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The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

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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The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by jonathan » March 1st, 2019, 2:01 pm

Going through some of the old threads I came across a very long one about the ontological argument - the necessary existence of a perfect being (God) - and I had some thoughts. I’m starting a new thread, partly out of arrogance, and partly out of laziness — I didn’t take the time to slog through every single one of the posts, and if I’m going to follow the rules, I shouldn’t respond to the actual thread unless I’ve done so. So, apologies if this is old news. I have no excuse except for my own laziness.

On to business:

All of the secondary literature I’ve read about Anselm’s ontological argument indicates that the argument was not actually intended as a “proof” of the existence of God as against some sort of skepticism. For one thing, modern skepticism is rooted in empirical priorities (which I think was evident from the previous discussion), but this sort of skepticism wasn’t around in the middle ages when these original arguments were written. For another, the argument seems to rest on premises that sort of already presuppose the conclusion.
[Anselm] was not trying to prove the truths of theology as though they were otherwise subject to doubt. His purpose was not to shore up a faith that might otherwise falter, but rather simply to explore what he already firmly believed. His attitude is summed up near the beginning of the Proslogion in a famous statement: ‘I believe in order to understand’ (Credo ut intellegam).
(Paul Vincent Spade, “Medieval Philosophy,” The Oxford Illustrated History of Philosophy 77-78)
On the assumption that a Christian Platonism is integral to the proof, including an assumption of divine illumination and even perhaps a scriptural conception of God, it has been claimed that Anselm was not offering such a proof as would be intended to convince skeptics, but merely an elucidation of a belief already held, or perhaps even a kind of map of a mystical journey to the mind of God.
(Hyman & Walsh, eds., Philosophy in the Middle Ages, 149)
Barth has argued...that Anselm’s point was not to prove the existence of God by reason alone without any appeal to experience and the Christian revelation. His argument was intended to show that we cannot rationally deny the living God once we know who he is — the most perfect being. ... If Barth’s interpretation of Anselm is correct, then...[Anselm’s] work was not a piece of natural theology at all. The object of the exercise was not to discover rational, objective proofs for the things we believe in by faith. God is known in experience through personal encounter. The aim of philosophy is to understand the nature of this experience in depth. ... It is not a case of proving first and then believing. We cannot believe theological truths for non-theological reasons. Rather, it is only when we encounter the living God in faith that we are in a position to grasp the truth of Christian faith. The task of philosophical theology is to examine the implications of this.
(Colin Brown, Philosophy & the Christian Faith, 22-24)

So when we look at Anselm’s ontological argument with a skeptical eye, when we try to apply it to our skepticism about God, we may be committing an anachronism. The argument seems to operate within an already faithful framework, perhaps more specifically Platonic or neo-Platonic, which empiricists obviously reject out of hand.

On the surface, then, it appears it would be a circular argument. But to me it seems like the validity of the argument is going to depend on your ontological priorities, your take on metaphysics. If Platonic realism seems plausible — if things like pure geometry, numbers, “perfection” etc., have some manner of real existence aside from the empirical, observable universe — or any other sort of transcendence — Anselm’s argument holds a lot more water than if the physical universe is all there is.

I’ve heard roughly the same be said of the Thomistic arguments - from contingency, teleology, etc.: at the end of those arguments he says things like “this everyone understands to be God,” not, “therefore God exists,” which seems to indicate that his audience is also already working within his framework, at least to some extent, so these arguments aren’t addressing “our” skepticism per se. (He also doesn’t go so far as to say that these arguments point to the One True Christian God, but just the concept of god that people seem naturally to have fits in here. He argued that divine revelation was needed in addition to this sort of natural intuition to get all the way there.) As far as I understand, Aquinas’ primary purpose was to fit Christian belief within an Aristotelian system of thought — or maybe the other way around — not apologetics. So these arguments are going to make more sense to you if you already subscribe to Aristotelian metaphysics and/or Christian belief than if you subscribe to neither. And skeptical empiricists subscribe to neither, obviously.

So I think these arguments don’t “work” — they fail to convince — in the sense that they don’t address, and therefore don’t stand up to, skeptical/empirical demands.

But I think they do “work” — they have relevance — in that they can be made to question in the first place those demands and/or their basis, if we drill down to the underlying assumptions.

