The Sentence “God Exists” Part 1

In The Coherence of Theism (original:1977, revised ed.:1993), Richard Swinburne argues that the sentence “God exists” is a meaningful indicative sentence that expresses a coherent proposition. He does this by raising objections to arguments that have been given against this view, and by also making a detailed positive case.

For the negative or defensive case, Swinburne starts out by raising objections to some general arguments against this view, and later in the book he raises objections to more specific arguments that focus on the alleged incoherence of specific characteristics or combinations of specific characteristics that are used to define the word “God”.

The main general argument against his position that is examined by Swinburne is a logical positivist argument about the sentence “God exists”, derived primarily from A.J. Ayer’s book Language, Truth, and Logic (1936).

This is how Swinburne interprets the skeptical argument presented by Ayer:

(1) If the sentence “God exists” expresses a coherent statement, then the sentence “God exists” expresses either an analytic proposition or else it expresses a synthetic proposition.
(2) The sentence “God exists” does not express an analytic proposition.

(3) The sentence “God exists” does not express a synthetic proposition.
Therefore,
(4) It is not the case that “God exists” expresses a coherent statement.

The logic of this argument is fine, and Swinburne accepts premises (1) and (2), so his focus is on the question of whether premise (3) is true or well-supported.

This skeptical argument is basically a modern version of Hume’s fork. Hume divided claims into two categories: (a) relations of ideas and (b) matters of fact. Hume argued that all claims fall into one or the other category, so since metaphysical sentences do not express either “the relations of ideas” or “matters of fact”, such sentences do not express claims or propositions.

The concept of an analytic proposition can be viewed as a clarification of Hume’s notion of statements that express “the relations of ideas”. The concept of a synthetic proposition can be viewed as a refinement of Hume’s notion of statements that express “matters of fact”. Given the assumption that all coherent propositions can be categorized as either being an analytic or a synthetic proposition, a dilemma simliar to Hume’s fork can be constructed for the sentence “God exists”.

About Bradley Bowen
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02494141255401096538 uzza

    This sounds interesting. The first thing I'd ask is; You can't make proposition using meaningless terms, so does Swineburn ever define what he means by "god"?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Uzza said…

    does Swineburn ever define what he means by "god"?
    ===========
    Yes.

    Swinburne is a modern analytic philosopher. When he was a student of philosophy, he took courses from Ordinary Language philosophers, including John Austin.

    Swinburne provides a general definition of the term "God" and then also provides clarification and analysis of each word or phrase in that general definition.

    One of the main tasks of his book COT is to describe circumstances in which each of the alleged characteristics of "God" would occur. He does this in order to demonstrate that each characteristic is coherent in itself, and then he procedes to try to describe circumstances in which combinations of these characteristics occur together in one person.

    Here is the general definition given by Swinburne in Part II of the book ("A Contingent God"):

    "In this part I shall consider what it means to claim that there exists eternally an omnipresent spirit, free, creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and a source of moral obligation, and whether this is a coherent claim." (COT, revised edition, p.99)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11389651479904502758 DM

    Let me show you the FATE OF TRAITORS…

    http://www.loiterink.com/photos/products/182_3424_500x500.jpg

    they are incapable of telling the difference between SCIENTIFIC *FACT* AND RELIGIOUS AND PHILOSOPHICAL *TRUTH*… FATAL ERROR!

    they also preach a *VALUE FREE SCIENCE* called *POSITIVISM* that ignores the inequalities of wealth and power in capitalist civilization…

    for a sample taste of PZ Myers' GARBAGE…

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/06/sunday_sacrilege_imagine_no_he.php

    HIJACKING IN PROGRESS!!!

    http://hawaiiwebgroup.com/maui-design/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/website-hijacking.jpg

    HIJACKING IN PROGRESS!!!

    how can these HEADLESS IDIOTS BET AGAINST GOD!!!
    ________________________________________

    what happens when you LOSE Pascal's Wager…

    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/pascals-wager.htm

    _____________

    you FIGHT PAPER MONSTERS…

    the blood and bodies of the atheist movement…

    you mofos killed MICKEY MOUSE!!!!

    this has more TRUTH then what Dawkins, Randi, Harris, Myers, and Shermer
    combined have said in their entire lives…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=5R2wE8Sduhs&playnext;_from=TL&videos;=hht1U_19anc&feature;=rec-LGOUT-exp_fresh%2Bdiv-1r-3-HM

    they tried to BULLDOZE the entire METAPHYSICAL DIMENSION…

    they LOST THE WAR……

    you have FORFEIT YOUR SOUL, shermer… you have become an object in the
    material world, as you WISHED…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUB4j0n2UDU

