Is God a valid foundational belief?

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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:12 am

Particles wrote:
Moonwood the Hare wrote:
Particles wrote:I don't agree that all those varieties of beliefs should be said to be about the "divine," even if traditionally they once did. Leaving that semantics aside, my main interest is on the question of belief in a personal God such as in Christianity. You seem to agree here then that Christian belief is not a self-evident belief the same way the more generic concept of the divine is. If correct, then would you consider Christianity falsifiable?

If you take the minimum definition of divinity as self existent then I think they do. I would say the truth of Christianity as revealed in scripture and tradition is self evident to some people.


Does that include that the truth of the narrative and theology of Christianity is self-evident? Are you among the people that find it self-evident? In what respects?

I think that as with many other self evident beliefs it is hard to tell where experience ends and theory begins. So for example a person might be convinced by experience that 1+1=2 is a self evident belief without that committing him to a particular belief about what 1+1=2 means; now I do believe that the various interpretations of the claim 1+1=2 can be shown to be religious in nature so there is not an exact parallel here. But one brings a certain theoretical and ultimately religious perspective on a claim like 1+1=2 whereas with the Bible one brings what one learns or experiences in other ways to bear. If what one brings is theoretical then the understanding of what is believed will be partly theoretical. I don't think that is avoidable. Theology especially as practiced in the west is a hypothetical business and so I think the more hypothetical claims can be less certain. There is also the question of where one experiences authority in relation to religion and that is in part determined by particular traditions and communities so I do not think the experience of the Bible as authoritative can or should be separated from ones life in a community of believers or ones place in a tradition.I would say in that context I experience the Bible as truth about God from God. I think narrative is important. There is a positivistic tendency to see the Bible as a set of true propositions; for me it is important that God revealed himself in a book of stories.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Particles » Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:48 am

But Christianity does have a set of propositions, like in the Nicene Creed, right? Moonwood, do you believe that the propositions of Islam and Christianity can both be true - not just that they can be experienced as true, but true independent of belief?
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Tue Nov 24, 2015 12:01 pm

Particles wrote:But Christianity does have a set of propositions, like in the Nicene Creed, right? Moonwood, do you believe that the propositions of Islam and Christianity can both be true - not just that they can be experienced as true, but true independent of belief?

The Nicene Creed is a statement of belief. It says we believe in God for example not God exists. The idea of propositions is a theory about language and how it works; it's a questionable theory. If the claims of Christianity and Islam contradict each other which they may do at some points and if a person accepts some version of the law of non-contradiction then at those points both claims can't be true. However I do not think there is any way of knowing what is true independent of belief.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Particles » Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:04 pm

I would say the creed is a belief in a set of propositions. And Islam does contradict Christianity on its face on a major point when it says that Jesus is not God (some Christianities contradict one another on that as well).

Moonwood the Hare wrote:However I do not think there is any way of knowing what is true independent of belief.


What I'm getting at is that you seem to be arguing that a belief is valid if it has some kind of experiential truth to it, and it seems to me that you cannot show that this has any bearing on whether the belief is true or not - that your criteria don't depend on whether the belief is objectively true, but on some kind of unexaminable psychological or experiential condition.

Taking the Islam/Christianity contradictions as an example, Islam belief would still be as valid as Christian belief, as there doesn't seem any way to validate one over the other by your criteria. Don't you see that as a problem?

Maybe it would help if you could better explain what you mean that you "experience the Bible as truth about God from God." How does that work?
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Wed Nov 25, 2015 5:57 am

sayak wrote:I am not entirely sure that all empiricism is like Mach. I am more of pragmatist like Pierce, James and Dewey who uses empiricism but in a different manner. But do go on. I am sure I will get a brainwave and produce inspired responses after that turkey provides me with the necessary proteins :D

If you are familiar with James you should check his definitions of religion and divinity in Varieties of Religious Experience since they are the ones I have been arguing for here. Dewey is imilar to Mach but where Mach absolutises the sensory Dewey absoltutises the biological. This means that as with Mach any scientific theory is purely intrumental rather than being in any sense true. I do not know if Dewey comments on the basis of physics in atomic theory but his general principle is that scientific theories are tools used by biuological organisms to further their ends, a view advocated by Mitch. So just as it would make no sense to ask is that spade true or false it would make no sense to ask this of a theory. He compares his belief to belief in God saying there is no absolute but only the phusical/biological universe so Dewey is definitely a religious thinker who believes in the divinity of the physical biological cosmos and who tends to reduce the multi-aspectual reality to these two aspects.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:37 am

Particles wrote:I would say the creed is a belief in a set of propositions. And Islam does contradict Christianity on its face on a major point when it says that Jesus is not God (some Christianities contradict one another on that as well).

