are the one actually doing the typing?

    Vivid

  187. …the Bible is irrelevant to the issue of absolute certainty.

    I’m not certain this is the case. I think that it is entirely possible that some or all of the Bible’s writers had absolute certainty. What matters is whether you start from fallible man or from an omniscient and omnipotent God.

    Here’s the case I would make for absolute certainty.

    1. If an omniscient and omnipotent God exists, then…
    2. Based on His omniscience, God can be said to be absolutely certain
    3. Based on His omnipotence, God can communicate in such a manner that another can be absolutely certain

    All of the above is consistent with Biblical teaching. The communication referenced in (3) is typically known as Divine Revelation. Absolute certainty is only accessible via Divine Revelation.

  188. keiths

    Your quibble doesn’t affect my argument at all. Change “are” to “feel” in the second part and the argument still holds:

    It isn’t a quibble. Anyone can “feel” certain that he is right. Only someone who knows the truth can “be” certain about what is right. That is the formal difference between absolute metaphysical certainty (not physical certainty, which comes in greater or lesser degrees of probability) and subjective certitude, which is not absolute. You “feel” subjective certitude (except when you qualify that to be almost certain) that I cannot be certain that I exist. But I have objective certainty that I do exist. Someone like yourself who doesn’t even know he exists cannot, with any rational justification, tell someone like me, who knows he exists, that he doesn’t know what he knows. By your own standard, you may not even exist.

    But if you answer yes, then it’s possible that God is using that power to deceive you about anything that you currently believe, even if you feel “absolutely certain” of it:

    You asked if God had the power to create someone who could feel certain about a lie. Well, you feel certain about a lie, and God created you, so that should settle the matter. The question is could God create someone IS certain about a lie. That answer is no. By definition, a perfect, loving, omnipotent God who personifies truth cannot deceive. Do you now understand the difference between feeling certain and being certain?

    That’s my point: you aren’t justified in feeling absolutely certain of anything, because you can’t rule out the possibility that God is deceiving you.

    It isn’t a question of feeling. I know that I exist and I know that I cannot both exist and not exist at the same time.

    …”is unjustified, because it is possible that God is deceiving you about the Law of Non-contradiction. You can’t rule it out, even if you feel pretty sure that he isn’t deceiving you.”

    By definition, God, who is truth, cannot deceive or be deceived.

  189. 189
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths #117: That’s extremely similar to what William says about God, objective morality, and “necessary consequences”. I’m not sure why you keep denying the obvious similarities.

    For some reason you’re failing to see the difference between his affirmative case, and my (what amounts to a) dismissive statement. Essentially a big “so what?”

    Maybe this will help if I restate it this way: if there is no ultimate meaning or morality, then “so what?” to anything you have to say about morality, and it’s amusing to me that would you even dare.

    Clear enough?

  190. vividbleau,

    You make the same error again and again in your comment.

    A good argument is still good even if it isn’t absolutely certain. I am making a good argument for why absolute certainty is a mistake. You are making a poor argument for why absolute certainty is justified.

    Neither of us is absolutely certain that his (I’m assuming you’re male; please correct me if I’m wrong) argument is correct, but that’s okay. We should prefer the better argument to the worse one, even if neither is certain.

  191. I think that it is entirely possible that some or all of the Bible’s writers had absolute certainty.

    I agree with this, however this doesn’t mean that the object of their certainty was real, even if such certainty was given by the Designer itself.

    We can’t rule out the possibiliy that the Designer may have given men the Bible as a guide to stop them from destroying themselves, even if the God described in such text is not the real Designer, but a made-up God which attributes were designed to accomplish the TRUE Designer’s purpose for humans, a purpose that couldn’t be accomplished if humans knew the real identity of the Designer.

    In other words, the Bible might have in fact been created by the Designer and shown to men, and at the same time be completely false in it’s depiction of the very Designer.

    Therefore, that religious text can provide access to absolute certainty is highly questionable under the scenario considered above.

  192. Phinehas,

    I think that it is entirely possible that some or all of the Bible’s writers had absolute certainty.

    That doesn’t help, because the mere possibility that they were absolutely certain isn’t enough. You’re not absolutely certain that they were absolutely certain.

    And even if the biblical authors thought that God was speaking to them, they could have been mistaken. It could have been a hallucination or a delusion, or it could have been Satan trying to fool them, etc.

    So even they had no reason to feel absolutely certain.

    Here’s the case I would make for absolute certainty.

    1. If an omniscient and omnipotent God exists, then…
    2. Based on His omniscience, God can be said to be absolutely certain
    3. Based on His omnipotence, God can communicate in such a manner that another can be absolutely certain

    Sure, he could communicate that way. But we aren’t absolutely certain that he does communicate that way.

    And if you think the Bible is the word of God, then the Bible is strong evidence that God doesn’t communicate absolute certainty, because people don’t agree on what the Bible means!

    Absolute certainty is only accessible via Divine Revelation.

    And since you can never be absolutely sure of what is, or isn’t, divine revelation, you have no reason to be absolutely certain.

  193. Has anyone else noticed how keiths has tried to turn the conversation to the Bible and God while failing to answer a point I made in a post he has yet to reply to:

    If the law of noncontradiction is wrong, then everything we know about everything else is wrong. Including evolution and philosophy and physics and astronomy. Are you willing to throw all that out for an untenable argument?

  194. StephenB,

    It isn’t a quibble. Anyone can “feel” certain that he is right. Only someone who knows the truth can “be” certain about what is right.

    Drawing that distinction doesn’t help your case. The question in this thread is whether you can justifiably claim to be absolutely certain of any particular thing.

    The answer is no, because it is always possible that God exists and that for some inscrutable reason(s) he wants to deceive you about that particular thing. You can’t rule that out, so it is irrational to be absolutely certain of anything.

    You asked if God had the power to create someone who could feel certain about a lie. Well, you feel certain about a lie, and God created you, so that should settle the matter.

    I’m almost certain you know how ridiculous that argument is, so I won’t bother addressing it unless you insist.

    The question is could God create someone IS certain about a lie. That answer is no. By definition, a perfect, loving, omnipotent God who personifies truth cannot deceive.

    God doesn’t have to conform to your definition, and it’s easy to conceive of a God who doesn’t. And even if you think that he does conform to your definition, you can’t be absolutely certain of it.

    I know that I exist and I know that I cannot both exist and not exist at the same time.

    You don’t know either of those things with absolute certainty. God might be tricking you about either one, or both. You can’t rule that out, so you can’t rationally insist that you are absolutely certain.

  195. @Barb

    I agree with you 100% Barb, and this isn’t meant to be an insult to Keiths, but I think the cheese has slid right off his cracker.

  196. Sure, he could communicate that way. But we aren’t absolutely certain that he does communicate that way.

    You aren’t. But if He did communicate that way to someone else, they could be.

    In other words, iff Divine Revelation (as described), then absolute certainty.

    And if you think the Bible is the word of God, then the Bible is strong evidence that God doesn’t communicate absolute certainty, because people don’t agree on what the Bible means!

    That is a non sequitor. Why is it necessary for God to communicate absolute certainty to everyone? Perhaps you are making some assumptions about what it means for the Bible to be the word of God. The traditional view is that, for the reader of the Bible, revelation includes the work of the Holy Spirit in interpreting the word. In other words, every part of the communication, from God to the writer to the word to the reader, requires Divine intervention in order to overcome the fallibility of the humans involved and make absolute certainty possible.

  197. Barb,

    Has anyone else noticed how keiths has tried to turn the conversation to the Bible and God…

    I expressed the argument in terms of God because I thought that was more likely to hit home for you and the other theists on this thread, versus talking abstractly about imperfect human cognition. I think I was right. It seems to have hit a nerve.

    All of you seem to realize that to defend your notion of absolute certainty, you have to say something very uncomfortable: you have to claim that you personally know, with perfect reliability and no chance whatsoever of error, what God would or wouldn’t choose to do with regards to deceiving us.

    Do you believe that you can perfectly predict God’s behavior in this case, Barb, with absolutely no possibility of error?

    Re the Bible, I’m actually trying to steer the conversation away from the Bible, not toward it, because the Bible is irrelevant:

    P.S. By the way, the Bible does say that God deceives people. But let’s not get into a discussion of that. It’s irrelevant because, as I pointed out above, you could never be absolutely, 100.0% sure that the Bible is true anyway.

    Barb:

    …while failing to answer a point I made in a post he has yet to reply to:

    If the law of noncontradiction is wrong, then everything we know about everything else is wrong. Including evolution and philosophy and physics and astronomy. Are you willing to throw all that out for an untenable argument?

    For the eight zillionth time, I am not claiming that logic, or the law of noncontradiction, or our interpretation of it, is wrong, only that we can’t be absolutely certain of them.

    There is no need to throw anything out, Barb, except for your absolute certainty.

  198. But if you cannot be sure of the law of noncontradiction, then what can you be sure of? You yourself stated that you might be a brain in a vat. If you are throwing out absolute certainty, then you are throwing out a great deal of accumulated human knowledge.

    You ask if I can predict God’s behavior? No. Why would I? The Bible states that his ways are higher than the ways of humans. Your argument is a non sequitur.

    You mentioned God deceiving people which, interestingly enough, is mentioned in the Bible. I’ve just finished studying a portion of the book of Jeremiah in my congregation. In Jeremiah 20:7,8, the prophet speaks of being “fooled” by God.

    Let’s now examine the context so that we don’t misinterpret what’s being said, shall we? God had definitely not tricked or deceived Jeremiah by using some crafty, underhanded scheme against him. Rather, God “fooled” his prophet in a positive, beneficial sense. Jeremiah felt that the opposition was too great, that by himself he could no longer fulfill his God-given assignment. But fulfill it he did, with the Almighty’s support and help.

    Hence, you might say that God overpowered him, proving far stronger than Jeremiah and his human inclinations. When this man of God thought that he had reached his limit and could not keep going, God exercised a persuasive force so that Jeremiah was fooled, as it were. God proved stronger than the prophet’s weaknesses. Even in the face of apathy, rejection, and violence, Jeremiah was able to continue to preach. Looking further into the same chapter, we see that God proved to be like “a terrible mighty one” alongside Jeremiah, supporting him. (Jer. 20:11)

    Please do not assume (wrongly) that God lies to humans or deceives them. He doesn’t. The Bible also states that it is impossible for God to lie.

  199. Folks,

    What’s interesting about the reaction to my argument is that so many of you seem to think it would be a catastrophe to give up the idea of absolute certainty.

    But why? Nothing bad happens. As I explained to Barb, it doesn’t require us to throw out vast swathes of our knowledge.

    Let me suggest an experiment for you all to try. For the next 24 hours, just keep reminding yourself periodically, when you have a thought, that “I might be wrong about this. I may think I’m right, but I can’t be absolutely certain.”

    You’ll see that it doesn’t cause you to do anything irrational. It doesn’t require you to abandon logic. You’ll continue to think as before, except that you won’t be absolutely certain of anything.

    That’s good, because it reminds you to keep your mind open and to keep thinking, even about things you are fairly certain of.

  200. Barb,

    But if you cannot be sure of the law of noncontradiction, then what can you be sure of? You yourself stated that you might be a brain in a vat.

    Yes! I think you may be close to getting it! We cannot be absolutely sure of anything! We can be almost certain of lots of things, but we can’t be absolutely certain of them.

    If you are throwing out absolute certainty, then you are throwing out a great deal of accumulated human knowledge.

    No. In fact, you don’t need to throw out any human knowledge. You only need to jettison your absolute certainty.

    You ask if I can predict God’s behavior? No. Why would I? The Bible states that his ways are higher than the ways of humans. Your argument is a non sequitur.

    If you can’t predict God’s behavior, then you can’t predict whether he will deceive you. He might, even if you think he probably won’t. If you can’t be absolutely certain that he isn’t deceiving you, then you can’t be absolutely certain of anything. Whatever you happen to be thinking, such as “I’m sitting here in front of my computer,” might be mistaken. God might be deceiving you. You can’t rule out that possibility.

    You mentioned God deceiving people which, interestingly enough, is mentioned in the Bible.

    Yes, the Bible is quite clear in stating that God deceives. But again, that is irrelevant, because you can’t be absolutely certain that the Bible is correct. Therefore, nothing in the Bible can help your case.

  201. What’s interesting about the reaction to my argument is that so many of you seem to think it would be a catastrophe to give up the idea of absolute certainty.

    It would be stupid to throw out absolute certainty, because it is the foundation on which much of philosophy is built. As has been pointed out to you before.

    But why? Nothing bad happens. As I explained to Barb, it doesn’t require us to throw out vast swathes of our knowledge.

    1+1=2. Not true anymore? Rewrite the textbooks.

    Let me suggest an experiment for you all to try. For the next 24 hours, just keep reminding yourself periodically, when you have a thought, that “I might be wrong about this. I may think I’m right, but I can’t be absolutely certain.”

    “keiths sure is an intelligent person. But I might be wrong about this. I can’t be absolutely certain.”

    You’ll see that it doesn’t cause you to do anything irrational. It doesn’t require you to abandon logic. You’ll continue to think as before, except that you won’t be absolutely certain of anything.
    That’s good, because it reminds you to keep your mind open and to keep thinking, even about things you are fairly certain of.

    Such as the fact that keiths has been tying himself into what surely must be painful philosophical knots simply because he refuses to acknowledge a simple truth.

    Yes! I think you may be close to getting it! We cannot be absolutely sure of anything! We can be almost certain of lots of things, but we can’t be absolutely certain of them.

    I am absolutely sure of several things, keiths. Sorry if this blows your mind.

    No. In fact, you don’t need to throw out any human knowledge. You only need to jettison your absolute certainty.

    So we’re not absolutely certain Christopher Columbus founded the new world in 1492? We’re not absolutely certain that 1+1=2?

    If you can’t predict God’s behavior, then you can’t predict whether he will deceive you.

    “It is impossible for God to lie.” The Bible. That was easy. You completely miss the point. Again.

    He might, even if you think he probably won’t. If you can’t be absolutely certain that he isn’t deceiving you, then you can’t be absolutely certain of anything. Whatever you happen to be thinking, such as “I’m sitting here in front of my computer,” might be mistaken. God might be deceiving you. You can’t rule out that possibility.

    Your arguments are getting sillier and sillier.

    Yes, the Bible is quite clear in stating that God deceives. But again, that is irrelevant, because you can’t be absolutely certain that the Bible is correct. Therefore, nothing in the Bible can help your case.

    Another atheist dismisses a book he hasn’t read or didn’t understand, despite my explaining quite clearly what was meant by God fooling a prophet. Yawn. How boring.

  202. I’m sorry, Barb, but you just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I don’t have the energy or the time to keep correcting you.

    You are clearly determined to hang on to absolute certainty. Ironically, you have abandoned logic in order to do so, while I’m the one saying we should hang on to it!

    Anyway, I hope you’ll keep thinking about this. Maybe revisit this thread when you’ve gained some emotional distance and can think about the issues more rationally.

  203. CentralScrutinizer,

    For some reason you’re failing to see the difference between his affirmative case, and my (what amounts to a) dismissive statement. Essentially a big “so what?”

    But you aren’t being dismissive. You wrote:

    Sal and Keiths,

    If God exists, it is incumbent on us to do what he says or else.

    That is just like William’s concept of objective morality, grounded in God, with “necessary consequences” if we disobey.

    Why are you so loathe to admit the similarity?

  204. 204
    CentralScrutinizer

    Keiths quoting me: If God exists, it is incumbent on us to do what he says or else.

    That’s not an “affirmative case.” It’s merely a statement.

  205. keiths

    God doesn’t have to conform to your definition, and it’s easy to conceive of a God who doesn’t.

    No, it isn’t. Everyone understands that God means perfection. That is why we use that name as opposed to some other name, such as the Demiurge or some other name to represent an imperfect superhuman agency of some sort. You are just trying to change the well-known definition of God to fit your own biases and prejudices. Obviously, if you can define God any way you like, then you can make Him do anything you want. It’s just silly. There is nothing thoughtful about it.

    And even if you think that he does conform to your definition, you can’t be absolutely certain of it.

    keiths, you really do have a hard time following not just my argument, but also your own. You are the one who put up the “what if God did this” argument, not me. My argument has nothing to do with the certainty of God’s existence, though I could easily take that up as well. I simply said that I know that I exist and that I know the law of non-contradiction to be true because it is self evident.

    Incredibly, you are trying to argue that, although you are not sure of our the range of your own intellectual competencies or even your own existence, you are, nevertheless, “certain” about the range of my intellectual competencies, except when you change your mind just in time to say that you are “almost certain.”

    You don’t know either of those things with absolute certainty.

    You can continue to make the unsubstantiated and unreasonable claim that I don’t know for sure if I exist, but I don’t think anyone is buying it. I don’t even think you buy it.

    God might be tricking you about either one, or both. You can’t rule that out, so you can’t rationally insist that you are absolutely certain.

    What are your grounds for saying that? It is simply a vacuous claim with no substance. There is no rationale for it. You just keep saying it and saying it, but you provide not one shred of a rational argument on your own behalf.

  206. CentralScrutinizer,

    You said it was

    …a dismissive statement. Essentially a big “so what?”

    But this doesn’t sound anything like a big “so what?”:

    If God exists, it is incumbent on us to do what he says or else.

    Sounds more like “This is a big deal. It’s important.”

    And you’ve claimed that there is “no similarity whatsoever” between your views and William’s, when there is obviously a huge similarity:

    CentralScrutinizer:

    Of course, the whole “morality argument” doesn’t prove there is a God, but if reality has no ultimate meaning and I’m free to concoct my own, don’t be surprised (or give me a bunch of subjective sentimental hogwash) why I shouldn’t slit your throat for whatever you may have in your wallet. Or kill you and eat your liver with fava beans.

    William J. Murray:

    If I’m just making up my own purposes – like, “don’t harm others” or “do whatever I want” or “altruism”, then my purpose, and thus my morality, is based on “because I say so”, and we have a “because I say so” morality.
    If, however, my purpose is generate by the God I’ve outlined (source of logic, math, good, etc., omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient (inasmuch as other qualities allow), then I have an absolute, objective purpose. Only with such an objective (absolute) purpose can my morality escape being based on “because I say so”.

    Again, why are you so freaked out by the thought that your ideas might be similar to William’s? It’s obviously true.

  207. Are you willing to throw all that out for an untenable argument?

    I thought it was clear that atheists are willing to throw out anything and everything that can be used to lead to the conclusion that God is a necessary premise – even the law of non-contradiction, and even the certainty that 1+1=2.

    Darwinist Derangement Syndrome.

    This is why Mr. Arrington cleared a lot of these folk out to begin with. Why even argue with those that will claim that 1+1 might not = 2? That kind of hyperskepticism is impervious to argument and evidence.

  208. StephenB,

    Everyone understands that God means perfection.

    No. Try Googling “imperfect God” and “open theism”, for example.

    Besides, even if you could be certain that God was perfect, that wouldn’t prove that he isn’t deceiving you. Maybe deceiving you is the perfect thing for God to do. Are you going to tell us that you are absolutely certain, without the slightest sliver of doubt, of what God should or shouldn’t do? On what basis?

    My argument has nothing to do with the certainty of God’s existence…

    Nor does mine. I’m an atheist, after all. It is merely possible that God exists, and it is merely possible that he is deceiving us. That means we cannot be absolutely certain of anything. We can be almost certain of some things, but never absolutely certain.

    I simply said that I know that I exist and that I know the law of non-contradiction to be true because it is self evident.

    You don’t know that. An omnipotent God could easily make you regard a falsehood as self-evident, and you haven’t ruled out that possibility with absolute certainty.

    Incredibly, you are trying to argue that, although you are not sure of our the range of your own intellectual competencies or even your own existence, you are, nevertheless, “certain” about the range of my intellectual competencies, except when you change your mind just in time to say that you are “almost certain.”

    I’m not saying anything about your “intellectual competencies.” I’m saying that regardless of your intelligence, or lack thereof, you do not have the necessary information to justify absolute certainty. It’s an epistemological problem.

    You don’t know either of those things with absolute certainty.

    Of course I don’t. I don’t know anything with absolute certainty, and neither do you!

    You can continue to make the unsubstantiated and unreasonable claim that I don’t know for sure if I exist, but I don’t think anyone is buying it. I don’t even think you buy it.

    I definitely buy it, because it’s true. How could you possibly be sure, without the slightest room for doubt, that you, StephenB, exist? You might be someone else, and God might be deceiving you so that you think you are StephenB.

    And the cogito doesn’t help you, as I pointed out earlier:

    What about the cogito? No, I can’t be certain of that, because a) the cogito depends on logic, and I can’t be absolutely certain that the rules of logic are correct, or that I am applying them correctly; and b) it depends on a premise — thoughts require a thinker — that I can’t be absolutely certain of.

    StephenB:

    God might be tricking you about either one, or both. You can’t rule that out, so you can’t rationally insist that you are absolutely certain.

    That’s right! You’ve got it! I can’t be absolutely certain of those things, nor of anything else, and neither can you! God might be tricking us, as you point out.

    And since you seem to be hung up over the unpleasant idea that God might be deceiving you, just suppose that Satan is tricking you instead of God. My argument still works — you can’t be absolutely certain that Satan isn’t tricking you, so you can’t be absolutely certain of anything.

  209. You don’t know that.

    You don’t know that.

    How much longer do we have to put up with keiths’ self-refuting nonsense clogging up the discourse here at UD?

  210. StephenB,

    Sorry about that last quote. That was me, not you.

    No wonder I was surprised that you were finally getting it!

  211. William J Murray:

    How much longer do we have to put up with keiths’ self-refuting nonsense clogging up the discourse here at UD?

    William,

    Here’s an idea. Why don’t you identify the flaw in my argument and explain it to everyone? I’m sure they’ll be grateful.

  212. “Here’s an idea. Why don’t you identify the flaw in my argument and explain it to everyone? I’m sure they’ll be grateful.”

    I’d try, but I can’t be absolutely certian you even have an argument.

  213. 213
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths: Again, why are you so freaked out by the thought that your ideas might be similar to William’s? It’s obviously true.

    Not freaked out at all that some of my ideas are similar to Williams. But you seem to misunderstand the purpose of my statements, which I’ve stated clearly, and which are obviously different than his.

  214. If I’m reading this thread correctly, Keiths says he can’t be certain about anything, except that he’s certain about that. In other words, he’s certain that he’s not certain. And he cannot, or will not, stop for a nanosecond and come to grips with that.

    Keiths, I will give this one shot. The law of identity is THE FIRST PRINCIPLE of everything. Philosophy, science, theology, mathematics, economics, everything.

    Everything begins with existence. If there is no existence, well then, there is nothing. But there is existence, so we start there.

    The law of identity says simply that A = A. In other words, everything that exists is what it is. This is certainly true. Neither you nor anyone else can even conceive of something existing and not being what it is. No one can. Thus, two inseparable concepts, existence and identity are wrapped up in this one law.

    In ontology, when you say what a thing is, AT THE SAME TIME, you are also saying what it is not. This gives us the law of non-contradiction. Something cannot “be” and “not be” because to say what something “is” is to also say what it “isn’t” at the same time.

    The law of excluded middle says that something either exists or doesn’t exist. There is no middle ground between being and non-being.

    Both of these laws, non-contradiction and excluded middle, are merely other ways of looking at, or describing, the law of identity.

    Regarding causality, the last of the four basic laws, the principle is that without existence there can be no causation. Think of it this way. If I did not exist, could I possibly be thinking or typing? No, I could not. This is a specific instance of the principle from which we abstract the general law. Without existence, there is no causality.

    Interesting enough, the origin of these laws is found in the Old Testament, Exodus 3:14, where God says I AM WHO I AM. In verse 15 He goes on to say that this is His name forever and to all generations. God named Himself the LAW OF IDENTITY. I AM = Being and Identity.

    I sincerely hope this helps.

  215. 215

    You make the same error again and again in your comment.

    Its a statement of fact which you have not refuted. Ya see Keith just because you say so doesn’t make it so. I do understand that those with inflated ego’s sometimes find that hard to accept but facts are facts except in your case I suppose when facts are and are not facts.

    You think you think you are right but you may be wrong and I am supposed to accept your argument even though you are not 100% certain it is a correct argument. Tell me Keith what is factually incorrect?

    A good argument is still good even if it isn’t absolutely certain. I am making a good argument for why absolute certainty is a mistake. You are making a poor argument for why absolute certainty is justified.

    You still don’t get it. You can’t make an argument that demonstrates that I am not absolutely certain that “I” think “I” think “I” am typing this. Furthermore the arguments you do make are incoherent and self refuting. Regardless there is no argument coherent or otherwise that you can think of that can do such a thing. It is what I think I think I am experiencing. Cognitive activity is present. You cannot speak to that. You can only speak for yourself.

    Vivid

  216. 216

    tgpeeler

    If I’m reading this thread correctly, Keiths says he can’t be certain about anything, except that he’s certain about that. In other words, he’s certain that he’s not certain

    Tom it is actually worse than you thought. Keiths is not 100% certain that he is not 100% certain. The hits just keep coming and coming :)

    Vivid

  217. If, as keiths says, one cannot be certain about anything, then he cannot be certain about that statement, which means that it’s possible that one can, in fact, be certain about something. So, his argument falls to self-refutation, because it depends on the idea that one cannot be certain about anything.

    He cannot have is “uncertainty” cake and eat it too.

  218. Vivid, Keiths reminds me of a college freshman who had an introductory problems in philosophy course and whose prof has tied his mind in knots under the guise of being “intellectual.” It’s tragic, really. Well, I gave it my one shot for this thread. C’mon Keiths, figure it out, man. Really. Your eternal future could be riding on this.

  219. tgpeeler Keiths claims he was once a Christian , almost went into the Pastorate. Loves to lecture everyone see his post 199. I think he thinks he has some kind of following so he is preening for that audience. Other than the Christian part the rest is all speculation.

    Vivid

  220. In the hopes of making some progress in this thread, let me lay out my argument systematically, with numbered statements, so that it will be easier for people to specify exactly what they disagree with and why.

    1. It’s possible that God exists. (or Satan, or demons, etc.)

    2. If God (or Satan, etc.) exists, then it is possible that he has the power to deceive us.

    3. If he has the power to deceive us, then he might be exercising that power at any particular time.

    4. Being human, we cannot reliably determine when he is deceiving us and when he isn’t.

    5. Any particular thought we have might coincide with a time when God/Satan/the demon is deceiving us.

    6. Thus, any particular thought might be mistaken.

    7. If we claim to be absolutely certain of something that isn’t true, we have erred.

    8. Therefore we should never claim absolute certainty for a thought that might be mistaken.

    9. Since any particular thought might be mistaken (by #6), we should never claim absolute certainty for any thought.
    Note that this argument can also be made simply by appealing to the imperfection of human cognition, but it’s more fun this way.

    Also note that the argument applies to atheists and theists equally. Atheists don’t think there is a God, of course, but it is still possible that there is a God, and possibility is all that is necessary for the argument to work.

  221. vividbleau,

    Keiths claims he was once a Christian , almost went into the Pastorate.

    No, vivid, I didn’t almost go into the pastorate. My pastor asked me to consider whether God was calling me to the ministry. I did consider it, very carefully, but decided that I did not feel called.

  222. keiths

    2. If God (or Satan, etc.) exists, then it is possible that he has the power to deceive us.

    It is not logically possible to deceive someone who doesn’t exist into believing that he does exist. Don’t you understand that you must first exist in order to be deceived?

  223. StephenB,

    Of course we think we exist, but even that thought might be mistaken. Your assumption is that thoughts always belong to a thinker. Do you know that with 100.0% certainty?

  224. I’m puzzled by the animosity here.

    It is not “hyperskepticism” to consider that all conclusions must be provisional. Indeed, why are Christians called upon to have “faith” if knowledge is not necessarily imperfect? Was the man cried “I have faith! Help me where faith falls short!” being “hyperskeptical”, or simply acknowledging the limits of knowledge?

    Sure we have basic tenets that we assume to be true, in order to learn more, but from time to time it is a good thing, not a bad, to revisit those basic tenets, and find out whether they are, in fact, universally applicable.

    Euclid’s axioms seemed pretty, well axiomatic, until some clever clogs pointed out that they only apply to planes, and planes are a rather special case of a surface.

    1 + 1 = 2 seems fine until you remember that there are many numbers besides the integers, which is why perfectly good spreadsheets appear to give answers that defy the principle, because of rounding errors.

    Or that if I approach you at 1 mph and you approach me at 1 mph, and we collide, our relative speeds are only approximately 1 mph, and if I approach you at 1c and you me at 1c, our relative speeds do not equal 2c, but 1c.

    1 + 1 = 2 may be a useful axiom for some arithmetics, but it is not necessarily a useful axiom for all arithmetics, and certainly does not always work when we are using it to count actual things.

    Same with the law of non-contradiction. Of course it is an axiom that is almost universally useful.

    But once we get into quantum physics, it is not so useful.

    Classical logic is a great tool, but fuzzy logic can be a better tool for some jobs.

    If saying these things triggers another purge from Barry, so be it. I would go to the stake for the right to remain uncertain.

    But in case I don’t get a chance to say it, I’ve enjoyed being here again :)

    And you are all welcome to drop in at TSZ, where, of course, the axiom is (and it applies to everyone, Darwinist and all): think it possible that ye be mistaken.

    Bless you all

    Lizzie

  225. Lizzie,

    I’m puzzled by the animosity here.

    So am I. You would think I was advocating the end of civilization, or something.

    In reality, all I’m saying is “You know that probability needle you think is pointing directly at 1.0? It’s really a smidge to the left of 1.0.”

    Quelle horreur!

    If saying these things triggers another purge from Barry, so be it. I would go to the stake for the right to remain uncertain.

    Barry has forfeited his already questionable right to demand a “loyalty oath” to the law of non-contradiction. He is quite willing to toss the LNC on the garbage heap when it suits his purposes:

    God is powerful enough to combine apparent contradictions in his person. He is three, yet he is only one. He is both immanent and transcendent. He is sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent; yet despite the evil that exists in the universe he created, he is also omni-benevolent. It never ceases to amaze me that skeptics are surprised when they are unable to fit God into neat human categories. But if we could understand God completely, would we not be gods ourselves? I know I am no god, so I am unsurprised to find that I cannot comprehend God in his fullness or understand fully how such contradictions can be combined in him. Nevertheless, I am quite certain they are.

  226. It is not “hyperskepticism” to consider that all conclusions must be provisional.

    If that conclusion is provisional, then it may be wrong, and thus all conclusions may not be provisional, and so not all conclusions “must” be provisional.

    What do you prefer: hyperskeptical, stupid, evil, or insane?

    I’m absolutely certain error exists. I’m absolutely certain 1+1=2. I’m absolutely certain of the LNC. There are lots of things I am absolutely certain about. If you say I cannot be, then you are issuing a statement that necessarily implies absolute certainty. If you are not absolutely certain, then it is possible that I am absolutely certain of those things.

    More DDS at work here.

    I would go to the stake for the right to remain uncertain.

    Of course you would; your entire ideology depends upon denying the obvious – which necessarily entails being “uncertain” about even that which is obviously certain, such as the immoral nature of torturing children for pleasure.

    This is the willful and deliberate rejection of reality to cling to a foolish delusion. What you detect is not animosity, it is the frustration of attempting to reason with those who have rejected reason to the point of denying that 1+1 necessarily = 2.

  227. 228
    CentralScrutinizer

    Elizabeth B Liddle: Same with the law of non-contradiction. Of course it is an axiom that is almost universally useful. But once we get into quantum physics, it is not so useful.

    Just curious, but how does any equation in quantum physics violate LNC?

  228. Well, existence or non-existence is somewhat moot at quantum level. It’s not that the law is violated (I didn’t say that it was) but that it’s not so useful. The LNC would be much use in trying to understand a Feynmann diagram.

    And then there’s that cat.

  229. “would be” = “wouldn’t be”.

  230. 231
    CentralScrutinizer

    Elizabeth B Liddle: Well, existence or non-existence is somewhat moot at quantum level.

    Specifically, what are you referring to?

    The LNC would [not] be much use in trying to understand a Feynmann diagram.

    Are you saying we can safely ignore LNC while considering the meaning of this diagram?

    http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.g.....feynm5.gif

    And then there’s that cat.

    “That cat” involves a particular interpretation of QM, not QM equations themselves, which is beyond the scope of my question to you.

  231. Let me start by saying that I don’t feel any animosity toward KeithS, Liz, or anyone else. I find the discussion intellectually stimulating, including KeithS’ argument. Now, let me attempt to dismantle it. :)

    1. It’s possible that God exists. (or Satan, or demons, etc.)

    Agreed!

    2. If God (or Satan, etc.) exists, then it is possible that he has the power to deceive us.

    If God exists, then it is possible that he has the power to provide us with absolute certainty regarding Truth.

    3. If he has the power to deceive us, then he might be exercising that power at any particular time.

    If he has the power to provide absolute certainty, then he might be exercising that power right now.

    4. Being human, we cannot reliably determine when he is deceiving us and when he isn’t.

    Being omnipotent, he can supervene our humanity so that we can reliably determine his Truth with absolute certainty.

    5. Any particular thought we have might coincide with a time when God/Satan/the demon is deceiving us.

    Any particular thought we have might be accompanied by his omnipotent communication of absolute certainty about its Truth.

    6. Thus, any particular thought might be mistaken.

    Thus, there may be things about which one can be absolutely certain. (And, unlike your self-defeating statement, this statement may itself be one of those things.)

    7. If we claim to be absolutely certain of something that isn’t true, we have erred.

    If we claim one cannot be absolutely certain we have erred.

    8. Therefore we should never claim absolute certainty for a thought that might be mistaken.

    Therefore, we should never claim that one cannot be absolutely certain.

    9. Since any particular thought might be mistaken (by #6), we should never claim absolute certainty for any thought.

    Since any particular thought might be divinely revealed by an omnipotent God, we should never claim one cannot have absolute certainty.

  232. CentralScrutinizer:

    Specifically, what are you referring to?

    Well, try to describe the double slit experiment while adhering to the LNC :)

    I’m not saying the LNC is incorrect, or that I’m uncertain that it is true. I’m saying it is a useful tool, useful at scales at which the persistence of things over time and space can be relied on. But if you go to extremely tiny scales, normal assumptions about time, space and existence start to break down, and we have to use something like Feynman diagrams to make good predictions, and “sum over all trajectories” to determine the path the photon took. So it both took and did not take, the path through the slit on the left.

    That makes no sense under classical logic, but it does make sense in a Feynman diagram. That doesn’t mean that Feynman’s logic is better than classical logic or that one is true and one is false. It just means that both have extremely useful applicability over different scales of phenomena.

  233. 234
    CentralScrutinizer

    Elizabeth B Liddle: Well, try to describe the double slit experiment while adhering to the LNC.

    What specifically about the double-slit experiment violates or otherwise would necessitate that we suspend the LNC? It’s the fact that we retain the LNC that will lead to a clearer understanding of what is going on.

    So it both took and did not take, the path through the slit on the left. That makes no sense under classical logic.

    No. It makes no sense if we try to understand a photon as merely a wave or a particle. (It seems to be some sort of meta entity with properties that have “spooky actions at a distance.”) Weird? Yes. This means we haven’t completely figured out what we’re dealing with. However, no quantum equation necessitates that we suspend the LNC.

  234. Wow. This is truly astonishing. I can’t be certain that I’m hungry or sleepy or thirsty or in pain or anything, even that I want to write these words, but keiths can be certain that I’m not certain!!! Even as he says that he is not certain and that not only that but no one else can be certain either!!! Those are almost God-like powers of knowledge, to know for sure that other people (including yourself) can’t know for sure!!! It’s one thing to accept a certain kind of insanity for yourself but to attribute that to others with a straight face is awe inspiring. But if certainty does not exist then how is he even aware of the concept? For to be “not certain” necessitates “certainty.” Hmmm. That is… amazing.