    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/7/11792994_ffaaee87fa.jpg

    we're gonna smash that TV…

    They had become ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE AND OF GOD…
    you pushed too much and *CROSSED THE LINE*

    degenerates (PZ) or children (HEMANT) – ATHEISTS!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRRg2tWGDSY

    do you have anything to say, you STUPID LITTLE F*CKER?

    how about I tell you, Mr. Shermer, EVERYTHING YOU THINK ABOUT THE WORLD is

    *WRONG*

    THE BOOBQUAKE – 911!

    http://dissidentphilosophy.lifediscussion.net/philosophy-f1/the-boobquake-911-t1310.htm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sx7XNb3Q9Ek

    RUN, ATHEISTS, RUN!!!

    ——————-

    the 9th and FINAL RING of Dante's Inferno is designed for little blaspheming traitors like you

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17239457772830013242 tmdrange

    Swinburne translates "God exists" as "There exists eternally an omnipresent spirit, free, creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and a source of moral obligation."
    The translation is defective for various reasons, including the following:
    (1) In English, the word "God" (capitalized) always stands for a unique being, so the translation needs the definite article ("the") instead of the indefinite article ("an").
    (2) It is unclear what a "spirit" is supposed to be.
    (3) It is unclear how anything can be "omnipresent," aside (perhaps) from space itself.
    (4) It is unclear what "the universe" is supposed to mean in the given context.
    (5) It is unclear how something that is "omnipresent" can create the universe, seeing as it is nonsense to speak of a thing creating itself.
    (6) There are numerous objections to the concepts of "omnipotent" and "omniscient," both separately and in combination, and to the "free + omniscient" combination.
    (7) The idea of "perfectly good" is subjective and would thus make "God exists" into some sort of subjective judgment.
    (There are other objections in addition to these.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    DM said…

    you mofos killed MICKEY MOUSE!!!!
    ==================

    hmmm. Sounds strangely familiar.

    I think someone has figured out what Ctrl+V does.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    tmdrange said…

    (1) In English, the word "God" (capitalized) always stands for a unique being, so the translation needs the definite article ("the") instead of the indefinite article ("an").
    ========
    That is my fault. I oversimplified Swinburne. The definition he gives is more of a definition of a "divine being" or something of that nature. He views "God" as a proper name that is to be understood in terms of a definite description. He argures that there can be only one "divine being" so the list of characteristics will work as a definite description (if I remember Swinburne's thinking correctly).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14342345477401377932 51265126

    It doesn't matter whether you can claim to have defined the term "God" (with a capital letter) with words or not. What matters is whether or not you can close your eyes and actually imagine (think of sensing) anything theists would call "God". I don't think you can, or anybody can. Thus I say "God" is a meaningless sound.

    Edwin McCravy

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    More on tmdrange's objection (1)…

    After listing the previously mentioned characteristics of God, Swinburne says "I now define such a person as a personal ground of being." (COT, rev. ed, p.232)

    In the original edition of COT, Swinburne claimed "There can only be one personal ground of being." (COT, orig. ed., p.225)

    Thus, he could transition to the definite description "the personal ground of being" and then simply use the word "God" as "the proper name of the individual, if there is one, who is the personal ground of being." (COT, orig. ed., p.226)

    However, in the revised edition, Swinburne backs off of the claim that there can only be one personal ground of being. (COT, rev. ed., p.233). Yet he continues to speak of "the personal ground of being" and to understand the word "God" to be the proper name of this individual.(COT, rev. ed., p.235)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    tmdrange said…

    (2) It is unclear what a "spirit" is supposed to be.
    ===========
    OK. As I said, Swinburne clarifies each word or phrase in the general definition:

    "By a 'spirit' is understood a person without a body, a non-embodied person. …That God is a person, yet one without a body, seems the most elementary claim of theism." (COT, rev. ed., p.101)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Edwin McCravy said…

    What matters is whether or not you can close your eyes and actually imagine (think of sensing) anything theists would call "God". I don't think you can, or anybody can. Thus I say "God" is a meaningless sound.
    ==========

    This sounds quite a bit like Hume's skeptical argument, with an emphasis on the "matters of fact" type of claims.

    Is this a test that you would apply to all words? If so, I think you will end up concluding that many ordinary words and phrases are meaningless.

