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Jacob86

Argument for the existence of God

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"You quote and, I take it, agree with Aquinas that "all of our knowledge originates from the sense"; however you also state, as a seeming exception, that "we possess a natural ability to abstract ideas."

An "exception"? I don't see that at all. The abstraction of ideas flows from the rational faculty of observation -- let me try to illusrate this by a simple example: You see a footprint on a sandy beach. Your previous sense-perception observations (or at least the testimony of those whose opionions you regard as credible)leads you to conclude that actual footprints are left by actual beings who leave footprints. The observation of the natural world leads you to rationally conclude -- though without direct observation -- that an entity has passed by on this sandy beach. You might even be able to discern some attributes of the being who left the prints, even though you never observed the entity.

If I were to say, as you quoted Aquinas as having said, that all of our knowledge originates from the sense, however..., my "however" implies some exception.

Or, to put it symbolically, if I were to say, "All X is Y, however...," again, that "however" implies an exception, a contradiction to that "All."

So when you stated, 'To use Thomas Aquinas again: ""Now it is natural to man to attain to intellectual truths through sensible objects, because all of our knowledge originates from the sense." However, we possess a natural ability to abstract ideas," your "However" implies some exception.

That's why I asked. The implication is obvious with your use of "However." So, I asked my questions to understand whether or not you do agree with Aquinas' statement, or if you hold that our "natural ability to abstract ideas" is an exception.

Given your reply, I am still not certain, as I do not think that you addressed the point of my question, your use of that "however" as you did and the implication (whether you meant that there is some exception or if you merely stated your meaning incorrectly).

All that is to your comment: "An "exception"? I don't see that at all."

As to your example of footprints in the sand:

Certainly, if you notice some evidence of the existence of some animal (footprints in the sand), it is logical to conclude that they were caused by some animal. But even then, to have concluded that what you have seen are footprints brings other, previously acquired knowledge to bear on the evidence. By identifying the observed markings as footprints, you've already drawn some conclusions, correctly or not on the markings, relating the new evidence to what you have already learned. And, if the footprints are familiar, you may correctly conclude what kind of animal made them.

If you are not yet certain what animal made the footprints, then if, on gathering more information, say by following the footprints to locate the animal that created them, you actually see the animal that created the footprints, then you, having new evidence of the sense, can then confirm your hypothesis as to what animal made the footprints or actually identify the animal even if you had no hypothesis.

Regardless, your conclusion, on the basis of observing the footprints, that something caused the footprints, is but the application of your understanding of causality, that for there to be footprints, some animal had to have caused them.

But if you are trying to use the footprints in the sand as an analogy, claiming that just as the footprints are evidence for the animal that caused them, so too is all of existence evidence for a being (a God which exists prior to existence) which caused (created) all of existence (out of non-existence), then you are using the concept of causality invalidly, outside of its context of meaning. The concept of causality presupposes existence; or, causality exists within the universe; the universe does not exist within causality.

To identify some effect that exists (footprints) as having been caused by some entity that exists (the animal that caused the footprints) is not analogous to claiming that all of existence is evidence for some cause of existence. On the face of it, that is a contradiction.

The question, "what caused existence?," is invalid. The question assumes that existence as such requires some causal explanation. What caused that which has no cause? Existence has no cause. It just is. That is what it means to grasp that "Existence exists."

Edited by Trebor
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"If I were to say, as you quoted Aquinas as having said, that all of our knowledge originates from the sense, however..., my "however" implies some exception."

A poor choice of words, then, on my behalf -- I was simply trying to say that from our sense perceptions we are able to abstract ideas.

"But even then, to have concluded that what you have seen are footprints brings other, previously acquired knowledge to bear on the evidence."

We agree.

"The concept of causality presupposes existence; or, causality exists within the universe; the universe does not exist within causality."

There are a number of concepts in your sentence here: does the concept of causality presuppose existence? Yes, of course. Does causality exist within the universe? Yes, of course. But I don't know exactly what you mean by "the universe does not exist within causality.". I'm guessing that maybe you mean that the universe is eternal and uncaused. This would appear to violate some of the laws of thermodynamics (entropy, for one), as well as logic. Someone on this post gave Zeno's paradox as proof, I suppose, that infinite regress is possible. But mathematical abstractions (which is what that is) don't operate on the same level of actual existents.

"The question, "what caused existence?," is invalid. The question assumes that existence as such requires some causal explanation."

Saying a question is "invalid" simply makes you seem like mind-numbed robots who aren't allowed to think outside certain boundaries. "What caused existence" is an intriguing question for those who choose to think.

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Aliva, the reason why it's invalid to ask, ''what caused existence?'' is because this question presumes the existence of some entity separate from existence (in order to ''cause existence''), i.e. something existing outside of existence. This is a contradiction.