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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by Intellectual_Savnot » March 5th, 2019, 1:39 pm

You wrote a lot of words which could be summed up as : "Anslemwrote proofs on the premise that the conclusion was true, a fallacy well common in logic."
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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by Fooloso4 » March 5th, 2019, 5:48 pm

jonathan:
So when we look at Anselm’s ontological argument with a skeptical eye, when we try to apply it to our skepticism about God, we may be committing an anachronism.
First you point to modern skepticism, which you claim is rooted in empirical priorities, but then accuse those who view the argument skeptically of “committing an anachronism”. The problem is twofold, first, this does not get at the real difference between modern and ancient skepticism, and second, in line with this distinction, to be skeptical does not mean to be a modern skeptic and so skepticism, even skepticism based on lack of empirical evidence is not anachronistic.
… but this sort of skepticism wasn’t around in the middle ages when these original arguments were written.
The ancient skeptics were also skeptical of claims about God. As to medieval skepticism see: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ske ... -medieval/
The argument seems to operate within an already faithful framework, perhaps more specifically Platonic or neo-Platonic, which empiricists obviously reject out of hand.
But Plato, like Socrates, was a skeptic. Socrates, after all, was sentenced to death, atheism being the most serious charge against him. This was the same charge brought against some earlier philosophers, and, of course, later philosophers as well. Philosophers learned to hide their atheism through the use of esoteric devices such as professions of belief, contraction, and silence.
But to me it seems like the validity of the argument is going to depend on your ontological priorities, your take on metaphysics.
It is not clear what this means. If you take God to be the Supreme Being or necessary being as ontologically prior to contingent beings then you might be more accepting of such ontological arguments. The logical validity of an argument, however, is something quite different from and independent of one’s priorities and metaphysics.
If Platonic realism seems plausible — if things like pure geometry, numbers, “perfection” etc., have some manner of real existence aside from the empirical, observable universe — or any other sort of transcendence — Anselm’s argument holds a lot more water than if the physical universe is all there is.
One thing that should be noted is that there is no Platonic form ‘god’, at least, not one that is discussed in the dialogues. Nor is there a form ‘perfection’. Is perfection equivalent to the good or beauty or something else? In the Republic the Good stands in the place where others would put God. In fact, some assume that they are one and the same, but this is a highly questionable assumption. In other words, rather than “Platonic realism” leading to the plausibility of God it may very well lead to the opposite conclusion. The Good is not the most perfect being, it is said to be beyond being. Plotinus' Platonism is in this respect truer to Plato, for his God is not a being. More to the point, it is not empiricism that stands in the way of acceptance of the notion of God.
Aquinas’ primary purpose was to fit Christian belief within an Aristotelian system of thought …
Something like that. The compatibility of reason and revelation.
So these arguments are going to make more sense to you if you already subscribe to Aristotelian metaphysics and/or Christian belief …
No, not really. As with the distinction between Plato and Platonism, whatever it is the Aristotelian believes it is not necessarily what Aristotle had to teach to those he thought best suited to know the truth. In many ways the ancient commentators on Aristotle understood him better. Some quotes from Arthur M. Metzers “Philosophy between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing” https://www.press.uchicago.edu/sites/me ... pendix.pdf. These are on Aristotle and Aquinas. There are others on Plato and still more on other philosophers and the art of esoteric writing.
[M]any of the books of Aristotle appear to have been contrived with a view to concealment.
– Themistius, Analyticorum Posteriorum Paraphrasis, 5.1:1, quoted and
translated by Bolotin in Approach to Aristotle’s Physics, 5.
Elsewhere, Themistius gives an explanation of this observed fact:
It is characteristic of Aristotle to think that the same arguments are not beneficial for the many and for the philosophers, just as the same drugs and diet are not beneficial for those in the peak of health and those profoundly ill, but for some, those drugs and diet are
beneficial that are truly healthful, and for others, those that are suited to the present [defective] condition of the body. As a result, he called the latter outsiders and composed for them undemanding arguments, but he closed off the other arguments and safely
handed them on to the few.
–Themistius, Oratio 26, in Themistii Orationes, 385( 319 D) (unpublished
translation by Jenny Strauss Clay)
Elias, a commentator of the sixth century AD, harking back, in agreement, to the Aristotle letter mentioned by Plutarch and Gellius as well as the Second Letter of Plato, asserts:
When Alexander [the Great] blamed [Aristotle] for publishing his writing, Aristotle said, “they are published and not published,” hinting at their lack of clarity . . . [which is like] what Plato said [in the Second Letter, 312d8]: “if something should happen to the tablet [i.e., the writing] either on land or on sea, the reader because of its obscurity would not understand its contents." Thus [one should write] in order to hide; in order to test those fit and those unfit, so that the unfit should turn their backs on philosophy.
– Elias, Aristotelis Categorias Commentaria, 18.1:125
Whoever inquires into Aristotle’s sciences, peruses his books, and takes pains with them will not miss the many modes of concealment, blinding and complicating in his approach, despite his apparent intention to explain and clarify.
– Alfarabi, Harmonization (unpublished translation by Miriam Galston, quoted by Bolotin in Approach to Aristotle’s Physics, 6
Now, [Aristotle] practiced obscurity on account of his readers, so as to make those who were naturally suited eager to hear the argument, but to turn those who were uninterested away right from the beginning. For the genuine listeners, to the degree that the arguments are obscure, by so much are they eager to struggle and to arrive at the depth.
– Philoponus, Aristotelis Categorias Commentarium, 13.1:6.22–26
(unpublished translation by Jenny Strauss Clay)
And Aquinas:
Reply to 3. The teaching of Christ should be publicly and openly preached, so that it is clear to everyone what is good for him to know, but not that what is not good for him to know be made public.
– Thomas Aquinas, De Trinitate, art. 4, in Faith, Reason and Theology,
53-54
Reply Obj. 3. As stated above, Our Lord spoke to the multitudes in parables, because they were neither able nor worthy to receive the naked truth, which He revealed to His disciples.
– Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 4:2241-42 (pt. 3, ques. 42, art. 3)
jonathan:
But I think they do “work” — they have relevance — in that they can be made to question in the first place those demands and/or their basis, if we drill down to the underlying assumptions.
It is not just a question of assumptions but of specific assumptions, namely, the existence of God. And so, what work do they then do? They may have a role in one’s contemplative practice, but how do they differ from contemplation that begins with beliefs in magic or the occult? One might take pleasure in their internal coherence and ascribe meaning and significance to it based on that, but on what basis does one take the former to be true and the latter false?

