Is God a valid foundational belief?

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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Wed Nov 18, 2015 6:19 am

sayak wrote:I do not get what you are saying.

The idea of "totality" itself is a conceptual construction. You are binning all the things together and calling it the "totality". It is utterly dependent on your conceptual construction and is not mind-dependent at all. You are taking the many and re-conceiving it as a one "whole". How much more dependent can you get?

Dependent on what is this totality:- the abstraction in your mind
Dependent on what are its characteristics:- abstract generalizations from the many many atomic phenomena that constitute its parts as conceived.

So this totality is necessary a dependent reality.

Imagine there are only 3 things in the cosmos and they are a horse, a spoon and a bucket. The horse depends on the spoon and the buccket, the spoon depends on the horse and the bucket and the buccket depends on the horse and the spoon. The horse is a theist. He says that although they all depend on each other they also depend on God. This is perfectly compatible with the idea of theism in our cosmos because theism has never seen dependency within the cosmos as incompatible with dependency on God at an ultimate level. The spoon is a Buddhist and he denies such a dependency on any external agency. Now we are talking about the dependency of the cosmos as a whole. It does not need to be a whole in any composite sense but it is that totality of which it can be said, 'there are three things, a horse, a spoon and a bucket' and the idea that there are three things is about something; it is not a pure abstraction dependent on conceptual contruction unless it would be completely meaningless to say there are three things, a horse, a spoon and a bucket. So these three considered as totality, as a cosmos are not dependent on anything external hence they are self existent even though mutual dependencies exist within that totality. This is no more of a problem than the kind of Theist who says all things are material but matter depends for its existence on God.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Wed Nov 18, 2015 1:30 pm

So these three considered as totality , as a cosmos


The bolded part is a conceptual construction, treating 3 things as 1 thing , a set, which you are calling "a" cosmos. Since the whole is dependent on its parts for existence and on the conception of it as a whole, it is not "self" existent since it needs other things (the parts and the conception of the whole as being composed of these parts) for it to exist in the way it is being conceived. Since Buddhists consider tables, chairs etc, to also be conceptual constructions (as they are considered as a whole made from parts) they will deny that you can conclude what you are concluding without taking recourse to an abstraction.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Aaron » Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:27 pm

sayak wrote:The bolded part is a conceptual construction, treating 3 things as 1 thing , a set, which you are calling "a" cosmos. Since the whole is dependent on its parts for existence and on the conception of it as a whole, it is not "self" existent since it needs other things (the parts and the conception of the whole as being composed of these parts) for it to exist in the way it is being conceived. Since Buddhists consider tables, chairs etc, to also be conceptual constructions (as they are considered as a whole made from parts) they will deny that you can conclude what you are concluding without taking recourse to an abstraction.

But how can they deny that except by faith that their utilization of concepts to critique and analyze someone else's utilization of concepts leads to legitimate conclusions whereas the utilization of concepts by the person they are critiquing does not lead to legitimate conclusions?
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Wed Nov 18, 2015 7:22 pm

Its not through faith. They are saying that their theory matches the observed reality better than their rivals. Obviously you can disagree and many did. Then the question is whose account provides a better picture.

It does not means Buddhists do not believe stuff on faith. I am putting this as an example of a worldview that does not depend on something that is somehow prior to evidential justification.

I would also like to know what Moonwood thinks divinity is in a naturalistic worldview and why.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby mitchellmckain » Thu Nov 19, 2015 10:11 am

sayak wrote:I would also like to know what Moonwood thinks divinity is in a naturalistic worldview and why.

If you refer to a metaphysical naturalism then the question doesn't even make sense. It would be like asking what are ducks in a universe where ducks do not exist.