    Can you sense "the number three"?
    You can, no doubt imagine seeing three pennies or three marbles, but that is not the same as sensing "the number three". So, is this phrase meaningless?

    How about "a deductive inference"? Can you imagine seeing or feeling "a deductive inference"? Is this a meaningless phrase?

    How about the word "very"? Can you imagine or sense "very"? You can imagine something being "very fast" or "very large", but I don't think you can just imagine something that is just "very". So, is this a meaningless word too?

    How about the word "the"? Is that a meaningless word? The word "is"?
    The word "only"? The word "word"?
    The word "how"? The word "about"?

    Can you imagine or sense something corresponding to the word "meaningless"?

    Your test seems to yeild the result that many ordinary words are meaningless.

    What is the basis for your belief that words can only have meaning if one can imagine or think of sensing an object to which the word applies?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11389651479904502758 DM

    The B**BQUAKE – 911

    Let me show you the FATE OF TRAITORS…

    http://www.loiterink.com/photos/products/182_3424_500x500.jpg

    they are incapable of telling the difference between SCIENTIFIC *FACT* AND RELIGIOUS AND PHILOSOPHICAL *TRUTH*… FATAL ERROR!

    they also preach a *VALUE FREE SCIENCE* called *POSITIVISM* that ignores the inequalities of wealth and power in capitalist civilization…

    for a sample taste of PZ Myers' GARBAGE…

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/06/sunday_sacrilege_imagine_no_he.php

    HIJACKING IN PROGRESS!!!

    http://hawaiiwebgroup.com/maui-design/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/website-hijacking.jpg

    HIJACKING IN PROGRESS!!!

    how can these HEADLESS IDIOTS BET AGAINST GOD!!!
    ________________________________________

    what happens when you LOSE Pascal's Wager…

    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/pascals-wager.htm

    _____________

    you FIGHT PAPER MONSTERS…

    the blood and bodies of the atheist movement…

    you mofos killed MICKEY MOUSE!!!!

    this has more TRUTH then what Dawkins, Randi, Harris, Myers, and Shermer
    combined have said in their entire lives…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=5R2wE8Sduhs&playnext;_from=TL&videos;=hht1U_19anc&feature;=rec-LGOUT-exp_fresh%2Bdiv-1r-3-HM

    they tried to BULLDOZE the entire METAPHYSICAL DIMENSION…

    they LOST THE WAR……

    you have FORFEIT YOUR SOUL, shermer… you have become an object in the
    material world, as you WISHED…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUB4j0n2UDU

    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/7/11792994_ffaaee87fa.jpg

    we're gonna smash that TV…

    They had become ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE AND OF GOD…
    you pushed too much and *CROSSED THE LINE*

    degenerates (PZ) or children (HEMANT) – ATHEISTS!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRRg2tWGDSY

    do you have anything to say, you STUPID LITTLE F*CKER?

    how about I tell you, Mr. Shermer, EVERYTHING YOU THINK ABOUT THE WORLD is

    *WRONG*

    THE BOOBQUAKE – 911!

    http://dissidentphilosophy.lifediscussion.net/philosophy-f1/the-boobquake-911-t1310.htm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sx7XNb3Q9Ek

    RUN, ATHEISTS, RUN!!!

    ——————-

    http://www.4degreez.com/misc/dante-inferno-information.html

    the 9th and FINAL RING of Dante's Inferno is designed for little blaspheming traitors like you…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11389651479904502758 DM

    http://www.4degreez.com/misc/dante-inferno-information.html

    the 9th and FINAL RING of Dante's Inferno is designed for little blaspheming traitors like you…

    but at least FREE AIR CONDITIONING is included!

    _________________

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17239457772830013242 tmdrange

    Swinburne says: "By a 'spirit' is understood a person without a body, a non-embodied person."
    How can there be a person without a body, especially one that is "omnipresent"? That makes no sense to me. All the people we know or can imagine have bodies and are located somewhere. Swinburne's attempt to clarify his term "spirit" is most unhelpful.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Response to tmdrange…

    I agree that "non-embodied person" as a definition of "spirit" does not resolve skeptical objections or concerns, but it seems a clear enough definition to me–a good starting point for discussion about the coherence of the claim "God exists".

    The word "God" is clarified in terms of various characteristics, one of which is "an omnipresent spirit". The word "spirit" is then analyzed as meaning a "non-embodied person".

    What we want in addition to this initial analysis of "spirit" is clarification of the term "person" and some analysis of what it means for a person to have a body. Swinburne provides this additional clarification in Chapter 7 ("An Omnipresent Spirit") of COT.

