The "God exists" paradox

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.
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Prof Bulani
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Prof Bulani » January 17th, 2020, 3:58 am

anonymous66 wrote:
January 16th, 2020, 2:07 pm
Assuming for the sake of argument that your narrative of how Aristotle changed his views about God is correct (and I'm not convinced it is)- what do you mean by "unimpressive and useless?" The narrative you use suggests that Aristotle changed his view of God from that of merely accepting what his culture believed, to using logic to determine what God must "really be like". Shouldn't we look to see if Aristotle's later view of God (according to your narrative) is coherent and logical? What do you take Aristotle's later view to be? And what, in your estimation, are the problems with that view?

I'm also curious- if Aristotle had no view of God to begin with, and then attempted to formulate a view of God using logic and reason- Does that change anything for you? What would you make of Aristotle's efforts? (What do you make of people have no preconceived notions of God, and then who go on to formulate a view of God using logic and reason?)
It would be quite interesting if Aristotle initially had no belief in God, yet assumed God exists, and set out to prove that God existed. Look at the assumptions Aristotle had to make throughout his proof.

First, a Prime Mover who exerts a force of attraction that initiated the causal chains of reality doesn't make sense, because attraction is not what accounts for the motions that we observe. If anything, the evidence suggests that there is a universal force of propulsion/repulsion that exceeds what we would expect to see from gravity or other attractive forces in the universe.

Second, if the function of the Prime Mover is to initialize the causal chains that all motion in the universe is a result of, why assume that God is eternal? After the moment of initialization, God has served his one and only function. Nothing about Aristotle's definition of God requires eternal persistence.

Finally, the conclusion Aristotle implies by his definition of God is that God unintentionally created the universe through its own self-contemplation. How is that a God worth thanking, worshipping, or for that matter believing in? The universe coming into existence by accident is precisely the type of argument theists ridicule atheists for implying. No theist would be impressed by or have any admiration for such a God.

What we see in Aristotle's proof is not starting off with a notion that there was no God. Aristotle believed in God from the onset. However, he was a true philosopher. He recognized that truth can only exist in the realm of possible, and can never be at odds with logic. So all the illogical attributes of God, such as knowledge, wisdom, care for humanity and nature, intention, intervention, creativity, etc are stripped away, and what remains is a God no theist had any desire to adopt.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Terrapin Station » January 17th, 2020, 7:45 am

Prof Bulani wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 3:58 am
anonymous66 wrote:
January 16th, 2020, 2:07 pm
Assuming for the sake of argument that your narrative of how Aristotle changed his views about God is correct (and I'm not convinced it is)- what do you mean by "unimpressive and useless?" The narrative you use suggests that Aristotle changed his view of God from that of merely accepting what his culture believed, to using logic to determine what God must "really be like". Shouldn't we look to see if Aristotle's later view of God (according to your narrative) is coherent and logical? What do you take Aristotle's later view to be? And what, in your estimation, are the problems with that view?

I'm also curious- if Aristotle had no view of God to begin with, and then attempted to formulate a view of God using logic and reason- Does that change anything for you? What would you make of Aristotle's efforts? (What do you make of people have no preconceived notions of God, and then who go on to formulate a view of God using logic and reason?)
It would be quite interesting if Aristotle initially had no belief in God, yet assumed God exists, and set out to prove that God existed. Look at the assumptions Aristotle had to make throughout his proof.

First, a Prime Mover who exerts a force of attraction that initiated the causal chains of reality doesn't make sense, because attraction is not what accounts for the motions that we observe. If anything, the evidence suggests that there is a universal force of propulsion/repulsion that exceeds what we would expect to see from gravity or other attractive forces in the universe.

Second, if the function of the Prime Mover is to initialize the causal chains that all motion in the universe is a result of, why assume that God is eternal? After the moment of initialization, God has served his one and only function. Nothing about Aristotle's definition of God requires eternal persistence.

Finally, the conclusion Aristotle implies by his definition of God is that God unintentionally created the universe through its own self-contemplation. How is that a God worth thanking, worshipping, or for that matter believing in? The universe coming into existence by accident is precisely the type of argument theists ridicule atheists for implying. No theist would be impressed by or have any admiration for such a God.