However one can be a methodological naturalist who believes there is more to reality than what objective scientific methods can determine. In that case, one can approach and understanding of the other aspects of reality in a manner similar to naturalistic methods such as I do. Thus, I define spiritual things as forms of energy which are not part of the mathematical space-time structure of the physical universe and while physical things exist by the mathematical relationships they have to the whole, spiritual things exist by their own nature alone. Divinity or God would refer to a spiritual being who is limitless in nature -- without limits except those which it imposes upon itself by its own choice.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Thu Nov 19, 2015 10:51 am

sayak wrote:
So these three considered as totality , as a cosmos


The bolded part is a conceptual construction, treating 3 things as 1 thing , a set, which you are calling "a" cosmos. Since the whole is dependent on its parts for existence and on the conception of it as a whole, it is not "self" existent since it needs other things (the parts and the conception of the whole as being composed of these parts) for it to exist in the way it is being conceived. Since Buddhists consider tables, chairs etc, to also be conceptual constructions (as they are considered as a whole made from parts) they will deny that you can conclude what you are concluding without taking recourse to an abstraction.

If the thing depends on its parts then it is the parts that are self existent but then these are held to be interdependent but if they are interdependent then they must form some kind of whole which is self existent. Put it another way Nagarjuna holds that tables and chairs are unreal because they are conceptual contructs and therefore dependent. But what if anything is real? If nothing is real then what do the words real and unreal mean. I may use an abstraction like number or reason to describe things but even so these abstractions are used because we intuit that they have some connection with things as they are.

As I understand it there have been two main interpretations of Nagarjuna. One view is that he is a nihilist denying reality to everything and the other is that he does have some sense of the real, the permanent and non-dependent beyond those things he calls unreal impermanent and dependent. You are opting for the radical nihilist interpretation and I am questioning whether this can ever be a coherent view. I suspect it cannot be held by anyone who adopts western logic because of the contradictions it keeps landing you in.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Thu Nov 19, 2015 12:45 pm

Quick reply for now. Nagarjuna posits that reality exists but no element of reality (parts, whole whatever) has something like an ontological ground essence. He anti-substance at every scale. But does not make reality an illusion, the illusion is that we think of reality as possessing some intrinsic characteristic essence. That view, according to Nagarjuna, is wrong.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Thu Nov 19, 2015 7:10 pm

Moon, I don't think I am explaining Nagarjuna very well. I will try a more well crafted reply when I have more time. Since I myself am a realist, unless I concentrate I often make a mess of Nagarjuna's ideas.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Fri Nov 20, 2015 12:27 pm

sayak wrote:Its not through faith. They are saying that their theory matches the observed reality better than their rivals. Obviously you can disagree and many did. Then the question is whose account provides a better picture.

I would say personaljudgement rather than faith but also note that that judgement is influenced by existing beliefs and values.
It does not means Buddhists do not believe stuff on faith. I am putting this as an example of a worldview that does not depend on something that is somehow prior to evidential justification.

Well I would dispute that because existing beliefs and perceptions must influence how we assess evidence. I don't see how that could be avoided.
I would also like to know what Moonwood thinks divinity is in a naturalistic worldview and why.

Good question. Let me start with some definitions. Aristotle says
Therefore about that which can exist independently and is changeless there is a science . ..if there is a substance of this nature . . . And if there is such
a kind of thing in the world, here must surely be the divine, and this must be the first and most dominant principle

The divine then he sees as self existent but also as something in the world (very different from Christianity and other theistic views where the divine is not a thing withinthe world and one can see why attempts to combine the philosophies lead to such odd results.) None the less the idea of the divine as self existent, that on which other things depend has been common in both the ancient and the modern world.