    I plan to do a post or two on Chapter 7, so keep your powder dry and we can discuss your objections to the concept of a "spirit" when I write a post or two on that key chapter.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    DM said…

    but at least FREE AIR CONDITIONING is included!
    ==========

    Free air conditioning?
    Hell, I'll go there!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11389651479904502758 DM

    we do like your music Lady Gaga, but…

    The B**BQUAKE – 911

    Let me show you the FATE OF TRAITORS…

    http://www.loiterink.com/photos/products/182_3424_500x500.jpg

    they are incapable of telling the difference between SCIENTIFIC *FACT* AND RELIGIOUS AND PHILOSOPHICAL *TRUTH*… FATAL ERROR!

    they also preach a *VALUE FREE SCIENCE* called *POSITIVISM* that ignores the inequalities of wealth and power in capitalist civilization…

    for a sample taste of PZ Myers' GARBAGE…

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/06/sunday_sacrilege_imagine_no_he.php

    HIJACKING IN PROGRESS!!!

    http://hawaiiwebgroup.com/maui-design/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/website-hijacking.jpg

    HIJACKING IN PROGRESS!!!

    how can these HEADLESS IDIOTS BET AGAINST GOD!!!
    ________________________________________

    what happens when you LOSE Pascal's Wager…

    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/pascals-wager.htm

    _____________

    you FIGHT PAPER MONSTERS…

    the blood and bodies of the atheist movement…

    you mofos killed MICKEY MOUSE!!!!

    this has more TRUTH then what Dawkins, Randi, Harris, Myers, and Shermer
    combined have said in their entire lives…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=5R2wE8Sduhs&playnext;_from=TL&videos;=hht1U_19anc&feature;=rec-LGOUT-exp_fresh%2Bdiv-1r-3-HM

    they tried to BULLDOZE the entire METAPHYSICAL DIMENSION…

    they LOST THE WAR……

    you have FORFEIT YOUR SOUL, shermer… you have become an object in the
    material world, as you WISHED…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUB4j0n2UDU

    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/7/11792994_ffaaee87fa.jpg

    we're gonna smash that TV…

    They had become ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE AND OF GOD…
    you pushed too much and *CROSSED THE LINE*

    degenerates (PZ) or children (HEMANT) – ATHEISTS!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRRg2tWGDSY

    do you have anything to say, you STUPID LITTLE F*CKER?

    how about I tell you, Mr. Shermer, EVERYTHING YOU THINK ABOUT THE WORLD is

    *WRONG*

    THE BOOBQUAKE – 911!

    http://dissidentphilosophy.lifediscussion.net/philosophy-f1/the-boobquake-911-t1310.htm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sx7XNb3Q9Ek

    RUN, ATHEISTS, RUN!!!

    ——————-

    http://www.4degreez.com/misc/dante-inferno-information.html

    the 9th and FINAL RING of Dante's Inferno is designed for little blaspheming traitors like you…

    but at least FREE AIR CONDITIONING is included!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06957529748541493998 Metacrock

    Paul Tillich interprets the sentence "God exists" as a theological mistake. Existence is for contingent things.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06957529748541493998 Metacrock

    Hume was the Derrida of his age. I find it interesting that you use Hume's fork, yet when violate Hume's fork in a much more obvious and uncomplicated way, ie "morality is predicated upon genetics" then they don't give a rats hid quarter's about Hume's fork.

    Hume has done enough to destroy human thought, must he be dragged into it again?

    "God exists" is a theologically incorrect statement. But as an uneducated statement theologically speaking, a naive statement of popular piety its' no more complex or wrong headed or incoherent than saying "My dog exists," or "my house exists."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06957529748541493998 Metacrock

    This sounds interesting. The first thing I'd ask is; You can't make proposition using meaningless terms, so does Swineburn ever define what he means by "god"?

    dom't you think it' just little bit ridiculous to think of a term as "meaningless" when it's been well defined by most great thinkers in humanity and when the camp that doesn't appreciated it has Mark Twain and Bertrand Russell and that's about it?

    so what's wrong wtih Panneberg's defintion?

    what's wrong Withh Tilich's

    whitehead's?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    tmdrange said…

    (3) It is unclear how anything can be "omnipresent," aside (perhaps) from space itself.
    ============

    Response:

    Before we can determine whether anything can be "omnipresent", we need to be clear about what it means to be "omnipresent". Obviously, the basic meaning is something like "present everywhere", but since in this case we are talking about a person, and a non-embodied person at that, additional clarification or analysis is needed.