What we see in Aristotle's proof is not starting off with a notion that there was no God. Aristotle believed in God from the onset. However, he was a true philosopher. He recognized that truth can only exist in the realm of possible, and can never be at odds with logic. So all the illogical attributes of God, such as knowledge, wisdom, care for humanity and nature, intention, intervention, creativity, etc are stripped away, and what remains is a God no theist had any desire to adopt.
Can't you quote or reference Aristotle saying (in effect, at least) "I believe that God exists and is benevolent" at some point, but at some later point saying, "God can not be benevolent"? Then we can look at Aristotle and verify this. I've got the Jonathan Barnes Complete Aristotle on hand here, so I can quickly look up whatever you reference (and I could type the passages in question out for you here if you just give the references). But I'm not going to dig through a few thousand pages myself to try to find something that I'm not sure exists--presumably you could find this quicker, since you're the one making the claim and you're supposedly familiar with/have some memory of the passages in question.

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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Pattern-chaser » January 17th, 2020, 8:02 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
January 16th, 2020, 3:37 pm
Pattern-chaser wrote:
January 16th, 2020, 11:16 am


Once again I ask you: how do you know what theists believe? Watching you setting up and then destroying straw man after straw man, I'm starting to get a little bored. Couldn't you just entertain us with your own beliefs, opinions and ideas?
:-/ :-\ I've not been "destroying" anything. I've actually been arguing in defense of theists that they don't posit a God that they then say can't exist in reality.

The way I know what a lot of theists say is via talking to them, reading what they write, etc. for the past four-plus decades.
I apologised for getting this wrong. I was replying to the wrong poster. Sorry again.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by anonymous66 » January 17th, 2020, 9:10 am

Prof Bulani wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 3:58 am
anonymous66 wrote:
January 16th, 2020, 2:07 pm
Assuming for the sake of argument that your narrative of how Aristotle changed his views about God is correct (and I'm not convinced it is)- what do you mean by "unimpressive and useless?" The narrative you use suggests that Aristotle changed his view of God from that of merely accepting what his culture believed, to using logic to determine what God must "really be like". Shouldn't we look to see if Aristotle's later view of God (according to your narrative) is coherent and logical? What do you take Aristotle's later view to be? And what, in your estimation, are the problems with that view?

I'm also curious- if Aristotle had no view of God to begin with, and then attempted to formulate a view of God using logic and reason- Does that change anything for you? What would you make of Aristotle's efforts? (What do you make of people have no preconceived notions of God, and then who go on to formulate a view of God using logic and reason?)
It would be quite interesting if Aristotle initially had no belief in God, yet assumed God exists, and set out to prove that God existed. Look at the assumptions Aristotle had to make throughout his proof.

First, a Prime Mover who exerts a force of attraction that initiated the causal chains of reality doesn't make sense, because attraction is not what accounts for the motions that we observe. If anything, the evidence suggests that there is a universal force of propulsion/repulsion that exceeds what we would expect to see from gravity or other attractive forces in the universe.

Second, if the function of the Prime Mover is to initialize the causal chains that all motion in the universe is a result of, why assume that God is eternal? After the moment of initialization, God has served his one and only function. Nothing about Aristotle's definition of God requires eternal persistence.

Finally, the conclusion Aristotle implies by his definition of God is that God unintentionally created the universe through its own self-contemplation. How is that a God worth thanking, worshipping, or for that matter believing in? The universe coming into existence by accident is precisely the type of argument theists ridicule atheists for implying. No theist would be impressed by or have any admiration for such a God.

What we see in Aristotle's proof is not starting off with a notion that there was no God. Aristotle believed in God from the onset. However, he was a true philosopher. He recognized that truth can only exist in the realm of possible, and can never be at odds with logic. So all the illogical attributes of God, such as knowledge, wisdom, care for humanity and nature, intention, intervention, creativity, etc are stripped away, and what remains is a God no theist had any desire to adopt.
Aristotle used logic and reason to try and determine how the universe came to be the way it is. He wasn't trying to create a view of God that was consistent with any form of theism.

Another thing about Aristotle is that he was open to change his views whenever new evidence came to light.