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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by jonathan » March 5th, 2019, 8:23 pm

Wow, thank you for such an in-depth response. Obviously you know a lot more than me. The only point of yours I want to contest is on anachronism. The thread I went through seemed to focus a lot on the need for empirical/scientific evidence in order to prove the existence of god. If we go about investigating the existence of god empirically we're making the assumption that empirical methods are valid and appropriate for this question. That should be obvious. But why think that empirical methods are valid and appropriate? Must be because: god, or the evidence of him, is empirical; and empirical knowledge receives priority over other kinds (sometimes to the point of exclusion, depending on what it is we're talking about). This is the scientific rejection of belief in god, right? Belief in God is not justified because there's no empirical evidence, since empirical evidence is what's needed to justify the belief.

This emphasis seems very modern to me. Not that there wasn't empiricism broadly speaking in the ancient and medieval period, but the type of skepticism people typically bring to this question seems to stem from the post-Hume type of naturalistic empiricism that dictates pretty clearly how the question is going to be framed, and what sorts of answers are acceptable. If that's right, I think the medievals would differ on both those points no matter how skeptical they were.

Furthermore, these arguments don't even address skepticism, medieval or otherwise. So I still maintain it's anachronistic in that we bring with us our assumptions about the purpose of these "proofs" of God -- to dispel our skepticism -- whereas, as I quoted above, and as you mention, it's more part of a contemplative practice or, in the case of Aquinas, a philosophical undertaking.

Now I want to try to clarify my conclusion. Anselm's argument (and perhaps Aquinas' too) are circular in that they confirm their own worldview/s. I'm saying these arguments fail to convince, not necessarily because they're invalid, but primarily because we don't share the worldview. So here are my thoughts. First, belief in god (or not) is a foundational component of worldview. Second, none of us is without a worldview (or has a "neutral" world view). Third, our worldview, generally speaking, is quite different from that of the medievals. The problem is, if we read the arguments according to our worldview, and then presume the superiority of our worldview, especially on the basis of our reading, then we've done essentially the same thing: confirming our own worldview with a circular argument. This in turn has relevant bearing on how we deal with the god question altogether: if what's really at stake in the god question is worldview, then we can never decide, since worldview decides how you decide things, and all worldviews are self-confirming.