    Swinburne follows Aquinas on the concept of "omnipresence". Aquinas claimed that "God is everywhere in substance, power, and presence."

    Swinburne understands the idea of God being "everywhere by power and substance" to mean that all things are "subject to his direct control" (COT, rev. ed., p.106).

    Swinburne understands the idea of God being "everywhere by presence" to mean that God knows "goings on everywhere, without being dependent for his knowledge on such intermediaries as eyes and ears" (COT, rev. ed., p.106).

    So, the question now becomes: Is it possible for all things to be under the direct control of a person and for the same person to directly know goings on everywhere?
    If this is a coherent supposition, then the claim that there is an omnipresent person is a coherent claim.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Metacroc said…
    so does Swineburn ever define what he means by "god"?
    ================

    Yes. Here is the general definition given by Swinburne in Part II of the book ("A Contingent God"):

    "In this part I shall consider what it means to claim that there exists eternally an omnipresent spirit, free, creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and a source of moral obligation, and whether this is a coherent claim." (COT, revised edition, p.99)

    Swinburne goes on to clarify each word and phrase in this list, and argues that it is coherent to suppose that some being has all of these characteristics (in other words that each word or phrase is meaningful and each can be attributed to a being without logical contradiction, and that the attribution of all of these characteristics to a single being does not involve a logical contradiction).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Bradley,

    I think that Richard Swinburne’s definitions are over-specified. Indeed it is easy to misunderstand what the theistic claim “God exists” actually means. It does not mean that beside the existence of X, Y, and Z, the claim is made that also one more element, called “God” and having some specific properties, exists. Rather theism is a thesis about what “existence” actually *is*, namely that all existence ultimately rests on the presence and will of a personal being. (According to theism that personal being is perfect in all respects, has created us and the world we experience, and so on, but these are secondary properties which I will here ignore). So one can perhaps restate theism’s thesis in a less ambiguous way as “reality is God-structured”, or more simply “reality is personal”. (Given this clarification one immediately sees how other theistic claims, such as “God is omnipresent” or “God is eternal”, immediately follow.)

    If we take (positive) atheism to mean the negation of theism, then the above clarifies the meaning of atheism too: Atheism is not the claim that only X, Y, and Z but not “God” exist, but rather the claim that all existence does *not* rest on the presence and will of a personal being, and is therefore autonomous, purposeless, and of a mechanical nature. But the latter is what naturalists believe. It seems to me then that one can’t really conceptualize a non-theistic non-naturalistic reality (and I have never seen a coherent non-theistic non-naturalistic reality proposed). If atheism and naturalism refer to the same ontological thesis, then atheism is a positive ontology which makes some extraordinary claims about reality, for example that electrons, which are physical primitives with no access to some computing machinery, can nevertheless behave in ways that are highly computationally complex. Significantly these claims are extraordinary precisely because of naturalism’s assumptions and epistemic standards. To rationally believe in such an ontology one must defend it with evidence or good arguments.

    Coming back to your original post, I note that at least since the scholastics the claim was made that the existence of God is a necessary truth, i.e. that existence in all possible worlds is based on the presence and will of a personal being. In other words that there is no kind of existence which is not God based. As it stands I can’t see how this claim stands. After all “existence” is a concept that derives its meaning from our experience of life. So, it seems to me, that this claim must be understood as that there is no possible world in which there is experience in some essential way similar to ours and in which God does not exist. But qualified in this way the claim that God’s existence is necessary becomes kind of irrelevant.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05713099591321368658 James

    Dianelos Georgoudis said…

    “If atheism and naturalism refer to the same ontological thesis, then atheism is a positive ontology which makes some extraordinary claims about reality, for example that electrons, which are physical primitives with no access to some computing machinery, can nevertheless behave in ways that are highly computationally complex. Significantly these claims are extraordinary precisely because of naturalism’s assumptions and epistemic standards. To rationally believe in such an ontology one must defend it with evidence or good arguments.”
    =====================