Naturalism may be taken as the view that the natural world is all there is and that there are no supernatural beings. It can be seen at once that there is no conflict at all between the two ideas. To ask what is the divine, in this Aristotelian sense, in a naturalistic universe, is not to ask what is a duck in a universe without ducks but to ask what within the world is self existent. Various answers have been given by naturalists over the centuries. The earliest philosophers in the West tend to opt for either one of the four elements on which the others are held to depend or the atoms. Later there is a tendency to introduce a dualism where matter or the basic stuff of the universe is seen as divine alongside the forms (Plato) and here there is a move away from naturalism as the naturalistic (dyonisian) religion of country dwellers is combined with the more supernaturalistic tendencies of the apolonian city dwellers. It should be noted that naturalism is not at all incompatible with the idea of gods as long as those gods are seen as a part og the cosmos and made of the same divine stuff. So Democritus who is a thoroughgoing naturalist sees the gods as being made of the divine (self existent) atoms just like everything else. A similar view is later held by Lucretius. In modern times matter as conceived by present day physics has been seen as being that self existent on which all else depends but other naturalists have had other options. Some for example have seen the mathematical as the self existent reality from which all else, all universes, emerge. Bertrand Russell, a thoroughgoing naturalist who believed in the self existence of matter also thought logic was self existent and true in all possible worlds. A religious belief Nagarjuna would surely have taken issue with.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Sun Nov 22, 2015 9:17 am

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?
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Sun Nov 22, 2015 1:29 pm

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?

I am not sure I'm calling it either in the sense that it's not something I've said anything about unless I've implied something unintentionally. However I would say it is not verifiable for the Reasons Popper gives that it is not possible to confirm every fulfillment of any general theory and the number of observed fulfillments is miniscule compared to the actual and potential fulfillments. It would be difficult to falsify for the reasons given by Duhem and Lakatos. Being complex any prediction it made would have to be through an ancillary hypothesis and we would not know which part of the general hypothesis was wrong. We could always deflect the problem away from the theory by devising ad hoc explanations of any anomalies. I am not sure how this connects with what we were talking about though.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:03 pm

I was going by the initial post where you were quoted as

My claim is this: religious belief does not depend on argument or evidence.

I have backed it up by giving examples of other kinds of belief that do not depend or knowledge that do not depend on argument or evidence I can back it up further by exploring what it is about religious belief that make it more like the kinds of claim for which we do not need argument or evidence than the kinds for which we do. Essentially religious belief is a belief that there is something that has a non-dependent status, in the case of Christianity or theism generally this is God. All other associated beliefs are secondary to this belief about God's non-dependent status. A belief of this type is unavoidable in the sense that everyone must hold this type of belief about something whether that is something within the cosmos or something distinct from it. Whatever religious belief one holds it is not a hypothesis which can be inferred since in order to make this inference one would need to isolate in thought whatever it was one thought was non-dependent and this is not possible. Therefore we derive this belief not through inference and therefore not from evidence but from experience.

Experience is a valid ground fro belief. That is the claim. It is not defeated by comparison with kinds of belief that do rely on evidence since such beliefs are of a fundamentally different nature. This is not special pleading since religion is not a unique case but comparable to the way we know other basic beliefs such as the foundations of maths, logic and empirical experience. It is absurd to say I think there is a world external to myself but I could be mistaken. The belief in an external world is a foundation of knowledge not a hypothesis; it is something we reason from not something we reason to. In the same way for those who experience God as a reality God is something we reason from not something we reason to.

That's what I have


I may have misunderstood you, but you seem to be saying that every worldview has something that has a non-dependent status and this non-dependent thing can't established by argument or evidence. So I thought a fundamental constituent of matter and a fundamental physical law would be a candidate, and I was not sure why arguments or evidence won't matter in establishing it as a scientific claim. However, I am a bit confused what you mean by evidence if you take out evidence based on sense experience from it? Could clarify what you mean here a bit more?
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Mon Nov 23, 2015 12:02 pm

sayak wrote:I may have misunderstood you, but you seem to be saying that every worldview has something that has a non-dependent status and this non-dependent thing can't established by argument or evidence. So I thought a fundamental constituent of matter and a fundamental physical law would be a candidate, and I was not sure why arguments or evidence won't matter in establishing it as a scientific claim. However, I am a bit confused what you mean by evidence if you take out evidence based on sense experience from it? Could clarify what you mean here a bit more?