Saying a question is "invalid" simply makes you seem like mind-numbed robots who aren't allowed to think outside certain boundaries. "What caused existence" is an intriguing question for those who choose to think.

The only boundaries outside of which Trebor wasn't thinking was the axiom of existence and the law of non-contradiction. To what other boundaries do you think he was ''limiting'' himself?

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Saying a question is "invalid" simply makes you seem like mind-numbed robots who aren't allowed to think outside certain boundaries.

Actually, it makes him sound like he has actually thought about the question and determined why it is invalid. As has been pointed out, the question presumes a contradiction of the word existence. So rather than claiming the upper hand on who is or isn't thinking, iron out the contradiction for us please.

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Aliva, the reason why it's invalid to ask, ''what caused existence?'' is because this question presumes the existence of some entity separate from existence (in order to ''cause existence''), i.e. something existing outside of existence. This is a contradiction."

The problem for me here (I'm not explaining myself well, perhaps) is that this implies that existence causes itself to exist. How does something cause itself to come into being? If your answer is that existence has always existed -- well, as I mentioned before, this would appear to violate some of the laws of thermodynamics.

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The problem for me here (I'm not explaining myself well, perhaps) is that this implies that existence causes itself to exist. How does something cause itself to come into being? If your answer is that existence has always existed -- well, as I mentioned before, this would appear to violate some of the laws of thermodynamics.

Existence did not cause itself to exist. It just exists. Maybe if you take ''existence causes itself to exist'' to mean ''things existed, and it is in their nature to continue existing, therefore they exist now,'' then maybe that makes sense. But saying that ''existence caused itself to exist'' in the sense that existence was caused by something external to itself, is still a contradiction; existence is not external to itself.

As for what you brought up about the laws of thermodynamics: no one is trying to say that time is infinite. ''Existence is eternal'' does not mean that time is infinite. It simply means that time is a relational concept of entities which exist, i.e. time is within the universe. The universe, however, is not within, or measured by a time (nor by space, nor by color, etc.). Even if you don't yet understand what I mean, you should still understand why saying ''Something caused existence'' is a contradiction.

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It's a small point, I suppose (and one that might be due to Rand's habit of making up her own definitions for words), but wouldn't it be more accurate, then, to say "existents exist"? "Existence exists" suggests something deeper -- "existence" (at least as commonly understood) is simply the condition or state of being, of existing. "Existence exists" suggests that "existence" has a life of its own, so to speak -- almost as if it were an entity (in fact, someone here on this thread said exactly that, which I find very peculiar) that was not dependent upon existents.

"you should still understand why saying ''Something caused existence'' is a contradiction."

No, I don't see that it's a contradiction -- every existent I see around me has a cause, including me: I was caused by the biological union of my parents. The house I live in was caused by a great many workman working with lumber (caused by chopping down trees), stone (caused by quarrying stone) and other materials, those materials, of course, having their own string of causes. Existents have causes. Since "existence" is tied to existents, it seems rational to conclude that "existence", understood as the state of existing, obviously is caused.

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It's a small point, I suppose (and one that might be due to Rand's habit of making up her own definitions for words), but wouldn't it be more accurate, then, to say "existents exist"? "Existence exists" suggests something deeper -- "existence" (at least as commonly understood) is simply the condition or state of being, of existing. "Existence exists" suggests that "existence" has a life of its own, so to speak -- almost as if it were an entity (in fact, someone here on this thread said exactly that, which I find very peculiar) that was not dependent upon existents.

I agree that many people define "existence" as having some higher meaning than simply, "the collection of everything that exists". But that is all that is meant by it. (see also Existence exists.)

In the same vein, many people would read "making up a definition" as equivalent to "pulling a definition from nowhere". On the contrary, Rand's definitions for concepts are rooted in the evidence of the senses - they are based in reality. If they run contrary to the definitions used by others, it is not Rand that is at fault. I agree it can be confusing, though, for people who have no objective method for evaluating concepts and their definitions. (see Definitions)

No, I don't see that it's a contradiction -- every existent I see around me has a cause, including me: I was caused by the biological union of my parents. The house I live in was caused by a great many workman working with lumber (caused by chopping down trees), stone (caused by quarrying stone) and other materials, those materials, of course, having their own string of causes.

Agreed, every existent is itself caused, but it is caused by an earlier interaction between other existents. There are no examples of interactions among "non-existents" that produce an existent. Such a statement is entirely incoherent.

Existents have causes.

And those causes are always interactions between other existents.