    But wait, in order to even write those words I had to use THOSE WORDS and NOT other words. The law of identity (and LNC and LEM) are explicitly used in ALL rational communication. I can’t even think “I” without ALSO realizing that I am not “not-I.” And that “I exist therefore I can think – existence preceding causality – and I can think therefore I know that I exist” is one thing that I cannot be confused about apart from some sort of brain trauma or psycho-pathology. Would keiths deny that he had to exist in order to think anything? Would he claim that even were he non-existent that he could still think? Maybe so. The upshot of this for the bigger picture is that “we” start our chains of reasoning on the most certain truth as opposed to the the starting assumption of EL and the like who assume that “the material or natural world is all that exists.” Really? Maybe it’s just me but I’d rather start out with a P=1 premise than something that is obviously false. Where we start pretty much determines where we’ll end.

    keiths can’t write keiths without assuming the law of identity to be true. He is apparently very skilled in self-deception, pity that, but once again, I have been given an object lesson in how futile it is to try to reason with someone who rejects the principles of reason. My hat is off to those with the patience and mental fortitude to wage that particular battle.

    Lurker mode “on.”

  235. keiths: 2. If God (or Satan, etc.) exists, then it is possible that he has the power to deceive us.

    SB: It is not logically possible to deceive someone who doesn’t exist into believing that he does exist. Don’t you understand that you must first exist in order to be deceived?

    Of course we think we exist, but even that thought might be mistaken. Your assumption is that thoughts always belong to a thinker. Do you know that with 100.0% certainty?

    This is an amazing response. You think that a non-existent thing, which also entails the non-existence of a mind or brain, can “think” that it doesn’t exist. Just so I understand, can you tell me what, in the absence of any kind of thinking apparatus, this non-existent thing is going to think with?

  236. I didn’t say anything about suspending it. I just said that it wasn’t a useful tool for understanding photons. Feynman’s is better.

    I think the LNC is a tool, not a truth. If we adopt it as an assumption we can make extremely powerful predictions about the world. But we get stumped we try to use it to predict the way a photon will pass through a double slit. That’s because at the level of photons the very word “is” ceases to be straight forward, and the LNC requires that we are clear what the meaning of “is” is (thankyou President Clinton).

    LNC: A thing cannot be A and not-A at the same time.

    But thing can only be A if we know what we mean by “be” and “thing”. Is a photon a thing? Or is it the probability of a thing at a being at a particular place and a particular time? Or not a thing at all?

    I’ve never understood why the LNC should be a (literal) shibboleth. The circumstances in which it is not useful are no threat to any claim in which it is.

    Clearly, macroscopic things cannot both exist and not-exist at the same time, in the same approximate locality of space.

    But even “at the same time” has a non-obvious meaning when time itself is a function of velocity, and what we observe is not what is happening simultaneously at a different location, but what happened a short time earlier.

    The smaller and larger the scale at which we try to investigate the world, the weirder it starts to become, and just as Euclid’s axioms proved to be only useful for the special case of flat planes, so classical logic ceases to be useful once we start dealing with non-classical scales.

  237. Lurker mode “off.” I’m sorry but I just couldn’t let this one last thing pass. In post #220 from keiths in the middle of his argument for “no certainty” (HOW FUNNY IS THAT?????) we find this phrase “we should never claim absolute certainty for any thought.” Um, er, ah, keiths, is that or is that not a claim for certainty?????????? How old are you, anyway? Really? I ask not with animosity (you are welcome to believe anything you care to believe – I hope it works out for you) but with a curiosity that has been growing and growing… I think you are the best I’ve ever seen out here at sticking your head in the sand. In other words screaming “I’m rational” while not having a clue about what that means. And there’s some pretty good competition for that “honor”…

  238. tgpeeler

    The upshot of this for the bigger picture is that “we” start our chains of reasoning on the most certain truth as opposed to the the starting assumption of EL and the like who assume that “the material or natural world is all that exists.”

    What on earth gave you the impression that my “starting assumption” is that “the material or natural world is all that exists”?

  239. 240
    CentralScrutinizer

    Elizabeth B Liddle: I didn’t say anything about suspending it. I just said that it wasn’t a useful tool for understanding photons. Feynman’s is better.

    Frankly, that’s a bizarre statement. Are you saying that you need not employ LNC when you consider the meaning of this Feynman diagram?

    http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.g.....feynm5.gif

    Back to my original question:

    CS: Just curious, but how does any equation in quantum physics violate LNC?

    But I think my question to you should be: in what cases are you able to jettison the LNC when using any quantum equation?

    I think the LNC is a tool, not a truth.

    It’s an axiom of logic. And I’m curious if you can point to any quantum equation were we can safely dispense with it.

    But we get stumped we try to use it to predict the way a photon will pass through a double slit. That’s because at the level of photons the very word “is” ceases to be straight forward, and the LNC requires that we are clear what the meaning of “is” is (thankyou President Clinton).

    None of that requires a suspension of the LNC. It only means we don’t know what a photon is. (Although, there are speculations.) Like I said, if you insist that a photon be a wave or particle, then you might have a point. Or if you insist that a dog not be a dog, then you might have a point. But there are many reasons not to insist that a photon be either a wave or particle, namely, the experimental data. That’s not a violation of the LNC. That’s a consequence of the LNC.

    LNC: A thing cannot be A and not-A at the same time. But thing can only be A if we know what we mean by “be” and “thing”. Is a photon a thing? Or is it the probability of a thing at a being at a particular place and a particular time? Or not a thing at all?

    Nobody knows what a photon is. Although, there are speculations. And the speculations tend to be a consequence of the LNC, not a violation of it.

    I’ve never understood why the LNC should be a (literal) shibboleth. The circumstances in which it is not useful are no threat to any claim in which it is.

    You have yet to point to a circumstance where it is not useful, or indeed, absolutely necessary. You certainly have no demonstrated where any quantum equation (as I asked for) has jettisoned the LNC.

    Clearly, macroscopic things cannot both exist and not-exist at the same time, in the same approximate locality of space. But even “at the same time” has a non-obvious meaning when time itself is a function of velocity, and what we observe is not what is happening simultaneously at a different location, but what happened a short time earlier. The smaller and larger the scale at which we try to investigate the world, the weirder it starts to become, and just as Euclid’s axioms proved to be only useful for the special case of flat planes, so classical logic ceases to be useful once we start dealing with non-classical scales.

    Please provide a concrete example were the LNC ceases to be useful (or necessary) in any such case.

  240. I would just like to say that I am not surprised or astonished at all by KeithS and his argument. God is a game-changer. He is the game-changer. His omnipotence can put everything up for grabs, as KeithS tries to demonstrate. What KeithS has failed to realize so far, however, is how this can cut both ways. God’s omnipotence can also make anything absolute. The two sides are not entirely equal, though. Whereas uncertainty is self-defeating, certainty is not. We all argue from certainty, and must argue from certainty, even when we are attempting to argue in favor of uncertainty. For me, this is a point in favor of God’s existence. We all seem to be able to find within ourselves both absolute certainty as well as absolute fallibility. We might deny this intellectually, but we consistently reinforce it pragmatically. For me, this points to humans as both bearers of the image of God and at the same time corrupted. For me, if how we act is a strong reflection of our reality, then our reality strongly reflects what I read in Genesis about the human condition.

  241. And then there’s that cat.

    Lizzie you do know that Shrodinger was showing the absurdity of dead and alive cats?

    “Schrödinger did not wish to promote the idea of dead-and-alive cats as a serious possibility; quite the reverse, the paradox is a classic reductio ad absurdum.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schrodingers_cat

    Vivid

  242. 243
    CentralScrutinizer

    vividbleau,

    Indeed. Dr Liddle is confusing the Copenhagen interpretation with the equations of QM. They are not the same thing. The equations of QM are not in any way unhinged from the LNC.

  243. Central Scrutinizer, vividbleau, tgpeeler,

    You have made some very telling and relevant comments on the non-negotiable nature of the Law of Non-contradiction.

  244. Well, I’m prepared to be corrected CS.

    Can you explain to me what a Feynman diagram represents?

  245. vivid:

    “Schrödinger did not wish to promote the idea of dead-and-alive cats as a serious possibility; quite the reverse, the paradox is a classic reductio ad absurdum.”

    Yes, I know. I was trying to cut down on my smiley-face use, but obviously it was a mistake :)

    My point is simply that classical logic is a tool, and for some tasks, other tools are better. Specifically when we are trying to understand the nature of the very entities assumed by the LNC (the persistence of existence; the nature of simultaneity; the nature of time).

  246. CS

    Frankly, that’s a bizarre statement. Are you saying that you need not employ LNC when you consider the meaning of this Feynman diagram?

    http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.g…..feynm5.gif

    I’m not saying you need not employ it – I’m saying that to understand it you have to start asking what “simultaneous” even means.

    But I’m more than willing to be corrected. Can you explain those diagrams to me in terms of the LNC?

  247. Christians’ position is no better than that of Darwinists here.

    I fail to see why a debate about the truth of the Bible is even happening. All that religious people do is bend their logic and observations to fit the religious text of their choice with no regard to common sense or empirical observations.

    What happened to the spirit of ID? “Follow the evidence where it leads to”?

    Of course both Darwinists and Christians prefer to maintain their worldview than to follow evidence, observation and logic thinking, but this is the reason this debates go nowhere.

  248. I didn’t say anything about suspending it. I just said that it wasn’t a useful tool for understanding photons. Feynman’s is better.

    The only way anything can be understood is via the LNC … unless, of course, you are willing to claim that any description of a photon doesn’t necessarily refer to what a photon is (presumably) and is not (presumably), so that such a view can be employed in research and tested.

    You know, like they did. And found out that what they thought a photon was, could not be what a photon was (particle or wave), because it displayed both characteristics. Because of the LNC, then, they concluded that the photon must be something else that could act as both a photon or a wave.

    Note the absurd comment – “Feynman’s is better” as if without the LNC one could figure out which is better. There would be no way to set up any falsifying or proving test in the first place.

  249. I’m saying that to understand it you have to start asking what “simultaneous” even means.

    Can you tell us what “simultaneous” means, and what it does not mean, in any sense, without employing the LNC?

  250. Nobody knows what a photon is. Although, there are speculations. And the speculations tend to be a consequence of the LNC, not a violation of it.

    Well, my position would be that no-one knows what anything is.

    But what we do have are models that make excellent predictions, and, a result, we tend to parse the world into things that exist, and have properties, and events that happen, and cause things.

    And given that framework (of a universe of things with properties etc) the LNC and other axioms of classical logic work really well. But once we get underneath the things, to the things those things are made of, and so ad infinitum, our model of a world of things (billiard ball atoms; shiny protons and zippy electrons) starts to break down. We can still use the language of things (particles) and events (oscillations), but they start to smoosh together. We’ve imported language from the macro world of macro things into a world it wasn’t designed for. Same with astronomical scales.

    Here’s Feynman on magnets:

    FUN TO IMAGINE 4

    (check 27 minutes onwards)

    Also on scientific certainty:

    THE PLEASURE OF FINDING THINGS OUT

  251. William

    Can you tell us what “simultaneous” means, and what it does not mean, in any sense, without employing the LNC?

    No, because I can’t tell you exactly what it means. I can tell you that it means “at the same time” but as I can’t tell you what “the same time” means except in a practical local sense, I regard it as applicable only in circumstances in which we don’t have to worry about what it means (which is most of the time, of course).

    But when we do – when we find it useful to think of particles moving backwards in time, for instance, or of time dilating, then the LNC isn’t going to help, just as the real numbers are too limited when we want to describe things in the complex plane.

  252. 253
    CentralScrutinizer

    Elizabeth B Liddle: But I’m more than willing to be corrected. Can you explain those diagrams to me in terms of the LNC?

    No. I’m willing to be corrected. You’re the one making the claim the “The LNC would [not] be much use in trying to understand a Feynman diagram” and that “I just said that [the LNC] wasn’t a useful tool for understanding photons. Feynman’s is better”, as if the LNC is somehow not essential to every part of a using Feynman diagrams.

    So, please, if you will, click on the following link and scroll down to the “Feynman Diagram” section (were an explanation for my cited graphic exists) and tell me what part of any of that does not require the LNC, as you have implied.

    http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.g.....expar.html

  253. 254
    CentralScrutinizer

    Elizabeth B Liddle to William Murray: when we find it useful to think of particles moving backwards in time, for instance, or of time dilating, then the LNC isn’t going to help, just as the real numbers are too limited when we want to describe things in the complex plane.

    Well, My mouth is officially gaping wide open in amazement. :D

    Anyway, I’d love to see any reasoning on this subject where LNC is dispensed with at any level.

  254. All that religious people do is bend their logic and observations to fit the religious text of their choice with no regard to common sense or empirical observations.

    I waffled between ignoring this and refuting it. I landed on the following as the most appropriate refutation:

    Nah-uh.

  255. Central Scrutinizer, vividbleau, tgpeeler,

    You have made some very telling and relevant comments on the non-negotiable nature of the Law of Non-contradiction.

    As have you.

    Vivid

  256. CS:

    Well, in a Feynman diagram particles can be represented as going forward or backwards in time, and if a particle is shown as going backward in time it’s an antiparticle. So simultaneity – the collision between the two, is represented as forward time meeting backward time. You could translate that into LNC terms, but the diagram isn’t in LNC terms because if time can flow forwards and backwards, the expression “at the same time” which is part of the law, takes on a completely different meaning. In a Feynman diagram, where are the particles “before” the collision”? Does the word even make sense in this context? Do they even exist simultaneously?

    And it turned out that the Feynman diagram made things a lot simpler, even though it makes no sense in a framework in which “simultaneity” has clear meaning, and makes some kind of sense of wave-particle duality.

  257. CS

    Anyway, I’d love to see any reasoning on this subject where LNC is dispensed with at any level.

    I didn’t say it could be “dispensed with”. I said it would no longer be useful. Let’s say your twin brother goes on a long inter-planetary journey where he will spend most of the time at near-light speed. You know you’ll never see him again, but you agree that you will think of each other on your joint birthdays, and light a candle at exactly 8.00 pm. You synchronise watches the day he leaves.

    The day he leaves you are both aged 23. You both keep faithfully to your word.

    Many years later, he returns, aged 55. He finds you long dead, and on your headstone he reads that you died at the ripe old age of 102.

    Did you actually celebrate your birthdays simultaneously or not?

    And would it be truer for you to have said, on your last birthday, as you lit your candle,

    “My brother’s candle is alight right now?”
    or
    “My brother’s candle is not alight right now?”

    I suggest that neither are correct, because in the scenario I have outlined, the very concept “right now” has ceased to have the meaning it is assumed to have when we state the LNC.

    It’s not that I have “dispensed” with the LNC. It’s that the LNC is not applicable to the question I have asked.

  258. Dr. Liddle,

    Are you unaware that you cannot utter a single intelligible word – let alone a phrase or an argument – without depending upon the LNC to separate what a word means from what it does not?

    If a “thing” – be it a photon or a word or Jupiter – can be both what it is, and what it is not, then nothing has any intelligible meaning whatsoever, nor can anything be sorted out in the most basic sense, much less argued about.

  259. It’s not that I have “dispensed” with the LNC. It’s that the LNC is not applicable to the question I have asked.

    The LNC is not only applicable to every question anyone can ask, it is necessary for any asked question to have any intelligible meaning. To anyone, including yourself.

  260. Are you unaware that you cannot utter a single intelligible word – let alone a phrase or an argument – without depending upon the LNC to separate what a word means from what it does not?

    Are you saying that double entendres are impossible?

    But let me grant that double entendres don’t actually make language intelligible.

    I’m happy to grant your case. I’ve never not-granted it. That’s why I haven’t said that we can “dispense with” the LNC. I’ve said that it won’t always be applicable to or rather the phenomenon we are attempting to understand. It may nonetheless be applicable to the process of communicating that understanding.

    All I’m saying is that a Feynman diagram may be a better way of making a phenomenon intelligible than expressing it express it in terms that require that simultaneity be assumed possible.

    And that “at the same time” does not always have a coherent meaning.

  261. 262
    CentralScrutinizer

    Elizabeth B Liddle: In a Feynman diagram, where are the particles “before” the collision”?

    While the LNC pertains to an object having or not-having a given property at a given time, there is no requirements about when that time is. Nothing about the Feynman diagram violates, contradicts or otherwise jettisons the LNC, because nothing about Feynman diagrams imply that entities possess and not-possess a given property at a given instance of time on his hypothetical timeline.

    Irrelevant sidebar for the curious: Feynman’s timeline with positrons being electrons traveling in reverse time has no empirical support.

    Does the word even make sense in this context? Do they even exist simultaneously?

    Yes, at the point of collision. That’s the entire point of the diagram. Feynman diagrams show relationships of particles and waves, their interactions, transferences and conversions. They are not comprehensive statements about the existence of a particular entity “in all time and space.”

    I’m still not convinced, Dr Liddle. The LNC holds at every turn.

  262. The LNC is not only applicable to every question anyone can ask, it is necessary for any asked question to have any intelligible meaning. To anyone, including yourself.

    It is certainly necessary for a question about simultaneity to have an intelligible meaning. That was precisely my point.

    That apparently straight forward questions, such as “is this candle alight or not alight right now”? which is perfectly intelligible when two brothers are standing side by side, and it is perfectly clear that the candle cannot be both alight and not alight, is not perfectly intelligible when one brother has gone on a near-light-speed trip.

    Lightspeed undermines the very premise on which the LNC is based (that “at the same time” has a single meaning), potentially rendering a classically coherent question incoherent.

    In other words, it can only be applied when the noun phrases it is composed of have unambiguous meaning. They don’t, always.

  263. CS

    I’m still not convinced, Dr Liddle. The LNC holds at every turn.

    Well, you may be right.

  264. tgpeeler:

    Lurker mode “off.” I’m sorry but I just couldn’t let this one last thing pass. In post #220 from keiths in the middle of his argument for “no certainty” (HOW FUNNY IS THAT?????) we find this phrase “we should never claim absolute certainty for any thought.” Um, er, ah, keiths, is that or is that not a claim for certainty?????????? How old are you, anyway? Really? I ask not with animosity (you are welcome to believe anything you care to believe – I hope it works out for you) but with a curiosity that has been growing and growing… I think you are the best I’ve ever seen out here at sticking your head in the sand. In other words screaming “I’m rational” while not having a clue about what that means. And there’s some pretty good competition for that “honor”…

    tgpeeler,

    Reread your quote above. Note in particular the ten question marks in a row and your reference to “screaming”. Then note your question

    How old are you, anyway? Really?

    …and ask yourself whether you might have overlooked a certain irony.

    Absolute certainty tends to cultivate a lack of self-awareness, as you so vividly demonstrate.

  265. 266
    CentralScrutinizer

    Elizabeth B Liddle: Did you actually celebrate your birthdays simultaneously or not?

    No, not if Special Relativity is an accurate description of space-time.

    I suggest that neither are correct, because in the scenario I have outlined, the very concept “right now” has ceased to have the meaning it is assumed to have when we state the LNC.

    Absolutely false. Special relativity does not dispense with the concept of “right now.” What it states is that it’s impossible to know if and when synchronization of events occurs in different reference frames of time.

    This is a diversion because the LNC doesn’t have anything at all to do with the consequences of Special Relativity. LNC merely states that an object cannot have a property and not-have that property at the same time. Sure, Relativity leads to fascinating questions of “well, does that property exist now or not?” but Special Relativity does not yield any contradictions with respect to any possible answer to that question in any time frame. Think carefully about that.

  266. OK, I’m not going to go to the stake for the sake of the LNC.

    I’m not a philosopher, nor physicist. What I am is an empirical scientist who sees truth as something we model increasingly closely, rather than something we ever have.

  267. William J. Murray:

    You know, like they did. And found out that what they thought a photon was, could not be what a photon was (particle or wave), because it displayed both characteristics. Because of the LNC, then, they concluded that the photon must be something else that could act as both a photon or a wave.

    This is a very good observation by WJM and it dramatizes an important point. Without the Law of Contradiction, we could not have known the difference between what is odd and what is normal or apprehend the counter-intuitive nature of quantum activity.

  268. 269
    CentralScrutinizer

    Elizabeth B Liddle: Lightspeed undermines the very premise on which the LNC is based (that “at the same time” has a single meaning), potentially rendering a classically coherent question incoherent.

    No. It can only renders an answer to a classically coherent question unknowable. Special Relativity implies no contradictions, thus no implied violations of LNC.

  269. 270
    CentralScrutinizer

    #268

    Amen and amen.

  270. 271

    EL
    “truth as something we model increasingly closely, rather than something we ever have.”

    Increasingly closely to what?

  271. 272
    CentralScrutinizer

    BTW, for those interested in the Double Slit and Delayed Choice “weirdness” of photons, this may interest you:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....SRTvKgAs9c

  272. 273
    CentralScrutinizer
  273. Chesterton:Increasingly closely to what?

    um, truth?

    What I mean is that the better our models, the smaller our prediction errors.

    The very fact that our models converge is evidence of an Ultimate Reality.

  274. Apologies for the missing close tag.

  275. StephenB

    This is a very good observation by WJM and it dramatizes an important point. Without the Law of Contradiction, we could not have known the difference between what is odd and what is normal or apprehend the counter-intuitive nature of quantum activity.

    So you are saying that without the Law of Non-Contradiction we wouldn’t have noticed that it was violated? :)

    Seriously, that is almost my very point. That there are aspects of reality that do challenge our macroscopic assumptions about the world – the nature of time, space, and existence – and which are implicit in classical logic.

  276. StephenB,

    This is a very good observation by WJM and it dramatizes an important point. Without the Law of Contradiction, we could not have known the difference between what is odd and what is normal or apprehend the counter-intuitive nature of quantum activity.

    Of course! The LNC is incredibly useful, and I employ it all the time. It just isn’t universally applicable, as Lizzie points out, and it isn’t absolutely certain even where it is applicable, because it is the product of our imperfect cognitive faculties.

    You folks just aren’t getting it. To lack absolute certainty of something doesn’t mean you can’t act on it. Otherwise our lives would come to a standstill, because there are so many things we aren’t absolutely certain of (as even you would agree).

    Think about it. I encourage you all to undertake the experiment I proposed yesterday. Try, for an hour, or 12 hours, or a day, or the rest of your life, to affirm that your thoughts are not absolutely certain to be correct. Any particular thought you have might be wrong, even if it seems unlikely.

    You will find that nothing bad happens. It doesn’t lead to absurdity. Civilization doesn’t end. It doesn’t make you do irrational things. If anything, it makes you more rational, because you don’t irrationally claim certainty for things you can’t be certain of.

    It’s a pure win, and it has the added advantage of being logical, unlike your absolute certainty claims.

  277. 278
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths: It just isn’t universally applicable, as Lizzie points out

    Uh, she hasn’t point out any such thing.

    Have you been reading?

    If you have any examples of the LNC not being universally applicable, please cite.

  278. StephenB and Phinehas,

    Thank you for responding directly to my explicit argument and for pointing out the exact numbered statements you disagree with, and why.

    I encourage others to do the same. If you respond directly to my words, rather than to your general interpretation of my argument, I think we’ll save some time and effort.

  279. So your response to my post is to ignore the salient point, that you say we can NEVER be certain, which is to make a certain statement. Figures.

  280. CentralScrutinizer,

    Lizzie’s simultaneity example. “Events A & B were simultaneous” is true in one reference frame but false in another.

    The LNC simply isn’t applicable to questions of simultaneity across reference frames.

  281. tgpeeler,

    It’s too tiring for me to coninue responding to people who don’t (or won’t) understand my argument.

    Take a look at my explicit argument, complete with numbered statements.

    Then tell us exactly which statement(s) you disagree with, and why.

    Since you disagree with me so vehemently, it should be easy for you to pinpoint the statements you disagree with.

  282. Yes, it doesn’t apply to scenarios in which “at the same time” or “exist” is ambiguous.

    I don’t mean “unknown”. I mean “with more than one meaning”.

    Actually, I messed up with my space ship story. I should have said “on the 50th birthday”. I forgot I’d made it so that the travelling twin hadn’t reached the later birthday yet!

    On their fiftieth, by one definition of “at the same time” that works perfectly well in the classical world, namely “at the same date and hour”, it would be true to say they celebrated their fiftieth “at the same time” But by another definition, namely “exactly 50 years ago”, it would not be true.

    In the classical world, there is no conflict between these two ways of referring to a single point in time. But in the near-light-speed travelling world, there is.

    So there is simply no answer to the question: did we celebrate our birthdays at the same time? that does not require that “at the same time” be qualified.

    It’s not a huge problem. But it does illustrate the need to revisit the assumptions on which our axioms are based if we want them to apply to extended worlds.

  283. 284
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths: Lizzie’s simultaneity example. “Events A & B were simultaneous” is true in one reference frame but false in another.

    You are mistaken. See my post #266 and comment on the specifics, if you like.

  284. 285
    CentralScrutinizer

    Elizabeth B Liddle: So there is simply no answer to the question: did we celebrate our birthdays at the same time? that does not require that “at the same time” be qualified.

    You’re getting hotter! :)

    Like I said, the LNC is not violated because the consequences of Special Relativity does cause any contradictions. What it does it create unanswerable questions. That is not a violation of the LNC.

  285. Lizzie’s simultaneity example. “Events A & B were simultaneous” is true in one reference frame but false in another.

    Even if this is true, it doesn’t violate the LNC, which states:

    It states that contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time.

    When you change the reference, it is not the same formal relationship as described in the first statement.

  286. Well, I didn’t say that it violated it.

    I have never said that anything violated the LNC. I have merely argued that for some things, other logics seem to do a better job. I see logic like I see math – as a tool, not as a series of claims about the world.

    But I agree that William’s formulation seems to cover my example.

  287. No thanks. Not my job to reason with an irrational person. I’ve said more than enough already. Good day.

  288. tgpeeler,

    No thanks. Not my job to reason with an irrational person. I’ve said more than enough already. Good day.

    If I’m as irrational as you say, it should be trivial to find a flaw in my argument. So much for your premise.

    It’s interesting that when it comes time for you to be rational, it’s suddenly “not my job”.

  289. Proton writes,

    I fail to see why a debate about the truth of the Bible is even happening.

    Because keiths brought it up to deflect from the fact that he can’t logically defend his position.

    All that religious people do is bend their logic and observations to fit the religious text of their choice with no regard to common sense or empirical observations.

    Your logical fallacy (hasty generalization) is noted and summarily ignored.

    What happened to the spirit of ID? “Follow the evidence where it leads to”?

    Ignoring one of the foundations of knowledge, the LNC, leads to incomprehension, for one thing.

    Of course both Darwinists and Christians prefer to maintain their worldview than to follow evidence, observation and logic thinking, but this is the reason this debates go nowhere.

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  290. All that religious people do is bend their logic and observations to fit the religious text of their choice with no regard to common sense or empirical observations.

    I waffled between ignoring this and refuting it. I landed on the following as the most appropriate refutation:

    Nah-uh.

    Is that a concession?

  291. Your logical fallacy (hasty generalization) is noted and summarily ignored.

    Ignoring is easier than refuting it seems.

  292. CentralScrutinizer and William,

    Before special relativity, people thought that the meaning of “simultaneous” was self-evident, and that it was not possible for two events to be both simultaneous and not simultaneous, since this would violate the LNC. They were wrong. Their certainty was unjustified.

    It is possible for two events to be both simultaneous and not simultaneous, just not in the same reference frame.

    Before relativity, people were certain about simultaneity and its relation to the LNC. Their certainty prevented them from questioning their beliefs. Fortunately, Einstein wasn’t certain and his lack of certainty led to a huge advance in human knowledge.

    Absolute certainty is a mistake. It gains you nothing of value, and it keeps you from questioning things that you think are certain, but aren’t really.

    Physicists, pre-relativity, were mistakenly certain. Let’s learn from their mistake, rather than repeating it.

  293. Barb,

    Because keiths brought it [the Bible] up..

    I said that the Bible was irrelevant to the discussion, because we can’t be absolutely certain of its truth.

    …to deflect from the fact that he can’t logically defend his position.

    I’ve defended my position. Can you defend yours?

    Tell us which numbered statements in my argument are wrong, and why.

    Or bail out like tgpeeler, and then wonder why we roll our eyes when you claim to be defending rationality.

  294. Proton:

    Is that a concession?

    Nope. I’m merely gainsaying your unsupported assertion, which, as I said, is entirely appropriate as a refutation of such.

  295. And in case there is anyone reading this who is still making the same mistake as tgpeeler, before he vamoosed:

    So your response to my post is to ignore the salient point, that you say we can NEVER be certain, which is to make a certain statement. Figures.

    I’m arguing that absolutely certainty isn’t justified, and of course that applies to my argument itself. I’m almost certain, but not absolutely certain, that my argument is correct.

    Is this really so difficult?

  296. keiths:

    Tell us which numbered statements in my argument are wrong, and why.

    To be fair, I did address your argument, which you acknowledged, and then…

    *crickets*

    Maybe Barb is interested in taking the time to address your points if she suspects it would also end in…

    *crickets*

    :)

  297. Er… Maybe Barb ISN’T interested…

  298. keiths, I appreciate the fact that, unlike many of your colleagues, you do not try to interject a series of irrelevant distinctions and categories into the discussion in an futile attempt to escape refutation by obfuscating the subject matter. However, you have stated that no one has found a flaw in your arguments, and that is simply not the case.

    As I pointed out, it is not logically possible to deceive someone who doesn’t exist into believing that he does exist. You must first exist in order to be deceived.

    The following comment did not address the issue:

    Of course we think we exist, but even that thought might be mistaken. Your assumption is that thoughts always belong to a thinker. Do you know that with 100.0% certainty?

    I am, in this case, not assuming that a thought belongs to a thinker, although that would certainly be the case. What I am saying is even more fundamental than that: I am saying that a non-existent person cannot be deceived. Only a person who exists can be deceived. This is obvious and incontestable.

    So, if you disagree, please answer the relevant question: How can a non-existent entity that has no thinking apparatus with which to form either true or false impressions be deceived?

  299. 300
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths: Before special relativity, people thought that the meaning of “simultaneous” was self-evident, and that it was not possible for two events to be both simultaneous and not simultaneous, since this would violate the LNC. They were wrong. Their certainty was unjustified. It is possible for two events to be both simultaneous and not simultaneous, just not in the same reference frame.

    You simply do not understand what you’re talking about. You need to do some careful study. But I’ll repeat it again, in case you missed it. No consequence of Special Relativity leads to a contradiction. All SR says with regards to synchronization of two events is that within different time frames it is impossible to know. There is no implication that LNC fails whatsoever.

  300. 301

    I’m arguing that absolutely certainty isn’t justified, and of course that applies to my argument itself. I’m almost certain, but not absolutely certain, that my argument is correct.

    You think you think you are right but you may be wrong and I am supposed to accept your argument even though you are not 100% certain it is a correct argument. Got it!!

    Vivid

  301. StephenB:

    I am saying that a non-existent person cannot be deceived. Only a person who exists can be deceived. This is obvious and incontestable.

    But could an existent person be deceived into thinking that a non-existent person cannot be deceived?

    Could an existent person be deceived into believing that only an existent person can be deceived?

    Could an existent person be deceived into thinking that the above is obvious and incontestable?

    :D

  302. 303

    Central

    You simply do not understand what you’re talking about. You need to do some careful study. But I’ll repeat it again, in case you missed it. No consequence of Special Relativity leads to a contradiction. All SR says with regards to synchronization of two events is that within different time frames it is impossible to know. There is no implication that LNC fails whatsoever.

    I am sure you know by now that Keiths argument boils down to “because I say so”

    Keep up the good work

    Vivid

  303. I’m merely gainsaying your unsupported assertion

    Here‘s a recent support for my assertion (comment #35 mainly and then Barb’s response).

    I’m yet to find a Christian (or a Darwinist for that matter, religious people in general) who doesn’t become irrational when being challenged, so maybe it’s a generalization but it’s supported by my experience.

  304. Phinehas,

    Thank you very much for your point-by-point response to my argument. I encourage others here to follow your lead.

    If God exists, then it is possible that he has the power to provide us with absolute certainty regarding Truth.

    To do so he would have to provide us with absolute certainty that our reasoning is correct. But he doesn’t provide us with the absolute certainty that he isn’t deceiving us, so we can’t be absolutely certain that our reasoning is correct.

    If he has the power to provide absolute certainty, then he might be exercising that power right now.

    He’s not exercising that power right now, because all of us know that our reasoning is imperfect. We make mistakes some of the time, and we don’t always know when we are making them.

    Thus any thought we have might be mistaken. We can’t be absolutely, 100.0% certain that it is correct.

    Being omnipotent, he can supervene our humanity so that we can reliably determine his Truth with absolute certainty.

    Yes, he could do that. But we know that he isn’t doing that, as I explained above.

    The same pattern applies to the rest of your comment, so I won’t belabor the obvious.

    The crucial point is:
    Unless we can be absolutely certain of the correctness of our cognition — and we can’t — then we can’t be absolutely certain of the truth of any of our thoughts.

  305. 306

    Unless we can be absolutely certain of the correctness of our cognition

    However as I have pointed out which stands unrefuted by you we can be absolutely certain that cognitive activity is present.

    Vivid

  306. Phinehas,

    It’s amusing that at the very moment you posted this…

    To be fair, I did address your argument, which you acknowledged, and then…

    *crickets*

    …I was busy writing a response to you.

    Oops.

    If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of people responding to me in this thread, and your comments aren’t always my highest priority.

  307. Even though I think keiths is wrong in the end, I am going to defend his argument to a certain point. I grappled with the same thinking about 20 years ago in a college philosophy course when first introduced to Descartes and his deceptive demon. I didn’t know much about philosophy, but even then I didn’t find his, “I think, therefore I am,” very satisfying at all as a solution to the deceptive demon. For, I thought, if I were a really powerful and sly demon, I might convince Descartes that thinking requires existence, when the fact of the matter might very well be that non-existent things think all the time. You think that makes no sense? Of course you don’t. And that’s exactly what a sly demon might want you to think.

    Of course, I don’t think there is a sly demon convincing me that thinking requires existence, and neither does keiths. But as a thought experiment, I think it holds up (or falls apart, depending on how you look at things) quite well as an argument against absolute certainty…until you consider the existence of an omniscient and omnipotent God. I’m no great philosopher, but the only way I’ve ever been able to rise above the epistemological morass that I fall into when starting from man’s fallibility is to abandon that as a starting point and to start instead with an omniscient and omnipotent God and work my way backward to fallible man. From there, a lot of things that I see in human behavior start to make more sense.

  308. Barb,

    Because keiths brought it [the Bible] up..

    I said that the Bible was irrelevant to the discussion, because we can’t be absolutely certain of its truth.

    …to deflect from the fact that he can’t logically defend his position.

    keiths:

    I’ve defended my position. Can you defend yours?

    I’ve done that repeatedly in this thread. You’re simply not reading my posts.

    Tell us which numbered statements in my argument are wrong, and why.

    A. All of them.
    B. Because you deny the fundamental law of logic.

    Or bail out like tgpeeler, and then wonder why we roll our eyes when you claim to be defending rationality.

    Please. Someone who claims to not be sure who he even is or that he might possibly be a brain in a vat has absolutely no business criticizing anyone else when it comes to rationality.

  309. Proton, you don’t refute logical fallacies. They mean nothing, and add nothing to the discussion at hand. They only show that the person using them (namely, you) hasn’t quite got a handle on this whole “internet debating” thing or has a poor argument to begin with.

  310. Phinehas

    But could an existent person be deceived into thinking that a non-existent person cannot be deceived?

    Could an existent person be deceived into believing that only an existent person can be deceived?

    Could an existent person be deceived into thinking that the above is obvious and incontestable?

    Perhaps its time that the law of the excluded middle became more inclusive.

  311. Phinehas,

    Thank you for that.

    …the only way I’ve ever been able to rise above the epistemological morass that I fall into when starting from man’s fallibility…

    The morass isn’t as bad as you think. Some things are still more probable than others, even if nothing is absolutely certain. Nothing horrendous happens when you give up absolute certainty; it’s just that the probability needle doesn’t point directly at 1.0.

    …is to abandon that as a starting point and to start instead with an omniscient and omnipotent God and work my way backward to fallible man. From there, a lot of things that I see in human behavior start to make more sense.