So, to answer your final question...
Fooloso4 wrote:
March 5th, 2019, 5:48 pm
...on what basis does one take the former to be true and the latter false?
...I don't see how there is any basis, and maybe the analysis of these arguments helps in part to explain or demonstrate why, because it gets us to drill down into worldview differences, to see our worldview as "just" a worldview. At least, that's the effect it had on me. That's the extent to which they "work."

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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by Fooloso4 » March 6th, 2019, 10:58 am

jonathan:
The thread I went through seemed to focus a lot on the need for empirical/scientific evidence in order to prove the existence of god.
Threads about God and religion tend to attract people who have very strong views one way or another. They do not reflect the views of other members or the population in general.

Although there are significant differences between ancient and modern science, the explanations of the ancients were grounded in the natural rather than supernatural. They were not empiricists but it is not as if the ancients ignored evidence. The pre-Socratic philosophers were what at one time what was called natural philosophers and more recently scientists. Aristotle has numerous works of natural sciences (science is Latin for knowledge) including biology, astronomy, meteorology or what today would be called earth science.
But why think that empirical methods are valid and appropriate?
It is not simply a matter of empirical methods but of evidence and knowledge. Belief in God as a matter of faith is one thing but to claim that one has knowledge of God is quite another. Plato’s Socrates required of those who claimed to be knowledgeable to demonstrate that they knew what they said they did. The dialogue Euthyphro is instructive since Euthyphro claims to have knowledge of piety.
This is the scientific rejection of belief in god, right? Belief in God is not justified because there's no empirical evidence, since empirical evidence is what's needed to justify the belief.
It is one thing to not believe in God because one finds no evidence, but it is quite another to claim that others should not believe because of lack of evidence. The former I think is a defensible position the latter is not. There are some who claim to have evidence that God exists. This raises the question of what counts as evidence. I do not think that one’s experience, feelings, or a priori arguments can properly count as evidence.

As to the term ‘skepticism’ it comes from the Greek and means inquiry. Where there is no doubt there is no inquiry. Modern skepticism, however, puts the greater emphasis on doubt. The central problem that led to modern skepticism is judgment, that is, whether the ideas present in the mind by which have knowledge of the world, truly represent the world. Since we cannot step outside the mind we cannot be certain that they do represent the world accurately. This was not as much a problem for the ancients because although they recognized that something sweet, for example, may not taste sweet when we are sick, they did not hold to the subjective notion of representation. They did not think that what we actually see are representations in the mind but rather objects in the world. The modern skeptic might be as skeptical of the empirical world as he is of the supernatural.
So I still maintain it's anachronistic in that we bring with us our assumptions about the purpose of these "proofs" of God -- to dispel our skepticism -- whereas, as I quoted above, and as you mention, it's more part of a contemplative practice or, in the case of Aquinas, a philosophical undertaking.
Whatever Anselm’s intention may have been and whatever it was he thought necessary or unnecessary to persuade the reader of, theologians and philosophers have long put forth proofs intended to dispel skepticism. It was the failure of such efforts that led to Kant’s rejection of a priori metaphysical arguments in order to make room for faith. Such things were matters of faith not knowledge. It was not simply that they could not be known empirically, they could not be known rationally either.
The problem is, if we read the arguments according to our worldview, and then presume the superiority of our worldview, especially on the basis of our reading, then we've done essentially the same thing: confirming our own worldview with a circular argument.
This is an interesting point and must be dealt with whenever we attempt to understand those who wrote in a different time and place. I think it is possible to expand our worldview and to some degree understood others on their own terms. Through that kind of dedicated study I may come to appreciate Anselm or someone else but I might also come to reject him. The same of course holds for contemporary thinkers. It is not simply a difference of time and place. And although we can never be free of our presuppositions that does not mean that our arguments will be circular. This brings us full circle to skepticism - the Socratic kind, which many today see as superior to the alternatives, Knowledge of our ignorance and hence the tentativeness and revisablity of our conclusions. Or, since we are jumping from time to time and place to place, what the Daodejing calls practicing extreme tenuousness. It is possible, however, that I have misunderstood what they meant, and here we come to another notion, what Gadamer calls the fusion of horizons.
This in turn has relevant bearing on how we deal with the god question altogether: if what's really at stake in the god question is worldview, then we can never decide, since worldview decides how you decide things, and all worldviews are self-confirming.
I do not agree with this. I believe in the notion of liberal education as liberation from worldviews. This is not to say there will no longer be a worldview but it will not be one given to me, it does not decide for me. There are people who at one stage in their life believe in God and at another do not. It is not as if there are two or more worldviews deciding for them which one to accept at any given moment. Having said that, I do agree that we are historically and culturally situated. There is no view from nowhere. But some of those around us believe in God and some don’t. So, we cannot simply treat this as a matter of historical differences, of how people saw things then versus now.