Since "existence" is tied to existents

I don't understand what is meant by this statement. To say "X is tied to Y" is to say that some prior cause tied X to Y - that is begging the question. Existence cannot be said to be "tied to" existents, as there is no possible alternative by which existents could not have existence "tied to" them. It is not possible for existents to not exist and still remain existents.

Edited by brian0918

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"Existence cannot be said to be "tied to" existents, as there is no possible alternative by which existents could not have existence "tied to" them. It is not possible for existents to not exist and still remain existents."

Yes, we agree here -- my point was, here on this thread I have read of "existence" as being somehow existing without existents. I'd have to back-track and find the posts...But if the statement "Existence exists" is simply synonomous with "existents exist" ("things that exist exist") -- well, umm, so what? It seems a bland, obvious statement that only a few fringe people (those atheists who are entirely subjective or determinist, who doubt that we can really know anything) who would disagree. It just seems odd that it has such an importance -- again, the phrase seems to suggest more meaning. Not that I doubt you -- I'm just puzzled by how it's used.

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But if the statement "Existence exists" is simply synonomous with "existents exist" ("things that exist exist") -- well, umm, so what?

Not quite, because "existence" (in this sense, not others, which should not be conflated) is the sum of everything that exists, not just some things that do. To speak of something creating existence is thus nonsensical because the thing that does the creating would itself have to exist to do the creating--and would be part of existence before existence were created. It is logically contradictory to assert that something existed which created everything that exists including itself.

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The axioms establish the base of logic. They may seem obvious, yet people regularly assert claims that contradict the axioms. When such claims are encountered, the axioms allow you to easily establish that the claim is not logical - for example, the claim that an entity that exists outside of existence, acted apart from time (ie without motion), to create existence.

Edited by brian0918

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"Not quite, because "existence" (in this sense, not others, which should not be conflated) is the sum of everything that exists"

I thought that was the definition of "universe" -- are you saying, then, that "universe" and "existence" are synonomous?

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I thought that was the definition of "universe" -- are you saying, then, that "universe" and "existence" are synonomous?

This has been asked before.

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No, I don't see that it's a contradiction -- every existent I see around me has a cause, including me: I was caused by the biological union of my parents. The house I live in was caused by a great many workman working with lumber (caused by chopping down trees), stone (caused by quarrying stone) and other materials, those materials, of course, having their own string of causes. Existents have causes. Since "existence" is tied to existents, it seems rational to conclude that "existence", understood as the state of existing, obviously is caused.

Your parents caused your existence, and lumberjacks caused the existence of your house. Your parents are separate and distinct from you, and lumberjacks are separate and distinct from your house. Saying ''X is caused'' presumes the existence of something separate from itself. This does not work with existence as a whole; there is nothing distinct or separate from existence.

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"This has been asked before."

Yes, thanks for the link. I read the entire thread, but to be honest, there seems to be some ambiguity, or at least nuances that may or may not make some fundamental distinction between "universe" and "existence". Rand is pretty clear that they are synonomous, but someone on that thread clarified some distinctions in the use of the terms -- which, at least to me, meant that there were, in fact, some distinctions which would make "synonomous" a bit of a stretch.

At any rate, the idea that the universe is uncaused is not one that is axiomatic, in the sense that "2 + 2 + 4", or "if A = B, then B = A" -- no one has an alternative answer to those propositions. The same can not be said of "the universe has always existed" -- there are many alternative philosophical theories.

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At any rate, the idea that the universe is uncaused is not one that is axiomatic, in the sense that "2 + 2 + 4", or "if A = B, then B = A" -- no one has an alternative answer to those propositions. The same can not be said of "the universe has always existed" -- there are many alternative philosophical theories.

Do you consider them to all be equally valid theories? Can they all be simultaneously equally true?

At any rate, as you put it, the idea that the universe is uncaused is not one that is axiomatic. It is derived from understanding how existence, identity and consciousness are axiomatic concepts, and the relationship each shares with the others.

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someone on that thread clarified some distinctions in the use of the terms

Given that there are 33 replies in that thread, would you mind citing the specific post you refer to?

At any rate, the idea that the universe is uncaused is not one that is axiomatic, in the sense that "2 + 2 = 4", or "if A = B, then B = A"

That is not what is meant by the term "axiomatic" in Objectivism, and is not what I meant by "the axioms": "Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists."

Those statements form the base of all knowledge. Any assertion contrary to those statements is necessarily contradictory, as one must necessarily assume the axioms in order to refute them.

there are many alternative philosophical theories.

The existence of alternative views is not an argument.

Edited by brian0918

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"Do you consider them to all be equally valid theories? Can they all be simultaneously equally true?"

No and no.

"That is not what is meant by the term "axiomatic" in Objectivism".