    As the thread continues, I hope to persuade you that this doesn’t help. :) Absolute certainty is still a mistake.

  312. keiths:

    To do so he would have to provide us with absolute certainty that our reasoning is correct. But he doesn’t provide us with the absolute certainty that he isn’t deceiving us, so we can’t be absolutely certain that our reasoning is correct.

    I believe you are making a mistake in equivocating between a limited and specific “us” (you and me and some others) to a universal “us” that includes everyone, everywhere, at every time. I am not saying that every single person in the universal set that is “us” currently has absolute certainty. Rather, I am saying that if an omnipotent and omniscient God is taken into consideration, it is illogical to rule out the possibility that any single person in the universal set of “us” might in fact already be absolutely certain, or might become absolutely certain, including the Prophets, the Apostles, StephenB, and perhaps some day even me and you.

  313. 314
    CentralScrutinizer

    vividbleau: I am sure you know by now that Keiths argument boils down to “because I say so”

    Special Relativity is a bit difficult to grasp, is not intuitive, but it does not lead to contradictions within space-time and that is the important point with regards to the LNC. One has to look at a question “does this object have these properties?” from the stand point of all the properties of space-time itself. And while there are no contradictions, the answer can be unknownable. Not one bit of SR or GR violates the LNC.

  314. Barb,

    I think I’ve proven my argument is far from poor.

    You like to tell people they’re irrational or illogical, when the one falling prey of such type of thinking is yourself, and do so so confidently.

  315. keiths:

    Tell us which numbered statements in my argument are wrong, and why.

    Barb:

    A. All of them.
    B. Because you deny the fundamental law of logic.

    Lol. I haven’t denied any laws of logic, much less “the fundamental law”, whatever you think that is. I’ve just said that we can’t be absolutely certain, beyond any doubt, that the laws of logic are correct.

    It’s also interesting that you think all of my statements are wrong, since the very first one is:

    1. It’s possible that God exists. (or Satan, or demons, etc.)

    Until today, I had no idea you were an atheist!

    Please keep posting, Barb. It’s nice to have some comic relief in the midst of these otherwise serious discussions.

  316. 317
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths: Absolute certainty is still a mistake.

    I am absolutely certain I am conscious and having experiences. You may as well hammer your head against a brick wall then to persuade anyone who knows that, that it’s false.

  317. The morass isn’t as bad as you think. Some things are still more probable than others, even if nothing is absolutely certain. Nothing horrendous happens when you give up absolute certainty; it’s just that the probability needle doesn’t point directly at 1.0.

    I’m not sure anyone knows whether or not something horrendous would happen, because I’m not sure that anyone ever really gives up absolute certainty. They may give it up at some intellectual level as a thought experiment, but they will consistently return to it at other, more practical and basic levels. It seems to me that certainty is built into the fabric of our nature, and indeed must be in order for us to function. I tend to lean toward philosophies that don’t deny that which human behavior seems to embrace.

  318. Phinehas, in the spirit of ecumenism, I will give you the privilege of teaming up with keiths to answer my question:
    How can a non-existent entity that has no thinking apparatus with which to form either true or false impressions be deceived?

  319. Proton:

    I think I’ve proven my argument is far from poor.

    Actually, you haven’t. You used a logical fallacy in describing Christians. That’s pretty much all you did.

    You like to tell people they’re irrational or illogical, when the one falling prey of such type of thinking is yourself, and do so so confidently.

    Please, do enlighten me as to where I went wrong!

    Keiths:

    Tell us which numbered statements in my argument are wrong, and why.

    Lol. I haven’t denied any laws of logic, much less “the fundamental law”, whatever you think that is. I’ve just said that we can’t be absolutely certain, beyond any doubt, that the laws of logic are correct.

    If they’re wrong, then by necessity all of our accumulated knowledge is also wrong. That means evolution is wrong.

    It’s also interesting that you think all of my statements are wrong, since the very first one is:

    1. It’s possible that God exists. (or Satan, or demons, etc.)

    Until today, I had no idea you were an atheist!

    I’m not. Unlike most atheists, I like to use my brain and find the answers instead of plugging both my ears and repeating mantras from The God Delusion.

    The only comic relief here, keith, is watching you ignore points that contradict your argument and then trying to change the subject because you know that you’re wrong and yet you won’t admit it. It’s kinda funny. Pathetic, but funny.

  320. keiths:

    …your comments aren’t always my highest priority.

    Well, there’s your problem! :D

  321. StephenB,

    As I pointed out, it is not logically possible to deceive someone who doesn’t exist into believing that he does exist. You must first exist in order to be deceived.

    The key word is “logically”. I agree that if

    a) we could be absolutely certain that the rules of logic were correct; and
    b) we could be absolutely sure that we were applying them correctly; and
    c) we could be absolutely certain that our premises were correct; then

    d) we could be absolutely certain of our conclusions.

    The problem, of course, is that we can’t be absolutely certain of a), b), and c), because we know we are cognitively fallible.

  322. Barb,

    If they’re [the laws of logic are] wrong, then by necessity all of our accumulated knowledge is also wrong. That means evolution is wrong.

    No one is claiming that the laws of logic are wrong.

    You are swinging a bat at an imaginary opponent and whacking yourself in the head.

    Put the bat down, Barb. For your own sake.

  323. StephenB:

    How can a non-existent entity that has no thinking apparatus with which to form either true or false impressions be deceived?

    How do you know that a sly demon has not deceived you into believing the following?

    1. Non-existent entities cannot have a thinking apparatus.
    2. A thinking apparatus is required to form either true or false impressions.
    3. One without the ability to form either true or false impressions cannot be deceived.

    You see, if a sly demon has access to our mental faculties at the level where we form our most basic beliefs about reality and rationality and logic, then all bets are off. If you cannot trust the very foundations of reason, then you cannot trust anything built upon that foundation.

    The good news is that if God has access at that same level and in fact crafted the foundation of our reason himself, then it can be just as trustworthy as its Creator intended it to be.

    Further, I find it noteworthy that we all tend to debate as if the latter is uncontroversially true even when debating against the existence of such a Creator.

  324. keiths

    The problem, of course, is that we can’t be absolutely certain of a), b), and c), because we know we are cognitively fallible.

    It isn’t like you to run away from a question:

    How can a non-existent entity that has no thinking apparatus with which to form either true or false impressions be deceived?

  325. keiths, you wrote:

    Unless we can be absolutely certain of the correctness of our cognition — and we can’t — then we can’t be absolutely certain of the truth of any of our thoughts.

    and

    The key word is “logically”. I agree that if

    a) we could be absolutely certain that the rules of logic were correct; and
    b) we could be absolutely sure that we were applying them correctly; and
    c) we could be absolutely certain that our premises were correct; then

    d) we could be absolutely certain of our conclusions.

    The problem, of course, is that we can’t be absolutely certain of a), b), and c), because we know we are cognitively fallible.

    Premise #1: You are claiming that we can’t know anything with absolute certainty.
    Premise #2: Therefore, we can’t be certain that the laws of logic are correct or if we are applying them correctly.
    Premise #3: You are therefore claiming that they are wrong, because we can’t be absolutely certain of anything being right.

    Your argument boils down to a self-refuting manta (“We can’t know anything with absolute certainty”–are you absolutely certain about that?). It collapses in on itself. For your own sake, keith, stop trying to defend the indefensible.

  326. 327

    Tell us which numbered statements in my argument are wrong, and why.

    Keith I cant help but notice that you have ignored me which is understandable nor have you rebutted my post # 215.

    Your numbered statements have no relevancy to my position which is that we can be absolutely certain that cognitive activity is present. Of course you gave the store away here

    Unless we can be absolutely certain of the correctness of our cognition

    What’s interesting about the reaction to my argument is that you seem to think it would be a catastrophe to give up the idea that there is absolute certainty of at least one thing.

    But why? Nothing bad happens it doesn’t require you to throw out vast swathes of our knowledge.

    Let me suggest an experiment for you to try. For the next 24 hours, just keep reminding yourself periodically, when you have a thought, that I am absolutely certain that cognitive activity is present “I can’t be wrong about this. I know I’m right, I am absolutely certain that I am right”

    You’ll see that it doesn’t cause you to do anything irrational. It doesn’t require you to abandon logic. You’ll continue to think as before, except that you won’t be incoherent and self refuting..

    That’s good, because it reminds you to keep your mind open and to keep thinking, even about things you are absolutely certain of.

    Vivid

  327. Phinehas,

    You see, if a sly demon has access to our mental faculties at the level where we form our most basic beliefs about reality and rationality and logic, then all bets are off. If you cannot trust the very foundations of reason, then you cannot trust anything built upon that foundation.

    Exactly right. Stephen wants to claim absolutely certainty, but he can’t be absolutely certain of a conclusion unless he is also certain of the truth of his premises, the absolute correctness of the rules of logic, and his ability to apply the rules infallibly.

    The possibility of the “sly demon” makes it impossible to have absolute certainty.

  328. vividbleau,

    Keith I cant help but notice that you have ignored me which is understandable nor have you rebutted my post # 215.

    As I said to Phinehas:

    If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of people responding to me in this thread, and your comments aren’t always my highest priority.

    I am responding to the comments that I think are the most interesting, the most relevant, or, in the case of Barb and tgpeeler, the most amusing.

  329. FIFY.

    The possibility of the “sly demon” makes it impossible to have absolute certainty [unless an omniscient and omnipotent God reveals some truth to someone in such a way that they can be absolutely certain].

  330. SB: How can a non-existent entity that has no thinking apparatus with which to form either true or false impressions be deceived?

    Phinehas: How do you know that a sly demon has not deceived you into believing the following?

    You are answering a question with a question? That seems a little evasive. However, I will certainly answer your questions:

    How do I know

    1. Non-existent entities cannot have a thinking apparatus.

    If something doesn’t exist, it doesn’t have anything, including an apparatus. Nothing has nothing.

    2. A thinking apparatus is required to form either true or false impressions.

    Call it a false impression apparatus if you like. To be deceived, one must be have some faculty to receive the deception.

    3. One without the ability to form either true or false impressions cannot be deceived.

    To be deceived is to form a false impression. If you don’t like synonymous phrases, then just stay with the phrase “be deceived” instead of being lead to a false impression.

    You see, if a sly demon has access to our mental faculties at the level where we form our most basic beliefs about reality and rationality and logic, then all bets are off.

    Notice how you assume the same mental faculties that you deemed unnecessary a moment ago. The question is, how can anyone, sly or otherwise, have access to something that doesn’t exist. You are not addressing that point.

    The good news is that if God has access at that same level and in fact crafted the foundation of our reason himself, then it can be just as trustworthy as its Creator intended it to be.

    Of course. But that is beside the point of my argument. The question is, can we know anything outside of Divine revelation, and the answer is yes. We can know we exist. Even the two greatest doubters of all time, Decartes and Kant, understood this and would never have questioned it.

    Further, I find it noteworthy that we all tend to debate as if the latter is uncontroversially true even when debating against the existence of such a Creator.

    That may be true, but it does not address my argument. Are you ready to take a shot at it?

  331. keiths

    I am responding to the comments that I think are the most interesting, the most relevant, or, in the case of Barb and tgpeeler, the most amusing.

    Does that mean that you are not going to address my question:

    How can a non-existent entity with no mental faculties be deceived?

  332. 333

    The possibility of the “sly demon” makes it impossible to have absolute certainty

    The sly demon can only deceive where cognitive activity is present. The sly demon does not refute the absolute certainty that cognitive activity is present indeed it affirms it.

    Vivid

  333. StephenB,

    How can a non-existent entity with no mental faculties be deceived?

    You still haven’t caught on?

    I don’t think that a non-existent entity with no mental faculties can be deceived, but…

    (All together, now!)

    …I am not absolutely certain of that.

  334. Phinehas

    The good news is that if God has access at that same level and in fact crafted the foundation of our reason himself, then it can be just as trustworthy as its Creator intended it to be.

    Yes, and a trustworthy foundation for reason can apprehend its own trustworthiness.

  335. SB: How can a non-existent entity with no mental faculties be deceived?

    keiths:

    I don’t think that a non-existent entity with no mental faculties can be deceived, but…

    …I am not absolutely certain of that.

    Sorry, but you don’t get to move the goalposts this late in the game. You stated several times that you think it is possible that God could deceive a person about anything, which would include his own existence. Would you like for me to cite you in your own words?

    Now, in the teeth of a refutation, you want to change your story and say that you don’t think God could deceive a non-existent person after all, though you are not absolutely certain of your new position. Even with your new equivocation, you still allow for the possibility that God could deceive someone that doesn’t even exist.

    So, my question persists: How could God deceive a non-existent person with no mental faculties into believing that he exists, when, in fact, he does not exist at all.

  336. StephenB, to Phinehas:

    Yes, and a trustworthy foundation for reason can apprehend its own trustworthiness.

    And an untrustworthy foundation for reason can mistakenly believe that it is trustworthy.

  337. 338

    EL:

    “The very fact that our models converge is evidence of an Ultimate Reality.”

    Then you admit that exist and Ultimate Reality and the models of the Ultimate reality.
    Are the models real? Are part of the ultimate reality?
    If you think that the models are real, I suppose that you as a materialist think that the models itself are made of mass and energy, Where are the mass and energy that make the models real?

  338. “I’m not absolutely certain a non-existent entity with no mental faculties could not be deceived by God” = Darwinist Derangement Syndrome at its finest.

    keiths isn’t even certain that a thing which doesn’t exist, doesn’t exist, or that 1+1=2, or that there are no 4-sided triangles.

    What. Utter. Nonsense.

  339. vividbleau writes,

    The sly demon can only deceive where cognitive activity is present. The sly demon does not refute the absolute certainty that cognitive activity is present indeed it affirms it.

    This is quite correct. We now have two examples where absolutely certainty is established and cannot be rationally questioned:

    [a] A person who is not experiencing cognitive activity cannot be deceived into believing that he is experiencing cognitive activity. Cognitive activity is a metaphysical prerequisite for deception

    [b] A person who does not exist cannot be deceived into believing that he does exist. Existence is a metaphysical prerequisite for deception.

    Thus, keiths argument that we cannot be absolutely certain of anything fails.

  340. StephenB,

    You stated several times that you think it is possible that God could deceive a person about anything, which would include his own existence…

    Now, in the teeth of a refutation, you want to change your story and say that you don’t think God could deceive a non-existent person after all, though you are not absolutely certain of your new position.

    Umm, Stephen — “deceiving a person” and “deceiving a non-existent person” are not the same thing.

  341. William J Murray:

    Darwinist Derangement Syndrome at its finest…

    What. Utter. Nonsense.

    William,

    The other folks in the thread are having trouble refuting my “deranged utter nonsense.” Surely you can do better.

    My argument is reproduced below for your convenience. Which numbered step(s) do you disagree with, and why?

    In the hopes of making some progress in this thread, let me lay out my argument systematically, with numbered statements, so that it will be easier for people to specify exactly what they disagree with and why.

    1. It’s possible that God exists. (or Satan, or demons, etc.)

    2. If God (or Satan, etc.) exists, then it is possible that he has the power to deceive us.

    3. If he has the power to deceive us, then he might be exercising that power at any particular time.

    4. Being human, we cannot reliably determine when he is deceiving us and when he isn’t.

    5. Any particular thought we have might coincide with a time when God/Satan/the demon is deceiving us.

    6. Thus, any particular thought might be mistaken.

    7. If we claim to be absolutely certain of something that isn’t true, we have erred.

    8. Therefore we should never claim absolute certainty for a thought that might be mistaken.

    9. Since any particular thought might be mistaken (by #6), we should never claim absolute certainty for any thought.
    Note that this argument can also be made simply by appealing to the imperfection of human cognition, but it’s more fun this way.

    Also note that the argument applies to atheists and theists equally. Atheists don’t think there is a God, of course, but it is still possible that there is a God, and possibility is all that is necessary for the argument to work.

  342. Chesterton: no, a model is not “made of” matter and energy, any more than “justice” or “love” are.

    They are human abstract constructs.

  343. Barb:

    Actually, you haven’t. You used a logical fallacy in describing Christians.

    I was talking about my other argument. You remember? That free will can be proven to be false? The discussion you decided to avoid when things got really challenging?

    Please, do enlighten me as to where I went wrong!

    You’re kinda arrogant for a deluded person. You’re wrong on your deliberate circumvention of empirical evidence for the sake of keeping your worldview, simple as that.

    From Keiths:

    Or bail out and then wonder why we roll our eyes when you claim to be defending rationality.

    I agree with Keiths on this one.

  344. keiths,

    Sorry if this has been mentioned before, but regarding item #4 in your list: If we grant the existence of God, do we not also have to grant God the power to enable humans to transcend the limits of human cognition, even temporarily?

    Or, as a variation on this same question, could not such a god theoretically transfer her own knowledge into a human being such that the resulting thought — translated from god-think to human-think — would assuredly be true?

  345. “They are human abstract constructs.”

    Well, then you are not a materialist because you believe non material things have a real existance.
    How can we construct abstractions? No, the brain is not the answer, the brain process energy signals, not abstractions.

  346. StephenB,

    We now have two examples where absolutely certainty is established and cannot be rationally questioned:

    You’re repeating your mistake, so I’ll repeat my rebuttal. Just replace ‘logically’ with ‘rationally’ to match your quote:

    The key word is “logically”. I agree that if

    a) we could be absolutely certain that the rules of logic were correct; and
    b) we could be absolutely sure that we were applying them correctly; and
    c) we could be absolutely certain that our premises were correct; then

    d) we could be absolutely certain of our conclusions.

    The problem, of course, is that we can’t be absolutely certain of a), b), and c), because we know we are cognitively fallible.

  347. StephenB:

    If something doesn’t exist, it doesn’t have anything, including an apparatus. Nothing has nothing.

    To be deceived, one must be have some faculty to receive the deception.

    I understand that you believe the above to be true. So do I. However, this still does not preclude the possibility that a sly demon may have convinced us that these things are true, while the actual truth may be:

    Non-existent things routinely have an apparatus. Nothing often has something. And no faculties or apparatus are necessary for deception to occur.

    Does the above seem absurd to you? Me too! But perhaps that sly demon is so sly that he has us convinced that the above is absurd when it really makes perfect sense. If a sly demon has access to the foundations of thought such that he can make the absurd seem reasonable and that which makes perfect sense seem absurd, then, as I said before, all bets are off.

  348. Hi LarTanner,

    Sorry if this has been mentioned before, but regarding item #4 in your list: If we grant the existence of God, do we not also have to grant God the power to enable humans to transcend the limits of human cognition, even temporarily?

    Or, as a variation on this same question, could not such a god theoretically transfer her own knowledge into a human being such that the resulting thought — translated from god-think to human-think — would assuredly be true?

    Phinehas has asked a similar question above.

    A longer answer is forthcoming, but here’s a shorter answer for the time being:

    The issue in this thread is whether it is a mistake for us to claim absolute certainty, not whether it is possible in principle for God to transfer truth directly into our minds.

    Since we know that human cognition is fallible, and since we can’t reliably determine when we are making a mistake or when we are being deceived, there is no way for us to guarantee that any particular thought we may have is true. Likewise, even if God “inserts” a true thought into our minds, we can’t know with absolute certainty that his has happened. It might be a trick, or we might merely be mistaken.

    Either way, we can’t be certain that the thought is true. If you can’t guarantee that a thought is true, you can’t be absolutely certain of it.

  349. vividbleau:

    The sly demon can only deceive where cognitive activity is present. The sly demon does not refute the absolute certainty that cognitive activity is present indeed it affirms it.

    What makes you believe that cognitive activity must be present for deception to occur?

    Some possibilities:

    - it is self evident
    - it is common sense
    - it is absurd to think otherwise
    - it is true by definition

    But if a sly demon has access to all of your logic and thinking processes, is it not possible that the sly demon could convince you that:

    - something is self evident when it isn’t?
    - something makes sense when it doesn’t?
    - something is absurd when it isn’t?
    - something is true by definition when it isn’t?

    As I’ve said above, if a sly demon has access to the foundations of thought such that he can make the absurd seem reasonable and that which makes perfect sense seem absurd, then all bets are off. Anything can be questioned, and answering that question requires thought and reason, which can themselves be questioned. It’s turtles all the way down, and if a sly demon has access to all of the turtles, then we will continue to descend into this epistemological pit forever.

  350. I think Phineas #348 and #350 put the issue to rest.

  351. KS and LT:

    The issue in this thread is whether it is a mistake for us to claim absolute certainty, not whether it is possible in principle for God to transfer truth directly into our minds.

    Since we know that human cognition is fallible, and since we can’t reliably determine when we are making a mistake or when we are being deceived, there is no way for us to guarantee that any particular thought we may have is true. Likewise, even if God “inserts” a true thought into our minds, we can’t know with absolute certainty that his has happened. It might be a trick, or we might merely be mistaken.

    Either way, we can’t be certain that the thought is true. If you can’t guarantee that a thought is true, you can’t be absolutely certain of it.

    Again, you assume a universal “us” where it is not warranted. When you say it is a mistake for “us” to claim absolute certainty, surely the “us” only refers to those who have not been granted absolute certainty by God and does nothing to preclude the open possibility that there exist those who have been granted absolute certainty by God. You continue to use “we” and “us” throughout your post in this same faulty way. On the one hand, you use it to refer to a limited set and then turn right around and pretend that it’s application to that limited set is actually an application to a universal set. This is not warranted.

    LarsTanner has hit the nail on the head, and what you’ve written does not change that.

  352. Proton @351:

    Thanks! Does this mean you will now retract the following?

    I’m yet to find a Christian (or a Darwinist for that matter, religious people in general) who doesn’t become irrational when being challenged, so maybe it’s a generalization but it’s supported by my experience.

    :)

  353. Phinehas @352 -

    I think keiths has answered my objection reasonably.

    If I understand his rejoinder: Even if I received divine knowledge, my personal knowing of that knowledge could never be anything other than human. I couldn’t get beyond my own tools and processes of cognition. I would therefore have to accept that anything I thought to be true and right, no matter my conviction, would require me to adopt at least some skepticism and humility.

  354. What makes you believe that cognitive activity must be present for deception to occur?

    I dont believe I know with absolute certainty that cognitive activity is present. I know with absolute certainty that “I” think “I” think “I” am typing this.

    Some possibilities:

    - it is self evident
    - it is common sense
    - it is absurd to think otherwise
    - it is true by definition

    No to all the above although it is absurd to think otherwise but no to that as well.

    But if a sly demon has access to all of your logic and thinking processes, is it not possible that the sly demon could convince you that:

    - something is self evident when it isn’t?
    - something makes sense when it doesn’t?
    - something is absurd when it isn’t?
    - something is true by definition when it isn’t?

    Yes to all the above.

    As I’ve said above, if a sly demon has access to the foundations of thought such that he can make the absurd seem reasonable and that which makes perfect sense seem absurd, then all bets are off. Anything can be questioned,

    Except that cognitive activity is present that cannot be questioned.

    and answering that question requires thought and reason, which can themselves be questioned.

    I am absolutely certain that cognitive activity is present.“I” am absolutely certain that “I” think I think “I” am typing this. Now there may be no I, the I maybe an illusion, an hallucination, a dream, in the matrix, a brain in the vat, whatever,it does not matter. It does not change that I am absolutely certain that cognitive activity is present.”I” am absolutely certain “I” think I think “I” am typing this. I don’t know whether my thoughts are correct, they may not be my thoughts, there may be no such thing as thoughts,doesnt change a thing.

    It’s turtles all the way down, and if a sly demon has access to all of the turtles, then we will continue to descend into this epistemological pit forever.

    What does the sly demon have access to?

    Vivid

  355. Phinehas,

    Non-existent things routinely have an apparatus. Nothing often has something. And no faculties or apparatus are necessary for deception to occur.

    Does the above seem absurd to you? Me too!

    Obviously, you do not think it is absurd or you would not allow for the possibility, which you clearly do.

    But perhaps that sly demon is so sly that he has us convinced that the above is absurd when it really makes perfect sense.

    How we know things and the extent to which we can know them (epistemology) is related to but distinct from how things are and must be (metaphysics). The latter takes logical precedence over the former. It was Kant’s error to believe otherwise. Apparently, you follow him and believe that our mental formulations can determine extra mental reality. Or, it may be the case that you have fallen into radical fideism, which is an equally unfortunate error.

    If a sly demon has access to the foundations of thought such that he can make the absurd seem reasonable and that which makes perfect sense seem absurd, then, as I said before, all bets are off.

    Show me how an evil agent can deceive a non-existent person. I am still waiting for your answer. Take me from point A to point B. Don’t just keep saying that the journey is possible. Tell me exactly what the sly deceiver does (and to what) such that a metaphysically non-existent person can be deceived.

    I can’t imagine why you think you have a point if you cannot defend it and will not even try.

  356. LT:

    If I understand his rejoinder: Even if I received divine knowledge, my personal knowing of that knowledge could never be anything other than human. I couldn’t get beyond my own tools and processes of cognition. I would therefore have to accept that anything I thought to be true and right, no matter my conviction, would require me to adopt at least some skepticism and humility.

    Hmm. That’s not at all what I got from his rejoinder…but if that is what he meant…

    Even if I received divine knowledge, my personal knowing of that knowledge could never be anything other than human.

    As a human, can you really declare the above to be true? How might a human know enough about divine knowledge and its capabilities to know that it cannot override one’s human fallibilities when it comes to personal knowing?

    I couldn’t get beyond my own tools and processes of cognition.

    Again, how can a human know enough about what an omnipotent God can and cannot cause to happen cognitively to conclude that the above must be true? Can one get beyond their own tools and processes of cognition enough to declare that one cannot get beyond their own tools and processes of cognition?

  357. StephenB:

    It was Kant’s error to believe otherwise. Apparently, you follow him and believe that our mental formulations can determine extra mental reality. Or, it may be the case that you have fallen into radical fideism, which is an equally unfortunate error.

    If I’ve made errors, then I will be happy to address them as my own, but I won’t be trying to defend someone else’s errors. Nor will I concern myself with labels or any kind of philosophical guilt by association. What I am saying either stands on its own merits or it doesn’t.

    Show me how an evil agent can deceive a non-existent person. I am still waiting for your answer. Take me from point A to point B. Don’t just keep saying that the journey is possible. Tell me exactly what the sly deceiver does (and to what) such that a metaphysically non-existent person can be deceived.

    How? You’d have to ask Descartes demon. I can hardly be expected to explain the methods of an omnipotent and omniscient deceiver, can I? I can’t take you step by step through how God caused the Big Bang to happen either (other than to say He spoke and it was so), but surely you are not suggesting that this means such a thing is impossible, are you?

    I can’t imagine why you think you have a point if you cannot defend it and will not even try.

    I can’t really speak to any limits on your imagination. :) Determining whether or not you think I have a point is certainly your privilege. I’m OK if you think I don’t. I will point out, however, that there are others on the thread who appear to believe I am both trying and succeeding at making some pretty decent points. I really am perfectly content letting each reader make their own determination on this.

  358. VB:

    May I present: The Turtles…

    I am typing this.

    Perhaps you only think you are typing this because a demon is tricking you into thinking exactly that!

    Ok, well then I think I am typing this.

    Perhaps you only think you think you are typing this because a demon is tricking you into thinking exactly that!

    Well then, I think I think I am typing this.

    Perhaps you only think you think you think you are typing this because a demon is tricking you into thinking exactly that!

    Well then surely I think that I think that I think I am typing this.

    Have you noticed a pattern developing? Trust me. It’s turtles all the way down!

  359. Phinehas #353:

    Does this mean you will now retract the following?

    I’m yet to find a Christian (or a Darwinist for that matter, religious people in general) who doesn’t become irrational when being challenged, so maybe it’s a generalization but it’s supported by my experience.

    :)

    Well, not really, maybe I didn’t make explicit what I meant when I said “being challenged”, I meant being challenged on their religion (particularly on the concept of free will), which I don’t think is the case on this discussion about certainty.

    But I’m open to change my mind :)

  360. 361

    Have you noticed a pattern developing? Trust me. It’s turtles all the way down!

    Yes you already said that

    It’s turtles all the way down, and if a sly demon has access …

    I am still awaiting an answer as to what the sly demon has access to?

    Vivid

  361. SB: Show me how an evil agent can deceive a non-existent person. I am still waiting for your answer. Take me from point A to point B. Don’t just keep saying that the journey is possible. Tell me exactly what the sly deceiver does (and to what) such that a metaphysically non-existent person can be deceived.

    Phinehas:

    How? You’d have to ask Descartes demon. I can hardly be expected to explain the methods of an omnipotent and omniscient deceiver, can I?

    Yes, you should be able to explain the methods of a process that you claim is possible. I could easily make my own case for a certain kind of deception. If, for example, I wanted to argue that an evil agent could deceive an existing human being, I would simply say that the deceiver filled the victim’s mind (brain, consciousness, cognitive capacities, etc.) with false ideas. Or, I would say that the deceiver designed the victim’s cognitive capacities such that they could only conceive certain kinds of thoughts and that those thoughts would not correspond to the extra-mental realities around him. Other scenarios are readily available. So, even if I don’t think these things happened, I can show how they are logically possible.

    However, if the person is non-existent, that is, if there is no victim to be victimized, that is, if there is no one available to be deceived, then it is obvious (or it should be) that no deception is going to take place. If you think differently, then you should be able to create a scenario of some kind that can justify you claim. It should tell you something about your position (and keiths’ position) that neither of you can provide such a scenario even through the exercise of your wildest imagination. It should also tell you something about your position that I knew you could not provide a scenario even before I issued the challenge.

    Descartes’ whole point was that he could, in fact, begin with a premise about which he is absolutely certain, namely, his capacity to think, and he concluded that he can also be absolutely certain that he exists. So, the greatest doubter in history is absolutely certain that [a] he exists and [b] that he can think. Appealing to Descartes’ supernatural deceiver, then, cannot help you. Not even Descartes thought that a supernatural deceiver could deceive a non-existent person.

  362. VB:

    I am still awaiting an answer as to what the sly demon has access to?

    Oh. I get what you are asking now. Nice question. :)

    The sly demon has access to whatever does and doesn’t exist that is and is not causing you to think and not think what you are and are not thinking. In other words, he has access to the LNC itself, which I think we’ve all agreed is fundamentally necessary to the kind of logic needed to determine whether or not a sly demon can have access to something that both does and does not exist at the same time and in the same way.

    Absurd? The sly demon would like you to think and not think so!

  363. StephenB,

    I notice that you are ignoring this comment of mine:

    The key word is “logically”. I agree that if

    a) we could be absolutely certain that the rules of logic were correct; and
    b) we could be absolutely sure that we were applying them correctly; and
    c) we could be absolutely certain that our premises were correct; then

    d) we could be absolutely certain of our conclusions.

    The problem, of course, is that we can’t be absolutely certain of a), b), and c), because we know we are cognitively fallible.

    Are you absolutely certain of a), b), and c)? On what basis? Are you cognitively infallible?

  364. Phinehas,

    Again, you assume a universal “us” where it is not warranted. When you say it is a mistake for “us” to claim absolute certainty, surely the “us” only refers to those who have not been granted absolute certainty by God and does nothing to preclude the open possibility that there exist those who have been granted absolute certainty by God.

    Don’t forget, this discussion started with my challenge to DonaldM:

    To claim absolute certainty is to say that one could not possibly be wrong, that the probability of being incorrect is 0.0 and the probability of being correct is 1.0.

    I can’t think of any statement for which I would be willing to make such an extreme claim. Can you?

    Whether anyone has ever been or could ever be absolutely certain of something is not the issue. It’s whether you, me, DonaldM, etc., can legitimately claim absolute certainty of anything. You and I agree that we can’t, because the “sly demon” is a possiblity.

    I actually think that an omnipotent God cannot bestow absolute certainty upon us, even if he wants to. I’ll comment on that later, but it is irrelevant to the original question, which was whether we, on this thread, could justify any claim of absolute certainty.

    We can’t.

  365. 366

    In other words, he has access to the LNC itself

    Excellent we are making progress!!! The sly demon has access to an IT.

    Vivid

  366. 367

    StephenB,

    I notice that you are ignoring this comment of mine:

    Pot, kettle, black,

    Vivid

  367. vividbleau,

    You are attempting to make a logical argument, but your conclusion cannot be absolutely certain.

    See my response to StephenB above.

  368. Another amusing case of someone complaining that I’m ignoring them at precisely the time I am actually composing a response to them!

  369. 370

    You are attempting to make a logical argument, but your conclusion cannot be absolutely certain.

    And what logical argument is that?

    Vivid

  370. vividbleau,

    Read my response to StephenB, and then let’s see if you can come up with a rebuttal.

  371. 372
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths #369,

    What does it matter, Mister Keiths?

    You’re STILL gonna die like any other dog.

    Then what will it matter.

    Haha :) :) :)

    What a jackass

  372. CentralScrutinizer,

    Having a bad day?

  373. 374

    Read my response to StephenB, and then let’s see if you can come up with a rebuttal.

    No no. You said I was attempting to make a logical argument what logical argument are you referring to?

    Vivid

  374. vividbleau,

    The one you are trying to make.

    Does your question have a point?

  375. 376

    Read my response to StephenB, and then let’s see if you can come up with a rebuttal.

    I am still waiting for almost two days for your rebuttal o0f my post 215. Over that period of time on this thread alone you have posted over 30 times to others. I am not interested in your response to StephenB I am interested in you responding to post # 215.

    Vivid

  376. 377

    The one you are trying to make.

    Then it ought to be easy for you to tell me what it is?

    Does your question have a point?,

    Yeh I want to know what logical argument I was attempting to make. Surely you must know since those are your words?

    Vivid

  377. I haven’t responded directly to your #215, but the point you make has already been answered over and over in this thread.

    See my response to StephenB above, and see also my numbered argument.

    Both of them show why your #215 fails.

    If you disagree, show me the flaw. Be specific. I want you to quote the words of mine that you disagree with, and then justify your disagreement.

  378. 379
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths,

    You need to relax and rock out for awhile…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPwj9akkGRo

  379. 380

    KeithS I am calling you out.

    If you disagree, show me the flaw. Be specific. I want you to quote the words of mine that you disagree with, and then justify your disagreement.

    Keith I will but not before you tell me what logical argument I was attempting to make. That should be very easy for you do , so do so.

    Vivid

  380. CentralScrutinizer:

    keiths,

    You need to relax and rock out for awhile…

    Says the guy who appears to be minutes from a complete nervous breakdown.

  381. vividbleau,

    This is boring. If you can’t address my arguments, that’s fine. I’ll ignore you and respond to the people who can.

  382. 383
    CentralScrutinizer

    keiths,

    Oh, come on, you know its, GOOD! :D

  383. 384

    This is boring. If you can’t address my arguments, that’s fine. I’ll ignore you and respond to the people who can.,/blockquote>

    Well you have not presented an argument against my position and I will be happy to demonstrate that once again but at the moment I am interested in you telling me what logical argument that YOU said I was attempting to make.

    I am sure the onlookers are wondering why it is so hard for you to do that. You said it. Shoot it can’t be more than a sentence or two. I am starting to think you have no idea if so just say so and say “Vivid I was wrong” Is that so hard to do? After all you did admonish others to do this very thing.

    For the next 24 hours, just keep reminding yourself periodically, when you have a thought, that “I might be wrong about this.,/blockquote>

    So show me and the onlookers what logical argument I was attempting to make or take your own advice and admit you were wrong.

    Vivid

  384. 385

    This is boring. If you can’t address my arguments, that’s fine. I’ll ignore you and respond to the people who can.,

    Well you have not presented an argument against my position and I will be happy to demonstrate that once again but at the moment I am interested in you telling me what logical argument that YOU said I was attempting to make.

    I am sure the onlookers are wondering why it is so hard for you to do that. You said it. Shoot it can’t be more than a sentence or two. I am starting to think you have no idea if so just say so and say “Vivid I was wrong” Is that so hard to do? After all you did admonish others to do this very thing.

    For the next 24 hours, just keep reminding yourself periodically, when you have a thought, that “I might be wrong about this.,

    So show me and the onlookers what logical argument I was attempting to make or take your own advice and admit you were wrong.