Are you making the assertion that all "unimpressive and useless" conceptions of God were created by individuals who first were (some kind of) theist? If so, you need to define "unimpressive and useless". Your assertion is also vulnerable to counterarguments- all we have to do is to find one person who created a "unimpressive and useless" conception of God, without having first been a theist. I'm still not convinced that Aristotle was ever a theist. Aristotle himself may be a counterexample.

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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by chewybrian » January 17th, 2020, 10:06 am

anonymous66 wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 9:10 am
Your assertion is also vulnerable to counterarguments- all we have to do is to find one person who created a "unimpressive and useless" conception of God, without having first been a theist.
I've got you covered. I am not a theist, and here is the crappy conception of God which I have created. God is the universe, which is to God as your body is to you. I can see your body, and the effects it creates, as I can see the universe, and the effects it creates. But, I can't see the real you inside, the most important, only important part. So also I can not see God in a way that really matters. God is so far ahead of us that direct communication is impossible. I can care for my garden, but I can not communicate with my plants. They, presumably, do not know I am there caring for them, as I can't say for sure that God is there.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Prof Bulani » January 17th, 2020, 10:29 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 7:45 am
Can't you quote or reference Aristotle saying (in effect, at least) "I believe that God exists and is benevolent" at some point, but at some later point saying, "God can not be benevolent"? Then we can look at Aristotle and verify this. I've got the Jonathan Barnes Complete Aristotle on hand here, so I can quickly look up whatever you reference (and I could type the passages in question out for you here if you just give the references). But I'm not going to dig through a few thousand pages myself to try to find something that I'm not sure exists--presumably you could find this quicker, since you're the one making the claim and you're supposedly familiar with/have some memory of the passages in question.
I found one citation on wikiquote:
"If, then, God is always in that good state in which we sometimes are, this compels our wonder; and if in a better this compels it yet more. And God is in a better state. And life also belongs to God; for the actuality of thought is life, and God is that actuality; and God's self-dependent actuality is life most good and eternal.
Book XII, 1072b.24"

Obviously, this is an excerpt from a bigger address. I'll probably look for the address itself in it's entirety.

What would be especially ironic about Aristotle not being a theist (as is commonly defined) is that Aristotle happens to be the primary philosophical authority h_k_s habitually points to for proof that God exists. Notwithstanding, it wouldn't surprise me if h_k_s continues to use Aristotle as philosophical grounds for his theism, despite that not being the case.

The second philosopher on h_k_s's list is St Augustine. I just started reading up on his proof yesterday, so in break that down as soon as I'm finished.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Prof Bulani » January 17th, 2020, 10:55 am

anonymous66 wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 9:10 am
Aristotle used logic and reason to try and determine how the universe came to be the way it is. He wasn't trying to create a view of God that was consistent with any form of theism.

Another thing about Aristotle is that he was open to change his views whenever new evidence came to light.

Are you making the assertion that all "unimpressive and useless" conceptions of God were created by individuals who first were (some kind of) theist? If so, you need to define "unimpressive and useless". Your assertion is also vulnerable to counterarguments- all we have to do is to find one person who created a "unimpressive and useless" conception of God, without having first been a theist. I'm still not convinced that Aristotle was ever a theist. Aristotle himself may be a counterexample.
I'm not making the assertion at all that theists are the ones that produce "unimpressive and useless" definitions of God. Atheists ridicule the absurdity of God definitions ad nauseum.

This is the assertion I'm making (and where the paradox lies): the God that theists believe in (mostly) is idealistic, superlative and perfect, in at least some number of aspects (e.g., love, power, goodness, wisdom, stability, etc). The combination of these aspects may vary from theist to theist, but the idealistic, superlative and perfect degree of the aspects in question remains the same across the board. In the event that such a theist decides to logically make a case for the existence of such a being in reality, either the degree of perfect of the aspects necessarily decline, or the aspect itself is abandoned. The "provable" version of God is never the original idealistic version that was initially believed in, but an unsatisfactory version with less than ideal attributes.