I am being overcautious in not wanting to say what Muslims do or do not believe. The concept of the proposition is that every sentence has a clear meaning which is distinct from the way the sentence functions. So from the perspective of a propositional theory of language How Great you are when adressed to God would have the same meaning as You are really really big, to quote the Pythons. The Nicene creed functions as a symbol of transcendence, a fence around mystery as Augustine called dogma, not an inert description.
Moonwood the Hare wrote:However I do not think there is any way of knowing what is true independent of belief.


What I'm getting at is that you seem to be arguing that a belief is valid if it has some kind of experiential truth to it, and it seems to me that you cannot show that this has any bearing on whether the belief is true or not - that your criteria don't depend on whether the belief is objectively true, but on some kind of unexaminable psychological or experiential condition.

If we need to show that the experience of something as true has a bearing on whether it is true in order to take our experiences as valid then this implies that we know nothing since all truth is rooted in experience. Independent of our experience we cannot show that sense perception is valid, that our experience of logical laws as valid is valid. We are right back with the Cartesian problem of having to prove what we know before we can know it.
Taking the Islam/Christianity contradictions as an example, Islam belief would still be as valid as Christian belief, as there doesn't seem any way to validate one over the other by your criteria. Don't you see that as a problem?

No. Say you claim that argument and evidence are valid then no one says that not all people who accept the validity of argument and evidence agree therefore they are invalid. Has thousands of years of argument produced agreement? No. People use these methods and reach diverse conclusions. From within a perspective we can explain why people have diverse religious beliefs. From a Christian perspective we can say that because of the fall our experience of the divine is damaged and we perceive things other than the Bible as revelation and things other than God as Divine. From an atheist perspective we can say people have these flawed beliefs because they are being controlled by their emotions. What we cannot do is to stand outside all perspectives and judge between them because our own experience of reality, of something as divine whether we acknowledge that or not, will act as a control on what can be believed.
Maybe it would help if you could better explain what you mean that you "experience the Bible as truth about God from God." How does that work?
When I read scripture I experience this as a message from God about God. If anyone wants to know if scripture is true I would say ask God to show you if this is true and read the book and see what happens. If they have already tried that I will say try it again. In the same way if someone wants to know why I believe 1+1=2 the best I can do is show them what happens when one thing is added to another and hope they get it.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:43 am

but his general principle is that scientific theories are tools used by biuological organisms to further their ends, a view advocated by Mitch.

I agree with this assessment. Specifically (internet encycl.phil.)
Dewey argued for an alternative view: the organism interacts with the world through self-guided activity that coordinates and integrates sensory and motor responses. The implication for the theory of knowledge was clear: the world is not passively perceived and thereby known; active manipulation of the environment is involved integrally in the process of learning from the start.
Dewey distinguished three phases of the process. It begins with the problematic situation, a situation where instinctive or habitual responses of the human organism to the environment are inadequate for the continuation of ongoing activity in pursuit of the fulfillment of needs and desires. Dewey stressed inStudies and subsequent writings that the uncertainty of the problematic situation is not inherently cognitive, but practical and existential. Cognitive elements enter into the process as a response to precognitive maladjustment.

The second phase of the process involves the isolation of the data or subject matter which defines the parameters within which the reconstruction of the initiating situation must be addressed. In the third, reflective phase of the process, the cognitive elements of inquiry (ideas, suppositions, theories, etc.) are entertained as hypothetical solutions to the originating impediment of the problematic situation, the implications of which are pursued in the abstract. The final test of the adequacy of these solutions comes with their employment in action. If a reconstruction of the antecedent situation conducive to fluid activity is achieved, then the solution no longer retains the character of the hypothetical that marks cognitive thought; rather, it becomes a part of the existential circumstances of human life.