    Vivid

  385. keiths

    I agree that if

    a) we could be absolutely certain that the rules of logic were correct; and
    b) we could be absolutely sure that we were applying them correctly; and
    c) we could be absolutely certain that our premises were correct; then

    d) we could be absolutely certain of our conclusions.

    We know that we exist without any question. Logic comes from existence, existence does not come from logic. The rules of reason come from reality; reality does not come from the rules of reason.

    The problem, of course, is that we can’t be absolutely certain of a), b), and c), because we know we are cognitively fallible.

    If by fallible, you mean that we can make errors, or that we cannot know anything perfectly or completely, then you would be on solid ground and I would enthusiastically agree. If by infallible, you mean that we cannot depend unconditionally on the Law of non-contradiction or that our conclusions may not be correct if we reason properly from valid premises, then you are simply making an assertion for which you cannot provide any rationale. It is simply a claim.

    Indeed, you continue to contradict yourself. I will ask you how you know for sure that we can’t be certain of anything, and you will, once again, change your mind and say that you are not certain after all.

    Notice that in your above statement, you say, in unconditional language, “we can’t,” yet when I press you on the matter, you will, as usual, add a condition and change the wording to, “I am not sure that we can’t,” which will render your first statement meaningless once again. And so it goes.

    Are you absolutely certain of a), b), and c)? On what basis? Are you cognitively infallible?

    I know that the law of non-contradiction is infallibly true because it is based on the principle of being, and being is a fact.

    If I cannot be infallibly certain about some things, how do you explain the fact that I am infallibly certain that you cannot answer my question. If the rules of logic were not faithful to reality, and if they were not infallible, then I could not speak with such authority about what you can do and what you cannot do.

    How can an evil agent, supernatural or otherwise, deceive a non-existent person? I know with infallible certainty that you cannot answer the question for the same reason that I know with infallible certainty that an evil agent cannot deceive a non-existent person.

  386. Proton continues,

    I was talking about my other argument. You remember? That free will can be proven to be false? The discussion you decided to avoid when things got really challenging?

    First, I’d hardly call that a challenging discussion. You repeatedly used faulty logic to try and prove your point, which didn’t work. When I posted rebuttals, your responses boiled down to, “No, it’s not.”
    Second, I have little patience for discussing or debating with someone who simply refuses to listen to any opinion that might differ from his or her own. You claim to be open to changing your mind; I highly doubt that. You have your preconceived notions, and nothing is going to sway you. I’ve better ways to spend my free time.

    You’re kinda arrogant for a deluded person.

    Wow. Just, wow.

    He calls me deluded and arrogant. Wow. Cognitive dissonance at its finest, ladies and gentlemen.
    Do all of us a favor, Proton. Find an atheist website to spew your drivel. Go away. The adults are talking here.

    You’re wrong on your deliberate circumvention of empirical evidence for the sake of keeping your worldview, simple as that.

    And yet you offer no proof other than your own opinion for this statement.

  387. 388
    CentralScrutinizer
  388. StephenB,

    Logic comes from existence, existence does not come from logic. The rules of reason come from reality; reality does not come from the rules of reason.

    None of which helps you, because the rules of reason are produced by fallible people. They might be mistaken.

    If by fallible, you mean that we can make errors, or that we cannot know anything perfectly or completely, then you would be on solid ground and I would enthusiastically agree.

    Good, but I think you’re actually overshooting a bit. I don’t think it’s true that we cannot know anything perfectly or completely (e.g. the rules of tic-tac-toe); I just don’t think we can be absolutely certain that we know anything perfectly and completely.

    If by infallible, you mean that we cannot depend unconditionally on the Law of non-contradiction…

    Of course we can’t. You just got through agreeing that we’re fallible. The LNC is a product of our fallible minds. Therefore we can’t be absolutely certain that it is correct.

    …or that our conclusions may not be correct if we reason properly from valid premises, then you are simply making an assertion for which you cannot provide any rationale. It is simply a claim.

    I am not making that claim. In fact, I affirmed that our conclusions will be correct if we reason properly, with valid rules of reason, from true premises:

    I agree that if

    a) we could be absolutely certain that the rules of logic were correct; and
    b) we could be absolutely sure that we were applying them correctly; and
    c) we could be absolutely certain that our premises were correct; then

    d) we could be absolutely certain of our conclusions.

    If a), b), and c) held, then d) would follow. The problem is that we can’t be absolutely certain of a), b), and c).

    Indeed, you continue to contradict yourself. I will ask you how you know for sure that we can’t be certain of anything, and you will, once again, change your mind and say that you are not certain after all.

    These statements do not contradict each other:

    1. I don’t think we can be absolutely certain of anything.
    2. I am not absolutely certain of #1.

    They reinforce each other rather than being in tension. Please think about that carefully; you’ll see that it’s true.

    Notice that in your above statement, you say, in unconditional language, “we can’t,” yet when I press you on the matter, you will, as usual, add a condition and change the wording to, “I am not sure that we can’t,” which will render your first statement meaningless once again. And so it goes.

    That’s silly. Suppose I say “I’m not going to the grocery this afternoon.” Does that mean that I am claiming, with 100.0 percent certainty, that I am not going to the grocery this afternoon? Of course not. There might be a change of plans. I’m not absolutely certain that I’m not going.

    I know that the law of non-contradiction is infallibly true because it is based on the principle of being, and being is a fact.

    Everything you just said came from your fallible human mind, which you agree is fallible. How can your fallible mind infallibly produce a truth? It makes no sense.

    If I cannot be infallibly certain about some things, how do you explain the fact that I am infallibly certain that you cannot answer my question.

    I answered it (see below). You obviously aren’t infallible. QED.

    If the rules of logic were not faithful to reality, and if they were not infallible, then I could not speak with such authority about what you can do and what you cannot do.

    If speaking with authority were a sign of infallibility, then Donald Trump would be the Pope.

    How can an evil agent, supernatural or otherwise, deceive a non-existent person?

    I don’t think an evil agent can deceive a nonexistent person. But I’m not absolutely certain of that, because I’m a fallible person.

    I know with infallible certainty that you cannot answer the question for the same reason that I know with infallible certainty that an evil agent cannot deceive a non-existent person.

    I’m very interested in hearing how you reconcile this statement:

    If by fallible, you mean that we can make errors, or that we cannot know anything perfectly or completely, then you would be on solid ground and I would enthusiastically agree.

    With this one:

    I know with infallible certainty…

    What is it that enables you, a fallible person, to know anything with infallible certainty? You haven’t given us any reason to believe your claim.

  389. keiths

    I don’t think an evil agent can deceive a nonexistent person. But I’m not absolutely certain of that, because I’m a fallible person.

    If you are not sure that it is impossible, then you are allowing for the possibility that it could be true.

    SB: If I cannot be infallibly certain about some things, how do you explain the fact that I am infallibly certain that you cannot answer my question.

    keiths: I answered it (see below). You obviously aren’t infallible. QED.

    You didn’t answer the question at all, and I remain infallibly certain that you cannot answer it. I asked you to tell me “how” an evil agent could mislead a non-existent person. I know that the question cannot be answered because I know that it is a metaphysically impossible scenario. Obviously, you don’t know that. Indeed, you deny it.

    Just to set the record straight, I didn’t say that I was infallible. I said that I was infallibly certain that you would not answer my question. I still am.

  390. keiths: “What is it that enables you, a fallible person, to know anything with infallible certainty? You haven’t given us any reason to believe your claim.”

    I have already proven it. I know with infallible certainty that you (or anyone else on the planet) cannot explain how an evil agent could deceive a non-existent person. I knew it the first time I issued the challenge. There was no risk involved–no chance of being refuted.

  391. StephenB,

    I’m not sure I can make this any simpler than it already is, but let me try.

    Suppose you have a hand calculator. You know from experience that the calculator is mostly reliable, but that it sometimes gives wrong answers. Unfortunately, you never know in advance when it will give you a right or wrong answer.

    Now suppose I ask you to compute the value of 128! (128 factorial). I only give you a few seconds to answer. You can’t figure it out in your head, and the calculator is the only device at hand that could possibly give you the answer. You enter 128, hit the n! key, and the following number appears in the display:

    3.85176048236258042173567706592346e+215

    Can you be absolutely certain that the answer is correct?

    Unless I have seriously overestimated your intelligence, your answer will be “no”, because you realize that the calculator might, or might not, have given you the correct answer. You simply don’t know, so you can’t be absolutely certain that the answer is correct. (It isn’t, by the way.)

    Substitute your fallible mind for the calculator, and I think you can see my point:

    Any thought you have, no matter how “self-evident” it seems, may be mistaken, because your mind is fallible. You may have made a mistake.

    That’s about the best I can do. If you still don’t get it, I’m afraid that it may be beyond you, or at least that you might need to reread the thread and spend some serious time thinking about it.

    Good luck. Let me know how you do.

  392. I am beginning to believe there are evil demons out there. But they are not sly, merely insufferable.

  393. tgpeeler,

    You’re welcome to jump in whenever you manage to come up with an actual argument.

  394. KeithS still awaiting an answer.You said I was attempting to make a logical argument what logical argument are you referring to?

    Vivid

  395. I don’t argue with people who are certain that they are not certain and can’t or won’t understand how foolish that is. Good day to you. Really. I mean that. Best of luck.

    p.s. For the record, the arguments have already been made, by me and others. You refuse to engage so I will honor that choice and do likewise.

    Ciao
    Adios
    Adieu
    Auf Wiedersehen
    Bye

  396. keiths,

    3.85176048236258042173567706592346e+215

    Can you be absolutely certain that the answer is correct?

    No. Again, I didn’t say I was infallible. I said that my capacity to know that I exist is infallible, which it is. My capacity to know that an evil deceiver cannot influence a non-existent person is also infallible. My capacity to know which of my questions you cannot answer is, again, infallible.

    Unless I have seriously overestimated your intelligence, your answer will be “no”, because you realize that the calculator might, or might not, have given you the correct answer. You simply don’t know, so you can’t be absolutely certain that the answer is correct. (It isn’t, by the way.)

    I wrote “no” to the first question even before I read the above paragraph. Once, I even made a mistake at the grocery store and bought one too many apples. How is that related to science of being? How is that related to the non-negotiable nature of the Law of Non-contradiction? Since you do not answer questions, I will provide the answer for you. There is no relationship between your example and what is being debated.

    Substitute your fallible mind for the calculator, and I think you can see my point:

    Calculation is not apprehension. You are barking up the wrong tree. Or, to use another metaphor, you are not even in the ball park.

    Any thought you have, no matter how “self-evident” it seems, may be mistaken, because your mind is fallible. You may have made a mistake.

    Again, this is a bald assertion made with no rational justification. I will pose yet another serious question which you will likely not answer. WHY do you think that we can have no knowledge about which we can be absolutely certain. I will answer my own question since it is the only way I can get answers. You think that we can have no knowledge about which we can be absolutely certain because you would prefer it to be so. It’s as simple as that.

    That’s about the best I can do. If you still don’t get it, I’m afraid that it may be beyond you, or at least that you might need to reread the thread and spend some serious time thinking about it.

    So far, I have breezed through all your questions and you have avoided all my questions. At this point, I will just go ahead and provide your answers for you.

    Question: How can an evil agent deceive someone who doesn’t exist. Answer: An evil agent cannot deceive someone who doesn’t exist. Existence is a metaphysical prerequisite for being influenced.

    Question: Are you absolutely certain that something that doesn’t exist cannot be deceived? Answer: Yes, I am absolutely certain.

    Question: How can you be absolutely certain?

    Answer: Because I can apprehend being as being.

  397. @Barb

    I can keep on and on, it’s easy for me because I’m the one backed up by empirical evidence. What’s the base of your arguments other than a constant attempt to circumvent such evidence?

    You claim to be open to changing your mind; I highly doubt that.

    If I’m to change my mind, I won’t do it under a deluded logic that attempts to ignore observational evidence.

    You have your preconceived notions, and nothing is going to sway you

    Look who’s talking. If someone has preconceived notions, it’s you and your religious bias, not me.

    You’re wrong on your deliberate circumvention of empirical evidence for the sake of keeping your worldview, simple as that.

    And yet you offer no proof other than your own opinion for this statement.

    I guess you decided to forget my last argument on our discussion. If I remember correctly, you escaped with a convenient:

    “I am not even going to get into the rest of your argumentation”

    ..I guess my argumentation was soo good you decided to avoid it altogether. I couldn’t tell, you left the thread! :)

    You repeatedly used faulty logic to try and prove your point, which didn’t work.

    If you’re claiming that following empirical evidence is using faulty logic, then you’re deluded and lost all common sense.

    Do I have to repeat my argument? Empirical evidence proves that behaviour is always constrained by external circumnstances.

    Do you want to ignore the evidence? Be my guest, but don’t claim to be rational. You’re obviously blind to evidence against free will like a Darwinist is blind to evidence of design.

  398. tgpeeler:

    I don’t argue with people who are certain that they are not certain and can’t or won’t understand how foolish that is.

    Think about that for a while. Really think.

    Good day to you.

    Yes, it’s probably best for you to sit this one out.

  399. vividbleau,

    This discussion is about whether absolute certainty is justifiable. I have argued that it isn’t.

    Here is my argument. If my position is incorrect, as you claim, then there must be a flaw in my argument. Can you find a flaw? If yes, then show us. If not, then I’m not going to waste time on your odd comments.

  400. StephenB,

    Again, I didn’t say I was infallible. I said that my capacity to know that I exist is infallible, which it is. My capacity to know that an evil deceiver cannot influence a non-existent person is also infallible. My capacity to know which of my questions you cannot answer is, again, infallible.

    We’re still awaiting an argument for why you think you are infallible on these particular topics.

    The only attempted answer I can find in your comment is this:

    Because I can apprehend being as being.

    If your mind is fallible, then you cannot be sure that your “apprehension of being as being” is correct. You might be mistaken. The “sly demon” might be confusing you.

    Absolute certainty is not justified.

    WHY do you think that we can have no knowledge about which we can be absolutely certain.

    That’s what this entire discussion has been about. Did you sleep through it? Here’s my argument.

  401. 402

    KeithS I am still waiting. Why do you refuse to answer me? All you have to do is point it out? Why not do so? Otherwise one can ony conclude you were slinging BS around which I must confess you do quite regularly.

    Vivid

  402. 403

    Keiths

    Here is my argument. If my position is incorrect, as you claim

    Where did I claim your that your argument was incorrect?

    Vivid

  403. And Proton continues,

    I can keep on and on, it’s easy for me because I’m the one backed up by empirical evidence.

    Empirical evidence of what? What empirical evidence is there that humans have free will? What empirical evidence is there of consciousness? What empirical evidence is there of absolute certainty (or the lack thereof)?
    You are backed up by nothing more than Internet anonymity and arrogance.

    What’s the base of your arguments other than a constant attempt to circumvent such evidence?

    The basis of my arguments has been clearly laid out. If you didn’t bother to read my posts thoroughly, you have no one to blame but yourself.

    If I’m to change my mind, I won’t do it under a deluded logic that attempts to ignore observational evidence.

    Again, where is the observational evidence for absolute certainty?

    Look who’s talking. If someone has preconceived notions, it’s you and your religious bias, not me.

    LOL, atheists. You believe—you honestly believe—that atheists have no internal bias, no prejudice? That you aren’t swayed in the slightest by devotion to materialism? If you answer ‘yes’ to either of those questions, you are the one who’s deluded.
    You can point the finger at me all you like, but remember that you have three fingers pointing back at you. Check to make sure that you actually are using observational evidence to come to a conclusion and not prejudice.

    I guess you decided to forget my last argument on our discussion. If I remember correctly, you escaped with a convenient:

    Your last argument made little to no sense. You simply refused to consider anything besides your preconceived notion that there is no free will. I don’t believe that anything would sway your viewpoint, because your mind is completely closed.

    ..I guess my argumentation was soo good you decided to avoid it altogether. I couldn’t tell, you left the thread!

    No, your argument was one of the least coherent arguments I’ve ever seen posted on the Internet. Remember the adage, “I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed man.”

    If you’re claiming that following empirical evidence is using faulty logic, then you’re deluded and lost all common sense.
    Do I have to repeat my argument? Empirical evidence proves that behaviour is always constrained by external circumnstances.

    Behavior is not always constrained by external circumstances. I provided proof for this claim in the form of reasoning, syllogisms, and examples, all of which you ignored.
    It’s not an either-or proposition. External circumstances can influence one’s behavior, BUT THEY DON’T ALWAYS DO. The fact that you repeatedly ignore a simple, accurate fact is one of the reasons I gave up debating in the other thread; I simply have better ways to spend my time.

    Do you want to ignore the evidence? Be my guest, but don’t claim to be rational. You’re obviously blind to evidence against free will like a Darwinist is blind to evidence of design.

    I’m not ignoring any evidence. What we’ve been discussing is mostly metaphysical, so where you’re getting empirical evidence for it is beyond me (pun not intended).
    I can claim to be rational, because I am using my faculty of mind, logic, and reasoning. Don’t argue otherwise. I believe that humans have free will on the basis of their ability to weigh the pros and cons of situations and make choices. That is free will in a nutshell. Freedom of choice. As I explained before. Are you going to argue that nobody is free to think for themselves? Because you would be completely wrong if you did.

  404. keiths,

    If your mind is fallible, then you cannot be sure that your “apprehension of being as being” is correct. You might be mistaken. The “sly demon” might be confusing you

    In that context, deception is not possible. If you think it is, then tell me how I can be deceived into believing that I exist if I don’t exist. You cannot answer, therefore you claim has no substance. It is simply an arbitrary assertion posing as an argument.

    I asked you how you know that we cannot have absolute knowledge. What is your rationale or justification for making such an unusual claim? We both know that you do not have one. Its just another bald assertion.

    I am infallibly certain of my own consciousness and self awareness. It is ridiculous for you to argue otherwise. Even Descartes, the king of doubters and the inventor of your evil deceiver, knew he existed with infallible certainty. It was his main point.

    Meanwhile, I answer all your questions, and you run from my questions. That is not an indicator of a strong position.

  405. StephenB,

    I asked you how you know that we cannot have absolute knowledge. What is your rationale or justification for making such an unusual claim?

    This is going to get very boring if you keep pretending that I haven’t answered your question. Please don’t bore me, Stephen.

    Here is my answer, yet again:

    In the hopes of making some progress in this thread, let me lay out my argument systematically, with numbered statements, so that it will be easier for people to specify exactly what they disagree with and why.

    1. It’s possible that God exists. (or Satan, or demons, etc.)

    2. If God (or Satan, etc.) exists, then it is possible that he has the power to deceive us.

    3. If he has the power to deceive us, then he might be exercising that power at any particular time.

    4. Being human, we cannot reliably determine when he is deceiving us and when he isn’t.

    5. Any particular thought we have might coincide with a time when God/Satan/the demon is deceiving us.

    6. Thus, any particular thought might be mistaken.

    7. If we claim to be absolutely certain of something that isn’t true, we have erred.

    8. Therefore we should never claim absolute certainty for a thought that might be mistaken.

    9. Since any particular thought might be mistaken (by #6), we should never claim absolute certainty for any thought.

    Note that this argument can also be made simply by appealing to the imperfection of human cognition, but it’s more fun this way.

    Also note that the argument applies to atheists and theists equally. Atheists don’t think there is a God, of course, but it is still possible that there is a God, and possibility is all that is necessary for the argument to work.

  406. On the other hand, thank you for this bit of irony.

    You wrote:

    Its just another bald assertion.

    Followed immediately by this bald assertion:

    I am infallibly certain of my own consciousness and self awareness. It is ridiculous for you to argue otherwise.

  407. Descartes was making implicit assumptions that he did not acknowledge.

    “I think, therefore I am” is really the following argument:

    1) If my logic is correct, and
    2) if it is true that thoughts always have thinkers, and
    3) if this is a thought, then

    4) a thinker exists.

    Absolute certainty is not justified for #1 and #2, so absolute certainty is not justified for #4.

    If you disagree, then show us how #1 and #2 can be known with absolute certainty, meaning a 0.0% possibility of error.

  408. @Barb Barb Barb…

    LOL, atheists. You believe—you honestly believe—that atheists have no internal bias, no prejudice?

    Twice I said I was a THEIST, and twice you called me an atheist. Do you have memory problems or just reply to comments without reading them?

    I believe that humans have free will on the basis of their ability to weigh the pros and cons of situations and make choices. That is free will in a nutshell. Freedom of choice. As I explained before.

    Again with the circular reasoning? That choosing implies free will is YOUR assumption, it’s not a universal fact (outside of your head). You’re again assuming the conclusion.

    If free will is described as the ability to choose between A and B without being constrained by external factors, then that goes against the empirical evidence, and therefore makes your entire argument a matter of pure wishful thinking.

    The question is: “Can something else other than someone’s background determine their behaviour?”. Empirical evidence says NO. You say yes. Why do you go against empirical observations?

    Behavior is not always constrained by external circumstances. I provided proof for this claim in the form of reasoning, syllogisms, and examples, all of which you ignored.

    “reasoning, syllogisms, and examples” can’t beat empirical evidence especially if such “reasoning, syllogisms, and examples” are fallacious.

    Where’s the EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE that says free will is real? I gave a couple of real life examples here that indicate clearly that free will is NOT real (comments #39 and #40, and I’ll add more later).

    This is not a matter of definition, this is a matter of common sense.

    External circumstances can influence one’s behavior, BUT THEY DON’T ALWAYS DO. The fact that you repeatedly ignore a simple, accurate fact…

    LOL how is it “accurate”?

    Besides, by saying “BUT THEY DON’T ALWAYS DO” you’re admitting (increasingly in your comments) that free will is almost always impared (that’s the other end of the “don’t always”), which indicates that you’re giving up space for free will and realizing that free will is often impaired.

    However, WHERE’S the empirical evidence that supports your idea that our behaviour is NOT ALWAYS constrained by our circumstances anyway?

    As far as evidence goes, our behaviour is ALWAYS constrained by external circumnstances. The only reason someone can have the evidence in their hands and still say “well but there’s still some room for free will in there” is because they want to, because they have this preconceived idea that free will HAS to be there somewhere. The evidence does not suggest free will in any way.

    If we see black crows everywhere, there’s no reason to think a white crow is hiding in there somewhere. But the Bible says white crows exist and so you try to put them into the equation somehow.

    If I see Design in the world, then I believe in Design. If I see black crows, then I believe in black crows. If the existence of white crows contradicts observation, then believing in them is irrational. And you’re doing just that.

    Are you going to argue that nobody is free to think for themselves? Because you would be completely wrong if you did.

    The world does not have to conform to your ideas of what choices or thinking should be.

    Also, *free* is a subjective word. I feel completely free to think and do what I want. And I enjoy such feeling of freedom. Maybe the sensation of being *free* is something inherent to every human being and something the Designer wired into our brains for us to enjoy. That’s completely independent of whether we’re really free or not (according to the standard of Christians).

    If you feel free to make choices, does that inherently means that because you FEEL free then you ARE free? Of course not. Feeling free does NOT guarantee we’re free (to a particular standard of freedom). Our feelings do not have to correspond to reality.

    In my view, if I *feel* free, and enjoy such freedom to do and think what I want, then whether such freedom is real or not is not important. You don’t know the Designer’s plans, maybe in it’s plan the high standards of freedom that Christians have is simply not necessary. After all, we humans enjoy being alive on the basis of feeling the world around us. If we feel free, and enjoy such freedom, is it really important if such freedom is illusory? Of course such answer depends on the standards of freedom one has. Maybe Christians just have an irreal standard of freedom imposed by their religion, that does not match reality or the Designer’s plans.

    Maybe you don’t like that reality or refuse to aknowledge the possibility of such reality, but that doesn’t make me wrong. The world does not have to conform to your religious standard of freedom.

  409. ’1. It’s possible that God exists. (or Satan, or demons, etc.)
    Yes.

    2. If God (or Satan, etc.) exists, then it is possible that he has the power to deceive us.
    Yes.

    3. If he has the power to deceive us, then he might be exercising that power at any particular time.

    Technically, presumably. In reality, the context of the Christian faith precludes it. (Don’t argue. I won’t be arguing with you in small circles)

    4. Being human, we cannot reliably determine when he is deceiving us and when he isn’t.

    Wrong. See 3.

    5. Any particular thought we have might coincide with a time when God/Satan/the demon is deceiving us.

    Possible, in the case of satan, depending though on the nature of the thought. Thoughts may be beautiful and impossible to use for bad ends in any context; in which case, they would be too painful for him to have anything to do with.

    6. Thus, any particular thought might be mistaken.

    Non sequitur. See above.

    7. If we claim to be absolutely certain of something that isn’t true, we have erred.

    ditto.

    8. Therefore we should never claim absolute certainty for a thought that might be mistaken.

    ditto. Although it would be applicable enough to atheists, for sure.

    9. Since any particular thought might be mistaken (by #6), we should never claim absolute certainty for any thought.
    Note that this argument can also be made simply by appealing to the imperfection of human cognition, but it’s more fun this way.

    Now, a gratuitous multiplication of non sequiturs. You’re gilding the lily.

    Also note that the argument applies to atheists and theists equally. Atheists don’t think there is a God, of course, but it is still possible that there is a God, and possibility is all that is necessary for the argument to work.

  410. Sorry for being so abrasive, Keiths, rancorous even. You don’t seem very truculent tonicht.

  411. Hi Axel,

    Welcome to the discussion, and thank you for directly addressing my numbered argument.

    keiths:

    3. If he has the power to deceive us, then he might be exercising that power at any particular time.

    Axel:

    Technically, presumably. In reality, the context of the Christian faith precludes it.

    Don’t forget, ‘he’ in step 3 can refer to God, Satan, a demon, or any other entity capable of deceiving us.

    Also consider that since you can’t be absolutely certain that Christianity is true, you can’t be absolutely certain about the nature of God. Perhaps he is willing to deceive you for some reason(s).

    keiths:

    4. Being human, we cannot reliably determine when he is deceiving us and when he isn’t.

    Axel:

    Wrong. See 3.

    See my response to #3 above.

    keiths:

    5. Any particular thought we have might coincide with a time when God/Satan/the demon is deceiving us.

    Axel:

    Possible, in the case of satan, depending though on the nature of the thought. Thoughts may be beautiful and impossible to use for bad ends in any context; in which case, they would be too painful for him to have anything to do with.

    That is an assumption about Satan that you cannot be absolutely certain of. It may be that Satan can use beautiful thoughts for deceitful purposes. You can’t rule it out completely.

    The rest of your comment depends on the erroneous claims above, so the rebuttal fails.

  412. Axel,

    Sorry for being so abrasive, Keiths, rancorous even. You don’t seem very truculent tonicht.

    Don’t worry about it, Axel. A little bit of emotion can spice up the debate. As long as it doesn’t derail the discussion, it can be a good thing, and entertaining for the onlookers. :)

  413. keiths

    Followed immediately by this bald assertion:

    LOL keiths.

    It is not a bald assertion for me to tell you that I am certain about my own conscious awareness. It is a bald assertion on your part to tell me that I can’t be certain about it.

  414. keiths

    This is going to get very boring if you keep pretending that I haven’t answered your question. Please don’t bore me, Stephen.

    You have not answered the question at all. It will get boring if you try to bluff me. Please to not try to bluff me. What is your rationale for asserting that absolutely certainly in knowledge is not attainable. You have no rationale. Just admit it and we can move on.

  415. keiths:

    Descartes was making implicit assumptions that he did not acknowledge.

    LOL: Oh, so now you know Descartes own mind better than he did. That would be consistent with your conviction that you know more about my conscious awareness that I do.

    “I think, therefore I am” is really the following argument:

    1) If my logic is correct, and
    2) if it is true that thoughts always have thinkers, and
    3) if this is a thought, then

    4) a thinker exists.

    Absolute certainty is not justified for #1 and #2, so absolute certainty is not justified for #4.

    If you disagree, then show us how #1 and #2 can be known with absolute certainty, meaning a 0.0% possibility of error.

    That isn’t his argument at all. You are twisting yourself into a pretzel in order to avoid refutation. Also, you are intruding your own unfounded assertions onto Descartes argument at the end as if he had asserted them.

    Descartes argument is very simple:

    [a] It is obvious that I think,

    [b] therefore, I can safely conclude that I exist.

    Anyone who has studied Western philosophy understands that this was Descartes’ point. No one has ever accused him of such a muddled formulation as what you just put forth. Descartes had enough faults without having to carry yours from his grave.

    If you disagree, then show us how #1 and #2 can be known with absolute certainty, meaning a 0.0% possibility of error.

    You are getting so confused that you cannot even distinguish what Descartes thought from what you think. I am, at the moment, refuting your misrepresentation of Descartes argument. Try to stay on topic.

  416. StephenB,

    What is your rationale for asserting that absolutely certainly in knowledge is not attainable.

    For the nth time, here it is.

    Do you have a counterargument, or do you concede that my argument is correct?

  417. 418

    LOL Keiths doesn’t even understand “Cogito ergo sum” and he is lecturing StephenB. Hilarious!

    BTW Keiths still waiting.

    Vivid

  418. StephenB,

    Descartes argument is very simple:

    [a] It is obvious that I think,

    [b] therefore, I can safely conclude that I exist.

    The conclusion doesn’t follow without a) a correct system of logic, and b) the implicit assumption that thoughts require a thinker.

    I think that Descartes’ logic was correct and that his implicit assumption is true. I just don’t think they’re absolutely certain.

    You say that they are absolutely certain, but you haven’t given us any reason(s) to accept your claim.

    Can you?

  419. SB: Descartes argument is very simple:

    [a] It is obvious that I think,

    [b] therefore, I can safely conclude that I exist.

    keiths

    The conclusion doesn’t follow without a) a correct system of logic, and b) the implicit assumption that thoughts require a thinker.

    We are talking about Descartes’ argument and what it is. Your assessment of it (or my assessment of it) is a different matter.

    I think that Descartes’ logic was correct and that his implicit assumption is true. I just don’t think they’re absolutely certain.

    I am sure that you think that. We are discussing what Descartes thought. He thought that his existence was certain, which was, if you recall, what I claimed.

    You say that they are absolutely certain, but you haven’t given us any reason(s) to accept your claim.

    That is a separate matter that I will be happy to elaborate on.

    Can you?

    Yes. In the next session, I will go into the idea of apprehending being in more detail.

  420. keiths:

    For the nth time, here it is.

    OK, I think your points will suffice as an explanation about how we might be deceived as existent human beings. Clearly, it is metaphysically possible that an evil agent could mislead us in that fashion. So I probably should not have said that you have no rationale at all. True, I don’t accept it as valid, but you have put something out there.

    From there, however, we have moved on to my main objection, namely that the evil agent cannot mislead a non-existent person. This is simply a metaphysical impossibility.

    Do you have a counterargument, or do you concede that my argument is correct?

    For the general argument, I would say, very briefly, that omnipotence is inseparable from goodness and truth. I can explain why if you need to know. So, I would argue that the Creator who designed the universe must be omnipotent and, therefore, good. Since HE is good, He could not deceive us since it is not consistent with his nature. That is a very, very brief account, but I think I can fill in the missing pieces later and show why it works.

    On the specific problem of deceiving a non-existent person, no argument is necessary. It is obviously a metaphysical impossibility. It if is not obvious to you, then you need to step back and think it through.

  421. StephenB,

    Clearly, it is metaphysically possible that an evil agent could mislead us in that fashion.

    Okay, good.

    From there, however, we have moved on to my main objection, namely that the evil agent cannot mislead a non-existent person.

    I don’t think so either. However, to reach that conclusion, I rely on logic and on the assumption that nonexistent people cannot be misled. Since I cannot be absolutely certain that my logic and my assumption are correct, I cannot be absolutely certain of my conclusion.

    For the general argument, I would say, very briefly, that omnipotence is inseparable from goodness and truth. I can explain why if you need to know.

    Yes, please explain, because I see no reason why they must be connected.

    So, I would argue that the Creator who designed the universe must be omnipotent and, therefore, good. Since HE is good, He could not deceive us since it is not consistent with his nature.

    You’re making an additional assumption, which is that deception is never a good thing. If the Gestapo is at the door and Anne Frank is in the attic, isn’t deception a good thing in those circumstances? Are you absolutely certain that God never has good reasons to deceive us (or to allow us to be deceived by Satan or any other agent)? He allows us to be deceived by other humans, after all.

    On the specific problem of deceiving a non-existent person, no argument is necessary. It is obviously a metaphysical impossibility. It if is not obvious to you, then you need to step back and think it through.

    It is obvious to me. I’m just not absolutely certain of it, because I’m not absolutely certain that my logic is correct, nor am I absolutely certain that my starting assumption is correct.

    How could I be? My cognition is imperfect, and God or some other entity might be deceiving me.

  422. 423

    My COGNITION is imperfect

    :)

    Vivid

  423. Proton:

    Twice I said I was a THEIST, and twice you called me an atheist. Do you have memory problems or just reply to comments without reading them?

    Everything you have posted so far is very atheistic in tone. I see very little evidence of theism in your worldview.

    Again with the circular reasoning? That choosing implies free will is YOUR assumption, it’s not a universal fact (outside of your head). You’re again assuming the conclusion.

    Choosing implies free will is my definition, not my assumption. How do you know (with absolute certainty!) that it’s not a universal fact outside of my head? Are people making choices today? Did you?

    If free will is described as the ability to choose between A and B without being constrained by external factors, then that goes against the empirical evidence, and therefore makes your entire argument a matter of pure wishful thinking.

    Free will is, as I’ve defined it before, freedom of choice. External (and probably some internal) factors would be considered. A smart person weighs the pros and cons before making a choice. But they still have a choice, and that’s free will.

    The question is: “Can something else other than someone’s background determine their behaviour?”. Empirical evidence says NO. You say yes. Why do you go against empirical observations?

    Other than their background? Education, as I mentioned in the other thread. You completely ignored this point, as it contradicted your belief of not having free will. But education definitely affects a person’s behavior.

    “reasoning, syllogisms, and examples” can’t beat empirical evidence especially if such “reasoning, syllogisms, and examples” are fallacious.

    You provided no empirical evidence beyond your own opinion in the other thread. You also never defined what logical fallacies I fell victim to.

    Where’s the EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE that says free will is real?

    Right here. I am choosing to respond to your post. I don’t have to. I can certainly do other things. But I have a choice and I am making it. Free will in action.

    LOL how is it “accurate”?

    Because people have freedom of choice. Their backgrounds play a role in their development, but one’s background isn’t one’s destiny.

    Besides, by saying “BUT THEY DON’T ALWAYS DO” you’re admitting (increasingly in your comments) that free will is almost always impared (that’s the other end of the “don’t always”), which indicates that you’re giving up space for free will and realizing that free will is often impaired.

    Judgment might be impaired, decision-making ability might be impaired, which would affect the decisions we make. However, the fact that we can make a decision and choose one way or the other is free will in action.

    However, WHERE’S the empirical evidence that supports your idea that our behaviour is NOT ALWAYS constrained by our circumstances anyway?

    Because we all bear personal responsibility for our actions. I gave examples of people who rose above their circumstances to have happy, fulfilling lives (“The Pursuit of Happyness” character was one). His behavior was not constrained by his circumstances.

    Freedom and responsibility, in fact, are correlatives, the one involves and implies the other. Freedom brings with it the responsibility to choose, and by making a choice one assumes further responsibilities.

    As far as evidence goes, our behaviour is ALWAYS constrained by external circumnstances.

    No, it’s not, and I just gave you an example that proves otherwise.

    The only reason someone can have the evidence in their hands and still say “well but there’s still some room for free will in there” is because they want to, because they have this preconceived idea that free will HAS to be there somewhere. The evidence does not suggest free will in any way.

    The evidence does suggest this, but you simply refuse to acknowledge that it does. That is evidence only of your own prejudice and close-mindedness.

    If we see black crows everywhere, there’s no reason to think a white crow is hiding in there somewhere. But the Bible says white crows exist and so you try to put them into the equation somehow.

    Science does this occasionally. It’s an argument from ignorance. Just because you don’t see white crows doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Maybe they live on a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. For a long time, science was unaware of the existence of subatomic particles, but they always existed.