    To call a claim “extraordinary”, wouldn’t you have to already know the complete structure of reality? What does it mean to say that anything about an electron is extraordinary? Compared to what? We could say that any basic fact about reality, if it doesn’t depend on something prior to itself, is extraordinary, including God if he exists. But any basic fact would cease to be extraordinary; it would just be reality. Probability does not help us understand or predict uncaused things (although it is useful in quantum mechanics, but that’s not exactly what I’m talking about!).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11389651479904502758 DM

    http://skepticblog.org/2010/04/06/would-i-ever-pray-for-a-miracle/

    Shermer, I WANT TO SEE YOU BEG FOR A MIRACLE…
    ___________________

    we do like your music Lady Gaga, but…

    The B**BQUAKE – 911

    Let me show you the FATE OF TRAITORS…

    http://www.loiterink.com/photos/products/182_3424_500x500.jpg

    they are incapable of telling the difference between SCIENTIFIC *FACT* AND RELIGIOUS AND PHILOSOPHICAL *TRUTH*… FATAL ERROR!

    they also preach a *VALUE FREE SCIENCE* called *POSITIVISM* that ignores the inequalities of wealth and power in capitalist civilization…

    for a sample taste of PZ Myers' GARBAGE…

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/06/sunday_sacrilege_imagine_no_he.php

    HIJACKING IN PROGRESS!!!

    http://hawaiiwebgroup.com/maui-design/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/website-hijacking.jpg

    HIJACKING IN PROGRESS!!!

    how can these HEADLESS IDIOTS BET AGAINST GOD!!!
    ________________________________________

    what happens when you LOSE Pascal's Wager…

    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/pascals-wager.htm

    _____________

    you FIGHT PAPER MONSTERS…

    the blood and bodies of the atheist movement…

    you mofos killed MICKEY MOUSE!!!!

    this has more TRUTH then what Dawkins, Randi, Harris, Myers, and Shermer
    combined have said in their entire lives…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=5R2wE8Sduhs&playnext;_from=TL&videos;=hht1U_19anc&feature;=rec-LGOUT-exp_fresh%2Bdiv-1r-3-HM

    they tried to BULLDOZE the entire METAPHYSICAL DIMENSION…

    they LOST THE WAR……

    you have FORFEIT YOUR SOUL, shermer… you have become an object in the
    material world, as you WISHED…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUB4j0n2UDU

    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/7/11792994_ffaaee87fa.jpg

    we're gonna smash that TV…

    They had become ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE AND OF GOD…
    you pushed too much and *CROSSED THE LINE*

    degenerates (PZ) or children (HEMANT) – ATHEISTS!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRRg2tWGDSY

    do you have anything to say, you STUPID LITTLE F*CKER?

    how about I tell you, Mr. Shermer, EVERYTHING YOU THINK ABOUT THE WORLD is

    *WRONG*

    THE BOOBQUAKE – 911!

    http://dissidentphilosophy.lifediscussion.net/philosophy-f1/the-boobquake-911-t1310.htm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sx7XNb3Q9Ek

    RUN, ATHEISTS, RUN!!!

    ——————-

    http://www.4degreez.com/misc/dante-inferno-information.html

    the 9th and FINAL RING of Dante's Inferno is designed for little blaspheming traitors like you…

    "This is the deepest level of hell, where the fallen angel Satan himself resides. His wings flap eternally, producing chilling cold winds that freeze the thick ice found in Cocytus…"

    but at least FREE AIR CONDITIONING is included!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Dianelos said:

    So one can perhaps restate theism’s thesis in a less ambiguous way as “reality is God-structured”, or more simply “reality is personal”.

    ============

    The claim that "reality is God-structured" does very little to clarify the claim that "God exists", since the former uses the word "God"–which is the problematic term in the sentence–to clarify the sentence.

    The claim that "reality is personal" avoids the circularity problem, but it is at least as unclear as the original sentence, if not more unclear. I have some idea of what the claim that "God exists" means, but I don't have a clue as to what is meant by "reality is personal".

    Swinburne's high-level definition is MUCH more clear than yours. Of course, you can provide further analysis and clarification of your high-level definition and perhaps it will have some advantages over Swinburne's, but as it stands, your high-level definition is as clear as mud.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    James,

    You write: “To call a claim “extraordinary”, wouldn’t you have to already know the complete structure of reality?

    No, I don’t think so. We shall never know the complete structure of reality, but we do form beliefs about how reality is, and when confronted with claims that do not comport with these beliefs then we say they are extraordinary.

    What does it mean to say that anything about an electron is extraordinary? Compared to what?

    Compared to how, according to naturalism, reality is supposed to be. Specifically, according to naturalism, reality is supposed not to be magical, and computationally complex behavior is supposed to rest on something that explains it. After all, in naturalism it’s not like there is an invisible intelligence supernaturally pushing things around.