On truth I am again with Dewey here,
One traditional question that Dewey addressed in a series of essays between 1906 and 1909 was that of the meaning of truth. Dewey at that time considered the pragmatic theory of truth as central to the pragmatic school of thought, and vigorously defended its viability. Both Dewey and William James, in his book Pragmatism (1907), argued that the traditional correspondence theory of truth, according to which the true idea is one that agrees or corresponds to reality, only begs the question of what the "agreement" or "correspondence" of idea with reality is. Dewey and James maintained that an idea agrees with reality, and is therefore true, if and only if it is successfully employed in human action in pursuit of human goals and interests, that is, if it leads to the resolution of a problematic situation in Dewey's terms. The pragmatic theory of truth met with strong opposition among its critics, perhaps most notably from the British logician and philosopher Bertrand Russell. Dewey later began to suspect that the issues surrounding the conditions of truth, as well as knowledge, were hopelessly obscured by the accretion of traditional, and in his view misguided, meanings to the terms, resulting in confusing ambiguity. He later abandoned these terms in favor of "warranted assertiblity" to describe the distinctive property of ideas that results from successful inquiry.


i am defining truth as Dewey does and am not going to concede to other more abstract definitions. Dewey may have had considerable problems getting a relatively newer understanding of truth across, but Dewey's understanding of epistemology and truth is very similar to what has been the dominant way in which truth and knowledge has been understood in all of 2500 years of Indian philosophy.

He compares his belief to belief in God saying there is no absolute but only the phusical/biological universe so Dewey is definitely a religious thinker who believes in the divinity of the physical biological cosmos and who tends to reduce the multi-aspectual reality to these two aspects.


I did not understand this assessment. Expand on what you are saying.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Thu Nov 26, 2015 12:36 am

A few posts back you asked
sayak wrote:Assuming for the moment that naturalists find some fundamental description of matter-energy-space-time and a fundamental law that governs their interactions. In what sense are you calling such a physics theory immune to empirical verification/falsification?

Now you tell me that you agree with Dewey when he says
but his general principle is that scientific theories are tools used by biuological organisms to further their ends, a view advocated by Mitch.
noting
I agree with this assessment. Specifically (internet encycl.phil.)
Dewey argued for an alternative view: the organism interacts with the world through self-guided activity that coordinates and integrates sensory and motor responses. The implication for the theory of knowledge was clear: the world is not passively perceived and thereby known; active manipulation of the environment is involved integrally in the process of learning from the start.
Dewey distinguished three phases of the process. It begins with the problematic situation, a situation where instinctive or habitual responses of the human organism to the environment are inadequate for the continuation of ongoing activity in pursuit of the fulfillment of needs and desires. Dewey stressed inStudies and subsequent writings that the uncertainty of the problematic situation is not inherently cognitive, but practical and existential. Cognitive elements enter into the process as a response to precognitive maladjustment.

The second phase of the process involves the isolation of the data or subject matter which defines the parameters within which the reconstruction of the initiating situation must be addressed. In the third, reflective phase of the process, the cognitive elements of inquiry (ideas, suppositions, theories, etc.) are entertained as hypothetical solutions to the originating impediment of the problematic situation, the implications of which are pursued in the abstract. The final test of the adequacy of these solutions comes with their employment in action. If a reconstruction of the antecedent situation conducive to fluid activity is achieved, then the solution no longer retains the character of the hypothetical that marks cognitive thought; rather, it becomes a part of the existential circumstances of human life.