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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by jonathan » March 8th, 2019, 3:54 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
March 6th, 2019, 10:58 am
It is one thing to not believe in God because one finds no evidence, but it is quite another to claim that others should not believe because of lack of evidence. The former I think is a defensible position the latter is not. There are some who claim to have evidence that God exists. This raises the question of what counts as evidence. I do not think that one’s experience, feelings, or a priori arguments can properly count as evidence.
That accords generally with what I’ve seen, and this is exactly what I’m talking about: Once you’ve decided that experience, feelings, and a priori arguments aren’t valid for consideration in this question, then you’ve essentially decided what the answer will be before even going through the process, since experiential, emotional, and a priori evidence is usually what is put forward. On the other hand, people who think that experience, feelings, or a priori evidence is valid can (and often do) draw a different conclusion. The answer seems ostensibly to be determined by the process, but it’s determined more fundamentally by which process is chosen (or what’s deemed admissible to it) beforehand.

So, like you said, it raises the question what counts as evidence, but how to answer that question? What are the justifications for discounting experience, feelings, or a priori as evidence for (or against) God? Or are those just “givens”? (Or is there a third option I’m missing?)

It certainly can’t be true of all claims. For certain claims one typically would say that someone shouldn’t believe because of lack of empirical evidence, such as the existence of unicorns. For others one typically would say that someone should believe even though there is no empirical evidence, such as the existence of universal human rights. We use experience, feelings, and a priori as justification for all sorts of other beliefs — about our own identity, about other people and their attitudes toward us, our attitudes towards them, decisions we make day-to-day, which of our sense impressions are reliable or not, and, more to the point, which questions demand empirical evidence. Even if we think that every belief must be justified by empirical evidence, and beliefs that aren’t or can’t be justified empirically are essentially nonsense, still we did not arrive at that conclusion empirically.

So it’s either worldview “givens” or some sort of intuition that determines how questions are going to be framed, investigated, and answered — and it’s not yet clear to me what that determination should be for the God question. It seems to depend at least in part on the answer, too, not the other way around — if God exists, then certain experiences, a priori, etc., may be valid, whereas if not, not — which is why I think that belief in God is fundamental to worldview and why it’s so difficult to frame the question without also begging it.
I do not agree with this. I believe in the notion of liberal education as liberation from worldviews. This is not to say there will no longer be a worldview but it will not be one given to me, it does not decide for me. There are people who at one stage in their life believe in God and at another do not. It is not as if there are two or more worldviews deciding for them which one to accept at any given moment. Having said that, I do agree that we are historically and culturally situated. There is no view from nowhere. But some of those around us believe in God and some don’t. So, we cannot simply treat this as a matter of historical differences, of how people saw things then versus now.
Instead of “we can never decide” I probably should have said we can never justify any decision we make — that is to say, it will always be “justified,” but not independently or externally; i.e. the view from nowhere. We can revise our suppositions, but on the basis of other suppositions — at the end of the day, this seems very subjective to me, perhaps even downright arbitrary. And, half the time we’re not even aware of our own suppositions.

I see, and agree of course that in our cultural and historical moment some people believe in God and some don’t. But that in itself is part of a bigger picture. Have you read Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age? He posits that current modes of belief and skepticism are all rooted in the same milieu, different expressions within a broader, shared construal, which is the product of historical developments between the middle ages and now. You mention representationalism, for one. Taylor also points to the mechanistic view of the universe, Newtonian space and time, the dichotomy of nature and supernature, and other things... Taylor suggests that these developments have formed a background construal or framework (he calls it the “immanent frame”), usually unexpressed because unascertained, against which all of our discourse takes place. Because of this, he argues belief and skepticism in the middle ages was substantially different from belief and skepticism now, and that the difference is both philosophical (conditions of belief) and experiential (lived/felt experience).

