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Argument for the existence of God

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Jacob86, what do you mean by God?

For the purposes of this particular discussion, I mean the eternally existent, volitional, Being who began all motion.

There are many other things that I mean by "God", but those details are irrelevant to the current debate.

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I don't understand "for the purposes of this particular discussion." Aren't you trying to discuss something real? I do accept the existence of something beyond empirical science, namely the human spirit.

But, maybe this quote from Philosophy and Sense of Life in Rand's Romantic Manifesto will be of interest:

...[M]en find particularly terrifying, is the myth of a supernatural recorder from whom nothing can be hidden, ...

That myth is true, not existentially, but psychologically. The merciless recorder is the integrating mechanism of a man's subconscious; the record of his sense of life.

Perhaps your "God" is merely your own spiritual self?

Edited by Dingbat
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Which part of the "setup" do you not "buy", and why? It SEEMS that you agree that there must be SOME eternal animate thing which began all motion, but we disagree thus far on whether this animate thing is a conscious, volitional being or not.

Is this an accurate description of your position?

I ask because I want to actually respond to YOU and your position-- rather than some imagined position.

My position is that The Universe is synonymous with all entities that exist (the standard "collective noun" definition that Objectivism uses).

And that purely philosophically (without the aid of telescopes or other empirical means), the only thing we can say about all the entities in the universe is that they exist and have identity(*).

And since I believe this is all we can know about all the entities, I do not believe we can, in advance of scientific exploration, know all the categories of entities that exist. For example we can not claim that every entity in the universe must be either volitional or inanimate, and then build an argument on that basis.

For example I posited a third category of animate-but-non-volitional entities that move automatically without choosing. Basically I think philosophy is not powerful enough to do what you want it to do.

(*) In an earlier reply to me you claimed we could not know the second, but in Objectivism identity is not an additional attribute over and above existence whose presence or absense must be proven, it is merely the same fact as existence, looked at from a different perspective.

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I remain unsatisfied that:

1) A first cause is required

2) A first cause, if required, must be volitional

3) A first cause, volitional or otherwise, if required, can be explained by anything other than another first cause

You have asserted, by requiring that there be some *volitional* first cause, that there be a first cause. You have then ignored where that first cause came from, and said, simply, "Ok that's it - God Exists" - without applying the same standard of causal evidence for God (an entity) that you have for everything else (all entities).

You've reached a conclusion that creates other conclusions which are either infinite regression fallacies or simply contradictions and then ignored those problems and decided only to focus on the conclusion you like.

But you cannot do that and be speaking Truth philosophically - to speak Truth you must speak a conclusion which contradicts NO other conclusions - AT ALL - ANYWHERE. It must be FULLY integrated with all other known Truths.

You cannot resolve the problems and contradictions so you ignore them and claim God exists.

WE cannot resolve the problems and contradictions and so we reject the conclusion as we reject any conclusion which falsely claims to prove that God does NOT exist.

If you cannot prove that X exists, and you cannot prove that X does not exist, then X is logically invalid - it has NO cognitive value - and the concept must be dismissed from any future cognitive reasoning. It isn't true - it isn't false - it's just nothing.

And we don't believe in that for which there is no non-fallacious and non-contradictory evidence. Ergo - we believe there is no God.

Find some evidence - produce SOME argument that has no contradictions, no assumptions, and no fallacies - and you will, I PROMISE you, force us to change our minds. I'm very sincere - I was raised as a believer. I'd actually LIKE the proof to exist.

But it doesn't - and my intellectual honesty will not allow me to fake that fact.

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As far as existents go, I'm not sure if I've thought of any others. If I do, I will inform you.

Did you have a point behind this question, though?

Jacob,

My question was rhetorical. I knew the answer before I asked it. I knew that you would be incapable of providing another example of the particular method of cognition that you advocate. Your changing the argument to a question of “the problem of induction” or “the validity of the senses” was a deflection. You do understand the importance of the question – because it is THE question at heart of this entire post.