    If I see Design in the world, then I believe in Design. If I see black crows, then I believe in black crows. If the existence of white crows contradicts observation, then believing in them is irrational. And you’re doing just that.

    You are not making any sense here. How does the existence of white crows contradict observation? Wouldn’t it suggest that you are seeing a new species, or a variation of a species that currently exists? How is that irrational?

    The world does not have to conform to your ideas of what choices or thinking should be.

    You may wish to repeat this to yourself a few dozen times.

    Also, *free* is a subjective word. I feel completely free to think and do what I want. And I enjoy such feeling of freedom. Maybe the sensation of being *free* is something inherent to every human being and something the Designer wired into our brains for us to enjoy. That’s completely independent of whether we’re really free or not (according to the standard of Christians).

    We have a measure of freedom as humans. We can’t really do whatever we want whenever we want because we have jobs and other obligations. But we’re also not automatons, programmed only to do certain things. We do have freedom of choice.

    If you feel free to make choices, does that inherently means that because you FEEL free then you ARE free? Of course not. Feeling free does NOT guarantee we’re free (to a particular standard of freedom). Our feelings do not have to correspond to reality.

    No, our feelings don’t have to correspond to reality. But I do feel free to make choices, and I do make choices. That is free will. I am a free moral agent.

    In my view, if I *feel* free, and enjoy such freedom to do and think what I want, then whether such freedom is real or not is not important.

    It only becomes important, I think, when you’re faced with difficult choices to make. Because your decisions will affect not only you but others as well (friends, family, etc).

    You don’t know the Designer’s plans, maybe in it’s plan the high standards of freedom that Christians have is simply not necessary. After all, we humans enjoy being alive on the basis of feeling the world around us. If we feel free, and enjoy such freedom, is it really important if such freedom is illusory? Of course such answer depends on the standards of freedom one has. Maybe Christians just have an irreal standard of freedom imposed by their religion, that does not match reality or the Designer’s plans.

    That’s one way of looking at it. But I don’t believe it’s illusory. I believe that God created us as free moral agents. Here’s the difference: the bodies in the starry heavens move in assigned orbits at certain rates of speed according to God’s immutable laws. Humans also differ from animals who are subject to instincts and the vicissitudes of their environment. Neither the inanimate creation (the stars and planets) nor the animals are therefore morally accountable; only humans are.

    Maybe you don’t like that reality or refuse to aknowledge the possibility of such reality, but that doesn’t make me wrong. The world does not have to conform to your religious standard of freedom.

    And the world does not have to conform to your religious standard of freedom. In another thread, you excused the behavior of serial killers because of their backgrounds. It sounds to me like you want free will to be illusory because that would eliminate the need for accountability for one’s behavior. And that is a cop out.

  424. keiths

    [So, I would argue that the Creator who designed the universe must be omnipotent and, therefore, good. Since HE is good, He could not deceive us since it is not consistent with his nature.]

    You’re making an additional assumption, which is that deception is never a good thing.

    No, actually you are making the additional assumption. I am assuming only that deception from God is never a good thing.

    If the Gestapo is at the door and Anne Frank is in the attic, isn’t deception a good thing in those circumstances?

    Of course.

    Are you absolutely certain that God never has good reasons to deceive us (or to allow us to be deceived by Satan or any other agent)? He allows us to be deceived by other humans, after all.

    Apples and oranges. A good God would never deceive. On the other hand, a good God that grants free will to his creatures must allow them to deceive each other at times.

  425. It is obvious to me. I’m just not absolutely certain of it, because I’m not absolutely certain that my logic is correct, nor am I absolutely certain that my starting assumption is correct.

    How certain are you that your logic is correct? Are you almost totally certain, somewhat certain, or barely certain?
    Why is it one level of certitude and not another? If not total certitude, then why any certitude at all?

  426. StephenB,

    No, actually you are making the additional assumption. I am assuming only that deception from God is never a good thing.

    Which is an additional assumption. How do you justify it at all, much less being absolutely certain of it?

    A good God would never deceive.

    That is, to use your phrase, a bald assertion. Can you justify it? Can you show us that it is absolutely certain?

    How certain are you that your logic is correct? Are you almost totally certain, somewhat certain, or barely certain? Why is it one level of certitude and not another? If not total certitude, then why any certitude at all?

    Quite certain. The evidence is that it seems to work very well. It’s possible that it works well despite being wrong, but that seems less likely than the hypothesis that it works well because it is actually right (or close to being right).

  427. And by the way, you still haven’t explained why an omnipotent God must be good.

    And though I haven’t mentioned this before, you also haven’t explained why God must be omnipotent at all.

    So many assumptions, and you claim to be ‘absolutely certain’ of all of them. Good luck justifying that.

  428. Keiths

    My COGNITION is imperfect,/blockquote>

    Yep I am absolutely certain that cognitive activity is present.

    BTW Keiths still waiting.

    Vivid

  429. Keiths

    <blockquoteMy COGNITION is imperfect,

    Yep I am absolutely certain that cognitive activity is present.

    BTW Keiths still waiting.

    Vivid

  430. Keiths

    My COGNITION is imperfect,

    Yep I am absolutely certain that cognitive activity is present.

    BTW Keiths still waiting.

    Vivid

  431. keiths

    So many assumptions, and you claim to be ‘absolutely certain’ of all of them. Good luck justifying that.

    No, you keep making serious mistakes and misrepresentations. I said only that I was certain about self-evident truths. I can argue that God is both good and omnipotent. I didn’t say that is was self evident. You are the one who keeps making erroneous assumptions.

    SB: No, actually you are making the additional assumption. I am assuming only that deception from God is never a good thing.

    keiths: Which is an additional assumption. How do you justify it at all, much less being absolutely certain of it?

    Again, you missed the point. I said that God could not deceive because I am talking about a perfect God. You assumed, improperly and prematurely, and without warrant, that I was saying that no one should ever deceive. Hence, your irrelevant question about the Gestapo. You should attend to what they say and not what you wish they had said. It’s the Descartes syndrome all over again–putting your own arguments into someone else’s mouth.

  432. keiths

    How certain are you that your logic is correct? Are you almost totally certain, somewhat certain, or barely certain? Why is it one level of certitude and not another? If not total certitude, then why any certitude at all?

    Quite certain. The evidence is that it seems to work very well.

    Evidence? You can’t confirm or judge the law of non-contradiction with evidence!!! It is a FIRST PRINCIPLE. It is the thing by which we judge evidence.

    It’s possible that it works well despite being wrong, but that seems less likely than the hypothesis that it works well because it is actually right (or close to being right).

    Clearly, you do not know what is meant by a self-evident first principle, which means that you don’t even know what you have been arguing against. Remakable!

  433. StephenB,

    I said only that I was certain about self-evident truths. I can argue that God is both good and omnipotent. I didn’t say that is was self evident. You are the one who keeps making erroneous assumptions.

    But you haven’t shown why it is absolutely certain that God must be omnipotent, nor have you shown why it is absolutely certain that he must be good.

    Until you show us why those statements are absolutely certain, then I have to regard them as mere assumptions that you are making.

    I said that God could not deceive because I am talking about a perfect God.

    You haven’t shown why it is absolutely certain that God is perfect, nor have you shown why it is absolutely certain that a perfect God could not deceive.

    You’re making a lot of (bald) assertions. Can you justify them?

  434. StephenB,

    It’s pretty clear where all of this is headed.

    You claim that there are self-evident truths. By that, you mean that they seem obvious to you — no evidence or argument required.

    How do you get from “self-evident” to “absolutely certain”?

  435. An explicit argument against the immaterial soul.

    Assume that:

    1. There is an immaterial soul.
    2. The immaterial soul is the seat of knowledge.
    3. The immaterial soul is the seat of the will.
    4. The immaterial soul initiates voluntary actions.
    4. The immaterial soul receives information from both hemispheres.
    5. The immaterial soul sends commands to both hemispheres.

    If you disagree with any of these assumptions, I can modify the argument accordingly, but these seem pretty standard among people who believe in a soul.

    Now assume that we have a normal subject with an intact brain. The subject stares at a screen. We briefly flash the word “dog” on the right side of the screen. We then ask the subject to use his left hand to point to a matching image (with several images to choose from). The subject points to a drawing of a dog.

    This makes sense in terms of the soul. The information goes into the brain, then to the soul. The soul knows it has seen a dog. The soul hears the instructions to point to a matching drawing with the left hand. The soul sees the drawings, recognizes that one of them is a dog, and decides to point to it. It sends a command to the brain, which causes the left arm to move and point to the dog drawing.

    Now run the same experiment on a split-brain patient. The word “dog” is flashed on the right side of the screen, which means the information goes only to the left hemisphere. The left hemisphere communicates that information to the soul, which now knows that it saw the word “dog”. Since the soul knows that it has seen the word “dog”, the soul can easily select the drawing of the dog. It sends a command to the brain and causes the left arm to move and point to the dog drawing.

    Right? Wrong. That’s what should happen if there is a soul, but it’s not what actually happens. What actually happens is that the patient gets the wrong answer when pointing with the left hand. If you ask him to point with the right hand, however, he correctly points to the dog.

    This makes absolutely no sense in terms of the soul. The soul has to make the decision to point to the dog, which means that the soul must know that the word “dog” was flashed on the screen. But if the soul knows that, then it should be able to instruct either hand to point to the dog drawing. This doesn’t happen.

    Now look at these results in terms of the “two minds in one skull” hypothesis. The word “dog” is flashed only on the right side of the screen, so only the left hemisphere sees it. The left hemisphere controls the right arm, so the subject can correctly point to the dog drawing with the right hand. However, if you ask the subject to point to the correct drawing with the left hand, he can’t do it. Why? Because the left hand is controlled by the right hemisphere, and the right hemisphere didn’t see the word “dog”. The right hemisphere doesn’t know what to point to, but the left hemisphere does.

    The results make perfect sense in terms of “two minds in one skull.” They make no sense at all in terms of the soul.

    The evidence is unambiguous. The “two minds in one skull” hypothesis wins hands down.

    In the face of this kind of evidence (and this is just one piece — there are many others), there is no rational reason to continue believing in the immaterial soul.

  436. Oops — the comment above was intended for a different thread. Sorry.

  437. Hi Keiths,

    @ your #412…. so many false assumptions concerning knowledge with absolute certainty, I hardly know where to start. Though I obviously thought I did.

    Your laundry-list of compounded false assumptions, one on top of the other, is OK as a kind of parlour-game, but that’s as far as it goes.

    Even mathematically, beyond certain astronomical odds, one effectively has absolute certain knowledge – oddly enough, barring divine providential intervention. There’s theory; and there’s reality. Christian’s deal with reality and logic. Theory is a tool, not our master.

  438. Axel,

    Even mathematically, beyond certain astronomical odds, one effectively has absolute certain knowledge…

    I would agree that in some cases we are so close to certainty that the difference has no practical import. Even in those cases, however, I think it’s important to remind ourselves that we are not absolutely certain and that we might be wrong.

    Earlier in the thread we discussed Einstein’s discovery of special relativity. Before Einstein, many people were absolutely certain that space and time were immutable and distinct. They were wrong. Einstein, who wasn’t absolutely certain of these things, made a world-changing discovery.

    Absolute certainty is never justified; it closes the mind and discourages the questioning of one’s own beliefs; and it has no intellectual benefits that I can see.

    It is merely a weapon wielded by those, like StephenB, who wish to declare certain beliefs off-limits to questioning.

  439. keiths,

    You claim that there are self-evident truths. By that, you mean that they seem obvious to you — no evidence or argument required.

    If evidence could confirm a self evident principle, then the evidence would be logically prior to the principle. As I say, you simply don’t know what it is that you are tying to argue against. Why you would want to spend so much time trying to discuss something that you know nothing about is a mystery to me.

    But you haven’t shown why it is absolutely certain that God must be omnipotent, nor have you shown why it is absolutely certain that he must be good.

    I didn’t say that it was self-evidently true that God must be omnipotent and good. I said that it could be demonstrated with an argument. I didn’t say that I HAD demonstrated it with an argument. I was providing a brief summary of what kind of argument I would make. Again, your ignorance about the difference between a self-evident truth and a rational argument make it impossible for me to communicate with you.

  440. StephenB,

    Don’t ignore my previous comment:

    StephenB,

    It’s pretty clear where all of this is headed.

    You claim that there are self-evident truths. By that, you mean that they seem obvious to you — no evidence or argument required.

    How do you get from “self-evident” to “absolutely certain”?

  441. keiths: “How do you get from “self-evident” to “absolutely certain”?

    A self-evident truth is defined as one about which we can be absolutely certain.

  442. @Barb

    Everything you have posted so far is very atheistic in tone. I see very little evidence of theism in your worldview

    Theism and materialism (not applied to origins) are not contradictory in any way.

    A smart person weighs the pros and cons before making a choice

    So only smart people have free will and the rest doesn’t?

    Also, can you be sure that the process of “weighing pros and cons” does not depend on the way your neurons are connected in your brain?

    Other than their background? Education, as I mentioned in the other thread. You completely ignored this point, as it contradicted your belief of not having free will. But education definitely affects a person’s behavior.

    Education IS part of the background. Education by parents, teachers, friends and strangers also. Every interaction with another human being serves to educate ourselves on moral issues, especially when we’re young and learn by imitation. Sometimes the people kids grow up with are not good role models and they learn twisted morals, is that the kids fault?

    Not everyone has the chance to have a good moral education, do those unlucky people escape judgment by God?
    Or are you going to imagine an hypothetical scenario were even those people learn the right morals (from who?) and hence should also be held accountable?

    Where’s the EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE that says free will is real?

    Right here. I am choosing to respond to your post. I don’t have to. I can certainly do other things. But I have a choice and I am making it. Free will in action.

    You assume the conclusion again….fallacy of presumption.

    Don’t you realize that everytime I ask you for EVIDENCE on free will you ALWAYS bring the same circular argument?

    Your whole argument is “if I can make a choice, I have free will”. “I’m making choices, therefore I have free will”. Why do you fail to see that one thing does NOT imply the other?

    How does the existence of white crows contradict observation? Wouldn’t it suggest that you are seeing a new species, or a variation of a species that currently exists? How is that irrational?

    It was a metaphor. Jeez… I thought it was obvious…

    See your arguments:

    Choosing implies free will is my definition, not my assumption. How do you know (with absolute certainty!) that it’s not a universal fact outside of my head? Are people making choices today? Did you?

    You assume again that choosing = free will as the conclusion, and then use it as an argument to prove that choosing = free will. Circular reasoning…

    But I don’t believe it’s illusory. I believe that God created us as free moral agents.

    Your opinion. No evidence-based arguments here.

    Humans also differ from animals who are subject to instincts and the vicissitudes of their environment.

    Your opinion. No evidence-based arguments here.

    No, our feelings don’t have to correspond to reality. But I do feel free to make choices, and I do make choices. That is free will. I am a free moral agent.

    Your opinion. No evidence-based arguments here.

    The evidence does suggest this (free will), but you simply refuse to acknowledge that it does.

    Explain how evidence leads to free will. And you can’t use circular reasoning this time (“choosing means free will therefore choosing implies free will”), you have to show empirical evidence that our brain-based behaviour/personality is actually independent from the physical constrainsts of the brain itself.

    That our personalities, conciousness and behaviour depend on the condition of our brain is undeniable (we lose conciousness when getting hit hard in the head, also brain disorders are known to cause changes in behaviour, so our behaviour DOES exist physically in our brain, in fact the frontal lobe is especially important regarding behaviour). And if our behaviour exists physically in our brain and networks of neurons, then that means it’s affected by the physical laws that also govern the brain and neurons. And therefore choices are born from the outcome of the physical laws that govern our brain and neurons.

    Please show empirical evidence (not an opinion) that the above paragraph/argument is false.

    And as an extra: Do you actually believe that the condition of our brain does not determine our behaviour and our conciousness?

  443. keiths:

    How do you get from “self-evident” to “absolutely certain”?

    StephenB:

    A self-evident truth is defined as one about which we can be absolutely certain.

    I disagree with that definition, but let’s run with it.

    Given that you identify these absolutely certain self-evident truths using your fallible mind, how do you know that you’ve identified them correctly? A fallible mind can be mistaken, after all.

  444. keiths:

    Whether anyone has ever been or could ever be absolutely certain of something is not the issue. It’s whether you, me, DonaldM, etc., can legitimately claim absolute certainty of anything. You and I agree that we can’t, because the “sly demon” is a possiblity.

    I actually think that an omnipotent God cannot bestow absolute certainty upon us, even if he wants to. I’ll comment on that later, but it is irrelevant to the original question, which was whether we, on this thread, could justify any claim of absolute certainty.

    We can’t.

    You don’t know that. The best you can say is that you can’t. And I can say that I can’t at this moment, but believe it is an open possibility that I may be able to make a legitimate claim of absolute certainty at some point in the future. There is no warrant for going beyond these claims to universal statements about what others can or cannot experience.

  445. Phinehas,

    To make a legitimate claim of absolute certainty, you have to know that it is impossible for you to be mistaken.

    Since you acknowledge that your mind is currently fallible, how can you ever get to the point where you “know that is it impossible for you to be mistaken”?

    Any argument or experience that persuades you of that impossibility might be mistaken.

  446. keiths:

    If the Gestapo is at the door and Anne Frank is in the attic, isn’t deception a good thing in those circumstances?

    I’m not absolutely certain about this. :)

    The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom tells of an interesting incident regarding her sister. Corrie’s sister felt that it was wrong to lie to anyone, even the Gestapo. On one occasion, a number of Jews were hidden beneath a trap door on which a rug and dinner table had been placed. When the Gestapo came to the house and questioned Corrie’s sister, she felt she had to tell them the truth. “Yes, we are hiding Jews here,” she admitted, “They are under the table.” The Gestapo took up positions around the table, grabbed the table cloth, and yanked it off. Corrie’s sister, feeling relieved and overwhelmed by the absurdity of the situation, burst out laughing. Disgusted, chagrined, and embarrassed, and thinking they were being played for fools, the Gestapo stormed out of the house without even finishing their search.

  447. Phinehas,

    That’s a great story. I wouldn’t count on that tactic working every time, however!

    Also, you could argue that she was still deceiving the Gestapo. She knew that they had a false belief about what she had said, and she did nothing to correct it.

    She didn’t deliberately make a false statement, but she did allow a false impression to stand.

  448. keiths:

    Since you acknowledge that your mind is currently fallible, how can you ever get to the point where you “know that is it impossible for you to be mistaken”?

    How can you expect me to answer for the methods and capabilities of an omnipotent and omniscient God? How could I say with any certainty what He could and could not accomplish? How could I ever get to the point where I would know that it is impossible for me to be absolutely certain?

    Any argument or experience that persuades you of that impossibility might be mistaken.

    If the argument or experience was crafted by an omniscient and omnipotent God who had the interest and ability to communicate something to me with absolute certainty, then it would be impossible to be mistaken. And if an omnipotent and omniscient God set out to persuade me of something, how could I avoid being persuaded even if I wanted to?

  449. Onlookers:

    Notice, the KS word games continue, despite having had every opportunity to get basics straight. (In short, he is trying to rehash grounds already long since cogently answered.)

    A self evident truth, per common usage in phil, is one that on our understanding it in light of our experience of ourselves in our world as going concerns, we see that it is so — accurate to reality — and that it must be so, on pain of patent (not subtle, hard to show) absurdity on attempting to deny it.

    For instance, take Royce’s proposition: error exists.

    It is so by common consent, with painful memories of primary school classes with sums marked with big red X’s to underscore.

    But it is also undeniably so.

    Symbolise it as E and try to pose its denial NOT-E. Join with AND, the result (E AND NOT-E) is necessarily false, and so a case of an error.

    To try to deny its truth leads straight to absurdity.

    2 + 3 = 5 is of like order, and so forth.

    In terms of worldview foundational utility — what KS is trying to divert us from — we can start from the bright red ball on the table of some weeks ago, and the identity cluster that is immediately evident once we see the world-partition: { A | NOT-A }

    Similarly, it is self evident that one the ball is there, we may apply the principle of sufficient reason ans ask why, leading to the issue of the dichotomy: { contingent being | necessary being } and the principle of cause and effect, also — a point where KS seems to run into patent absurdities — the meaning of nothing: NON BEING.

    Cf here on in context for more.

    KF

  450. keiths:

    Also, you could argue that she was still deceiving the Gestapo. She knew that they had a false belief about what she had said, and she did nothing to correct it.

    I’m not certain she didn’t try. I don’t remember all of the details and it has been 30 years since I read the book, but I can certainly imagine her telling them, while trying to control her laughter, “No! Really! There’s a trap door beneath the table,” as they stormed out. “I’m being serious! There are Jews down there!” may well have been ringing in their reddening ears as they walked away.

    You see, an omnipotent and omniscient God can be a game-changer, even when you are doing your best to be honest and leaving the results totally up to Him.

  451. KF,

    You’re repeating the mistake of several people who have preceded you in this thread.

    All of the arguments you mention, including Royce’s, depend on logic. As I wrote to StephenB:

    I agree that if

    a) we could be absolutely certain that the rules of logic were correct; and
    b) we could be absolutely sure that we were applying them correctly; and
    c) we could be absolutely certain that our premises were correct; then

    d) we could be absolutely certain of our conclusions.

    The problem, of course, is that we can’t be absolutely certain of a), b), and c), because we know we are cognitively fallible.

  452. KF,

    I presented my argument earlier in the thread. Can you identify a flaw in it?

    In the hopes of making some progress in this thread, let me lay out my argument systematically, with numbered statements, so that it will be easier for people to specify exactly what they disagree with and why.

    1. It’s possible that God exists. (or Satan, or demons, etc.)

    2. If God (or Satan, etc.) exists, then it is possible that he has the power to deceive us.

    3. If he has the power to deceive us, then he might be exercising that power at any particular time.

    4. Being human, we cannot reliably determine when he is deceiving us and when he isn’t.

    5. Any particular thought we have might coincide with a time when God/Satan/the demon is deceiving us.

    6. Thus, any particular thought might be mistaken.

    7. If we claim to be absolutely certain of something that isn’t true, we have erred.

    8. Therefore we should never claim absolute certainty for a thought that might be mistaken.

    9. Since any particular thought might be mistaken (by #6), we should never claim absolute certainty for any thought.

    Note that this argument can also be made simply by appealing to the imperfection of human cognition, but it’s more fun this way.

    Also note that the argument applies to atheists and theists equally. Atheists don’t think there is a God, of course, but it is still possible that there is a God, and possibility is all that is necessary for the argument to work.

  453. Phinehas,

    I can certainly imagine her telling them, while trying to control her laughter, “No! Really! There’s a trap door beneath the table,” as they stormed out. “I’m being serious! There are Jews down there!” may well have been ringing in their reddening ears as they walked away.

    She also could have reached down and opened the trap door for them herself. I suspect that she deliberately chose not to, and of course, she was absolutely right not to, even though that left the Gestapo officers with a false impression.

    She really did allow a falsehood to stand, and good for her! Deception was morally correct under the circumstances.

  454. 455

    Keiths

    BTW I am still waiting.

    your mind is currently fallible

    Doesn’t matter I am absolutely certain that cognitive activity is present.

    Let me remind you what you said.

    Keiths

    My COGNITION is imperfect,

    Vivid

  455. Phinehas,

    If the argument or experience was crafted by an omniscient and omnipotent God who had the interest and ability to communicate something to me with absolute certainty, then it would be impossible to be mistaken. And if an omnipotent and omniscient God set out to persuade me of something, how could I avoid being persuaded even if I wanted to?

    He could make you feel absolutely certain of something that is actually true, but I maintain that this is not suffient for you to be absolutely certain.

    You may have seen the common philosophical definition of knowledge as “justified true belief”. An omnipotent God could make you certain of something that is true, but the justification has to come from you. And since you aren’t absolutely certain that God isn’t deceiving you (or that he is even good in the first place), you can’t justify the feeling of absolute certainty that he places in your mind.

    Anyway, the point is moot because everyone commenting on this thread is fallible. None of us can justifiably claim absolute certainty.

  456. keiths

    I disagree with that definition, but let’s run with it.

    A self-evident truth is defined as one about which we cannot be mistaken. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with that definition or not.

    Given that you identify these absolutely certain self-evident truths using your fallible mind, how do you know that you’ve identified them correctly? A fallible mind can be mistaken, after all.

    Its self-evident nature is not necessarily obvious in an immediate sense. It becomes self evident when we inspect the terms of the premise. It is not, for example, necessarily obvious that every contingent being needs a cause until, on closer inspection, we come to realize that contingent means dependent and dependent beings must be dependent on something else (a cause). Just because something is self-evident doesn’t mean that we don’t have to first think about it.

    At this point, I am going to stop answering questions and return to one of my own:

    Earlier, I wrote:

    SB: How certain are you that your logic is correct? Are you almost totally certain, somewhat certain, or barely certain? Why is it one level of certitude and not another? If not total certitude, then why any certitude at all?

    You responded,

    Quite certain. The evidence is that it seems to work very well.

    As I pointed out, we cannot confirm or judge the law of non-contradiction by appealing to evidence. It is a first principle. It is the thing by which we judge evidence.

    Under that same misconception, you again wrote this:

    It’s possible that it works well despite being wrong, but that seems less likely than the hypothesis that it works well because it is actually right (or close to being right).

    Again, you cannot test a self-evident principle as if it was a hypothesis. It cannot be nullified or affirmed.
    So both of your answers (evidence supports it, or “it works”) were not relevant. The LNC is logically prior to both considerations and cannot be confirmed by them.

    How, then, can you be “quite certain” that your logic (based on LNC) is correct when evidence cannot confirm or negate the LNC. Why are you not just “barely certain,” or “somewhat certain,” or for that matter, “absolutely certain.” Why one level of certitude and not another? If not total certitude, then why any certitude at all? Why is the term “quite certain” anything other than an arbitrary standard with no rationale behind it?

  457. KS: as usual, a strawman, on a red herring tangent, no point in wasting time on it sine you will only try to trumpet it as not corrected. You are completely untrustworthy in discussion, and have forfeited being taken as anything but an ideologue. If someone else wants to waste time on a point by point, let him. Look instead at case study 1, error exists, see what happens when you deny it: you only show that it is undeniably, certainly and patently true. And (bringing it home to your attempt) if some demon were deceiving us, we would be in error, which would make error exists true. In short, error exists is an undeniably, absolutely true and warranted to certainty claim. Just, you do not wish to address it. KF

  458. 459

    Keiths

    Anyway, the point is moot because everyone commenting on this thread is fallible. None of us can justifiably claim absolute certainty.

    Yes I can and I am. We are going on four days since I wrote post 215 and still no answer. Here it is again.

    You make the same error again and again in your comment.

    Its a statement of fact which you have not refuted. Ya see Keith just because you say so doesn’t make it so. I do understand that those with inflated ego’s sometimes find that hard to accept but facts are facts except in your case I suppose when facts are and are not facts.

    You think you think you are right but you may be wrong and I am supposed to accept your argument even though you are not 100% certain it is a correct argument. Tell me Keith what is factually incorrect?

    A good argument is still good even if it isn’t absolutely certain. I am making a good argument for why absolute certainty is a mistake. You are making a poor argument for why absolute certainty is justified.

    You still don’t get it. You can’t make an argument that demonstrates that I am not absolutely certain that “I” think “I” think “I” am typing this. Furthermore the arguments you do make are incoherent and self refuting. Regardless there is no argument coherent or otherwise that you can think of that can do such a thing. It is what I think I think I am experiencing. Cognitive activity is present. You cannot speak to that. You can only speak for yourself.

    Nor have you been able to substantiate your statement regarding my response to Phineas. You said I was attempting to make a logical argument for the umpteenth time what logical argument?

    Then you claimed

    Here is my argument. If my position is incorrect, as you claim,

    I asked you where I made such a claim still no answer. When can I expect some answers?

    Vivid

  459. KF,

    The rules of logic were codified by fallible human minds. Therefore it is not absolutely certain that they are correct. How could it be?

    I like Royce’s argument, but it does depend on logic, and we cannot be absolutely certain that the rules of logic are correct, nor that we are applying them infallibly.

  460. vividbleau, click here.

  461. StephenB,

    A self-evident truth is defined as one about which we cannot be mistaken.

    By that definition, you must first determine that you cannot be mistaken about an idea before you declare it to be “self-evident”.

    How do you determine that you cannot be mistaken about an idea?

  462. He could make you feel absolutely certain of something that is actually true, but I maintain that this is not suffient for you to be absolutely certain.

    You do not know that it is impossible for an omnipotent and omniscient God to make anyone be absolutely certain.

    You may have seen the common philosophical definition of knowledge as “justified true belief”. An omnipotent God could make you certain of something that is true, but the justification has to come from you. And since you aren’t absolutely certain that God isn’t deceiving you (or that he is even good in the first place), you can’t justify the feeling of absolute certainty that he places in your mind.

    You have no warrant for claiming that an omnipotent and omniscient God could only make someone feel absolutely certain, but could not cause them to be absolutely certain. You have no warrant to claim that an omniscient and omnipotent God’s justification of a true belief is somehow not as sufficient as your own. You have no warrant to assume that God cannot make you as absolutely certain that He is good and that He is not deceiving you as easily as He could make you absolutely certain of anything else.

    Anyway, the point is moot because everyone commenting on this thread is fallible. None of us can justifiably claim absolute certainty.

    The point is only moot if our fallibility can trump the omniscience and omnipotence of God, and you have no warrant whatsoever for concluding that this is so. You are merely assuming your conclusions.

  463. StephenB,

    How, then, can you be “quite certain” that your logic (based on LNC) is correct when evidence cannot confirm or negate the LNC.

    I think the LNC is correct (at least in most applications), and I use it all the time. I just don’t believe that it is absolutely certain.

    Why are you not just “barely certain,” or “somewhat certain,” or for that matter, “absolutely certain.” Why one level of certitude and not another? If not total certitude, then why any certitude at all? Why is the term “quite certain” anything other than an arbitrary standard with no rationale behind it?

    I already answered this:

    Quite certain. The evidence is that it seems to work very well. It’s possible that it works well despite being wrong, but that seems less likely than the hypothesis that it works well because it is actually right (or close to being right).

  464. Phinehas,

    There are certain things that an omnipotent God cannot do, like the classic example of “making a rock so heavy he cannot lift it.”

    I think that God cannot make someone be absolutely certain (as opposed to making them feel absolutely certain), because to make someone be certain is logically impossible from the outside, even for an omnipotent God. The justification has to happen on the inside, or it isn’t really justification.

    As I said:

    You may have seen the common philosophical definition of knowledge as “justified true belief”. An omnipotent God could make you certain of something that is true, but the justification has to come from you. And since you aren’t absolutely certain that God isn’t deceiving you (or that he is even good in the first place), you can’t justify the feeling of absolute certainty that he places in your mind.

  465. 466

    Keiths re 461

    This is boring. If you can’t address my arguments, that’s fine. I’ll ignore you and respond to the people who can.

    This is nothing but a bald assertion but can be easily refuted by you. It was you that claimed that I said your argument was wrong so just link to the post where I said your argument was wrong. How hard could that be? Obviously if I addressed your argument and claimed you were wrong you should be able to try to counter this claim so where did I make such a claim?

    Vivid

  466. SB: A self-evident truth is defined as one about which we cannot be mistaken.

    keiths:

    By that definition, you must first determine that you cannot be mistaken about an idea before you declare it to be “self-evident”.

    No, you don’t need to do that at all. A definition is not an argument nor is it ever put forward as one. To clarify terms is not to argue. You don’t have to determine anything to define your terms. You are making too many basic mistakes and I don’t want to spend all my time correcting them.

    At this point, you do not yet understand the difference between a definition, a first principle, and an argument. I don’t think I can work with that kind of confusion.

    Also, you avoided my question. Both of your answers (evidence supports it, or “it works”) were not relevant to the question about your rationale for saying that you are “quite certain” about logic and the LNC. The LNC is logically prior to both considerations and cannot be confirmed by them.

    How, then, can you be “quite certain” that your logic (based on LNC) is correct when evidence cannot confirm or negate the LNC. Why are you not just “barely certain,” or “somewhat certain,” or for that matter, “absolutely certain.” Why one level of certitude and not another? If not total certitude, then why any certitude at all? Why is the term “quite certain” anything other than an arbitrary standard with no rationale behind it?

  467. StephenB:

    A definition is not an argument nor is it ever put forward as one. To clarify terms is not to argue. You don’t have to determine anything to define your terms.

    Stephen,

    Do you really think that a rational person will accept the LNC as absolutely certain merely because you say that it is self-evident, that self-evident claims cannot be mistaken, and that self-evident claims do not require justification?

    You are making too many basic mistakes and I don’t want to spend all my time correcting them.

    Yeah, that’s the problem. I’m making too many basic mistakes. :)

  468. 469

    Keiths let me try to communicate in away that even you might understand. A leap of faith on my part for sure.

    In one breath you say “This is boring. If you can’t address my arguments, that’s fine” Here you are saying I did not address your argument.

    Then in the next breath you say”If my position is incorrect, as you claim,” Here you are saying I did address your argument.

    Which statement is correct?

    Vivid

  469. 470

    Do you really think that a rational person will accept the LNC as absolutely certain merely because you say that it is self-evident, that self-evident claims cannot be mistaken, and that self-evident claims do not require justification?

    Keiths so how would StephenB or you for that matter determine who is correct?

    Please do not refer me to your “argument” presented on 342 which you say I claimed that you are wrong about. This issue is more fundamental. How does one adjudicate which argument is correct or incorrect?

    Vivid

  470. keiths

    Do you really think that a rational person will accept the LNC as absolutely certain merely because you say that it is self-evident, that self-evident claims cannot be mistaken, and that self-evident claims do not require justification?

    If I asked any rational person if it is possible for Jupiter to exist and not exist that the same time and in the same sense, he would look at me and say, “Are you crazy? Of course not.” If I followed up and said, “Are you sure?” He would say, “Absolutely. Aren’t you?”

  471. SB: What is plainly on display is the degree to which he modern or is that ultra-modern, a priori evolutionary materialism driven mindset is hostile to reason.

    Which is exactly what Plato warned against in The Laws, Bk X, 2350 years ago:

    Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors: (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

    [[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny], and not in legal subjection to them.

    Dressing up this old and irretrievably self referentially incoherent worldview in a shiny new lab coat does not change its basic incoherence and amorality.

    If we have someone who cannot look through a telescope and see Jupiter and recognise that it cannot be and not be there in the same sense and circumstances, is not someone whose judgement can be trusted on any matter of substance, much less on delicate matters of truth, justice and morality.

    But so far gone are we as a civilisation, that we find it hard to make that common sense conclusion.

    If we are to save the day, ere it be lost irretrievably, we must.

    KF

  472. 473
    Barry Arrington

    In 469 vividbleau points to two contradictory statements by keiths and asks: “Which statement is correct?”

    Silly vividbleau. Keiths has pronounced himself free from the law of noncontradiction when it suits him. See, for example, his comment 464 where he says its application is not absolute. By definition, if the LNC is not absolute it must admit of some exceptions. This must be one of them.

    Let us say the first of keiths’ statement to which you refer is proposition A and the second is –A (not A). Keiths appears to be comfortable affirming A and –A at the same time. Don’t you see? It is keiths’ special gift to be free from the rules of logic.

  473. keiths:

    I think that God cannot make someone be absolutely certain (as opposed to making them feel absolutely certain), because to make someone be certain is logically impossible from the outside, even for an omnipotent God. The justification has to happen on the inside, or it isn’t really justification.

    You have no warrant for claiming that an omnipotent God cannot cause real justification to happen from the outside, and you certainly have no warrant to suppose that God doesn’t exist on the inside just as much as on the outside, in which case the justification would take place on the inside. (Such a view is actually quite traditional and biblical.) You may think that God cannot make someone be absolutely certain, but you are not even close to demonstrating that such a thing is logically implausible, let alone impossible.

    You appear to be grasping at straws at this point. Don’t you think it is time to abandon your certainty about what an omniscient and omnipotent God cannot accomplish in His creations when it comes to epistemology?

  474. Barry

    Don’t you see? It is keiths’ special gift to be free from the rules of logic.