At the risk of belaboring the point, here’s another illustration: let’s say I rationally accept and commit to the Aristotelian view of the soul as the actuality of a living thing and not a separate substance; but living post-Descartes and being inundated with media about zombies, simulated realities / brains in vats, and disembodied minds, and popular turns of phrase like “mind over matter,” “my mind was wandering,” and “out-of-body experience,” is it possible to fully cleanse myself of thinking/experiencing dualistically, to change my “mindset” as it were beyond mere rational acknowledgement? Most people live in this frame of mind without knowing it or questioning it; it’s “in the air.” Maybe through great effort of will and much contemplation I can resist the prevailing mindset and cultivate another, but maybe not even then. I know some Christians who refer to a “potluck” as a “pot providence,” clearly attempting exactly this.

So I wouldn’t say this is “simply” a matter of historical differences; but that the complex matter of historical differences has a lot of bearing on this question, or at least, can have on how we address it. I wouldn’t overemphasize it to the point of saying that we are “merely” products of our time and place, that our thinking is completely limited, or that historical differences are the only factors in this, but we shouldn’t underestimate their significance either.

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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by Intellectual_Savnot » March 8th, 2019, 11:32 pm

Simulate, but don't believe.
Have faith, but don't really stay convicted.
Have a good time, don't take yourself too seriously.

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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by Fooloso4 » March 9th, 2019, 11:00 am

jonathan:
We can revise our suppositions, but on the basis of other suppositions — at the end of the day, this seems very subjective to me, perhaps even downright arbitrary. And, half the time we’re not even aware of our own suppositions.
Some see this as a fault that must be remedied, others, including myself, reject the idea of an independent, unchanging, absolute foundation of knowledge.
… is it possible to fully cleanse myself of thinking/experiencing dualistically, to change my “mindset” as it were beyond mere rational acknowledgement?
“Cleanse”? I think it may not be possible to avoid some form of dualism. Even the attempt to avoid dualism is an acceptance of a dualist notion of a right (monism) and wrong (dualism).

We need to look beyond the rational. Temperament, attitudes, fears, desires, and other things all play a role.

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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by jonathan » March 10th, 2019, 2:17 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
March 9th, 2019, 11:00 am
jonathan:
We can revise our suppositions, but on the basis of other suppositions — at the end of the day, this seems very subjective to me, perhaps even downright arbitrary. And, half the time we’re not even aware of our own suppositions.
Some see this as a fault that must be remedied, others, including myself, reject the idea of an independent, unchanging, absolute foundation of knowledge.
We are in agreement, and I think this is the point I’ve been trying to make, that the very question of God (no matter its answer) seems to undermine foundationalism, whether scientistic or other.
Fooloso4 wrote:
March 9th, 2019, 11:00 am
… is it possible to fully cleanse myself of thinking/experiencing dualistically, to change my “mindset” as it were beyond mere rational acknowledgement?
“Cleanse”? I think it may not be possible to avoid some form of dualism. Even the attempt to avoid dualism is an acceptance of a dualist notion of a right (monism) and wrong (dualism).

We need to look beyond the rational. Temperament, attitudes, fears, desires, and other things all play a role.
And yet you seemed so confident that, when it comes to God, experience, feelings, and a priori are inadmissible. But again I find myself in agreement.

I'm talking about substance dualism, not cosmological dualism. I can conceivably maintain one without the other, or neither. But anyway, my point is not about whether or not either dualism is actually correct, I was just trying to draw an analogy. I’m saying that, as, (a) if I were convinced of Aristotle’s hylomorphic soul/body conception, (b) it would be difficult for me to try to integrate that conception into my thinking and inculcate an according mindset in (c) a substance-dualistic milieu, so, (a) if I were convinced of Anselm’s God as the greatest being in a neo-Platonic cosmology, (b) it would be difficult for me to try to integrate that cosmology into my thinking and inculcate an according mindset in (c) modern-philosophical milieu. All of which I intended to demonstrate my larger point of there being a milieu, if indeed there is difficulty in both those scenarios, in which we approach the question of God’s existence and how we deal with medieval arguments, that we must take into consideration. The illustration was only analogical, which is probably why it was confusing.

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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by Fooloso4 » March 13th, 2019, 10:57 am

I thought I had posted this:
The language used by philosophers is already deformed, as though by shoes that are too tight. (Wittgenstein Culture and Value, 47.)