I see what you are saying. Okay this will need quite a substantial post, or perhaps several. Let me begin by saying that reality as we experience it is multi-aspectual. It has many facets. So when I encounter a physical entity I do not encounter only it's physicality. For example if I encounter a tree it has numerical properties, a certain number of branches or leaves, it has sensory properties things I can see or touch or feel, it has logical properties like identity and so on. So when I look at it as a physical thing I am isolating a certain aspect of this totality. I am looking at the tree as a subject of physical laws. When I look at it as a material object I am focusing on it's constituent matter and disregarding or placing in the background some other aspects. What naturalistic philosophies tend to do is to take one or some aspects of reality and regard these as foundational with all others being dependent on that aspect.

If we take the theories in physics that concern the fundamental constituents of matter, atomic and subatomic theory, then we can see that these theories have been interpreted in a number of different ways which can be seen as religious in nature. There has been some talk recently on this site about empiricism, the belief that everything we can know is basically sensory. I do not think our empiricists here are particularly consistent but some empiricists have at least aspired to be. One such example was the physicist Ernst Mach. Mach as an empiricist did not believe that atoms literally existed. He believed that they were useful fictions and this view was very influential in the first two thirds of the twentieth century. The roots of this understanding are the empiricism that began in the seventeenth century. In this view the mind was seen as the receptacle for sensations. Hume argued that these inner sensations,the images in our minds are all we can really know so that we cannot literally encounter the world outside. The residue of this view, still surviving and making an occasional appearance on this site is what I call the inferential theory of perception, the idea that we experience sensations in our mind and infer a world. You have told me this is quite literally true of your own experience so you should be quite at home with Mach!

Mach following thinkers like Berkley, Hume and Mill concluded that so far as we could know from experience reality is made of sensations. When we see a tree in a field we should not think of it as being physical either in possessing distinctly physical properties or existing independently of our perceptions. What we are seeing in the sensory perceptions taking place inside our minds.If this is so then all we can ever know of what the tree is, is that it is a collection of all the possible sensations we could ever get from it.

There were other thinkers such as Descartes who proposed that the objects outside our minds were purely physical. They then had to show that the sensations in our minds were faithful copies of an existing physical world and this they failed to do and Berkley and Hume showed it was not possible.We see a legacy of this in all the nonsensical talk of brains in vats that shows up on the forum. Therefore Mach felt that the existence of the physical was hard to confirm. And he goes on
If ordinary "matter" must be regarded merely as a highly natural, unconsciously constructed mental symbol for a relatively stable complex of sensational elements, much more must this be the case with the artificial hypothetical atoms and molecules of physics and chemistry. The value of these implements for their special, limited purposes is not one whit destroyed. As before, they remain economical ways of symbolizing experience. But we have as little right to expect from them, as from the symbols of algebra, more than we have put into them, and certainly not more enlightenment and revelation than from experience itself. We are on our guard now, even in the province of physics, against overestimating the value of our symbols. Still less, therefore, will the monstrous idea of employing atoms to explain psychical processes ever get possession of us; seeing that atoms are but symbols of those peculiar complexes of sensational elements which we meet with in the narrow domains of physics and chemistry.

and elswhere
One thing we maintain, and that is, that in the investigation of nature, we have to deal only with knowledge of the connexion of appearances with one another. What we represent to ourselves behind the appearances exists only in our understanding, and has for us only the value of a memoria technica or formula . . .

Now this view may seem of historical interest only but it was taken very seriously in its time and at its root is the religious belief the experience that sensations are what is finally real. All the rest follows from this. In one sense it may seem that this empiricist theory has been falsified by the discovery of particles like neutrinos or quarks. How could it be possible to make such discoveries if these particles are only convenient fictions. And yet in another sense the empiricist claim can never be falsified and the discovery of the neutrino no more falsifies empiricism than Johnson refuted Berkley by kicking a rock. And when Mach declares
One must not attempt to explain sense-perception. It is something so simple and fundamental, that the attempt to trace it back to something simpler, at least at the present time, can never succeed.

This strikes with the force of a creedal declaration. So would you agree that Mach's interpretation of atomic theory was essentially religious in nature? If so we can look at some other perspectives which I would argue also have religious roots.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Particles » Mon Nov 23, 2015 2:53 pm

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?
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Mon Nov 23, 2015 11:51 pm

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
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