I cannot remember reading any serious philosophy article or book, either by authors of antiquity or contemporary writers, in which the author engages in a fist-fight. I frequently see such fist-fights in some on-line philosophy communities. One reason might be because there is usually a monologue in those texts and no opponent’s voice can be heard. Yet, Plato’s dialogues do not suggest too many fist-fights between their participants either.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~Aristotleread more...
Note: words in italic are technical terms with clear definitions in logic, which I’m going to omit explaining. Words in bold are substitutes for logical symbols with clear definitions and functions, which I’m going to omit explaining.
There are different kinds of impossibilities. One is physical. Another one is logical. Logical impossibilities are impossible, no matter what, no matter where, no matter the circumstances, no matter the universe, no matter the laws of nature, and no matter anything else. They are impossible and that’s the end of story.read more...
[…] My entire life and work
has been based on logic, analysis
and systems. Everything was centered around processes in my head. Got me and the World nowhere. For the last part of my
journey I am going to follow my heart for a change and see what happens. […] Scientific belief is a nice crutch to hang on to but […].
Based on what he said, let us do a little thought experiment
Here is Mr. Johns (an imaginary character of course). He recently realized something interesting and said:read more...
I am sure the reason you accept the validity of the Law of Noncontradiction (I would call it the law from now on) is not that you have faith in it. It does not even make sense to say that one has faith in the law.
Also, the law is not like physical laws or language laws, or social laws. Certainly, we all understand it. But, I have to emphasize this reality a bit further for my sake.
Laws of physics are called “law” and they are known to be established facts about the universe. However, they are contingent. There is nothing in the fabric of the universe that necessitates this set of laws over any other conceivable laws. Not a thing. They just happened to be how they are. They very well could have been different and no violation of anything would have happened had they been different. So, the laws of physics are contingent. One way to know it is to imagine universes with different laws and see if such imaginations ask for assumptions that might be inconceivable to be true. People have done so, and they have discovered that all of “the laws of physics” can be different without talking about anything inconceivable.read more...
Religions are false alright, but why can’t believers see it?
My point was rather that you seem settled on the fact that God doesn’t exist. Fine. We can debate that for years and probably not get anywhere (but who knows?). What I find surprising though is that, given that there are so many intelligent and thinking people who do believe in God, why you would trust your conclusion that they are all insane (famous or otherwise) uncritically. You might be right (I am not the guardian of truth) but we aren’t insane because we hold wrong beliefs. I read your posts with interest and I don’t find them convincing at all. This is not because I am insane!read more...
“They call them extremists. We have our own names. We call them senators, congressman, governors, mayors, state legislators.” [Ralph Reed, Christian Coalition Executive Director]
It’s a disturbing observation that some people discuss matters not to learn or to investigate them but merely to convert you. I am talking about mystical minds, supers, and those who believe in things beyond the natural world or outside of the Universe, whatever that might mean.
There is a nice saying, attributed to Socrates by no one less than Plato, “I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.” And this is what the horror story I am going to tell you is formed around.
Let us assume, just for the sake of the argument, that we defined the word “god” already in such a way that it is coherent, consistent, and meaningful. That’s to say, let’s assume that we know what we are talking about. Then, we would be able to talk about what we called “god” without uttering pure nonsense. Only then! That is a big problem right in the beginning. In order for us to talk about an entity, call it x, we need to know something about it. Maybe we need to know what relationship(s) it might have with some other entities like y. Or perhaps what properties x might posses and lack. Even if x is an imaginary, abstract entity that we just made up, we need to know something about it.
How much do we need to know about x before we can start talking about it? Do we need to know everything about it before we can start? Everything that there is? Obviously not. Then, how much knowledge do we need to have, as a bare minimum, before we can start to talk about x?
In different sciences, when we postulate an entity such as x and we try to find its relationship with other entities, we usually know at least one thing about x, that x, whether it exists or not, might have some relationships with other entities.
