The Continuing Bloggersation

Larry Moran has said he gets what I’m saying, but it is just the old argument from experience. But I think there is a difference. I’m not claiming to have experienced aliens or other beings within the world that he’s never seen and has no evidence of. I’m claiming to experience the universe we inhabit itself in a different way. How do we compare our different subjective experiences of existence? I’m not talking about dreams – I’m talking about how we experience waking existence.

Barefoot Bum has joined in the conversation with a post about explaining color to the blind.

Kayology has chimed in with a post about concepts of God.

I don’t know where this bloggersation will take us, but I hope others are finding it as helpful, stimulating and thought provoking as I am!

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  • elbogz

    So, How is your scenario different than mine?I saw the girl of my dreams, and I am certain that Cupid shot me in the heart with one of his magical arrows. You probably have never experienced it, so you are incapable of judging Cupid.When you are shot in the heart by one of Cupid’s magical arrows you get a feeling of euphoria that is undeniable. Only Cupid’s magical arrow could cause such a feeling, and if Cupid has never shot you in the heart, you can’t understand it.

  • It sounds very similar – in addition to having had a religious experience, you see, I’ve also been shot by Cupid’s arrow.This metaphor/symbolism may not be helpful to many modern people. But I doubt that such people would be content to replace such a description of their experience with one that merely mentions dopamine and other aspects of brain chemistry. The experience of falling in love certainly involves brain chemistry. But I’d argue that anyone who says it is “just brain chemistry” is not only unnecessarily reductionistic, but is likely to spend their life alone if they keep it up! 🙂

  • Carlos

    I wonder if the real problem here concerns different expectations about how language is used — or if you prefer, different assumptions about how utterances (e.g. “I cried out to God in surrender”) ought to be interpreted. If these utterances are interpreted as assertion, then they will be seen as claims about how things are, and such claims could, plausibly, come into conflict with assertions drawn from the natural or social sciences. If these utterances are not interpreted as assertions, then the question arises as to what they are, and why they are worth making.The so-called “new atheists” (a term that I frankly loathe) take an assertion-centered view of language. If it’s not an assertion about how things are, then it’s mere subjective fantasy, unworthy of serious consideration, and so on. And if that’s right, then one way to advance the conversation is to open up this view of language, somehow — perhaps by emphasizing, as James does here, the importance of metaphors and symbols. It’s here that one can, I think, really push on the new atheists to show that the burden is on them to argue that metaphorical and symbolic language is second-hand, and that assertoric language deserves its central place. Or, maybe put a bit better, assertoric language does deserve central place in some cases (e.g. science — although even in science metaphor is indispensable), or in journalism, but just because assertoric language is central in some cases, it doesn’t follow that it is in all cases. It is not central to poetry or literature, for example, and it needn’t be central to religious discourse either. (To put this point in academic terms, I don’t think that Tillich-style distinctions, e.g. between literal and symbolic uses of language, can get very far without a richer and more interesting picture of how language works — pictures that can be found in the work of Wittgenstein, Austin, and Stanley Cavell.)

  • Carlos

    Sorry to double-post — just wanted to add that atheism is, in its way, just as metaphorical or symbolic as theism is.

  • Carl Sachs: But millions of people actually do take their religion as entirely assertive, in just the same sense that statements about the mass of the Earth and the law of gravity are assertive.Atheists are just as interested (and some just as uninterested) in poetry and literature as the next person. And most of us — myself included — would be well pleased and consider our efforts entirely successful if religion were commonly taken to be of the same ilk as poetry and literature.I go into more detail on my blog.

  • James F. McGrath: You’re setting up a false dichotomy here. There’s a lot of room between obvious metaphor (i.e. “shot by Cupid’s arrow”) and biochemical reductionism. We can talk very plainly and directly about our emotions as emotions, we can talk about feelings of love in terms of happiness, pleasure, contentment, excitement, trust (and, sadly, sometimes anxiety, jealousy, inadequacy and fear) without invoking any explicit metaphor (except in the trivial sense that all words are “metaphors” for the underlying reality.In just the same sense, could we not talk about so-called “religious” experiences more directly? If it’s apprehensible or communicable through a metaphor, then there must be some shared experience the metaphor commonly invokes. Why couldn’t we talk about that shared experience directly.