This doesn't mean that the only individuals that can define God in less than ideal terms are theists, or even theists wishing to logically discuss God. Anybody can define God in less than ideal terms. Even a caveman could do it.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by anonymous66 » January 17th, 2020, 11:13 am

@Prof Bulani

If there is a God, and sometimes theists, or anyone for that matter, change their view of God from a less accurate conception of God to a more accurate conception of God- isn't that a good thing?

You seem to have a preconceived notion of what "good" and "bad" conceptions of God are, or should be.

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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Pattern-chaser » January 17th, 2020, 12:16 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 11:13 am
@Prof Bulani
You seem to have a preconceived notion of what "good" and "bad" conceptions of God are, or should be.
Yes, that's what I've been responding to.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Pattern-chaser » January 17th, 2020, 12:24 pm

Prof Bulani wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 10:55 am
This is the assertion I'm making (and where the paradox lies): the God that theists believe in (mostly) is idealistic, superlative and perfect, in at least some number of aspects (e.g., love, power, goodness, wisdom, stability, etc). The combination of these aspects may vary from theist to theist, but the idealistic, superlative and perfect degree of the aspects in question remains the same across the board. In the event that such a theist decides to logically make a case for the existence of such a being in reality, either the degree of perfect of the aspects necessarily decline, or the aspect itself is abandoned. The "provable" version of God is never the original idealistic version that was initially believed in, but an unsatisfactory version with less than ideal attributes.
OK, I think we have all seen your core point, but it does hno harm at all to reiterate it. Thank you.

The problem I see with this is the definition of God. Not that theists see God as someone or something to be defined, but as philosophers, it helps if we have some idea what we're talking about. 😉 And - please correct me if I'm wrong - it seems to me that every theist sees God a little differently, and so has a different definition of the God they venerate. If this is so, then your topic becomes difficult to address.
chewybrian wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 10:06 am
I've got you covered. I am not a theist, and here is the crappy conception of God which I have created. God is the universe, which is to God as your body is to you. I can see your body, and the effects it creates, as I can see the universe, and the effects it creates. But, I can't see the real you inside, the most important, only important part. So also I can not see God in a way that really matters. God is so far ahead of us that direct communication is impossible. I can care for my garden, but I can not communicate with my plants. They, presumably, do not know I am there caring for them, as I can't say for sure that God is there.
To start with, I was quite amused. 🙂🙂🙂 Then I realised your "crappy conception of God" is pretty close to the God I venerate, and whom I call Gaia, at which point I became just a little less amused.... 😉
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Terrapin Station » January 17th, 2020, 12:52 pm

Prof Bulani wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 10:29 am
Terrapin Station wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 7:45 am
Can't you quote or reference Aristotle saying (in effect, at least) "I believe that God exists and is benevolent" at some point, but at some later point saying, "God can not be benevolent"? Then we can look at Aristotle and verify this. I've got the Jonathan Barnes Complete Aristotle on hand here, so I can quickly look up whatever you reference (and I could type the passages in question out for you here if you just give the references). But I'm not going to dig through a few thousand pages myself to try to find something that I'm not sure exists--presumably you could find this quicker, since you're the one making the claim and you're supposedly familiar with/have some memory of the passages in question.
I found one citation on wikiquote:
"If, then, God is always in that good state in which we sometimes are, this compels our wonder; and if in a better this compels it yet more. And God is in a better state. And life also belongs to God; for the actuality of thought is life, and God is that actuality; and God's self-dependent actuality is life most good and eternal.
Book XII, 1072b.24"

Obviously, this is an excerpt from a bigger address. I'll probably look for the address itself in it's entirety.

What would be especially ironic about Aristotle not being a theist (as is commonly defined) is that Aristotle happens to be the primary philosophical authority h_k_s habitually points to for proof that God exists. Notwithstanding, it wouldn't surprise me if h_k_s continues to use Aristotle as philosophical grounds for his theism, despite that not being the case.

The second philosopher on h_k_s's list is St Augustine. I just started reading up on his proof yesterday, so in break that down as soon as I'm finished.
Theists' (and particularly apologists') fondness for Aristotle is largely due to the medieval obsession with Aristotle among philosophers like Aquinas, as well as some earlier philosophers like Augustine (whom you mention).