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Felix
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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by Felix » March 15th, 2019, 4:45 am

Fooloso4 said: There are some who claim to have evidence that God exists. This raises the question of what counts as evidence. I do not think that one’s experience, feelings, or a priori arguments can properly count as evidence.
One's experience should not count as evidence? What exactly do you mean, one should not base one's conclusions on one's own experience but rely only on the judgements of external authorities?
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

Fooloso4
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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by Fooloso4 » March 15th, 2019, 9:03 am

Felix wrote:
March 15th, 2019, 4:45 am
Fooloso4 said: There are some who claim to have evidence that God exists. This raises the question of what counts as evidence. I do not think that one’s experience, feelings, or a priori arguments can properly count as evidence.
One's experience should not count as evidence? What exactly do you mean, one should not base one's conclusions on one's own experience but rely only on the judgements of external authorities?
The problem is, there is no way to determine that what one has experienced is God. It cannot stand as evidence. The experience may lead someone to God, but that is not empirical evidence. Empirical evidence is something that others can verify.

Some do rely on external authority whether it is a prophet or a church or what someone else has claimed to experience. Others do not think it is a matter of evidence or authority but of faith.

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Felix
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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by Felix » March 15th, 2019, 3:24 pm

Fooloso4: "The problem is, there is no way to determine that what one has experienced is God."

Well sure, but subjective experience alone can never qualify as empirical evidence, so we start with that handicap. And of course "God" is such a loaded term with all sorts of fanciful religious connotations, so there's handicap no. 2. I believe that was jonathan's point: religious assertions aren't necessarily intended to be proofs or sermons, but simply philosophical propositions.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by Fooloso4 » March 15th, 2019, 5:31 pm

@Felix There was no disagreement on any of these points.

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Arjen
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Re: The Ontological Argument (and other Medieval arguments) are unconvincing but relevant

Post by Arjen » April 5th, 2019, 7:32 am

I am enjoying this topic, more than the conclusions. I do not agree, nor disagree, however, I want to comment on these 2 responses:
@jonathan and @Fooloso4
Fooloso wrote: One thing that should be noted is that there is no Platonic form ‘god’, at least, not one that is discussed in the dialogues. Nor is there a form ‘perfection’. Is perfection equivalent to the good or beauty or something else? In the Republic the Good stands in the place where others would put God. In fact, some assume that they are one and the same, but this is a highly questionable assumption. In other words, rather than “Platonic realism” leading to the plausibility of God it may very well lead to the opposite conclusion. The Good is not the most perfect being, it is said to be beyond being. Plotinus' Platonism is in this respect truer to Plato, for his God is not a being. More to the point, it is not empiricism that stands in the way of acceptance of the notion of God.
Plato's idea of 'God' has remained undescribed. He did name a 'demiurg', who was responsible for the construction of all things; but not for the creation. Although neo-platonism took many forms, platonism has been used by many to propell the Christian religion by the neo's. :) 'The Good' as a for of God; 'The One' as a divine source not unlike Christianity in the Greek tradition. We can translate this into some for of quantum reality in the sense of not being physical: an ontological differene between living humans and our reality and the divine. Plato does make this separation regularly (see below reference of ether):
Plato's Phaedo wrote: “And upon the Earth are animals and men, some in a middle region, others (elementals) dwelling about the air as we dwell about the sea; others in islands which the air flows round, near the continent; and in a word, the air is used by them as the water and the sea are by us, and the ether is to them what the air is to us. Moreover, the temperament of their seasons is such that they have no disease (Paracelsus disputes this), and live much longer than we do, and have sight and hearing and smell, and all the other senses, in far greater perfection, in the same degree that air is purer than water or the ether than air. Also they have temples and sacred places in which the gods really dwell, and they hear their voices and receive their answers, and are conscious of them and hold converse with them, and they see the sun, moon, and stars as they really are.”
Anyway, Plato doesn't specifically say that this is 'God' to him, so perhaps this is superfluous.

@Felix and @Fooloso4
[quote="Felix"
Well sure, but subjective experience alone can never qualify as empirical evidence, so we start with that handicap. And of course "God" is such a loaded term with all sorts of fanciful religious connotations, so there's handicap no. 2. I believe that was jonathan's point: religious assertions aren't necessarily intended to be proofs or sermons, but simply philosophical propositions.
[/quote]
On the contrrary: empirical evidence is just that: subjective observation. The only objective evidence can be gained from rationalism: to try to understand what exactly the observation is. What that thing that is observed is in itself. A correct thought is, in that sense a good syllogism: An understanding of the machinations in progress (rationalism) as a major premiss and the observation (empiricism) as a minor premiss.

Take away from this that empirical evidence is necessarily subjective evidence. It can never be otherwise, because only subjects can observe.

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