And Objectivism has a different meaning than is generally used in philosophy for a whole host of words. I'm not saying that Rand didn't have the right to make up her own meaning for words (and her definitions are certainly accessible), but at some point, I have to wonder WHY she did that. Is it done deliberately so as to make discussing (let alone debating) Objectivism hard to do and confusing? Is it because she didn't really grasp the meanings of the words as generally used by philosophy? Or did she want to put herself above any other philosophy and create a new lexicon all her own, therefore distancing herself from what came before? After reading some critiques of Rand's philosophy, I'm tempted to think it's a combination of the last two. But that's another topic, I suppose....

""Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists.""

Agreed.

"Given that there are 33 replies in that thread, would you mind citing the specific post you refer to?"

I'll have to do that in a different post, as I'm not sure I can navigate away from this page without losing what I've typed. At any rate, it's about halfway through the thread -- I'll link to it or copy it.

"The existence of alternative views is not an argument."

Agreed. Each view has to be weighed on its own merits. My point was that theories should not be automatically considered axiomatic, especially if there are other alternatives that are reasonable. For example, I can't think of a reasonable alternative theory to "2 + 2 = 4". There are other reasonable alternative theories, however, to the theory that the universe is eternal, or at least has always existed up to this point. It's not axiomatic, and so when it's posited that "existence" and "universe" are synonomous, and then it's posited that existence has always existed and is not caused, then that would appear to imply that the universe has always existed and is uncaused, but I don't think that squares with the laws of thermodynamics, or with the prevailing model of the universe.

, t

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And Objectivism has a different meaning than is generally used in philosophy for a whole host of words. <snip>

I'm not sure what you're going on about. I meant something very specific when I said, "the axioms" - the axioms of Objectivism. You attempted to assert something else as being what I meant ("in the sense that "2 + 2 = 4", or "if A = B, then B = A""), and I corrected you. Rand's axioms certainly fit the standard definition of axiom as a "self-evident truth", so the word is being used properly.

If you want to discuss Rand's theory of concept- and definition-formation, I would recommend starting a separate topic so as to avoid derailing this thread even further.

Edited by brian0918

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Warning: Incoming rant based on the first couple of pages. I couldn't get through the rest of it. Please feel free to ignore this.

ugh, this is what happens when people play with the philosophy of science while ignoring the science itself. I had a philosophy of science professor (who had no background in science at all) try and explain a proof for negative probability he was working on that was clearly based on a massive misunderstanding of the underlying physics of the double slit experiment.

Anyways.

A first cause isn't necessary, a circle is proof of that. End of story.

Yeah, its hard to wrap your head around ("But where did the circle come from?"), and its not common sense, but so is most science when it gets too big or too small. You get too big you start talking about curved space, gravitational lensing, and time dilation. You get too small you start talking about quantized energy and probabilistic positional wells that make ZERO sense to the human mind as it is conditioned to think.

Hell even just talking about the internal refraction of photons on a piece of glass will result in you throwing your hands up and saying "THIS DOESN"T MAKE SENSE."

And the idea that "there are no infinites"? is appallingly bad science.

Oh you mean there are no infinities outside of math? Ok what about recursive intermolecular force effects? Oh you mean just talking about physical stuff? Ok what about infinitessimal space? Oh that doesn't count either? Or are you now going to argue that space is quantized? How many exceptions do we have to add on to make that statement less idiotic?

Edited by emorris1000

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Warning: Incoming rant based on previous reply.

A first cause isn't necessary, a circle is proof of that. End of story.

A correct conclusion isn't necessarily reached by valid reasoning. This is proof of that. :P

You get too small you start talking about quantized energy and probabilistic positional wells that make ZERO sense to the human mind as it is conditioned to think. Hell even just talking about the internal refraction of photons on a piece of glass will result in you throwing your hands up and saying "THIS DOESN"T MAKE SENSE."

This is due primarily to bad philosophy in the field of science, which has been forced to supplant conceptual understanding with rote memorization.

And the idea that "there are no infinites"? is appallingly bad science.

You have put the cart before the horse, but rather than derail this thread, I will simply guide you to another discussion on the topic. Feel free to discuss the oft-cited "problem" with infinities there, if you do not find the answers you seek.

Edited by brian0918

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Warning: Incoming rant based on previous reply.

Fair enough. I appreciate that I did derail a bit.

You have put the cart before the horse, but rather than derail this thread, I will simply guide you to another discussion on the topic. Feel free to discuss the oft-cited "problem" with infinities there, if you do not find the answers you seek.

So I can bump that thread? Or should I make a new one?

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"A first cause isn't necessary, a circle is proof of that. End of story."

You're joking, right?

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no

Edit: Explain the problem with it. If you're going to argue that the circle needs a cause then you also have to argue that god needs a cause.

Edited by emorris1000

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