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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Terrapin Station » January 17th, 2020, 1:00 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 8:02 am
Terrapin Station wrote:
January 16th, 2020, 3:37 pm


:-/ :-\ I've not been "destroying" anything. I've actually been arguing in defense of theists that they don't posit a God that they then say can't exist in reality.

The way I know what a lot of theists say is via talking to them, reading what they write, etc. for the past four-plus decades.
I apologised for getting this wrong. I was replying to the wrong poster. Sorry again.
No problem. I actually started wondering that later--it you hadn't meant to reply to someone else.

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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Prof Bulani » January 17th, 2020, 3:40 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 11:13 am
@Prof Bulani

If there is a God, and sometimes theists, or anyone for that matter, change their view of God from a less accurate conception of God to a more accurate conception of God- isn't that a good thing?

You seem to have a preconceived notion of what "good" and "bad" conceptions of God are, or should be.
There are no good or bad conceptions of God. If God exists, whatever God is it what God is. The discrepancy between a God that is preferred and a God that is logically coherent isn't that one is better than the other. The point is that the discrepancy, and hence the paradox, occurs.

I want God to be defined as accurately as possible, because that's the only definition that would be true. I personally have no preference about any definition of God, as all are equally falsifiable. I have a serious issue with multiple conflicting definitions of the same God held by the same person, as this is clearly an irrational stance.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Prof Bulani » January 17th, 2020, 3:56 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 12:24 pm
OK, I think we have all seen your core point, but it does hno harm at all to reiterate it. Thank you.

The problem I see with this is the definition of God. Not that theists see God as someone or something to be defined, but as philosophers, it helps if we have some idea what we're talking about. 😉 And - please correct me if I'm wrong - it seems to me that every theist sees God a little differently, and so has a different definition of the God they venerate. If this is so, then your topic becomes difficult to address.
Yes, like I said, the definition of God tends to vary from theist to theist. This I don't mind. As long as on an individual basis the definition of God doesn't vary within the same theist. And that's what I'm pointing out here. Starting from the point of theist and moving to the point of theist proving the existence of God invariable results in that theist changing their own definition of God. They can prove the existence of a "realistic" God, but in doing so it forces them to dismantle their "idealistic" God. The process forces the theist to come to the realization that the idealistic definition of God is logically incoherent.

As much as I love philosophy, I have actually discouraged theists from attempting to define God in a logically coherent way. I personally have no desire to remain in a blissful emotional state by forgoing the pursuit of truth. But I can't speak for everyone. It's rarely an easy process.
To start with, I was quite amused. 🙂🙂🙂 Then I realised your "crappy conception of God" is pretty close to the God I venerate, and whom I call Gaia, at which point I became just a little less amused.... 😉
There is nothing "crappy" about this definition of God at all. Not only is it logically analogous, it is actually a common definition.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by creation » January 18th, 2020, 12:20 am

chewybrian wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 10:06 am
anonymous66 wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 9:10 am
Your assertion is also vulnerable to counterarguments- all we have to do is to find one person who created a "unimpressive and useless" conception of God, without having first been a theist.
I've got you covered. I am not a theist, and here is the crappy conception of God which I have created. God is the universe, which is to God as your body is to you. I can see your body, and the effects it creates, as I can see the universe, and the effects it creates. But, I can't see the real you inside, the most important, only important part.
But in a sense you can see the real 'you' inside a human body.

The 'you' may not be able to be seen with the physical eyes directly, because of what a 'you', or 'person' is made up of exactly, but the 'you' can be seen by the words that are expressed from a body. The 'you' can also be seen/understood.

The 'you' can also be seen by the Mind's Eye, and thus also therefore known.
chewybrian wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 10:06 am
So also I can not see God in a way that really matters. God is so far ahead of us that direct communication is impossible.
I would not be so absolutely sure of this just yet.
chewybrian wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 10:06 am
I can care for my garden, but I can not communicate with my plants.
Or, maybe you can communicate withe them, but they will just not listen to 'you'?
chewybrian wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 10:06 am
They, presumably, do not know I am there caring for them, as I can't say for sure that God is there.
Well with your "crappy definition" of God you can clearly say for sure that God is HERE. If there was no Universe, then that body, which 'you' are in, would not have be created. God, the Universe, actually has created everything.

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