    Barry you are correct. All of Keiths arguments boil down to nothing more than an argument from authority. However I am very much interested in in what Keiths thinks make one argument correct and another argument incorrect. After all he keeps asking this

    I presented my argument earlier in the thread. Can you identify a flaw in it

    Although his argument is irrelevant to my position, maybe not to others, how would we go about identifying if it is flawed? I am very much interested in hearing from him how we can determine if it is correct or not?

    However Keiths will not engage me. While I have you here I would like to ask you a question. I have been a sporadic lurker to this site and only recently been an active participant. Have you ever known Keiths to ignore anyone? I mean it looks like he participates on every thread but I am the only one he seems to ignore is that unusual in your experience with him? Thanks in advance.

    Vivid

  475. Actually I would like to ask anyone who has been an active participant or long time lurker to this site the same question I asked Barry.

    While I have you here I would like to ask you a question. I have been a sporadic lurker to this site and only recently been an active participant. Have you ever known Keiths to ignore anyone? I mean it looks like he participates on every thread but I am the only one he seems to ignore is that unusual in your experience with him? Thanks in advance.

    Vivid

  476. Barry Arrington,

    It is keiths’ special gift to be free from the rules of logic.

    And so Barry joins the long list of commenters who (at least initially) fail to notice the difference between:

    a) the rules of logic don’t apply; and
    b) I can’t be absolutely certain that the rules of logic are correct.

    Barry, perhaps you can be the one who finds a flaw in my argument. Give it a whirl.

  477. vividbleau, see this.

  478. 479

    Keiths

    vividbleau, see this.

    You keep referring me to the post where you write “This is boring. If you can’t address my arguments, that’s fine. I’ll ignore you and respond to the people who can”

    Now what prompted the above was my request for you to show me where I made certain statements that I called you out on. Statements I never made. I asked you in so many words to put up or shut up. It is becoming apparent that when you are caught in the act of proffering falsehoods you go running home to mommy. “Mommy, mommy, he is so mean to me he actually want me to back up what I said about him. He is stammer stammer so mean mommy what should I do”

    Keiths mom “Oh don’t worry dear baby come sit by me and I will tell you a story.Once upon a time we had a President by the name of Richard Nixon who was getting his assed kick fighting a war in Vietnam. He was consumed about his image and winning the war but the war was unwinnable. He was very egotistical and the thought of defeat sickened him but he came up with a brilliant plan. He decided to declare victory and brought all the troops home. Now Keith my little baby just do the same to that mean ole Vivid who actually expects answers to your claims. Do what tricky Dick did just declare victory and ignore him. Doing this will also stop the ass kickin you have been getting. So now that I have told you what to do can Mommy make you a little hot milk and some cookies?

    And that is why you have put me on ignore. Your ass is getting kicked up and down this thread and you want to ignore me, declare victory, and beat a hasty retreat to mommy.

    Vivid

  479. vividbleau,

    Dude, you’re taking this way too seriously. Get a grip on yourself.

    If you engage my argument, I’ll happily respond to you. Otherwise, I’ll continue to ignore you.

    That’s it.

  480. 481

    Dude, you’re taking this way too seriously. Get a grip on yourself,

    Another of one of your standard lines when you really have nothing to say.

    If you engage my argument, I’ll happily respond to you. Otherwise, I’ll continue to ignore you.

    According to you I have already engaged your argument don’t you remember? So why are you ignoring me?

    Vivid

  481. Phinehas:

    You have no warrant for claiming that an omnipotent God cannot cause real justification to happen from the outside, and you certainly have no warrant to suppose that God doesn’t exist on the inside just as much as on the outside, in which case the justification would take place on the inside. (Such a view is actually quite traditional and biblical.)

    Phinehas,

    Let me make my point more forcefully.

    It’s impossible to verify the reliability of a cognitive system from the inside. Why? Because you have to use the cognitive system itself in order to verify its reliability.

    If the system isn’t reliable, you might mistakenly conclude that it is!

    This even applies to God himself. From the inside, God may think that he’s omniscient and omnipotent. He seems to know everything about reality, and he seems to be able to do anything that is logically possible. But how can he know these things with absolute certainty?

    What if there is a higher-level God, or demon, who is deceiving him into thinking that he’s the master of the universe when he really isn’t? How, for that matter, can God be sure that he isn’t a brain in a vat?

    He can’t. Defining him as omniscient doesn’t help. Like everyone else, he can only try to determine, from the inside, whether his cognitive apparatus is reliable. He can never be absolutely sure that he isn’t being fooled, or fooling himself.

  482. F/N: If you have someone who when it suits him, will declare exceptions to the principles of right reason (and refuses to accept that self evidence is just what it says), how can you actually show flaws in his case that he will acknowledge?

    ANS: As we have already seen with KS, he will simply declare that you have not answered his case, and keep on saying it as if saying that the tail of a sheep is a fifth leg makes it so. (As Lincoln famously observed: a tail of a sheep simply has not got the same nature as its legs and cannot function as such.)

    In short, we see yet another underlying problem with KS and ilk. Only a political, power based decision counts with them, in the end, only force they cannot overcome.

    This is nihilism of the worst sort.

    As Plato warned against long ago in The Laws Bk X.

    Which warning of course is being studiously ignored.

    KF

  483. KF,

    I accept the rules of logic. I’m just not absolutely certain of them.

    What you and Barry have failed to notice is that I have not abandoned the rules of logic in order to make my argument. To the contrary, I have used the rules of logic to show that they cannot be validated with absolute certainty!

    There is nothing incoherent about that. I am simply saying that if logic happens to be correct, then it shows that we cannot be absolutely certain of its correctness. If logic happens to be incorrect, then we also (obviously) cannot be absolutely certain of its correctness.

    Either way, we cannot be absolutely certain that the rules of logic are correct.

    If you disagree, then your challenge is to show, in a non-circular way, that absolute certainty is warranted.

    I don’t believe that you can, because as I just explained to Phinehas, you can’t establish the absolute reliability of a cognitive system from the inside.

  484. F/N 2: Studiously ignored, yet again, that error exists is undeniably true. This key example from Royce demonstrates by direct example that which KS imagines is impossible, is real. But since KS refuses to be ruled by reason’s principles, he wants to have his way regardless. (He can only be restrained by superior force: might/manipulation make ‘right,’ a warning on nihilism and machiavellianism.)

    Let me clip, just for record:

    consider Josiah Royce’s subtle but simple claim: error exists.

    To try to deny it only ends up giving an instance of its truth; it is undeniably true.

    Let’s zoom in a bit (using mostly glorified common sense “deduction” and a light dusting of symbols), as this will help us understand the roots of reasoning and reasonableness. As we have stressed, this is back to roots, back to sources, back to foundations. So, in steps of thought:

    1: Let us take up, Royce’s Error exists, and symbolise it: E. (Where the denial would be NOT-E, ~E. Error does not exist, in plain English.)

    2: Attempt a conjunction: { E AND ~E }

    3: We have here mutually exclusive, opposed and exhaustive claims that address the real world joined together in a way that tries to say both are so.

    4: Common sense, based on wide experience and our sense of how things are and can or cannot be — to be further analysed below, yielding three key first principles of right reason — tells us that, instead:

    (a) this conjunction { E AND ~E } must be false (so that the CONJUNCTION is a definite case of an error), and that

    (b) its falsity being relevant to one of the claims,

    (c) we may readily identify that the false one is ~E. Which means:

    ______________________________________

    (d) E is true and is undeniably true. (On pain of a breach of common sense.)

    5: So, E is true, is known to be true once we understand it and is undeniably true on pain of patent — obvious, hard to deny — self contradiction.

    6: It is therefore self evident.

    7: It is warranted as reliably true, indeed to demonstrative certainty.

    8: Where, E refers to the real world of things as such.

    9: It is a case of absolute, objective, certainly known truth; a case of certain knowledge. “Justified, true belief,” nothing less.

    10: It is also a matter of widely observed fact — starting with our first school exercises with sums and visions of red X’s — confirming the accuracy of a particular consensus of experience.

    11: So, here we have a certainly known case of truth existing as that which accurately refers to reality.

    12: Also, a case of knowledge existing as warranted, credibly true beliefs, in this case to certainty.

    13: Our ability to access truth and knowledge about the real, extra-mental world by experience, reasoning and observation is confirmed in at least one pivotal case.

    14: Contemporary worldviews — their name is Legion — that would deny, deride or dismiss such [including the point that there are such things as self evident truths that relate to the real world], are thence shown to be factually inadequate and incoherent. They are unable to explain reality.

    15: Such worldviews are, as a bloc, falsified by this one key point. They are unreasonable. (And yes, I know this may be hard to accept, but if your favoured system contradicts soundly established facts and/or truths, it is seriously defective.)

    16: Of course the truth in question is particularly humbling and a warning on the limits of our knowledge and the gap between belief and truth or even ability to formulate a logical assertion and truth.

    17: So, we need to be humble, and — contrary to assertions about how insisting on such objectivity manifests “arrogance” and potentially oppressive “intolerance” – the first principles of right reason (implicit in the above, to be drawn out below) allow us to humbly, honestly test our views so that we can identify when we have gone off the rails and to in at least some cases confirm when our confidence is well grounded.

    So — while we can be mistaken about it — truth exists and we can in some cases confidently know it on pain of absurdity if we try to deny it. In particular, it is well warranted and credibly true beyond reasonable doubt or dispute that error exists. Truth therefore exists, and knowledge — i.e. the set of warranted, credibly true [and reliable] claims — also exists. (As noted already, but it bears repeating as it is hard for some to accept: this cuts a wide swath across many commonly encountered worldview ideas of our time; such as, the idea that there is no truth beyond what seems true to you or me, or that we cannot know the truth on important matters beyond conflicting opinions.)

    So, what we do is we stand our ground, we expose the unreasonableness of the evolutionary materialism we confront — including both its self refutation and its amorality that invites nihilism — and we refuse to give those who take up such self refuting error a free pass.

    KS is in no position to demand warrant as he refuses to acknowledge the basis for warrant.

    He is unreasonable, and that is that.

    Instead, we must point out the unreasonableness and where it leads: irrationality cloaking itself in the lab coat, demanding its way by whatever balance of power, perceptions and misrepresentations of reality it is able to manipulate into place, and yielding only to superior force.

    Irrationality and self-willed amorality opening the door to nihilism, ruthless dark triad factions and chaos.

    It is time to wake up to what we have let in the gates of the city, and fight for the survival of our civilisation.

    Burying our heads in the sand at this point (actually, ostriches are only listening to the drumming of hoof beats through the ground, the better to take warning; even as Dietrich used to listen out for Russian tanks on the Steppes . . . and yes, this is learn a lesson from a rogue) only makes it easier for them to be cut off.

    KF

  485. KS, Don’t play silly word games. If you refuse to accept self evidently true principles of right reason that are the basis for reason, as so, nothing reasonable can reach you when it suits you. You have abandoned reason itself. Period. KF

  486. KF:

    F/N 2: Studiously ignored, yet again, that error exists is undeniably true. This key example from Royce demonstrates by direct example that which KS imagines is impossible, is real.

    I haven’t ignored it. I addressed it directly, and you are “studiously ignoring” that fact:

    I like Royce’s argument, but it does depend on logic, and we cannot be absolutely certain that the rules of logic are correct, nor that we are applying them infallibly.

    KF:

    You have abandoned reason itself.

    Well, if The Great Kairosfocus says so, it must be true.

    Never mind that I have presented a detailed, logical argument that The Great Kairosfocus cannot refute.

  487. F/N 3: On the self evident first principles, again — we have already been over this ground ad nauseum in recent weeks, I simply note here for record for onlookers. KS is impervious to reason wen it does not suit him, as a part of the irrational ideology he has clung to and dressed up in the lab coat.

    Of course, KS will find some excuse or another to duck and dodge the below, so this is for record.

    Clipping in continuation:

    Similarly, though it is quite unfashionable to seriously say such nowadays (an indictment of our times . . .), to try to deny the classic three basic principles of right reason — the law of identity, that of non-contradiction, and that of the excluded middle — inevitably ends up in absurdity.

    For, to think at all, we must be able to distinguish things (or else all would be confusion and chaos), and these laws immediately follow from that first act of thought.

    A diagram showing the world split into two distinct labelled parts, A and NOT-A . . . or we could symbolise { A | NOT-A } . . . will help us see how naturally this happens once we can recognise some distinct entity A:

    [a bright red ball on a table | the rest of the world }

    If at a given moment we distinctly recognise, identify and label some thing, A -- say, a bright red ball on a table -- we mark a mental border-line and also necessarily identify NOT-A as "the rest of the World." We thus have a definite separation of the World into two parts, and it immediately and undeniably holds from such a world partition that:

    (a) the part labelled A will be A (symbolically, [A => A] = 1),

    (b) A will not be the same as NOT-A ( [A AND NOT-A] = 0); and

    (c) there is no third option to being A or NOT-A ( [A OR NOT-A] = 1). For those who need it, to be clearer about the significance of the dichotomy in World, W = { A | NOT-A }, let’s instead explicitly use the Exclusive OR, AUT not VEL: [A Ex-OR NOT-A] = 1. That is A, or not A but not a third option such as A AND NOT-A, and no fourth such as neither A nor NOT-A.

    So, we see how naturally the laws of (a) identity, (b) non-contradiction (or, non-confusion!), and (c) the excluded middle swing into action.

    This naturalness also extends to the world of statements that assert that something is true or false, as we may see from Aristotle’s classic remark in his Metaphysics 1011b (loading the 1933 English translation):

    . . . if it is impossible at the same time to affirm and deny a thing truly, it is also impossible for contraries to apply to a thing at the same time; either both must apply in a modified sense, or one in a modified sense and the other absolutely.

    Nor indeed can there be any intermediate between contrary statements, but of one thing we must either assert or deny one thing, whatever it may be. This will be plain if we first define truth and falsehood. To say that what is is not, or that what is not is, is false; but to say that what is is, and what is not is not, is true; and therefore also he who says that a thing is or is not will say either what is true or what is false. [Emphases added]

    So, we can state the laws in more or less traditional terms, regarding distinct things — objects, phenomena, states of affairs and the like:

    [a'] A distinct thing, A, is what it is (the law of identity);

    [b'] A distinct thing, A, cannot at once be and not-be (the law of non-contradiction);

    [c'] A distinct thing, A, is or it is not, but not both or neither (the law of the excluded middle).

    In short, the diagram helps take the “mystery” out of the laws, showing us why they make sense once we can identify some distinct thing A and mentally mark it off from its context, NOT-A. [Cf. responses to objections here.]

    In 1011b, too, Ari gives us a bonus, by aptly defining truth:

    [def'n. 1, of truth:] to say that what is is, and what is not is not, is true.

    (As a note for logicians who may pass by: we are here specifically speaking with reference to the experienced world of credibly real things, so extensions to empty-set contexts in which questions over contrasted empty sets — that is, quite literally: no-thing — arise, are irrelevant for the moment. That is, we deal here with the classic square of opposition. Then, once we see what follows from dealing with a world of real categories with at least one member each, we may then extend to the case of empty sets and see how much of a difference this possibility makes. Thence the issue that a universal quantification All A is B or No A is B does not have existential import, and the subtlety that an existential quantification, e.g. some x is A, does have existential import.)

    It is worth noting how Wikipedia — speaking against the known general ideological trend of that well known reference site — remarks on these laws, c. Feb 2012, in an article on the laws of thought tracing to Dec 2004:

    The law of non-contradiction and the law of excluded middle are not separate laws per se, but correlates of the law of identity. That is to say, they are two interdependent and complementary principles that inhere naturally (implicitly) within the law of identity, as its essential nature . . . whenever we ‘identify’ a thing as belonging to a certain class or instance of a class, we intellectually set that thing apart from all the other things in existence which are ‘not’ of that same class or instance of a class. In other words, the proposition, “A is A and A is not ~A” (law of identity) intellectually partitions a universe of discourse (the domain of all things) into exactly two subsets, A and ~A, and thus gives rise to a dichotomy. As with all dichotomies, A and ~A must then be ‘mutually exclusive’ and ‘jointly exhaustive’ with respect to that universe of discourse. In other words, ‘no one thing can simultaneously be a member of both A and ~A’ (law of non-contradiction), whilst ‘every single thing must be a member of either A or ~A’ (law of excluded middle).

    What’s more . . . thinking entails the manipulation and amalgamation of simpler concepts in order to form more complex ones, and therefore, we must have a means of distinguishing these different concepts. It follows then that the first principle of language (law of identity) is also rightfully called the first principle of thought, and by extension, the first principle reason (rational thought) . . .

    That is, once we identify something, A, as there or potentially there, we have reason to see that it has an identity, that it is distinct from other things and if it exists it cannot at the same time and sense not exist.

    If A is a unicorn — which does not presently exist in our world [but which, thanks to genetic manipulation probably will within 100 years, at least as a novelty people will be willing to pay good money to see or to own . . . ] then A cannot simultaneously in the same sense not be a unicorn. And that we can recognise that something is NOT a unicorn, does imply that a “unicorn” is a potential thing with distinct identity. That is, it is a possible being with a coherent set of defining attributes, and could be actual. Though presently, it is not.

    We should also note that a fourth key law of sound thought linked quite directly to the above is the principle of sufficient reason , which enfolds the principle of cause and effect.

    Schopenhauer in his Manuscript Remains, Vol. 4, notes that:

    [PSR, strong form:] “Of everything that is, it can be found why it is.”

    This, we may soften slightly into a weak form version that should be unobjectionable to reasonable thinkers, and will prove adequate for our purposes :

    [PSR, weak form:] Of any thing A that is, we may ask, why it is, and expect — or at least hope — to find a reasonable answer.

    The fire tetrahedron (an extension of the classic fire triangle you may have learned about in Boy Scouts or the like . . . ) is a helpful case to study briefly in order to amplify and draw out the surprising force of this sphinx-like riddle:

    { heat + fuel + oxidiser + chain rxn –> fire }

    For a fire to begin or to continue, we need (1) fuel, (2) heat, (3) an oxidiser [usually oxygen] and (4) an un- interfered- with heat-generating chain reaction mechanism. (For, Halon fire extinguishers work by breaking up the chain reaction.)

    Each of the four factors is necessary for, and the set of four are jointly sufficient to begin and sustain a fire. We thus see four contributory factors, each of which is necessary [knock it out and you block or kill the fire], and together they are sufficient for the fire.

    [A lighted match (HT: Gateway Care Training, UK)]

    This may be studied by lighting a match. For instance, strike one, and let it half burn. Then, tilt the head up. Watch the flame fade out for want of an ON/OFF enabling factor, fuel.

    Similarly, if one pulls a second match and instead of wiping on the friction-strike strip, moves it rapidly through the air — much lower friction — it will not light for want of heat. If we were to try to strike a match in pure Nitrogen instead of air, it might flare at first (depending on what is in the head) but the main fuel, wood will not burn for want of a good oxidiser. And so forth. As a similar exercise, one may set a candle stub in a tray of water and light it. Then, put a jar over the candle, such that water can be drawn up into it. After a little while, the candle will go out for want of the oxidiser in air, Oxygen.

    (One should do the actual experiment, at least to the stage of making a match fade out. Many of us will have done this or the like in school.)

    We thus see by definite and instructive example, the principle of cause and effect. That is,

    [d'] if something has a beginning or may cease from being — or, generally it is contingent — it has a cause.

    Common-sense rationality, decision-making and science alike are founded on this principle of right reason: if an event happens, why — and, how? If something begins or ceases to exist, why and how? If something is sustained in existence, what factors contribute to, promote or constrain that effect or process, how?

    The answers to these questions are causes.

    Without the reality behind the concept of cause the very idea of laws of nature would make no sense: events would happen anywhere, anytime, with no intelligible reason or constraint.

    As a direct result, neither rationality nor responsibility would be possible; all would be a confused, unintelligible, unpredictable, uncontrollable chaos with nothing having a stable existence or identity. That is, this principle is directly linked to the identity cluster already outlined. Indeed, it can be noted that if something A is possible, its defining attributes must be coherent, unlike the contradictions between requisites of squarishness and circularity that render a square circle impossible:

    [ A tube can be square one end and circular the other, but not both at the one end]

    Also, since it often comes up, yes: a necessary, ON/OFF enabling causal factor is a causal factor — if there is no fuel, the car cannot go because there is no energy source for the engine. Similarly, without an unstable nucleus or particle, there can be no radioactive decay and without a photon of sufficient energy, there can be no photo-electric emission of electrons: that is, contrary to a common error, quantum mechanical events or effects, strictly speaking, are not cause-less.

    (By the way, the concept of a miracle — something out of the ordinary that is a sign that points to a cause beyond the natural order — in fact depends on there being such a general order in the world. In an unintelligible chaos, there can be no extra-ordinary signposts, as nothing will be ordinary or regular!)

    However, there is a subtle facet to this, one that brings out the other side of the principle of sufficient reason.

    Namely, that there is a possible class of being that does not have a beginning, and cannot go out of existence; such necessary beings are self-sufficient, have no enabling, ON/OFF external necessary causal factors, and as such cannot be blocked from existing. And it is seriously held (on good reason) that once there is a serious candidate to be such a necessary being, if the candidate is not contradictory in itself [i.e. if it is not impossible . . . as a square circle is contradictory as the necessary attributes for something to be squarish and those required for it to be circular stand in mutual contradiction], it will be actual.

    Or, we could arrive at effectively the same point another way, one which brings out what it means to be a serious candidate to be a necessary being:

    If a thing does not exist it is either that it could, but just doesn’t happen to exist, or that it cannot exist because it is a conceptual contradiction, such as square circles, or round triangles and so on. Therefore, if it does exist, it is either that it exists contingently or that it is not contingent but exists necessarily (that is it could not fail to exist without contradiction). [--> The truth reported in "2 + 3 = 5" is a simple case in point; it could not fail without self-contradiction.] These are the four most basic modes of being [--> possible vs impossible and contingent vs non-contingent] and cannot be denied . . . the four modes are the basic logical deductions about the nature of existence.

    That is, since there is no external ON/OFF enabling causal factor, a successful candidate necessary being will exist without a beginning, and cannot cease from existing as one cannot “switch off” a sustaining external factor. Another possibility of course is that such a candidate being is impossible: it cannot be so as there is the sort of inescapable contradiction of defining attributes as is involved in being a proposed square circle.

    So, we have candidates to be necessary beings that may not be possible on pain of contradiction, or else that may not be impossible, equally on pain of contradiction. (Thus, the law of non-contradiction is inextricably entangled into possibility of being, and thence into cause and effect. Attempts to sever the two are wrong-headed and inevitably fail.)

    Of course, something like “a flying spaghetti monster” — which would be built of components and depends on their particular arrangement to be what it would be, is not a serious candidate to be a necessary being. (NB: Such has been suggested in dismissive parody of the iconic creation of Adam that appears in Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel painting. God, of course is symbolised in that painting as an Old Man, the Ancient of Days, but that is just a representation. God is a serious — nay, the most serious — candidate to be a necessary being.)

    In addition, since matter as we know it (such as what goes into spaghetti and noodles as well as eye-stalks and eyes) is contingent, a necessary being will not be material. The likely candidates are: numbers such as 2, abstract, necessarily true propositions and an eternal mind, often brought together by suggesting that such abstract truths or entities are held in and eternally contemplated by such a mind.

    It is worth amplifying the case of 2 and related concepts. Now, for argument consider an empty world. To see how numbers are real in such, consider the well-known empty set, which collects nothing: { }. Then, consider — all of this is a mental, abstract exercise — the following steps:

    i: Assign { } the symbol, 0: { } –> 0

    ii: collect 0 as the sole member of the set 1: { 0 } –> 1

    iii: Similarly, collect to get 2: { 0, 1 } –> 2. The number 2 thus exists without a beginning or cause, nor can it cease from being — it is a necessary being. We cannot create a possible world in which 2 would not exist, given the abstract steps so far!

    iv: This recognition of the reality of numbers can continue indefinitely to yield the Natural Numbers, N.

    *************

    v: For the more mathematically inclined (fair warning . . . !), this can be extended by defining fractions and decimals to express Real and Complex numbers, by setting any real number as being a composite, WHOLE + FRACTION, where:

    Fraction = 0 + b1/10 + b2/100 + b3/1,000 + . . .

    . . . so that we get say 19.79 etc with the usual meanings, and where also we define a complex number c = p + i*q, i being the square root of minus 1 (very useful in Math) and p and q are real numbers. So we can have the complex number 1.978 + i*19.79

    vi: Now i*q is often assigned to a Y-axis and p the X-axis, so that p and i*q can be plotted on the Argand plane. We can then draw a vector r from the origin, to the point defined by the co-ordinates. Then, angles made by such a vector can then be defined relative to the X-axis from the usual trig ratios, and rotations can be defined, introducing time, t. By Pythagoras’ theorem, of course r^2 = p^2 + q^2, defining the magnitude (length) of r. BTW, a rotating vector is called a phasor.

    vii: Similarly, we can extend to three dimensions [using the i, j, k unit vectors along x, y and z axes], and allow a virtual particle p — notice, we are now in the world of contingent possibilities — to traverse on set coherent laws of motion, including introducing mass, force, momentum, energy etc. in what is now a virtual model world.

    viii: Bodies in such a world would be collections of linked particles.

    ix: We now have a three dimensional virtual reality with a physics! (Computer graphics uses techniques related to this outline sketch.)

    x: This can then move to the or a real world by instantiation. This would of course require a creator with the skill, knowledge, intent and power to move from virtual worlds to actual ones.

    An eternal mind that is all-knowing and capable of such contemplation and creation etc, is of course one way of describing God.

    This also brings up a perhaps surprising corollary:

    [Cor:] IF God is a serious candidate necessary being [which is generally granted] THEN, if God is possible, he is actual. That is, the denial of the existence of God [which can be by rhetorical dismissal] in fact implies that one considers God an impossible being. Atheists should note that warranting such a stringent claim entails a pretty serious intellectual responsibility.

    Strange thoughts, perhaps, but not absurd ones.

    So also, if we live in a cosmos that (as the cosmologists tell us) seems — on the cumulative balance of evidence — to have had a beginning, then it too is credibly contingent, thus caused.

    The sheer undeniable actuality of our cosmos then points to the principle that nothingness has no causal powers:

    [e']: from a genuine nothing — NO-Thing or non-being (As Aristotle put it: “what rocks dream of” . . . such have no dreams of course . . . ) — not matter, not energy, not space, not time, not mind etc. — nothing can or will come.

    So then, if we can see things that credibly have had a beginning or may come to an end; in a cosmos of like character, we reasonably and even confidently infer that a necessary being is the ultimate, root-cause of our world; even through suggestions such as a multiverse (which would simply multiply the contingent beings).

    Of course, God is the main candidate to be such a necessary being. (As we saw, truths that are eternal in scope, i.e. true propositions, are another class of candidates, and are classically thought of as being eternally resident in the mind of God.)

    Where of coruse, once we reckon with botht he eternal contemplation of self-evident first principles of reason and the inherently good character of God, we will see that since God is not impossible and is necessary he is real, he will know perfectly, he cannot be deceived and will not fundamentally mislead us.

    But ever the serpent in the garden will plead: “Hath God said?”

    So, with Another in a different garden, let us crush the HEAD of the serpent, knowing the price, the bruised heel.

    Once the snake has come in the gate of the garden, a price will have to be paid.

    KF

  488. PS: It seems KS now wishes to resort to ridiculing the man by way of failing to address the issue on its merits. We can draw the due conclusion that he has shown that for those of his ilk, only might and manipulation make ‘right.’ So, he casts an example of warrant by showing how error exists is not only a gloablly acknowledged fact but is undeniably true on pain of absurdity, into a false projection of egotistical appeal to authority; when in fact it is humility before first principles of right reason and self evident truth, that is the one hope we have to get out of the morass of error that threatens to suck our civilisation down. The blunder of projection and turnabout false accusation [has he not learned that this cheap shot reeks of the fires of 70 years ago that burned down a continent?], should reveal to one and all, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Here, with the voice of the serpent in the garden. KS needs to wake up tot he reality of the poison of deception in his veins, warping his vision and reasoning. Then, perhaps he may be open to the antidote: THE TRUTH HIMSELF.

  489. KF,

    You can’t spam your way out of the problem.

    You’ll need to address my argument directly.

  490. keiths, please do not say that no one has found a flaw in your argument. I have found two in your number 2 formulation alone:

    2. If God (or Satan, etc.) exists, then it is possible that he has the power to deceive us.

    [a] While it may be logically possible for a supernatural agent to deceive us about many things, existence is not one of them. It is not logically possible to deceive someone that doesn’t exist into believing that he does exist. Thus, your argument that deception can prevent us from being certain of anything fails.

    [b] Even the IF, THEN portion of your assertion assumes and depends on the Law of Non-Contradiction for its validity. IF God exists, >>>THEN he can…..” So, if you are not certain about the Law of Non-Contradiction, then you are not even certain about your own argument.

  491. Onlookers:

    It seems that when KS is wishing to duck a serious matter, he decrees it spam.

    Is he certain of this?

    Absolutely certain?

    Merely highly so?

    On what grounds? Is he certain of those? On what further grounds? How is he going to handle the infinite regress of warrant, and how is he going to address the possibility of error that he so fears? Maybe, he is indeed certain that error exists, but does not want to face or acknowledge the implication that on pain of absurdity, it is undeniably certain that error exists? Could that be because such is a case of empirically accessible fact, that is true beyond reasonable doubt — indeed is undeniably and so self evidently true?

    That, such is then a case of absolutely certain knowledge, warranted, certainly true belief?

    And so, we see the absurdities piling up, for it is only self evident first principles that can allow us to get out of infinite regresses of required warrant without begging questions. KS’s scheme collapses in absurdity. He first needs to face the reality of self evident first truths and principles — the very things he wants to dismiss as spam, then he will be able to address the argument he put up reasonably.

    Absent such, trying to argue with the insistently irrational who demands to make up his own rules to suit where he wants to go and to lock out where he does not, is pointless.

    So, let his self serving irrationality stand exposed.

    (And maybe later on, for benefit of onlookers who may be perplexed, I might take up some of his points, but of course he will try to distract us by jumping up and down and carrying on by making all sorts of assertions he wishes to be so and declares so, demanding how dare you question his conclusions.)

    KF

  492. KF:

    Onlookers:

    :D

    It seems that when KS is wishing to duck a serious matter, he decrees it spam.

    Is he certain of this?

    I am quite certain that reams of irrelevant material from your “always linked” constitute spam.

    Absolutely certain?

    No. Haven’t you figured that out by now?

    On what grounds?

    The rules of logic and the meaning of the word ‘spam’.

    Is he certain of those?

    Quite certain, but not absolutely certain.

    How is he going to handle the infinite regress of warrant…

    The same way everyone else does.

    …and how is he going to address the possibility of error that he so fears?

    By pointing out that any particular thought we have might be mistaken. We can’t be absolutely certain that it is correct. (And error is a fact of life. We generally avoid it when we can, but it’s nothing to be terrified of.)

    Maybe, he is indeed certain that error exists, but does not want to face or acknowledge the implication that on pain of absurdity, it is undeniably certain that error exists?

    Of course I think error exists. That is one of the main reasons we can’t justify absolute certainty!

    Am I absolutely certain of that? No, of course not. My logic (and Royce’s) might be defective in some way that we cannot discern.

    Could that be because such is a case of empirically accessible fact, that is true beyond reasonable doubt — indeed is undeniably and so self evidently true?

    It’s not absolutely certain, because the logic that is used to reach it is not absolutely certain. Why is this so difficult for you to grasp?

    And so, we see the absurdities piling up…

    What absurdities? You haven’t identified a single one.

    …for it is only self evident first principles that can allow us to get out of infinite regresses of required warrant without begging questions.

    No, because merely declaring a principle to be “self-evident” doesn’t make it absolutely certain. That requires justification, and you haven’t provided it.

    The “infinite regress of warrant” problem applies to everyone, including you. Both of us terminate the regress in the same way, by deciding to assume certain ideas as our starting points.

    The difference is that you foolishly declare these starting assumptions to be absolutely certain, while I acknowledge that they might be in error.

    Absent such, trying to argue with the insistently irrational who demands to make up his own rules to suit where he wants to go and to lock out where he does not, is pointless.

    You’re not paying attention. I already rebutted that claim:

    What you and Barry have failed to notice is that I have not abandoned the rules of logic in order to make my argument. To the contrary, I have used the rules of logic to show that they cannot be validated with absolute certainty!

    KF:

    (And maybe later on, for benefit of onlookers who may be perplexed, I might take up some of his points, but of course he will try to distract us by jumping up and down and carrying on by making all sorts of assertions he wishes to be so and declares so, demanding how dare you question his conclusions.

    To the contrary, I welcome you to question my conclusions. I keep asking everyone in the thread to read my argument and if they disagree with it, to point out exactly which numbered statement they disagree with and why.

    You seem to be afraid to do that. Are you up to the challenge or not?

  493. StephenB,

    [a] While it may be logically possible for a supernatural agent to deceive us about many things, existence is not one of them. It is not logically possible to deceive someone that doesn’t exist into believing that he does exist. Thus, your argument that deception can prevent us from being certain of anything fails.

    “It is not logically possible”, you say. I agree:

    1) If the rules of logic are absolutely correct, and
    2) if we are applying them infallibly, and
    3) if it is absolutely certain that one must exist in order to be deceived, then

    4) it is not logically possible to deceive someone who doesn’t exist into thinking that she does exist.

    Problem is, we are not absolutely certain of 1), 2), and 3), so we cannot be absolutely certain of 4).

    [b] Even the IF, THEN portion of your assertion assumes and depends on the Law of Non-Contradiction for its validity. IF God exists, >>>THEN he can…..” So, if you are not certain about the Law of Non-Contradiction, then you are not even certain about your own argument.

    Exactly! I think you’re getting it. My argument seems valid, or I wouldn’t have made it. But I can’t be absolutely certain that it is valid, because it depends on logic, and logic is not absolutely certain.

  494. 495

    KF

    who demands to make up his own rules

    That is why you cannot play by his rules. Of course that is why he is ignoring me, play your game not his.

    Vivid

  495. SB: While it may be logically possible for a supernatural agent to deceive us about many things, existence is not one of them. It is not logically possible to deceive someone that doesn’t exist into believing that he does exist. Thus, your argument that deception can prevent us from being certain of anything fails.

    keiths

    “It is not logically possible”, you say. I agree:

    You agree now after having your claims to the contrary refuted earlier in the thread. Still, though, you have not yet arrived. It is neither logically possible nor metaphysically possible to deceive a non-existent person.

    Exactly! I think you’re getting it. My argument seems valid, or I wouldn’t have made it. But I can’t be absolutely certain that it is valid, because it depends on logic, and logic is not absolutely certain.

    I don’t think you are getting it. You have no standard for saying that you are “quite certain,” absolutely certain, somewhat certain, barely certain, or not certain at all. You appealed to evidence, but evidence is not prior to logic. So that option is no longer open to you. There are only two options, either your are absolutely certain about logic or your reject it. All other options are arbitrary and irrelevant. If you think other wise, then explain why you chose the phrase “quite certain” and rejected all the other measures of certainty.

  496. 497

    StephenB

    All other options are arbitrary…

    Yes which I have been saying over and over again. All Keiths arguments boil down to “because I say so”

    Vivid

  497. Onlookers, see the have my cake and eat it rhetorical games being played by KS? As a result of those games, you can only conclude that that is the nest of absurdities that that line of thinking leads to. It will be futile to try to get into a rhetorical crocodile death roll with that. So, let us identify the root problem of evolutionary materialism driven incoherence, irrationality and manipulative amorality then notice its deleterious effects on our civilisation. Then, let us determine that we shall live by something else that does not lead into such chaos and irresponsibility. In particular, do not take anything asserted by KS and ilk at face value, as he by his own confession can mean anything and its direct denial when it suits him. If that seems absurd, it is. [And highlighting why there is a better alternative to that absurdity is of highest relevance. BTW, that he ascribes what I clipped to a very different briefing note that is linked through my handle, exposes just how little he cares to be accurate or fair. Which is a big part of the point -- he willfully continues many misrepresentations in the teeth of contrary fact and argument, if it suits him and if he estimates that few people are likely to catch him out and reckon with that in estimating his [lack of] credibility.] KF

  498. Stephen:

    It is not logically possible to deceive someone that doesn’t exist into believing that he does exist. Thus, your argument that deception can prevent us from being certain of anything fails.