Look at a very interesting entity called i, the imaginary unit, whose core property we decided to be i2 = -1. Pretty funny, eh? So, right away we know a few things about i:
i2 = −1
Solving i is not possible with axioms of elementary arithmetic, (as Edgar Brown said, “Simple equations such as a × a = −c cannot be solved even though a and −c are inside the real field unless we close the field with the addition of “i””); it goes against axioms such as:
a × 1 = a
a × −1 = −a
The product of two negative numbers is the same as the product of the same two positive numbers:a × b = (−a) × (−b) Here are the proofs for the axioms by the way (http://goo.gl/OqBDw).
As you can see, as soon as we assumed the existence of i as an imaginary friend, we started to know a few things about it. Nevertheless, all what we knew about it, or all what we assumed was nothing but i × i = −1.
This example shows us something important: That what we know or assume about x cannot be nothing. Either we have to know something about x or we have to assume something about x.
Now, when it comes to the concept of “god,” people seem to either assume or claim to know something about it. Let us investigate each options separately.
Assuming that x exists
We usually assume something when we don’t know enough about what we are assuming. What comes after the assumption, is usually derived through induction or deduction. If our assumption is false, the consequences of our reasoning after the assumption does not matter. The consequences might be true (in case of invalid arguments from the false assumptions) or false (in case of valid argument from the false assumptions). In both cases, the consequences do not matter. No sound argument can be made that has false assumptions, valid arguments, and also true consequences.
If the assumption happens to be true though, and our arguments also happen to be valid, then we will have nothing but true consequences.
However, the big problem with this, when it comes to assuming the existence of “god” is this: How do you know that your assumption is true?
How do we know if an assumption is true?
There is one way, and only one way to make sure if an assumption is true: Testing.
There are many ways of testing an assumption to see if it’s true or false. But, all of them are testing, one way or another. You might be able to test it by:
Comparing it with other established facts and see if it conflicts with them
Find an example that contradicts the assumption
Try to gather evidences to support the assumption
There are many more ways of testing an assumption but all of these methods are different ways of testing. Among these methods, the weakest one is the third one. What the third method can do for us at best is to give us some hints. Examples and evidences alone are not enough for an assumption to be true. They must also coincide with (i.e. be corroborated by) other methods of testing our assumptions. Here is an example to show you why mere evidences are not enough to conclusively show an assumption to be true.
a. Let’s assume that all swans are white
b. We go to a park in Dusseldorf with a beautiful lake in the middle and see four white swans in there
c. Can we conclude that, “Yeah! ALL swans are white”?
d. No, we cannot.
e. How many more observations do we need before we can conclude that a is true?
f. Does seeing 100 white swans prove a?
g. No, it doesn’t.
h. Does seeing 100,000,000 white swans do the job?
j. How many then?
k. The number doesn’t matter. Evidences alone cannot prove an assumption like a to be trueread more...
[Note to the reader: (1) This is not an ad hominem attack on the people mentioned in the post (the names are not real names). I don’t know them in person and I also don’t care who they are so far as this post is concerned. You should be able to change the names to anything else and the arguments should still hold valid. (2) If you prefer, you can download an ODT or a PDF version of this article from here: http://goo.gl/AEHOc]
When someone starts asking questions about his fundamental convictions, he does not necessarily go all the way down the rabbit hole to derive the implications of what he believes as true. Most of us stop early in our search. Most of us never even reach the threshold for understanding the territory in which we plan to dwell. An example would make it more clear.read more...
Can anyone help me with Wittgenstein’s thoughts on language? I find his ideas mad, but I can’t help but wonder whether my teacher is twisting what his ideas are slightly (I never feel I can rely on them for correct information…) We’re doing Religious Language in class and my teacher has said that Wittgenstein said that like the rules of a game of chess cannot be used for a game of basketball, the rules of language cannot be used for another. Then, and this part I’m a bit
sceptical of, my teacher said that, for example, he would argue that an atheist cannot critique the theist’s view as they are talking with different base ideas (or
in different “languages”).read more...