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The question boils down to this: what does one mean by "unity"?

See, if there was a "time before time", then there could be no differences between things, i.e., there could be no things, either of the obervable, or observational, variety. Existence in this form of total unity, with no separate parts, could not encompass relative change and/or observation of such changes, i.e., could not support my existence as a conscious, volitional being in making choices in relation to an objective existential frame.

Yet, I exist and function as I do.

Ergo, Existence cannot exist as an undifferentiated unity.

Even given that Existence is not an undifferentiated unity, yet it still must be a unity of some sort, i.e., it must not have "leak", "holes", or any other means beyond itself. In mathematical terms, it must be logically closed. However, it can have parts.

Thus, to be able to "interact with itself", Existence must, at minimum, be a unity of a specific nature: it must be plural, and, at minimum, bipartite.

The plurality of unity that is Existence allows internal motion without requiring an external support. That I cannot unitarily imagine such a system-of-systems is true; it is, by nature, extended across multiple entities with multiple perspectives and cannot be viewed/encompassed in sum by any part of the whole, such as me.

Now, it could be, if you want to speculate technically, that our Universe is the inside of a black hole; for all intents and purposes, it is inescapable, finite, closed, and divided into many smaller parts that co-operate to form real structures that impinge on my senses. It could be. Not sure how I'd tell the difference, however, so doubt this speculation is any more informative/transformative/interesting/effective than quantum coupling as a means for signaling.

- ico

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I don't understand "for the purposes of this particular discussion." Aren't you trying to discuss something real? I do accept the existence of something beyond empirical science, namely the human spirit.

Yes, I am discussing something real. When I say "for the purposes of this particular discussion", I mean that it would be distracting and frivolous to discuss other attributes of God without first establishing that He exists.

Perhaps your "God" is merely your own spiritual self?

I'd say that my own spiritual self is an image of God- and therefore has that subconscious recorder.

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My position is that The Universe is synonymous with all entities that exist (the standard "collective noun" definition that Objectivism uses).

And that purely philosophically (without the aid of telescopes or other empirical means), the only thing we can say about all the entities in the universe is that they exist and have identity(*).

And since I believe this is all we can know about all the entities, I do not believe we can, in advance of scientific exploration, know all the categories of entities that exist. For example we can not claim that every entity in the universe must be either volitional or inanimate, and then build an argument on that basis.

For example I posited a third category of animate-but-non-volitional entities that move automatically without choosing. Basically I think philosophy is not powerful enough to do what you want it to do.

I did not say that every entity must be either volitional or inanimate. I said that every entity is volitional or reactionary.

There are animate, non-volitional (i.e. reactionary) things like animals and plants.

Animals move, but are motivated by biological & chemical (i.e. reactionary) instinct. Therefore animal movement also falls into the category of reactionary.

You seem to miss the point that non-volitional action is by definition reactionary and that action which is entirely reactionary is by definition non-volitional.

Action is either volitional or reactionary.

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I remain unsatisfied that:

1) A first cause is required

2) A first cause, if required, must be volitional

Then I am not sure what will "satisfy" you... I think the reason for you "dissatisfaction" on this issue is your epistemological escape hatch called "empiricism" which (as you seem to indicate below) demands that empirical evidence be regarded as the only form of evidence to be considered in matters of truth.

I have submitted very clear arguments to show that there must be a first cause and that the first cause must be volitional.

Your responses have not been objections so much as misunderstandings of my position. Let me give a very brief summary of each:

-First Cause: Either A) There is a first cause or B) There is not a first cause.

If B) There is not a first cause, then there is an infinite regress of causation. Infinite regress is a contradiction (since a series without a beginning cannot exist). Therefore B is false.

Therefore, A) There is a first cause.

-First Cause is Volitional: Either A) The first cause is volitional or B) The first cause is non-volitional

If B) the first cause is non-volitional, then its action was a reaction to prior action. This is also a contradiction (since "first cause" means that there is no prior causal action). Therefore B is false.