    Excellent.

    That is the qualia of perceiving that one enjoys conscious existence is incorrigibly true and self-evident. That which does not exist, per common good sense, cannot preceive, so it cannot hold beliefs, including that it exists. Therefore, if we perceive and as a part of that believe that we exist — even if we are mistaken about the precise nature of our existence — that perception and belief are incorrigibly and self-evidently true.

    Just as, as going concerns we can understand what Royce’s proposition, error exists (E) means. We can assent to it, we can perceive it to be so. We can try to deny it as so. In that we can form the conjunction: E and ~E, which we can see must be false, or equivalently we perceive that E and its denial cannot both be so. So, we see that an error exists, that is that E is true. It is undeniably and so self evidently true.

    It is known beyond doubt.

    Just as we know ourselves to be perceiving and believing beyond doubt.

    We have self-evident, certainly known, absolute truths. Necessarily true on pain pf patent absurdity on attempted denial. In the one case denial instantiates the truth, In the other, who is there to doubt or deny or be mistaken?

    We have in hand actual self evident, absolutely — pure, undiluted, untainted — known truths.

    So, those who try to duck, dodge and deny only succeed in demonstrating that they are in absurd error.

    And, Vivid, your point on this is made, we need not get into rhetorical crocodile death rolls with those who have chosen to cling to absurdity.

    KF

  499. F/N: Wiki on self-evidence:

    >> Some epistemologists deny that any proposition can be self-evident. For most others, the belief that oneself is conscious is offered as an example of self-evidence. However, one’s belief that someone else is conscious is not epistemically self-evident.

    The following proposition is often said to be self-evident:

    A finite whole is greater than, or equal to, any of its parts >>

    KF

  500. 501
    Kantian Naturalist

    A few comments, hopefully helpful:

    An assertion such as “a finite whole is greater than any of its parts” is obviously true because it is a tautology, or as philosophers like to say, it is “analytic”. It is probably best treated as true by virtue of being an explication or articulation of what the concept “finite” means. So the really interesting question isn’t whether or not there are self-evident truths, but whether there are non-tautologous self-evident truths.

    A separate question is just what “self-evident” really means. For some philosophers, an assertion would count as self-evidently true if one could grasp the truth of that assertion even if one knew nothing else. There’s a big issue lurking here about what Sellars calls “the Myth of the Given“.

  501. Kantian Naturalist,

    So the really interesting question isn’t whether or not there are self-evident truths, but whether there are non-tautologous self-evident truths.

    Even tautologies depend on logic. If we’re not absolutely certain of the logic, we can’t be absolutely certain of the conclusion, even if it is a tautology.

  502. KN: In fact, you cannot cut apart wholes and parts to manufacture a tautology. Whole-part relations do involve self evidence. And the questions, error exists and the import of consciousness are also highly significant cases. So is the world partition that obtains on say recognising — that conscious thingie again — a red ball on a table. As for that for such a ball or the like we may ask and seek an intelligible answer to why it is, that too is powerful. In short self evidence (true, must be true, undeniable on pain of patent absurdity), first principles of right reason, and pivotal first truths are all significant for building worldviews that make sense. For instance error exists being undeniably true leads to: truth as that which accurately describes reality exists, knowledge to certainty exists as warranted and true belief, the ugly gulch between the world of perceptions and that of things in themselves is bridged, and a lot more. That sweeps across a pretty wide swath of common worldview notions in our time. KF

  503. KF,

    As a result of those games, you can only conclude that that is the nest of absurdities that that line of thinking leads to.

    You haven’t been able to name one absurdity that my “line of thinking” leads to.

    It will be futile to try to get into a rhetorical crocodile death roll with that.

    Translation:

    I can’t find anything wrong with Keith’s argument, and it would be really embarrassing to admit that, so I need an excuse. Ah, yes, I’ll pretend that responding to an argument amounts to “a rhetorical crocodile death roll”. That should do the trick.

    KF, my argument is straightforward and clearly expressed. Can you find a flaw in it, or not?

  504. F/N: Of course KS just inadvertently showed that if you deny the significance of self evident first principles of right reason [remember this starts with the reality of a bright red ball sitting on a table and the corollary of a world partition: W = {A | NOT=A }, you end in absurdity and can make up your own cloud cuckoo land rhetorical world substituted for accountability before reality. KF

  505. KS: You just provided further reason for me to conclude that before I can discuss reasoning about any subject connected to you, I have to first make clear that I am here dealing with irrationality. You want to pick and choose even first principles of reason. Onlookers deserve to know that. And, even before I take a pause for the reasonable minded onlooker in my own good time, it has been shown by not only the undersigned but SB that you are known to be in error — we have shown certainly known truths, that are so on pain of absurdity on attempted denial — and you cannot even be trusted to state blatant facts accurately when you see a rhetorical advantage to be had from willful misrepresentation. (The same happened with basic issues in thermodynamics, and from such observations as I made, has been going on for a long time on matters connected to ID.) KF

  506. KF,

    You’re floundering.

    You claim to be all about logic and rationality and the “principles of right reason”.

    But when it comes time to use them to show exactly what is wrong with my argument, you suddenly get cold feet.

    The onlookers are waiting. (Hi, onlookers! :D) Can you deliver?

  507. StephenB,

    You agree now after having your claims to the contrary refuted earlier in the thread.

    No, my position has been consistent. I don’t think a non-existent person can be deceived, but I am not absolutely certain of that, because I am not absolutely certain of either the logic or the assumptions required to reach that conclusion.

    Why are making such a simple thing so difficult?

    You have no standard for saying that you are “quite certain,” absolutely certain, somewhat certain, barely certain, or not certain at all. You appealed to evidence, but evidence is not prior to logic.

    I didn’t say it was. I take my best stab at the rules of logic, keeping in mind that I may be wrong. I take my best stab at gathering the evidence, keeping in mind that I may be wrong. I then reason using my best logic and my best evidence, keeping in mind that I may be wrong. The result is a conclusion that is not absolutely certain. Of course.

    There are only two options, either your are absolutely certain about logic or your reject it.

    No. See above.

    All other options are arbitrary and irrelevant. If you think other wise, then explain why you chose the phrase “quite certain” and rejected all the other measures of certainty.

    I’ve explained that already.

    In any case, the exact degree of certainty is moot. I have no choice but to do my best, so I rely on the things I am most certain of, which is all that any of us can do.

    It’s just that you make the mistake of claiming absolute certainty for some of those things, while I don’t.

  508. 509
    Kantian Naturalist

    Even tautologies depend on logic. If we’re not absolutely certain of the logic, we can’t be absolutely certain of the conclusion, even if it is a tautology.

    I guess I don’t really understand this, but then again, I’m late to this party and I haven’t been following your debate with Kairosfocus. I don’t have anything interesting to say about “certainty”. Dewey’s The Quest for Certainty and Wittgenstein’s On Certainty convinced me a long time ago that “certainty” is a useless notion, at least for most philosophical purposes.

  509. KN,

    In Boolean algebra, the following expression is a tautology:

    C(!AB + ABC +!B) + B(AC + !CA) + !C + BC

    That is, it evaluates to 1, meaning that it is true, regardless of the values of A, B, and C.

    If I’m not absolutely certain that the rules of Boolean algebra are correct, I cannot be absolutely certain that the statement above evaluates to 1.

    Thus I cannot be absolutely certain that it is true.

  510. keiths

    I take my best stab at gathering the evidence, keeping in mind that I may be wrong.

    Evidence cannot judge logic as logic is prior to evidence. We have already been there. Why would you want to revisit it. Apparently, it is all you have.

    I then reason using my best logic and my best evidence, keeping in mind that I may be wrong. The result is a conclusion that is not absolutely certain. Of course.

    Logic can hardly tell you that you should not be certain about logic, and evidence, which follows logic, has nothing to say about it.

    <Blockquote<I’ve explained that already.

    In any case, the exact degree of certainty is moot.

    It isn’t moot at all. You are the one who said absolute certainty cannot be attained, yet you claim that you can be “quite certain,” rejecting all other options, including barely certain, someone certain, and not certain at all. You cannot account for why you chose precisely that level of certainty.

    I have no choice but to do my best, so I rely on the things I am most certain of, which is all that any of us can do.

    But you cannot tell me what those things are. You have no standard for choosing how much certainty you have about logic. It’s purely arbitrary. You want to argue against absolutely certainty, so you just pick another adjective, namely “quite,” and hope it will suffice. But you have no rationale for picking that level of certainly. None. I know it and you know it.

  511. 512
    Kantian Naturalist

    If I’m not absolutely certain that the rules of Boolean algebra are correct, I cannot be absolutely certain that the statement above evaluates to 1.

    Thus I cannot be absolutely certain that it is true.

    This looks very odd to me. A logic, Boolean or otherwise, is a set of standards for determining the goodness or badness of an inference (i.e. is the inference truth-preserving). There’s no other set of standards one can go to — there is no meta-logic or Uber-logic with which our logics could be in agreement or be in disagreement. So the very question, “but are we using the correct logic?” is a nonsensical question. Hence it is also nonsensical to claim to have, or claim to not have, certainty about whether that the rules of a logical system are themselves correct.

  512. KN,

    A system of logic is a tool for making inferences. There can be good tools and bad tools. A good system of logic is, to use your phrase, “truth-preserving”.

    Someone who goes from “p implies q” to “q implies p” is using bad logic, because the inference is not truth-preserving.

    The very fact that we can refer to “good logic” and “bad logic” shows that we have a set of standards for judging the rules of logic.

  513. StephenB,

    Evidence cannot judge logic as logic is prior to evidence. We have already been there.

    We’ve already been there, but you drew the wrong conclusions. See my comment to Kantian Naturalist above.

    Logic can hardly tell you that you should not be certain about logic…

    Sure it can. If we are not absolutely certain that the rules of logic are correct, then logic tells us that we cannot be absolutely certain of the conclusions we reach using logic — including that one. It’s a logical inference.

    …and evidence, which follows logic, has nothing to say about it.

    Again, not true. We use evidence all the time to cross-check our logic.

    You are the one who said absolute certainty cannot be attained, yet you claim that you can be “quite certain,” rejecting all other options, including barely certain, someone certain, and not certain at all. You cannot account for why you chose precisely that level of certainty.

    Stephen, “quite certain” is hardly a precise numerical level. Logic works well, so I am quite certain that it is correct. But not absolutely certain.

    You have no standard for choosing how much certainty you have about logic.

    I’ve already told you a couple of times now that I judge logic by how well it works. It seems to work well, and that gives me confidence. But not absolute certainty.

    Perhaps its time for you to revisit my argument to see if you can find a flaw.

  514. Onlookers:

    FYI, FTR.

    I am going to do a markup, for the record, on KeithS’s argument.

    However, I have no expectation that he will ever acknowledge correction, on track record.

    Also, once someone plays games with first principles of right reason, he has crossed the border into irrationality.

    So, the first thing to show is that KS is inherently and inescapably dependent on what he tries to evade or blunt.

    Now, let us clip from 453, which he has been linking on the pretence that I have been ducking or dodging. That is itself a willful misrepresentation of what I have done, what I have stated that I have done, and why. Namely, I am insisting on addressing a foundational issue, in light of a case where he has already played misrepresentation games with a point by point refutation. And lest it be missed what I am implying, continued misrepresentation in the teeth of reasonable opportunity to be accurate and fair, is deliberate deception. Something that has a short, blunt three letter name beginning with L.

    Now, I clip 453, and only for your record:

    >> I presented my argument earlier in the thread. Can you identify a flaw in it?>>

    1 –> First problem, to communicate at all, KS implies his conscious presence and perceptions, ability to act, etc, as certain realities. He may not be sure of just what I is as to specific nature and origins, but it is self evident to him that he is as a conscious entity. This was pointed out by SB above at 491, and of course ignored as to implications, and misrepresented as to even its existence:

    keiths, please do not say that no one has found a flaw in your argument. I have found two in your number 2 formulation alone:

    2. If God (or Satan, etc.) exists, then it is possible that he has the power to deceive us.

    [a] While it may be logically possible for a supernatural agent to deceive us about many things, existence is not one of them. It is not logically possible to deceive someone that doesn’t exist into believing that he does exist. Thus, your argument that deception can prevent us from being certain of anything fails.

    [b] Even the IF, THEN portion of your assertion assumes and depends on the Law of Non-Contradiction for its validity. IF God exists, >>>THEN he can…..” So, if you are not certain about the Law of Non-Contradiction, then you are not even certain about your own argument.

    2 –> In short SB is highlighting not only technical flaws but a habitual pattern on KS’s part of disrespect for accuracy and fairness. That is, we are dealing with willful manipulation.

    3 –> I also wish to extend SB’s flaw [b] a bit, as to simply post a comment or speak intelligibly, KS LIKE THE REST OF US IS DEPENDENT ON THE DISTINCT IDENTITY OF SYMBOLS AS A CERTAIN FACT. Let me illustrate from his opening words above, using ~X to mean NOT-X, and _ for space:

    “I presented . . . ” –> {I | ~ I} + {_ | ~ _} + {p | ~ p} + {r | ~ r} + {e | ~ e} + {s | ~ s} + {e | ~ e} + {n | ~ n} + {t | ~ t} . . .

    4 –> That is, the very act of writing and posting is critically dependent on the self evident nature of the laws of identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle, as to have a distinct identity is immediately to partition the world { A | ~ A } thus to have as immediate correlates, LOI, LNC, LEM. You simply cannot act as a communicator, without implying and accepting this, and to try to do so simply affirms the point. These are undeniable, and certain. Indeed,they are key parts of the basis of all communication and thus are necessary conditions of rationality, communication and discussion.

    5 –> In addition, by speaking of “I” and “my,” KS immediately implies that he exists as a distinct, conscious entity, i.e as one with an identity and awareness of it that has power to act. If he tries to deny or obfuscate this, the proper answer is: and who is speaking? Meaningless noise on the Internet that somehow just happened to toss up what looks like a string of symbols in coherent English? (And of course, down that road lies the significance of the reality of agency with purpose and power of responsible choice, thence the capability to do that which blind chance and mechanical necessity acting on the gamut of our solar system or the observed cosmos, is not credibly able to do as an observable output. Thence the whole project of intelligent design that KS and others of like ilk are so desperate to dismiss.)

    >>In the hopes of making some progress in this thread, let me lay out my argument systematically, with numbered statements, so that it will be easier for people to specify exactly what they disagree with and why.>>

    6 –> We see here of course the first point, of using distinct symbols, but also the use of language I have highlighted that underscores the inescapable reality of conscious agency as self evident, and as accepted. If KS wishes to disagree, we can say what has capability to disagree? Noise?

    >>1. It’s possible that God exists. (or Satan, or demons, etc.)>>

    7 –> This already ducks a major issue, rooted in the principle of sufficient reason [that if A exists we may ask and seek/expect a reasonable answer as to why] and the logic of cause and effect, specifically the nature of enabling causal factors such as the heat, fuel, oxidiser and chain reaction. Namely, contingency vs necessity and possibility of being.

    8 –> That is, if something A has a beginning or is otherwise contingent, it has at least one enabling on/off causal factor, let us call it F. Should F be OFF, A will not begin, or will cease from being. However, that raises the issue that there may be beings that have no such factors, F. Serious candidates to be such beings will be one of two things: impossible due to having core attributes that are incompatible (like a square circle), or possible sand if possible, they will have nothing to block existence, they will be actual, and without either beginning nor end. As a simple example, the asserted truth in 2 + 3 = 5, is an example, as is the number 2 used therein: these did not begin, nor can they cease from being [they are eternal], they are not caused and they are not dependent on an external reality for their existence.

    9 –> God, is plainly a serious candidate to be a necessary being [as, e.g. by definition God would be eternal as a core characteristic . . . ], so immediately, if God is possible, he is ACTUAL. That means that to sustain his evolutionary materialism KS has the burden of proof — oops he denies the possibility of pure undiluted untainted certainty — to show that God is impossible.

    10 –> So we see that by ducking first principles of right reason and the like, KS is already off on a red herring tangent at worldviews level, and is failing to shoulder the atheist’s burden of proof.

    >> 2. If God (or Satan, etc.) exists, then it is possible that he has the power to deceive us.>>

    11 –> It is not insignificant to see here the voice of the snake in the garden, challenging the integrity of God by association of God with deception.

    12 –> We have already highlighted the flaws in this assertion, let me clip SB again:

    a] While it may be logically possible for a supernatural agent to deceive us about many things, existence is not one of them. It is not logically possible to deceive someone that doesn’t exist into believing that he does exist. Thus, your argument that deception can prevent us from being certain of anything fails.

    >>3. If he has the power to deceive us, then he might be exercising that power at any particular time.

    4. Being human, we cannot reliably determine when he is deceiving us and when he isn’t.

    5. Any particular thought we have might coincide with a time when God/Satan/the demon is deceiving us.>>

    13 –> The voice of the snake in the garden continues. And in continuing, distracts our attention from the prior point that conscious self awareness is not something that we can be deceived about. We may be mistaken as to what we are but we are self evidently self aware and hold the identity “I.”

    14 –> KS’s argument pivots on refusing to face the implications of that little word, “I” or the words like “we,” self evident self awareness of whatever nature. It matters not that we may be brains in vats stimulated electrically, or prisoners in Plato’s Cave fed on shadow shows confused for external reality, we are aware of ourselves and that is self evidently, undeniably real. If one pretends to be uncertain of that, then one is to be asked: and who is it that is doubting, molecular noise?

    >>6. Thus, any particular thought might be mistaken.>>

    15 –> Here, KS ducks the other major self evident truth that has been presented as demonstrating absolute certain knowledge and truth, the Royce proposition, E: Error exists. That is, he is here begging the question by making a dubious assertion in the teeth of decisive counter examples presented to him oftentimes and consistently brushed aside or ignored and/or willfully misrepresented. (His latest talking point is that such are cases of “spam.”)

    16 –> Let us hold fire for a moment on the issue, and follow how refusing to face the self evident character of E is a red herring chase led away to a strawman set alight to cloud and confuse the issue:

    >>7. If we claim to be absolutely certain of something that isn’t true, we have erred.

    8. Therefore we should never claim absolute certainty for a thought that might be mistaken.>>

    17 –> “We” again, symbols in train dependent on distinct identity again, and of course begging the question of E.

    18 –> In addition, we see the “Therefore,” which is saying in effect p => q, p, so q. But the logic of implication is critically dependent on the self evident nature of the identity cluster and particularly non-contradiction. While we may debate the details of implication and extensions beyond mere material presentation, p => q at minimum entails [NOT- (p AND ~ q)]. That is when an implication is present, P is sufficient for q, so that we cannot have p true and q false. Also, we cannot have q false and p true. Without LNC there, this whole possibility falls apart. That is the view in question is literally irrational or even anti-rational, and undermines the possibility of proof itself.

    19 –> However, we must return to the issue of E. Let me cite again the chain of argument that KS has tried to reject as “spam,” which turns out to be absolutely pivotal to the whole matter:

    ___________

    >> consider Josiah Royce’s subtle but simple claim: error exists.

    To try to deny it only ends up giving an instance of its truth; it is undeniably true.

    Let’s zoom in a bit (using mostly glorified common sense “deduction” and a light dusting of symbols), as this will help us understand the roots of reasoning and reasonableness. As we have stressed, this is back to roots, back to sources, back to foundations. So, in steps of thought:

    1: Let us take up, Royce’s Error exists, and symbolise it: E. (Where the denial would be NOT-E, ~E. Error does not exist, in plain English.)

    2: Attempt a conjunction: { E AND ~E }

    3: We have here mutually exclusive, opposed and exhaustive claims that address the real world joined together in a way that tries to say both are so.

    4: Common sense, based on wide experience and our sense of how things are and can or cannot be — to be further analysed below, yielding three key first principles of right reason — tells us that, instead:

    (a) this conjunction { E AND ~E } must be false (so that the CONJUNCTION is a definite case of an error), and that

    (b) its falsity being relevant to one of the claims,

    (c) we may readily identify that the false one is ~E. Which means:

    ______________________________________

    (d) E is true and is undeniably true. (On pain of a breach of common sense.)

    5: So, E is true, is known to be true once we understand it and is undeniably true on pain of patent — obvious, hard to deny — self contradiction.

    6: It is therefore self evident.

    7: It is warranted as reliably true, indeed to demonstrative certainty.

    8: Where, E refers to the real world of things as such.

    9: It is a case of absolute, objective, certainly known truth; a case of certain knowledge. “Justified, true belief,” nothing less.

    10: It is also a matter of widely observed fact — starting with our first school exercises with sums and visions of red X’s — confirming the accuracy of a particular consensus of experience.

    11: So, here we have a certainly known case of truth existing as that which accurately refers to reality.

    12: Also, a case of knowledge existing as warranted, credibly true beliefs, in this case to certainty.

    13: Our ability to access truth and knowledge about the real, extra-mental world by experience, reasoning and observation is confirmed in at least one pivotal case.

    14: Contemporary worldviews — their name is Legion — that would deny, deride or dismiss such [including the point that there are such things as self evident truths that relate to the real world], are thence shown to be factually inadequate and incoherent. They are unable to explain reality.

    15: Such worldviews are, as a bloc, falsified by this one key point. They are unreasonable. (And yes, I know this may be hard to accept, but if your favoured system contradicts soundly established facts and/or truths, it is seriously defective.)

    16: Of course the truth in question is particularly humbling and a warning on the limits of our knowledge and the gap between belief and truth or even ability to formulate a logical assertion and truth.

    17: So, we need to be humble, and — contrary to assertions about how insisting on such objectivity manifests “arrogance” and potentially oppressive “intolerance” – the first principles of right reason (implicit in the above, to be drawn out below) allow us to humbly, honestly test our views so that we can identify when we have gone off the rails and to in at least some cases confirm when our confidence is well grounded.

    So — while we can be mistaken about it — truth exists and we can in some cases confidently know it on pain of absurdity if we try to deny it. In particular, it is well warranted and credibly true beyond reasonable doubt or dispute that error exists. Truth therefore exists, and knowledge — i.e. the set of warranted, credibly true [and reliable] claims — also exists. (As noted already, but it bears repeating as it is hard for some to accept: this cuts a wide swath across many commonly encountered worldview ideas of our time; such as, the idea that there is no truth beyond what seems true to you or me, or that we cannot know the truth on important matters beyond conflicting opinions.) >>
    ___________

    >> 9. Since any particular thought might be mistaken (by #6), we should never claim absolute certainty for any thought.>>

    20 –> But, 6 begs the question and dodges the self evident, undeniable truth that error exists. It therefore falls to the ground. 7, 8, 9 being dependent on question-begging, they also fall with it.

    21 –> the argument fails, but predictably KS will not be willing to acknowledge the fact, indeed he will almost certainly try to pretend that this is irrelevant to answering the question, and may dismiss it as spamming. How do I know that? He has already done so on another matter.

    >>Note that this argument can also be made simply by appealing to the imperfection of human cognition, but it’s more fun this way.>>

    22 –> The argument has failed, actually from the outset:

    “I presented . . . ” –> {I | ~ I} + {_ | ~ _} + {p | ~ p} + {r | ~ r} + {e | ~ e} + {s | ~ s} + {e | ~ e} + {n | ~ n} + {t | ~ t} . . .

    >>Also note that the argument applies to atheists and theists equally. Atheists don’t think there is a God, of course, but it is still possible that there is a God, and possibility is all that is necessary for the argument to work.>>

    23 –> KS has ducked the implications of the possibility of God’s existence, and he has failed to present a sound argument.

    24 –> that will not prevent him from trying to embroil us in a rhetorical crocodile death roll of going in circles of contention over and over again. However, we need only ask him, WHO is speaking, as the very existence of an I to speak, is a case of self evident truth about which we cannot be mistaken. let me agsain cite SB on this point:

    a] While it may be logically possible for a supernatural agent to deceive us about many things, existence is not one of them. It is not logically possible to deceive someone that doesn’t exist into believing that he does exist. Thus, your argument that deception can prevent us from being certain of anything fails.

    25 –> One last point: once there is ANY self-evidently true statement, there is a case of absolutely certain truth and absolutely certain knowledge. Thus, to show such a case (or even just to try) is directly and fully relevant to overturning by counter example, any assertion that such are impossible or do not exist.

    26 –> Therefore, when KS above tried to pretend that laying out such direct cases and showing why they are demonstrations of what he wants to pretend cannot be or is not, was distractive spamming, he was being not only rude but wrong. Wrong in a way that he as an educated person must know is so: a universal negative claim is shown false by just one counter example. He was being willfully misleading in the cause of continued misrepresentation to advance an ideology that is demonstrably incoherent and irrational.

    27 –> In short, KS is already in a situation of refusing to attend to cogent correction of his errors. On track record, this will — sadly — predictably continue.

    Onlookers, FYI, FTR.

    KF

  515. SB: Evidence cannot judge logic as logic is prior to evidence. We have already been there.

    keiths:

    We’ve already been there, but you drew the wrong conclusions. See my comment to Kantian Naturalist above.

    This is the basic problem. You don’t even know what is meant by a first principle. You think evidence can inform logic. Logic informs evidence. That is why you don’t understand its self evident nature. You don’t even know what it is.

    Logic can hardly tell you that you should not be certain about logic…

    Sure it can. If we are not absolutely certain that the rules of logic are correct, then logic tells us that we cannot be absolutely certain of the conclusions we reach using logic — including that one. It’s a logical inference.

    That statement is completely irrational. You define logic as uncertain and then you use it to show that it is uncertain. Also, you are saying that we can use inferences to test deductions. Remarkable.

    Again, not true. We use evidence all the time to cross-check our logic.

    Again, that is a totally irrational statement. We are discussing first principles, not the logical process. Obviously, you still do not know the difference. You can’t use evidence to test the proposition that Jupiter cannot exist and not exist at the same time. Why you would even want to comment on this subject is a mystery to me. You know nothing about it.

    Stephen, “quite certain” is hardly a precise numerical level. Logic works well, so I am quite certain that it is correct. But not absolutely certain.

    You are running away from the question. What is your standard for choosing “quite certain” as opposed to somewhat certain or barely certain or not certain. You have no articulated standard. It is totally arbitrary.

    I’ve already told you a couple of times now that I judge logic by how well it works. It seems to work well, and that gives me confidence. But not absolute certainty.

    And I have already told you at least five times that you can’t judge how well a self-evident principle “works” because the self evident principle is the judge of how everything else works. Again, you know nothing at all about the subject.

    Perhaps its time for you to revisit my argument to see if you can find a flaw.

    The flaw in your argument is the false comment that we can be mislead about ANY thought. We cannot be mislead about about our understanding that we exist because a non-existent person cannot be mislead. To suggest that we cannot be certain about this is laughable.

  516. SB: See my comment on KS’s points 6 – 9 in his argument, in context. He begs the question that there is reason to see that some specific knowledge claims and truth claims are self-evident and not open to doubt, e.g. that we may be mistaken about just what we are but not that we are conscious entities, and that error exists is undeniably true. KF

  517. KF @ 517. Duly noted. Thank you.

  518. KF,

    Every objection you raise in your comment, every counterargument you make, depends on logic.

    If we could be absolutely certain that the rules of logic were correct, and that you are applying them infallibly, and that your assumptions were absolutely correct, then we could be absolutely certain of your conclusions.

    But we aren’t absolutely certain of those things, and offering more arguments won’t help, because those arguments would also depend on logic.

    The only way you can refute my argument is by finding some way of demonstrating the absolute certainty of logic without invoking logic itself.

    Good luck with that.

    P.S. StephenB, the same applies to you. Your argument depends on logic, and you are not entitled to assume that logic is absolutely certain to be correct, nor that you are applying it infallibly, nor that your assumptions are absolutely certain.

  519. 520
    Kantian Naturalist

    In re: 513:

    A system of logic is a tool for making inferences. There can be good tools and bad tools. A good system of logic is, to use your phrase, “truth-preserving”.

    Someone who goes from “p implies q” to “q implies p” is using bad logic, because the inference is not truth-preserving.

    The very fact that we can refer to “good logic” and “bad logic” shows that we have a set of standards for judging the rules of logic.

    I would propose a slightly different use of the terms “good logic” and “bad logic”.

    Someone who goes from “p implies q” to “q implies p” is, of course, reasoning badly, or making an invalid inference. But we judge that the inference is invalid because it goes against the rules of logical inference. We are using the rules of inference in judging that this specific inference is incorrect, not judging that the rules of inference themselves are correct.

    That is, we judge the correctness or incorrectness of an inference according to the rules of inference, but we do not judge that the rules of inference are correct or incorrect.

    To judge that the rules of inference themselves are correct (or incorrect) would require a further set of rules against which the rules of inference could be compared — a set of meta-rules. And that seems not only unnecessary but deeply incoherent. It’s to say that the rules we actually do have cannot function as rules unless they are grounded in meta-rules. (And why don’t those meta-rules need to be grounded in meta-meta-rules, etc.?)

    The situation is made vastly more complicated by the fact that there are multiple logics, each of which has its own rules for judgment. Given that a ‘meta-logic’ is incoherent, I don’t see any way to avoid pragmatism about logics, following in the wake of Carnap, C. I. Lewis, and Quine.

  520. keiths:

    “The only way you can refute my argument is by finding some way of demonstrating the absolute certainty of logic without invoking logic itself.”

    That isn’t true. Not even close. One can apprehend a self-evident truth without appealing to logic at all. Again, you have things backwards. Logic follows from our knowledge of existence. Our knowledge of existence does not follow from logic.

  521. KN,

    Someone who goes from “p implies q” to “q implies p” is, of course, reasoning badly, or making an invalid inference. But we judge that the inference is invalid because it goes against the rules of logical inference.

    I don’t think so, at least not usually. For example, suppose I make the following fallacious inference:

    1. If X is a bird, then X has wings.
    2. A bat has wings.
    3. Therefore a bat is a bird.

    The average person immediately recognize that inference as fallacious not because it violates the rules of logic, but because the conclusion is absurd. Having recognized the conclusion as absurd, he then goes back and looks for the logical error.

    Also, remember that the rules of logic were not handed down from On High. They were written by humans who were attempting to codify the process of inference. (Boole’s magnum opus was titled The Laws of Thought, after all.)

    They would write a candidate rule and then test it against experience to see if it worked.

    This has to be true. If candidate rules weren’t tested against reality, then there would have been no reason to favor one (good) system of logic over another (bad) one. We would have ended up with bogus systems of logic that weren’t truth-preserving.

  522. StephenB,

    One can apprehend a self-evident truth without appealing to logic at all.

    That’s true, but it doesn’t have the implications you think it does.

    Merely perceiving (or “apprehending”) something as self-evident doesn’t make it absolutely certain. As a fallible human, you may be perceiving (or apprehending) incorrectly.

    That is why my definition of “self-evident” …

    A self-evident proposition is one that seems obvious and thus requires no supporting evidence or argumentation.

    …is better and more accurate than yours…

    A self-evident truth is defined as one about which we can be absolutely certain.

    “Self-evident” truths seem obvious, but that doesn’t make them absolutely certain.

  523. 524
    Kantian Naturalist

    In re: (522)

    I agree in part, because valid inferences are truth-preserving. But the inference cannot tell you which assertions are true and which ones are false. To do that, one has to look at the world (except for the analytic or tautologous inferences).

    The up-shot is that valid inference and true assertion are inter-dependent notions. One could, like Boole, start off by taking truth for granted and use that to build up your account of valid and invalid inferences. Or one could, like Frege, take inference to the the primary notion and get to truth from there.

    However, in purely formal systems, where there isn’t any semantic content that refers to objects or states of affairs, the constraints are much looser and pluralism is harder to refute.

    One further point I’d insist upon is that “logic” is a much narrower notion than “reasoning”. To see what I mean, consider the following problem. Modus ponens, we’re all taught, tells us that from “p –> q” and “p” we are permitted to infer “q.” And modus tollens tells us that that from “p –> q” and “~q” we are permitted to infer “~p”.

    But, rightly considered, both rules are telling us the same thing: that we should not affirm all of “p –> q”, “p”, and “~q”. Neither rule tells us what we should do. We might have much stronger reasons for affirming both “p” and “~q” than we have for affirming “p –> q”. The rules of inference are useless guides as to which assertion we have better (or worse) reasons for affirming; they can only help us detect inconsistencies among the assertions we affirm.

  524. KN,

    But the inference cannot tell you which assertions are true and which ones are false. To do that, one has to look at the world…

    Sure, but my point is that the rules of inference are themselves derived from observations of the world and from our own pre-logical thinking about the world. Reality came first. Humans codified the rules of logic and tested them against reality, correcting them as necessary.

    Having established (provisionally) the rules of logic, we can now take more of a coherentist approach. A mismatch between observation and logic usually causes us to question the observation (or our assumptions), because we consider the rules of logic to be quite certain.

    However, they are not beyond questioning. For example, it is quite sensible to consider whether quantum mechanics provides counterexamples to the law of non-contradiction and the law of the excluded middle. In the end, we may decide that they don’t, but it is not obvious beforehand.

    That’s why Barry’s notorious purge of commenters here was so ridiculous. He was demanding an oath of absolute loyalty to a principle, the LNC, which is provisional and not absolutely certain.

    As this thread demonstrates.

  525. 526
    Kantian Naturalist

    I have a somewhat different view — though I agree with you that even a priori statements are not beyond revision, I would still insist on a distinction between the a priori and the a posteriori, and on the different sorts of reasons that would need to be offered for revising the different kinds of statement. In other words, the revisability of the a priori doesn’t negate the very notion of the a priori.

    (Historical aside: Quine thought it did, if one follows Putnam’s interpretation of “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”. But Quine’s mistake here is to follow Carnap’s conflation of epistemology and semantics, rather than Lewis’ subtle distinctions, and esp. his masterful “A Pragmatic Conception of the A Priori” (1923).)

    The only major point on which I agree with StephenB and Kairosfocus is that logic is a priori with regard to experience, though of course my way of construing that thought puts me sharply at odds with them.

    As I see it, Brandom is right to say that “logic is our semantic self-consciousness” — logic makes explicit what is only implicit in the norms of rational discourse. But as a project of semantic explication, the validity of inference doesn’t depend on how the world is — it depends on how the norms of rational discourse are. And that makes logic quite different from strictly inductive or even abductive forms of reasoning.

  526. Theism and materialism (not applied to origins) are not contradictory in any way.

    Yes, they are. Theism posits that God exists. Materialism posits that the cosmos “is all there ever is, was, or will be.” No supernatural entities exist. There is a quite evident contradiction here.

    So only smart people have free will and the rest doesn’t?

    Smart people recognize that they have free will.

    Also, can you be sure that the process of “weighing pros and cons” does not depend on the way your neurons are connected in your brain?

    It might. But you’re trying to reduce the decision-making process to only the neurons in your brain. Many people utilize both emotion (“follow your heart”, “do what feels right”) and logic/brain function when making decisions. You can’t really reduce it to simple neurologic function, because that’s not really how humans think.

    Education IS part of the background. Education by parents, teachers, friends and strangers also. Every interaction with another human being serves to educate ourselves on moral issues, especially when we’re young and learn by imitation. Sometimes the people kids grow up with are not good role models and they learn twisted morals, is that the kids fault?

    It’s the kid’s fault if he chooses to live by the twisted morals he’s learned. Education comes from a lot of different sources, and it’s silly to argue that the only education one gets is a bad education. There’s no reason to suggest that kids can’t differentiate between right and wrong behavior. There’s a legal concept called an “emancipated minor” which allows minor children (under 18) to make decisions for themselves.

    Not everyone has the chance to have a good moral education, do those unlucky people escape judgment by God?

    As I pointed out above, it’s silly to suggest that no child is capable of learning good morals. Look at some reformed gang members who counsel children about the dangers of gangs. They didn’t have a good moral education growing up, but they certainly learned what good morals area.