    Suppose I showed to you a working electronic calculator, and then claimed that there is nothing inside the calculator which might account for its complex behavior. Surely you’d find this hard to believe. Suppose further you opened up the calculator and found out that what I said was true: this calculator is an empty box with nothing whatsoever in it, and even so when one presses its keys it always displays the correct result “just like that”, and with no apparent reason or cause at all. I suggest that such a state of affairs would be judged to be highly extraordinary by a naturalist, for it would look like some invisible intelligence supernaturally causing the calculator to behave in this complex manner.

    Now your argument is probably that we should not make analogies between large and complex physical things such as calculators, and minute and indeed invisible physical primitives such as electrons. The question is, why not? After all, it’s not like calculators and electrons exist in two different realities or have two different natures; indeed it’s not like calculators behave “classically” and electrons behave “non-classically”, as some people assume. Rather both calculators and electrons behave the way quantum mechanics specifies, the difference being that quantum mechanical effects are less notable in the case of large objects (or, to be more precise, are notable in rarer situations). The difference then is one of scale and not of kind. For example, as an electron can be put in quantum superposition (such as to exist in two different places at the same time), the same can in principle be done with calculators. Indeed physicists have managed to put large molecules in quantum superposition, and there is no reason (except for the need of lots of money to build the technology) why one couldn’t place in quantum superposition physical objects large enough to be visible to the naked eye.

    So, if calculators and electrons are of the same nature, and if for a naturalist it would be absurd to suggest that a calculator may display complex behavior “just like that”, then by the same measure it is at least extraordinary to say that electrons display complex behavior “just like that”. My larger point is that naturalism, while affirming that it is not a magical worldview, when studied closely is found to be based on a huge number of magical going-ons. Incidentally, there are many other cases apart from the behavior of electrons. I have always wondered how dumb mass is capable of curving spacetime around it. Quantum non-locality is another really magical thing to behold.

    We could say that any basic fact about reality, if it doesn’t depend on something prior to itself, is extraordinary, including God if he exists.

    At least on theism there is one highly powerful mind and everything else follows top-down from it. But on naturalism it seems that the simpler and dumber something is the more sophisticated its capabilities. And this is just one class of conceptual problem that modern science has produced for naturalism. Now, who knows, science may yet evolve in a way that will help solve naturalism’s problems. But, given the history of science in the last 100 years or so, I wouldn’t be too optimistic.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Bradley,

    You write: The claim that "reality is God-structured" does very little to clarify the claim that "God exists", since the former uses the word "God"–which is the problematic term in the sentence–to clarify the sentence.

    My whole point what that the problematic term is “exists” rather than “God”. Or, if you prefer, that phrase does *not* claim that some entity called “God” belongs to the set of existing entities. Rather the theistic thesis is a claim about what existence *is*. That’s why one says that theism (just like naturalism) are metaphysical theories. Thus I think that the phrase “Reality is God-structured” goes a long way clarifying what theism is about. (The alternative “Reality is personal” simply introduces God’s main property, namely that God is a personal being.)

    Swinburne's high-level definition is MUCH more clear than yours.

    Please observe that Swinburne was describing some properties of God, while I was discussing what theism’s thesis is about, and in particular what “God exists” means. Once we are clear the theism is a claim about the nature of existence, then one may ask what does it mean to say that existence is God-structured, and thus to ask what “God” refers to.

    […] but as it stands, your high-level definition is as clear as mud.

    Or perhaps you are used to thinking of existence as something that is autonomous in its being and in its properties, and therefore have trouble conceptualizing theism’s different sense of existence. Take for example the existence of an apple. On theism the existence of an apple is a direct manifestation of God’s will. (Incidentally, this is not “my” understanding of theism, but is the understanding of classical theism; see for example “general providence”). So, if an apple stays put when you place it on a table instead of disappearing into nothingness, it’s because of the continuous and direct application of God’s will. And if you find that when you throw an apple in the air it will move along a trajectory that can be modeled mathematically in an elegant way, it’s not because the apple just by itself follows fixed laws, but because God’s will moves the apple according to these God-designed laws. This distinction about the two senses of “existence” is very clear to me; if you still find this fundamental issue unclear I’d appreciate you explained why.

    Now atheism is the rejection of the theistic thesis, so when atheists misunderstand what theism is about they also misunderstand what atheism is about. Indeed much of atheistic argumentation, particularly in the popular press, simply reveals the author’s ignorance of theism and thus of atheism too. A typical example is the common argument that theism is a less parsimonious ontology because it simply adds to naturalism’s worldview the existence of one more being, namely God, when that existence is not required for understanding physical phenomena.[1] Another common argument is to suggest that there is no evidence for God, when in theism there is no evidence which is not *for* God. Other such arguments are, for example, that God’s omnipresence is incoherent, or wondering how God can know everything that exists or be causally active at every point of space, and so on.