Therefore, A) The first cause is volitional.

3) A first cause, volitional or otherwise, if required, can be explained by anything other than another first cause

You have asserted, by requiring that there be some *volitional* first cause, that there be a first cause. You have then ignored where that first cause came from, and said, simply, "Ok that's it - God Exists" - without applying the same standard of causal evidence for God (an entity) that you have for everything else (all entities).

You seem to misunderstand the meaning of "first" here. A "first cause" by definition is uncaused and eternal. To demand a cause behind the "first cause" is to demand a contradiction. You, as an atheist, can avoid contradiction (momentarily) by positing that the first cause is some cosmic particle or "singularity" or something like that. But no one (atheist, theist, or otherwise) can logically demand a cause for the first cause.

You've reached a conclusion that creates other conclusions which are either infinite regression fallacies or simply contradictions and then ignored those problems and decided only to focus on the conclusion you like.

But you cannot do that and be speaking Truth philosophically - to speak Truth you must speak a conclusion which contradicts NO other conclusions - AT ALL - ANYWHERE. It must be FULLY integrated with all other known Truths.

I completely agree that contradictions should not be permitted and that all knowledge must be fully integrated without contradiction.

However, remember that contradictions arise from misunderstandings. When you come across something which SEEMS to defy the LNC, do you question the LNC or do you question your current understanding of the issue? Hopefully the latter.

But, let us take one step at a time. The first question is "does my conclusion follow from my premises?" and "are my premises true?" If yes, then my conclusion is true. If this is so, then any apparent contradictions need to be dealt with in light of the fact that it is true.

But you cannot deal with those apparent contradictions unless/ until my conclusion is determined to be true based on the argument.

There are two issues here:

1) Does my conclusion follow from the argument -(is it true?)

2) Does my conclusion lead to actual contradictions? -(which would mean that I made an error somewhere in my thinking)

These are two separate questions and I am happy to discuss both as long as you do not confuse them.

As for the first question, I have yet to see any legitimate objections which show a flaw in my argument.

As for the second question, I have yet to see any actual contradictions which my conclusion leads to.

-There have been some alleged contradictions which turned out to be misunderstandings of my position or misunderstandings of the proper application of the LNC, but none have proved to be actual contradictions.

Find some evidence - produce SOME argument that has no contradictions, no assumptions, and no fallacies - and you will, I PROMISE you, force us to change our minds. I'm very sincere - I was raised as a believer. I'd actually LIKE the proof to exist.

Please point out any ACTUAL contradiction in my argument, any unwarranted assumption, any actual fallacy.

And then, here is the key- Allow me to respond.

After you allege a contradiction or fallacy, allow me to give a defense to show that it is not a contradiction or fallacy.

And if I am able to rightly defend that particular point, then accept the fact that it was not ACTUALLY a contradiction/fallacy.

Then, we can move on to the next apparent contradiction/fallacy and do likewise.

Rather than shooting out a bunch of random assertions and allegations without ever intending to actually listen to a defense or response.

PS- I hate those damn smiley faces w/ sunglasses! lol! I don't have time to edit them all. They are supposed to be B ) without the space.

Edited by Jacob86
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I have submitted very clear arguments to show that there must be a first cause and that the first cause must be volitional.

Your responses have not been objections so much as misunderstandings of my position. Let me give a very brief summary of each:

-First Cause: Either A) There is a first cause or B) There is not a first cause.

If B) There is not a first cause, then there is an infinite regress of causation. Infinite regress is a contradiction (since a series without a beginning cannot exist). Therefore B is false.

Therefore, A) There is a first cause.

You seem to misunderstand the meaning of "first" here. A "first cause" by definition is uncaused and eternal.

Existence exists.

So why couldn't existence be uncaused and eternal.

In which case, action within existence (gravity) is caused by the existence of existence, and is non volitional.