    Or are you going to imagine an hypothetical scenario were even those people learn the right morals (from who?) and hence should also be held accountable?

    Everyone is held accountable for their own decisions. And, as pointed out before, education isn’t just what we learn in school. Kids with dysfunctional families can learn from morally upright classmates or teachers, or even other morally upright family members about good and bad behavior.

    You assume the conclusion again….fallacy of presumption.

    I have an a priori assumption that free will exists. You have an a priori assumption that it doesn’t.

    Don’t you realize that everytime I ask you for EVIDENCE on free will you ALWAYS bring the same circular argument?

    Don’t you realize that I am responding to each of your posts of my own free will?

    Your whole argument is “if I can make a choice, I have free will”. “I’m making choices, therefore I have free will”. Why do you fail to see that one thing does NOT imply the other?

    I have explained this before: my definition of free will is the ability to make choices.

    It was a metaphor. Jeez… I thought it was obvious…

    You brought it up; I figured it was another fallacious argument.

    You assume again that choosing = free will as the conclusion, and then use it as an argument to prove that choosing = free will. Circular reasoning…

    Like I said, you are basing your argument on an a priori assumption that free will doesn’t exist. You are guilty of the same fallacious argumentation.

    Your opinion. No evidence-based arguments here.

    You really believe that humans and animals are capable of the same level of reasoning? That dogs can plot revenge? That chimps can ponder the nature of the universe? They can’t.

    Your opinion. No evidence-based arguments here.

    Yeah, I’m not seeing anything from your side either, other than, “I think it’s this way!”

    Explain how evidence leads to free will.

    Free will is the ability to make choices. Period. The evidence, which has been presented to you in the form of many examples, is self-evident. People do make choices, some good and some bad. They are all accountable for the choices they make, whether good or bad.

    And you can’t use circular reasoning this time (“choosing means free will therefore choosing implies free will”), you have to show empirical evidence that our brain-based behaviour/personality is actually independent from the physical constraints of the brain itself.

    Men are free moral agents. They can make a choice to do good or bad. They are not robots “programmed” to do only good. To not have the ability to make moral choices and decisions would leave them incomplete, with something lacking. Since we are rational creatures, we have the freedom of decision as to choice of right and wrong—this is what some refer to as the conscience. Humans are not automatons. Humans are not animals driven by built-in instinct. Humans not only have free will but the desire to exercise it.

    Our behavior and personality do not always originate in the brain, although many scientists think so. Look up this article that I found, which supports this position: British Neuroscience Association. “How ‘free will’ is implemented in the brain and is it possible to intervene in the process?.” ScienceDaily, 9 Apr. 2013.

    Some people don’t use rational thinking or logic when making decisions; they follow their feelings instead. And here is a counterargument from a scientist who doesn’t believe that all arguments against free will need to be shelved: http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....eRwr9LVDNs

    And here is an argument from a neuroscientist who states that our brains are, in fact, hardwired for free will: http://now.dartmouth.edu/2013/.....free-will/

    That our personalities, conciousness and behaviour depend on the condition of our brain is undeniable (we lose conciousness when getting hit hard in the head, also brain disorders are known to cause changes in behaviour, so our behaviour DOES exist physically in our brain, in fact the frontal lobe is especially important regarding behaviour).

    Our personalities might depend on the condition of our brain, but does that mean that no one can ever change their personality? Can a person known for being mean-tempered and angry change their behavior? It’s certainly been done before. And it’s one more piece of evidence that free will exists. Our personalities aren’t set in stone. The brain is an amazing organ and a very malleable one.

    And if our behaviour exists physically in our brain and networks of neurons, then that means it’s affected by the physical laws that also govern the brain and neurons. And therefore choices are born from the outcome of the physical laws that govern our brain and neurons.

    Your premise—that our behavior has its origin in our brain and neurons—may or may not be flawed. If it is flawed (see the articles I posted above), then your conclusion is also flawed. You haven’t ruled out free will completely.

    Please show empirical evidence (not an opinion) that the above paragraph/argument is false.

    I did.

    And as an extra: Do you actually believe that the condition of our brain does not determine our behaviour and our conciousness?

    I think human behavior is too complex to be oversimplified to misfiring of neurons in the brain. Misfiring of neurons might account for some birth defects or mental illnesses, but it certainly doesn’t explain the actions of, say, Stalin or Lenin or Hitler. What these men did goes far beyond a simple argument of having “bad genes”.
    Our behavior can be determined by any number of factors, including our culture, religion, level of education, socioeconomic status, and so on. You are trying—I think—to reduce human behavior to a materialistic perspective (the brain is all that ever is, was or will be), yet neuroscience still hasn’t ruled out free will. (see also this article: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/06/10435/)

  527. KN,

    In other words, the revisability of the a priori doesn’t negate the very notion of the a priori.

    I agree, which is why I don’t reject it. I just deny that it can be absolutely certain.

    …logic makes explicit what is only implicit in the norms of rational discourse. But as a project of semantic explication, the validity of inference doesn’t depend on how the world is — it depends on how the norms of rational discourse are.

    The “norms of rational discourse” would be jettisoned in a second if they consistently led from true premises to conclusions that contradicted our observations.

    Thought is shaped by reality, both in an immediate sense and in an evolutionary sense.

  528. 529
    Kantian Naturalist

    Thought is shaped by reality, both in an immediate sense and in an evolutionary sense.

    Yes, though the converse also holds — there’s no escaping the ouroboros!

  529. Reality is shaped by thought? I thought you were a Kantian naturalist,not an idealist. :)

  530. 531
    Kantian Naturalist

    My “Kantian” side is about how our experience is shaped by our conceptual and perceptual capacities; my “naturalistic” side is about the evolutionary process whereby we acquired those capacities and also the neurological processes that instantiate those capacities.

    So I’m a Kantian, loosely construed (loosely enough, anyway, to include the post-Kantian philosophies of Hegel, Nietzsche, Dewey, Lewis, Sellars, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Adorno) — with just enough naturalism to avoid the slippery slope to full-bore idealism.

  531. Re KS:

    Every objection you raise in your comment, every counterargument you make, depends on logic.

    If we could be absolutely certain that the rules of logic were correct, and that you are applying them infallibly, and that your assumptions were absolutely correct, then we could be absolutely certain of your conclusions . . .

    Just the opposite is the case.

    Every step in KS’ attempted rebuttal depends on:

    1: that he is a self-aware and other-aware conscious entity as incorrigibly true

    2: That starting with the identity of himself, there is a whole series of world-partitions, e.g. { “I” (= KS) | NOT-I } and the direct correlates of this, i.e. LOI, LNC, LEM. Using A as symbol:

    (a) LOI: the part labelled A will be A (symbolically, [A => A] = 1),

    (b) LNC: A will not be the same as NOT-A ( [A AND NOT-A] = 0); and

    (c) LEM: there is no third option to being A or NOT-A ( [A OR NOT-A] = 1). For those who need it, to be clearer about the significance of the dichotomy in World, W = { A | NOT-A }, let’s instead explicitly use the Exclusive OR, AUT not VEL: [A Ex-OR NOT-A] = 1. That is A, or not A but not a third option such as A AND NOT-A, and no fourth such as neither A nor NOT-A.

    3: In short, it is not so much that I (KF) have been silly and begged the question of the validity of logic, but that it is truly fundamental, so that one cannot make a first step as a conscious entity without standing on it.

    4: KS essays to saw off the branch on which he too must sit, and so clings to absurdity. We are simply telling him and his ilk, stop the madness!

    5: Similarly, we have a perfect right to demand of the [potentially . . . it holds that nothing is certain beyond opinion] delusional entity imagining itself to be KS, whence the status of being aware, and whether this is something that one CAN be deluded of. The answer is patent, that one may be deluded as to WHAT one is, but cannot be deluded THAT one is, once one has self awareness. From which world-partition and its correlates immediately are evident and intelligible.

    6: It is no accident that KS dodges this, in order to try to fixate on the alleged uncertainty of first principles of right reason. The very fact of his being as a self aware entity manifests the truly foundational nature of world partition, thus those attributes of it that we justly label the first laws of thought. We discover such, we see they are so and must be so in order that we can even have a distinct identity as going concerns, and we see the saw off the branch on which we all must sit self-referential absurdity of those who would challenge the laws.

    7: Indeed, just to cast up an objection, KS inevitably depends on those same laws he would scant. He is forced to use verbal symbols, here in textual form. So, immediately, as was highlighted in the corrective — and which, as predicted, was conveniently ignored by KS — he depends on the distinction of symbols, thus a whole series of world partitions:

    Every objection –> {E | ~E} + {v | ~v} + e {e | ~e} . . .

    8: Likewise, if we ponder a moment, we will see that KS is implying that he accepts the reality, thus the possibility of error, no surprise he doubtless received his fair share of sums returned by a teacher, full of red X’s. Thus, he is also ducking the undeniability that error exists. Indeed, the absurdity here can be seen by casting the denial of the Royce proposition in these terms: “It is an error to imagine that error exists.” Oops.

    9: KS’s objection collapses in absurdity, just as will be true of any attempt to deny a genuinely self-evident truth.

    I took time to address this to simply underscore that we discover the pivotal self-evident truths, we do not prove them, and inasmuch as the first principles of right reason are embedded in these, the demand for proof reveals itself as a demand to prove that proof exists. Yet another absurdity.

    I have forgotten now who was the Greek thinker challenged by a member of his audience to prove the reality of logical proof. His reply was, that this exercise would require the use of that very same logic.

    At this level, logic is discovered, is found to be foundational, and is respected as such — at least by those able to see that it is not a wise move to saw off the branch on which one must sit, or to pluck out the eyes by which one must look.

    So, as with other worldview foundational points, we come to the identity cluster as common sense going concerns, and we learn to respect rather than complain against the constitution of ourselves and our world.

    That, to cling to his scheme of thought, KS must saw off the branch on which we all must sit, and pluck out the eyes by which we all must see is the surest sign of the absurdity of his stance.

    So, finally, let us ask: WHO is objecting?

    If KS cannot acknowledge that he is a distinct, incorrigibly self-aware entity, then he has no status to speak. Where, just the distinctness of I (a first fact for each of us if there ever was one), immediately brings out the correlates of world partition.

    Clinging to an absurdity that demands rejection of first facts and principles is not a healthy sign, but such seems to be the nature of today’s post modern evolutionary materialism and its fellow travellers.

    Sad, and sadly revealing.

    KF

  532. KF,

    Your position has now become so weak and indefensible that you’ve resorted to lying about my position just to stay afloat.

    It’s pitiful.

    Lie #1: You claim that my position leads to absurdities, when you haven’t been able to identify a single one.

    Lie #2: You claim that I’m “sawing off the branch” of logic, when I’m doing no such thing. My entire argument depends on logic, and at no point do I abandon it. I merely decline to treat it as absolutely certain, and this leads to no absurdities at all.

    Lie #3: You claim that I deny Royce’s “error exists” argument, when I have explicitly stated otherwise. I accept Royce’s argument; I merely decline to grant it absolute certainty. Again, no absurdity follows from this.

    Lie #4: You claim that I deny my status as a conscious entity, when I do no such thing. I merely decline to grant it absolute certainty, with a 0.0% possibility of error. Like any other argument, it depends on the correctness of our logic and the truth of our underlying assumptions. Being fallible humans, we can’t be absolutely certain of those; therefore we cannot be absolutely certain of the conclusion.

    Amidst the prevarication, you wrote:

    I have forgotten now who was the Greek thinker challenged by a member of his audience to prove the reality of logical proof. His reply was, that this exercise would require the use of that very same logic.

    Oddly, you don’t seem to realize that this hurts your case and buttresses mine. The very fact that logic cannot demonstrate its own correctness shows that we cannot be absolutely certain of it!

  533. FYI-FTR # 2: KS edition.

  534. KS: Stop sawing off the branch on which you too must sit — or, is there a “you” there at all? Maybe, it is just noise on the net? After all, if these are distinct SYMBOLS, there is a mind behind them, and both must be distinct so that we can understand a meaning and know what was said. Once there is such a thing as a distinct identity, the first principles of right reason immediately obtain. KF

  535. KS: You have now resorted to projecting a twisted about false accusation of lying. It is fair comment for me to note that it is you who have consistently willfully and int eh teeth of correction habitually misrepresented arguments and persons with whom you disagree, reflecting a failure of respect for duties of care to the truth and fairness. I would advise you to cease and desist from such, at least if you want to dig yourself out of the hole you have dug for yourself. KF

  536. keiths points at the tools and materials others to make arguments and claims they are flawed and unreliable; the problem is that keiths is necessarily using the same tools and materials, as KF points out above.

    Without assuming the LNC is necessarily true for all entities, keiths has no supposed means by which to utter intelligible words, much less make an intelligible argument.

    If you do not assume the law of non-contradiction, you have nothing to argue about. If you do not assume the principles of sound reason, you have nothing to argue with. If you do not assume libertarian free will, you have no one to argue against. If you do not assume morality to be an objective commodity, you have no reason to argue in the first place.

  537. KeithS

    How do you know that you can not know?

  538. KF: you seem very concerned about the consequences of holding that we cannot be 100% certain of anything.

    What do you think those consequences are?

  539. Please people stop being idiots about things! We can be 100% certain of something’s!

    I am 100% certain of my existence, “I think therefore I am!” and by reading and replying to what I wrote here you are verifying my claim as 100% certain! So anyone care to reply to me with the words “you are not alone to verify that something’s are 100% certain as soon as anyone does that KeithS lost his entire argument because you would have proven it wrong!

    Relativism is breeds intolerance!

  540. If you do not assume the law of non-contradiction, you have nothing to argue about.

    Of course there is plenty to argue about. Where is the boundary between Jupiter and elsewhere? It’s arbitrary and depends on arbitrary choices such as a cut-off point of density.

    If you do not assume the principles of sound reason, you have nothing to argue with.

    Nonsense. There is not even a definitive list of “principles of sound reason”.

    If you do not assume libertarian free will, you have no one to argue against.

    This guy makes a strong argument. He seems to think he is arguing with somebody!

    If you do not assume morality to be an objective commodity, you have no reason to argue in the first place

    Nonsense again! Mainly because there is no objective morality. You have expended many words claiming there is such but have been utterly unable to demonstrate it.

    PS

    I’ve been away (long weekend, Biarritz, quatorze juillet, amazingly civilized crowds, nobody shot or trampled) and wonder if I missed any developments in “Intelligent Design”. A hypothesis at last? Designer’s identity announced?

  541. KF: you seem very concerned about the consequences of holding that we cannot be 100% certain of anything.

    What do you think those consequences are?

    IMO, it provides the slippery slope grounds for what we see here – the rejection of necessarily true principles as necessarily true – which provides more grease on the ground for moral relativism towards nihilistic, anything-goes, might makes right ideology.

    It doesn’t necessarily lead to that end – especially if post-modernists simply ignore (via rube goldberg intellectualizations) that they have sawed off the branch they are sitting on and keep employing concepts unavailable to their worldview – but, unfortunately, in the real world such assumed universal doubt and moral and truth relativism tend to affect more rationally streamlined people negatively.

    This has been shown in many studies – people subjected to relativistic, nihilistic concepts tend to behave less ethically and less morally. If one accepts truth and morality as relative and without necessary consequences, it’s much easier to override conscience and do bad things. Why not?

    And the slippery slope to that is the idea that we cannot be certain of **anything**.

    I think this is a case of the baby being thrown out with the dirty bathwater; many atheists despise the authoritarianism of religious views because religious certainty can lead (and has led) to some pretty awful persecutions. Yes, certainty can be misused towards evil ends, but throwing out all certainty leaves all such evil ends permissible under relativism.

    You cannot throw out any and all “moral high ground” under the “uncertainty” doctrine and then claim burning accused witches or beheading infidels is wrong.0

  542. WJM & Andre, Thanks. WJ, I think I want to use that summary, with your permission, starting with an update to the FTR, thanks in advance. KF

  543. WJ, I think I want to use that summary, with your permission, starting with an update to the FTR, thanks in advance. KF

    Certainly!

  544. NOTE: seems a stage two captcha?

    F/N: AF — trying to dismiss WJM’s warning — inadvertently shows further reason why this stuff about the first principles of right reason matters, supremely matters:

    there is no objective morality.

    This is revealing on underlying worldview and where it points, as prof Wm B Provine of Cornell so memorably highlighted in his 1998 Darwin Day keynote address at U Tenn:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .

    Of course, the assertions are both self-referential absurdities. if we have no freedom to make responsible chices, if our “choices” are programmed by genes, memes and psycho-social conditioning, then we are not in any position to reason or know, which is absurd.

    Likewise, to abduct, rape, torture and murder a little child is patently objectively wrong. So much so that the one who would openly deny this is obviously monstrous. But, such implications can be disguised under sophisticated-sounding worldview assertions, and that makes them seem more persuasive.

    Kyle Butt’s retort to Provine is well merited as a substantial point:

    Provine’s . . . [[address] centered on his fifth statement regarding human free will. Prior to delving into the “meat” of his message, however, he noted: “The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them” (Provine, 1998).

    It is clear then, from Provine’s comments, that he believes naturalistic evolution has no way to produce an “ultimate foundation for ethics.” And it is equally as clear that this sentiment was so apparent to “modern naturalistic evolutionists” that Mr. Provine did not feel it even needed to be defended . . . . [[However, i]f it is true that naturalistic evolution cannot provide an ultimate foundation for determining the difference between actions that are right and ones that are wrong, then the door is wide open for subjective speculation about all human behavior . . . . The problem with this line of thinking is that it flies in the face of everything humans know about moral and immoral decisions. Furthermore, it transforms a vicious, morally reprehensible activity into something that may occasionally be caused by too much lead in the environment. Such “scientific” explanations for an immoral action like rape are absolutely unsatisfactory. When boiled down to its essence, as Thornhill and Palmer have so well illustrated, naturalistic evolution can never claim that any activity is wrong in an ultimate sense. This being the case, any action that a person chooses to do would be considered just as morally right as any other action, since all human behavior would be the by-product of evolution . . . .

    In truth, the false philosophy of naturalistic evolution fails on many accounts, not the least of which is its inability to provide a foundation for ethics. The denial of a divine ultimate standard of morality throws one into hopeless confusion about how actions such as rape should be viewed. Naturalistic evolutionists who are honest with their theory’s implications can say they don’t like things like rape, or they think its best that rape be stopped, or that they think it might be more beneficial to the majority for the action to be limited or eradicated, but they have no grounds on which to say it is absolutely, morally wrong. [[Rape and Evolution, Apologetics Press, 2005.]

    As I have so often pointed out, given the valid part of Hume’s IS-OUGHT guillotine gap argument, ther eis but one place that OUGHT can find grounding in a worldview, its foundation. That is, there must be an IS that grounds OUGHT,given that we are inescapably morally governed creatures, as our demand “you unfair me” and “I have a right” so eloquently shows. That is, we expect our rights to be respected as binding moral obligations imposed by our value as persons. Where the only solid ground of that value is that we are made in the image of God. In short, the only sound foundational IS for OUGHT is the inherently good God, our Creator.

    Denying such, lands us in all sorts of self referential absurdities, but the point is that there may be motivations to cling to absurdities that put us int eh position of narcissistic demands to be respected while we fail to recognise the other who also has legitimate needs to be respected and thus rights. Which must have a worldview foundational ground.

    We also need to heed Will Hawthorne’s remark at the archived blog, Atheism is Dead:

    Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the 'is' being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)

    Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

    Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

    For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

    Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.

    Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from [[a material] ‘is’.

    KF

  545. WJM

    IMO, it provides the slippery slope grounds for what we see here – the rejection of necessarily true principles as necessarily true – which provides more grease on the ground for moral relativism towards nihilistic, anything-goes, might makes right ideology.

    On the contrary, I would say that it guards against the danger of regarding principles as necessarily true if they are not, and thus sliding towards false conclusions. Isn’t this a good thing? Recall that there is a vast difference between saying:

    I have no idea whether this is true or not, so “anything goes”

    and

    “I am 99% certain that this is true, so I will proceed on that basis, while being aware that if I find, contrary to my expectations, that my initial assumption was in error, I have the opportunity to rethink.

    “Moral relativity” =/= “amorality”. It is possible to conclude that it is better to kill one man than risk the lives of many, even though it is wrong to kill one man if he poses no risk. In other words, killing is sometimes justified and sometimes not. Sometimes killing is better than not killing – the answer must be considered relative to the context, no?

    It doesn’t necessarily lead to that end – especially if post-modernists simply ignore (via rube goldberg intellectualizations) that they have sawed off the branch they are sitting on and keep employing concepts unavailable to their worldview – but, unfortunately, in the real world such assumed universal doubt and moral and truth relativism tend to affect more rationally streamlined people negatively.

    I disagree. In the “real world” I see, as I said, far more damage caused by misplaced certainty (“I am certain that it is right to fly a plane into a tower full of people”; “I am certain that annihilating this group of people will lead to a better world”) than uncertainty. The capacity to question one’s own certainty, and to evaluate the confidence with which one holds a belief seems to be an extremely important cognitive skill.

    This has been shown in many studies – people subjected to relativistic, nihilistic concepts tend to behave less ethically and less morally.

    Can you cite the studies? Not that I’m doubting you, I’d just like to know what you are referring to. However, nobody (well, neither keiths nor I) is saying that we are nihilists. We just don’t have 100% certainty in any proposition. That is something completely different. And I am only a “relativist” in the sense that I think that figuring out the most ethical course of action is often difficult and depends crucially on context. To think that some particular behaviour is always immoral seems to me to be foolish. There may always come a day when it is the least appalling option. Or at least, it seems to me, to be important to bear that possibility in mind, which is our point.

    If one accepts truth and morality as relative and without necessary consequences, it’s much easier to override conscience and do bad things. Why not?

    It’s certainly much easier to behave well when there are necessary penalties for behaving badly. But I don’t see that’s a corollary of accepting “truth and morality as relative”. I guess I don’t really know what you mean by “relative”. But let’s assume we are still talking about certainty: it seems to me that not being certain about the most moral course of action in a given context has nothing to do with one’s motivation for pursuing the course of action you nonetheless have to decide on, regardless of your degree of uncertainty. I do not have to know that I will suffer “necessary consequences” for behaving immorally to nonetheless by motivated to try to do the right thing, even when that right thing is uncertain. We seem to be trying to convert apples into oranges here.

    Uncertainty to me still seems to come out better than certainty.

    And the slippery slope to that is the idea that we cannot be certain of **anything**.

    Ah. I would say that to say that one cannot be 100% of whether something is true or not, is not to say that one can only be 50% certain. But perhaps you think that once one has let the “not completely certain” genie out of the bottle, one will automatically slither down to 50%

    I don’t see why. Indeed I’d say that our fundamental mode of cognitive reasoning is to weigh up relative probabilities and evaluate the “posterior” probability of an event based on the best information we have. Jut because we can never be certain that our information is complete (I would argue), doesn’t mean that we cannot come to some evaluation that one proposition is more likely to be true than another. And that seems far safer, to me, than assigning probability = 1 to any one belief. To ratchet in certainty may prevent re-evaluation (and thus be “slippery”), but that doesn’t seem to be a good thing. I’d rather retain the ability to update my priors (in Bayesian terms) and reach a conclusion with increased confidence, than have them set in stone, unalterable in the face of infirming evidence.

    I think this is a case of the baby being thrown out with the dirty bathwater; many atheists despise the authoritarianism of religious views because religious certainty can lead (and has led) to some pretty awful persecutions. Yes, certainty can be misused towards evil ends, but throwing out all certainty leaves all such evil ends permissible under relativism.

    I don’t doubt (well, maybe just a smidgeon!) that some people throw out the baby with the bathwater! Ayn Rand seems to me to do that. But, equally, so do some non-atheists – by insisting on biblical inerrancy, for instance, scientific progress in many fields is disabled.

    I don’t think “uncertainty” is the problem here, nor the right to remain uncertain. There are certainly moral problems in the world. I just think you are parking them at the wrong door.

    You cannot throw out any and all “moral high ground” under the “uncertainty” doctrine and then claim burning accused witches or beheading infidels is wrong.

    Well, obviously, there is no “uncertainty doctrine”, William, by definition. I am not even certain that it is impossible to be certain!

    What we are dealing with here, is, of course, a self-referential paradox. I believe Gödel had something to say about that! We aren’t going to resolve it here.

    My much more simple point is that retaining the possibility, however remote, that what we regard as axiomatic may itself be open to question, is a good thing, not a bad.

    I don’t think it leads on to the slippery slope to moral nihilism, I just think it prevents us being stuck at the top of a butte getting rather hungry.

  546. On the contrary, I would say that it guards against the danger of regarding principles as necessarily true if they are not, and thus sliding towards false conclusions. Isn’t this a good thing?

    Uncertain principles cannot “guard against” anything. You are proposing we guard against the possibility of false certainty reaching false conclusion by employing the very thing you are warning us against – an uncertain, potentially false premise that “nothing is certain”. You’ve just admitted that this premise, if accepted, denounces itself as potentially false and potentially leading to false conclusions. You are sawing off the very branch you are sitting on to make your case from.

    there is a vast difference between saying:

    I have no idea whether this is true or not, so “anything goes”

    and

    “I am 99% certain that this is true, so I will proceed on that basis, while being aware that if I find, contrary to my expectations, that my initial assumption was in error, I have the opportunity to rethink.

    You’re stealing the concept of “true” above. Under the uncertainty principle, there is no such thing as “true”, and the idea that you “99%” certain is itself an uncertain commodity. So, you cannot be certain that you are uncertain, or to what degree, or that your concept of how likely the proposition is to be “true” isn’t flawed.

  547. Elizabeth

    So the idea that what is true for me is not true for you is a good thing? It guards us against what?

    I’ll say it again relativism creates intolerance!

  548. I disagree.

    Are you certain of that?

    In the “real world” I see, as I said, far more damage caused by misplaced certainty … than uncertainty.

    Are you certain of that?

    The capacity to question one’s own certainty, and to evaluate the confidence with which one holds a belief seems to be an extremely important cognitive skill.

    Are you certain of that?

    (“I am certain that it is right to fly a plane into a tower full of people”; “I am certain that annihilating this group of people will lead to a better world”)

    Neither of the above statements mean anything, or have any value even as language unless you hold as certainly true certain fundamental premises. We’re not talking about secondary or tertiary beliefs where people are “certain” that they should fly a plane into a building; were talking about primary, fundamental propositions without which everything you say is nonsensical – such as LNC, the principle of identity, the idea that absolute right and wrong exist(or else you have no grounds to expect me to understand the context of those examples) and that I have libertarian free will (the ability to understand and respond in a way not dictated by material computation).

    These necessary assumptions are categorically different from a belief that some particular act can be concluded to be right or wrong. You are lumping self-evident and necessary truths that we can be certain about with secondary beliefs that we cannot; in fact, it is because of your acceptance that the logic of your argument is necessarily valid that you betray your certainty that the principles of logic which found and drive your argument are true and valid.

    It is only by our certainty that certain principles are true that we can “guard against” erroneous conclusions and thought – otherwise, the fox is guarding the henhouse.

    You’re equivocating personal beliefs with necessary principles – throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and the baby is necessary for every argument you attempt to make.

  549. Well, obviously, there is no “uncertainty doctrine”, William, by definition. I am not even certain that it is impossible to be certain!

    “Obviously” is a statement of certainty, Liz. “By definition” is a statement of certainty. “I”, “am not” are terms that imply certainty. “There is no uncertainty doctrine” is a statement of certainty.

    Your argument is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing but hypocritical, concept-stealing self-refutation.

  550. I do not have to know that I will suffer “necessary consequences” for behaving immorally to nonetheless by motivated to try to do the right thing, even when that right thing is uncertain.

    Without any non-relativistic standards or certainties, this same, exact statement can be used, employing the same principle, just before torturing children for personal pleasure and claiming it to be a morally good thing.

  551. Elizabeth

    Objective morality can not be the product of evolution. Non-morality can not give rise to morality, to believe or think that it does come from evolution contradicts the law of causality.

  552. I disagree, William, but as we’ve been round this circus a few times now, I think we will just have to leave it there.

    I will just say, however, in response to your 549: no I am not 100% certain of any of these things. That’s why I tend to use expressions like “it seems to me that…”

    I’m often in the 90s though.

  553. Dr Liddle:

    I could start from how I am certain, on good evidence that you have hosted slander at TSZ, tried to deny it, then to defend it then to act as though it does not matter. (As in, we have evidence directly in hand that your assertion is false and reflects just how your relativism has benumbed you to duties to the right and the truth and the fair.)

    I won’t.

    I will instead start from the very first example of a self evident, undeniably certain truth I have so often cited and shown: Royce’s proposition, Error exists.

    As in it is then incumbent on us as finite, fallible, morally fallen and struggling, too often ill-willed people, to seek to be right, and to be fair. To be humble before those first principles of reason that allow us to stand on firm ground and keep from slipping, then sliding away over the cliff:

    1 Take a bright red ball on the table so we see the world partitioned W = { A | NOT-A } . . . or ourselves as self-aware creatures.

    2 Immediately, we have the corollaries of that world partition, the laws of identity non-contradiction and excluded middle [the X-OR law that we cannot straddle or avoid the partition]

    3 Similarly, we can immediately ask ourselves and seek an answer, why A, thus leading to cause-effect,a nd contingency-necessity of being, and nothing = non-being.

    4 All of this you have known and have known how to easily access, so the pretence above that there are no enumerable core first principles of right reason is a willful misrepresentation.

    =======

    So, what we have is evidence of slip slidin’ away from truth and right into the morass of error.

    Including the error of implying that to kidnap, rape,. torture and murder a little girl is wrong. Objectively, obviously and self evidently wrong, once we stand here as self aware, morally valuable creatures who have rights.

    KF

  554. Andre:

    Elizabeth

    So the idea that what is true for me is not true for you is a good thing? It guards us against what?

    I’ll say it again relativism creates intolerance!

    I didn’t say any such thing.

    I didn’t say that something can be “true for me” but “not true for you”.

    I said two things that you may have mistaken for that claim:

    1. That the right thing in one context may not be the right thing in another (killing someone who is threatening to kill many other people; killing someone who looks as though they might).

    2. That misplaced certainty on the whole is more dangerous than misplaced uncertainty.

    Neither of these positions creates intolerance. The reverse, I’d say.

  555. KF:

    Including the error of implying that to kidnap, rape,. torture and murder a little girl is wrong.

    What?

    Did you mistype?

  556. KF:

    1 Take a bright red ball on the table so we see the world partitioned W = { A | NOT-A } . . . or ourselves as self-aware creatures.

    2 Immediately, we have the corollaries of that world partition, the laws of identity non-contradiction and excluded middle [the X-OR law that we cannot straddle or avoid the partition]

    Fine. If you define an entity as A, clearly it cannot also be defined as not-A without contradiction.

    No problem.

    3 Similarly, we can immediately ask ourselves and seek an answer, why A, thus leading to cause-effect,a nd contingency-necessity of being, and nothing = non-being.

    I can’t parse this.

    4 All of this you have known and have known how to easily access, so the pretence above that there are no enumerable core first principles of right reason is a willful misrepresentation.

    Your premise is incorrect, and so your conclusion is unwarranted.

  557. Dr Liddle:

    A case indeed of a typo, but an instructive one.

    I have several times used this as an example of something that is so self evidently wrong that to deny it is monstrous.

    Your reaction was not, that’s just a difference of subjective opinion, you actually imply directly that this would be wrong.

    In short we live in a world of objective morality. So also, one in which only a worldview that grounds that can be sound.

    Thence, we are looking at the inherently good God our Lord and Creator.

    Rhetorical game over.

    KF

  558. Dr Liddle:

    Your premise is incorrect

    As in, error exists.

    Then, look at “It is an error to hold that error exists.”

    That is, we see that the denial that error exists is an error.

    Thence, error exists is a self evident and undeniable truth.

    Game over.

    KF

  559. KF:

    No, your premise that “4 All of this you have known and have known how to easily access” is incorrect, and therefore your conclusion that “the pretence above that there are no enumerable core first principles of right reason is a willful misrepresentation.”

    I am not disputing your premise that error exists. If I did, I would not insist on retaining the right to be uncertain.

  560. Dr Liddle:

    All of the above has been repeatedly laid out in your presence here at UD for a long time, most recently just this morning here. There is actually a link upthread and the post in question is largely made up from comments above that appear in close proximity to your own.

    In addition, you have been able all along to link the general 101 level worldviews foundation presentation here on in immediate and wider context, which though it has been updated form time to time reflecting its draft course status, has substantially been there for something like two years.

    You have certainly had access,a nd it is plain that before one makes adverse comments there is a dutiy of care to firness and accutracy. That you have not done that duty, by your own admission, is sadly revealing.

    Remember, this is all in a context where you have hosted an anti-ID blog for some time, which has largely focussed on UD, and which has in a lot of commentary you have harboured, enabled or even participated in, indulged in stereotyping, dismissal, misrepresentation and worse. Including outright slander, which I have already shown you have enabled, cf. here.

    It is only fair comment on my part to say that you have major duties of care regarding accuracy, fairness and truth that you should have carried out before commenting adversely and/or harbouring those you reasonably should have known would do so.

    If you did not actually know better, as I implied you full well SHOULD have known and done better.

    A LOT better.

    Sorry, you have made yourself a poster girl for just what I am talking about.

    KF

  561. KF:

    I have no problem with the LNC – what I don’t agree with is the notion that it is an objective truth.

    I think it is simply incoherent to define something as A and also as not-A.

    Just as I don’t think it is “true” that square circles cannot exist. I think it is simply incoherent to define something as a “square circle”. In fact it derives from the LNC:

    A figure cannot meet the definition of a circle and not meet the definition of a circle.

    Similarly, if we define “moral” behavior as doing what we ought when it conflicts with what we want then it is simply incoherent to simultaneously claim that “moral” behavior is also doing what we want when it conflicts with what we “ought”.

    That does not tell us what we “ought”, of course, but it does tell us that when we want to take a particular course of action, then, if we want to be moral, we must also consider whether there is some alternative and conflicting course of action that is what we ought.

    Again, I wouldn’t say this is an objective truth but simply that to say otherwise would be incoherent, e.g.:

    “I want to be moral so I need not consider what I ought to do, merely what I want to do”. It’s a contradiction in terms. A violation of the LNC! i.e. incoherent.

    However we are now faced with the issue of ethics – figuring out what we ought to do, as opposed to whether “morality” is what we ought to do (which, as I say, is simply how we define the term.

    And while I think that ethical dilemmas range from the virtually certain at one end to the impossible-to-resolve at the other, I am still reluctant to declare as an absolute truth that some courses of action are always unethical, in every single conceivable scenario. I would consider it theoretically, if not practically, impossible to rule out some scenario in which the most appalling course of action was not still the least evil of the only available options.

    Think for example, of Sophie’s Choice.

  562. KF:

    All of the above has been repeatedly laid out in your presence here at UD for a long time, most recently just this morning here. There is actually a link upthread and the post in question is largely made up from comments above that appear in close proximity to your own.

    Just because you have laid out in my presence a case that you consider to be correct, does not mean that I necessarily now know it to correct.

    You forget the possibility that you yourself may be in error.

  563. That should read, of course:

    “Just because you have laid out in my presence a case that you consider to be correct, does not mean that I necessarily now know it to be correct.”

    We are all, as you so rightly say, capable of error :)

  564. A figure cannot meet the definition of a circle and not meet the definition of a circle.

    Cannot? Are you certain?

  565. No, I’m not, William.

    But that’s because I’m not a trained logician, and I could be wrong.

    I think I can be certain about things I have defined, but those are not absolute truths – they are premises. I think that is an important distinction.

    For example I am certain that a thing cannot be A and not-A, because it would make no sense in normal usage to claim that a thing cannot be A and not-A.

    On the other hand, I can envisage some kind of model of reality where such a premise would be irrelevant. A model in which there was no time, for instance – perhaps a model of what “preceded” Big Bang.

    It’s not that I think that the LNC is uncertain – it’s that I think it is not not a true statement about the world. I think it’s a premise without which we cannot talk coherently about the world – or at least the classical post-Big Bang world.

    It may simply be impossible to talk coherently