    [1] Incidentally, this common argument from simplicity is problematic on three levels: Fundamentally because it supposes that the God hypothesis is the hypothesis that one more thing exist. Further, because it uncritically assumes that the fact that science is very successful in modeling physical phenomena without presuming the existence of God implies that one can understand the mathematical nature of phenomena without assuming the presence of God. Finally there are many things that exist even though their existence is not required by the natural sciences, for example our own consciousness. So it’s obviously not like if something is not required by the natural sciences it follows that it does not exist.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Bradley:
    The claim that "reality is God-structured" does very little to clarify the claim that "God exists", since the former uses the word "God"–which is the problematic term in the sentence–to clarify the sentence.

    Dianelos:
    My whole point what that the problematic term is “exists” rather than “God”. Or, if you prefer, that phrase does *not* claim that some entity called “God” belongs to the set of existing entities. Rather the theistic thesis is a claim about what existence *is*. That’s why one says that theism (just like naturalism) are metaphysical theories. Thus I think that the phrase “Reality is God-structured” goes a long way clarifying what theism is about. (The alternative “Reality is personal” simply introduces God’s main property, namely that God is a personal being.)
    ===========
    Response:

    There is no problem with the meaning of the word "exists". We all understand the following sentences:

    1. The Loch Ness monster exists.

    2. Superman exists.

    3. Martians exist.

    4. Ghosts exist.

    5. Angels exist.

    6. Jesus existed.

    7. Robin Hood existed.

    So, on the face of it, the problem with the sentence "God exists" is not with the word "exists", and that leaves only one other word that might be problematic: "God".

    Second, atheists and skeptics have complained for centuries that the meaning of the word "God" was unclear or problematic.

    Third, the focus of philosophy in the 20th century has been on philosophy of language, esp. the two different views of language put forward by Wittgenstein. The Logical Positivist objection that the sentence "God exists" fails to express a coherent statement is an objection to the meaning of the word "God".

    Logical Positivists did not raise any objections to sentences like "The Loch Ness monster exists" or "Superman exists", so there is no general problem with sentences of the form "X exists". The problem, or alleged problem, comes about only when the word "God" is made the subject of this form of sentence.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Bradley,

    You write: “There is no problem with the meaning of the word "exists". We all understand the following sentences:[snip examples]

    Perhaps so in the case of the examples you suggest. (Even though there are harder cases, such as “the number 2 exists”. Naturalists sometimes disagree about whether the number 2 exists, and as I suppose they do agree about what "number 2" means, it seems these naturalists must disagree about what "exists" means).

    So, I´d like to insist. What do you think that “we” (or at any rate most of us) understand by the word “exists”? In a previous post I suggested that for most people “exists” means “to belong to the set of existents”, under some given notion of or test about what an “existent” is. (What that notion actually is, is not important for my purposes here. Some people apparently think that “existent” refers to anything that is kickable, at least in principle.)

    I wonder if you agree with this definition, namely that “exists” means “to belong to the set of existents”? If you don’t then please explain what you do mean when you say “exists”. If you do then please observe that this is *not* what the classical theist means when she says “God exists”.

    Second, atheists and skeptics have complained for centuries that the meaning of the word "God" was unclear or problematic.

    Well, I’d say that these atheists and skeptics have not really studied theology. I am now reading an anthology of influential texts in the philosophy of religion. In it both theistic and atheistic philosophers present some sophisticated arguments about God, and sometimes respond to each other’s argumentation. How do you suggest do they manage to communicate at this level if the meaning of “God” is unclear or problematic for them? I mean atheism cannot have it both ways: On the one hand propose sophisticated arguments about God (including about the non-existence of God) and on the other hand affirm that the concept of God is unclear or incoherent.

    The Logical Positivist objection that the sentence "God exists" fails to express a coherent statement is an objection to the meaning of the word "God".

    I understand that logical positivism has been rejected by philosophers of all shades, because it was found that it is self-referentially incoherent. And in any case, we should first understand what the statement “God exists” means before making any judgments about its coherence.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    FYI: I just discovered this commentary on your post, Bradley:

    http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2011/11/is-phrase-god-exists-meaningful-phrase.html


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