and adding

On truth I am again with Dewey here,
One traditional question that Dewey addressed in a series of essays between 1906 and 1909 was that of the meaning of truth. Dewey at that time considered the pragmatic theory of truth as central to the pragmatic school of thought, and vigorously defended its viability. Both Dewey and William James, in his book Pragmatism (1907), argued that the traditional correspondence theory of truth, according to which the true idea is one that agrees or corresponds to reality, only begs the question of what the "agreement" or "correspondence" of idea with reality is. Dewey and James maintained that an idea agrees with reality, and is therefore true, if and only if it is successfully employed in human action in pursuit of human goals and interests, that is, if it leads to the resolution of a problematic situation in Dewey's terms. The pragmatic theory of truth met with strong opposition among its critics, perhaps most notably from the British logician and philosopher Bertrand Russell. Dewey later began to suspect that the issues surrounding the conditions of truth, as well as knowledge, were hopelessly obscured by the accretion of traditional, and in his view misguided, meanings to the terms, resulting in confusing ambiguity. He later abandoned these terms in favor of "warranted assertiblity" to describe the distinctive property of ideas that results from successful inquiry.


i am defining truth as Dewey does and am not going to concede to other more abstract definitions. Dewey may have had considerable problems getting a relatively newer understanding of truth across, but Dewey's understanding of epistemology and truth is very similar to what has been the dominant way in which truth and knowledge has been understood in all of 2500 years of Indian philosophy.

If theories are not seen as true but as having warranted assertibility then no no theory could be verified that is shown to be true and if theories are useful tools no theory can be a foundational description of anything. From my own perspective I would add that if theories in physics are regarded as foundational this is because of a religious belief that the physical is a foundational aspect of reality that is brought to theory making and not derived from it.
He compares his belief to belief in God saying there is no absolute but only the phusical/biological universe so Dewey is definitely a religious thinker who believes in the divinity of the physical biological cosmos and who tends to reduce the multi-aspectual reality to these two aspects.


I did not understand this assessment. Expand on what you are saying.

If the physical universe is seen as all there is then by definition it is self existent or divine. This divinisation of the cosmos is to some extent in conflict with the idea of theories as tools since the claim there is no God and the univese is all there is can be asserted but cannot be regarded as even possibly true. If there are multiple aspects of reality,not only the physical and biological but also for example the cultural,the numerical, the logical, the linguistic and so on then to regard these two as foundational is to make a religious claim,to claim that they are self existent and that the others derive from them.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Thu Dec 03, 2015 2:07 pm

Hi Moon,
I used the word "fundamental description" in a manner different with how you interpreted it. It is not necessary, but it is possible that science can produce a comprehensive system of theories that are able to adequately explain all the experiences people have as they interact with the world and predict how future phenomena will be like when we experience them under various conditions. It is also possible (and again not necessary) that these comprehensive theories will be linked to each other in a ladder-like fashion such that the axioms of a more specialized theory can be derived from the effects of a more general theory and so on. If this were true, the most general theory will be called the "fundamental" theory as its the foundational link in that chain. I am not claiming that this comprehensive theory can be given the status of "ontologically the reality as is" but rather the best , the most comprehensive and the most successful, in terms of explanation and predictive capacity and coherency, set of theories based on the how human beings have so far experienced the world and its various phenomena. If such theory has no place for a concept X (like say God or the Loch Ness Mnster or the ether) its because adding them detracts from the explanatory, predictive and other epistemic virtues of the system. Details of one possible way of thinking about this is below in the link
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/constructive-empiricism/

If the physical universe is seen as all there is then by definition it is self existent or divine. This divinisation of the cosmos is to some extent in conflict with the idea of theories as tools since the claim there is no God and the univese is all there is can be asserted but cannot be regarded as even possibly true. If there are multiple aspects of reality,not only the physical and biological but also for example the cultural,the numerical, the logical, the linguistic and so on then to regard these two as foundational is to make a religious claim,to claim that they are self existent and that the others derive from them.

As I have said, I reject naive realism about the status of scientific theories. Math and Logic will be more fundamental as they (on a structuralist interpretation) constitute all possible ways things of any sort could be related to each other. Then physics would be about how the things that are observed actually are related to each other (and is therefore necessarily a subset of logic and math which are more generally about all possible structures). A reductionist theory would argue that culture and society supervene on biology and consciousness (though he needs to provide an empirically adequate theory to get his claim to be warranted). Without such a theory about how consciousness and society emerges from biology, the claim that some TOE theory in physics is indeed a fundamental theory (in the sense I claim) will not be justified.
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