You seem to misunderstand the meaning of "first" here. A "first cause" by definition is uncaused and eternal. To demand a cause behind the "first cause" is to demand a contradiction.
No, I'm trying to point it out to you that YOU are demanding a first cause behind the first cause. We KNOW Existence exists. You're *inventing* a first cause for existence and ignoring that existence itself is more likely the eternal since it is actually known to exist.

But, let us take one step at a time.

Yes lets but get them in the right order. Checking one's premises is the first action to be taken.

"are my premises true?"

I have provided you with an alternative premise - which may be equally true and may be more likely true since it is based on known observational facts - namely - existence exists.

Neither of us can prove our premises - neither of us can claim they are Truth. Thus no conclusion may be drawn.

Edited by Greebo
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I have provided you with an alternative premise - which may be equally true and may be more likely true since it is based on known observational facts - namely - existence exists.

Neither of us can prove our premises - neither of us can claim they are Truth. Thus no conclusion may be drawn.

Observing the observable material (facts) is validation. The conclusion drawn is that existence exists, the validation is the observation of that which exists, that is, existents. Proof is the method used to relate abstractions not directly percievable back to the given material directly observable by the senses. In essence, it reverses the process of concept-formation by identifying the steps required to validate the concept by taking the concept back to the observations (sense data) which gave rise to it.

The question is not, is existence that which is eternal? To posit a 'cause' to existence is to leave the realm of existence, and then posit an 'existent' (at this point, a contradiction in terms, if it exists, by definition it is part of existence) as being the causal agent.

Causality asks: What is the cause of action? The answer is entities.

The confusion comes from substituting the question and asking: What is the cause of entities (or in some cases identity)? If an entity is one that is not eternal, what is actually being descibed is a process of its coming into or going out of being.

The truth or falsehood of a proposition rests on the validity of the concepts used to formulate the proposition, as well as the proposition's relationship to the facts of reality.

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I did not say that every entity must be either volitional or inanimate. I said that every entity is volitional or reactionary.

It's my position that you can't know this.

You seem to miss the point that non-volitional action is by definition reactionary and that action which is entirely reactionary is by definition non-volitional.

Action is either volitional or reactionary.

"Non-volitional action is by definition reactionary" - why can't there be an action that is neither a reaction to an external event, nor a response to an internal decision? e.g. an entity without free will, that hops every 10 seconds, regardless of what's going on around it, simply because it's its identity to do so? There is no way, purely philosophically, to eliminate that possibility. If you say that without an internal or external cause it would be causeless, and we can eliminate it on that basis, I would say it's not causeless - the cause is the identity of the entity that acts.

Of course you are free to *define* a class of actions that includes all non-volitional actions, and then it will be true that all non-volitional actions fit in to this category. But calling this category "reactionary" is misleading, because on the normal meaning of that word, some of the actions in there might not fit (of course by your definition they will fit).

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Observing the observable material (facts) is validation.

Clarification - the alternative premise to which I refer is not that existence exists, but that existence is uncaused and eternal. That is the unproved and equally valid hypothesis.

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  • 6 months later...

-First Cause: Either A) There is a first cause or B) There is not a first cause.

If B) There is not a first cause, then there is an infinite regress of causation. Infinite regress is a contradiction (since a series without a beginning cannot exist). Therefore B is false.

Therefore, A) There is a first cause.

I think your argument actually should look like

A series without a beginning cannot exist.

Therefore there is a first cause.

But, you should give support for the first premise.

And your argument should not be a tautology. If your concept of series presupposes that a serie is something that has a beginning, it's a tautology.

If you mean that a serie has to be ennumerated and therefore it has a first member, ok. But then again - why not use the word sequence. Or choose another word. A sequence can have a first member and it can not have a first member. You should choose a word that is neutral to what you are arguing - not a one that assumes it. Perhaps - continuity? There is no contradiction in an infinite continuity.

If you say that there in order to have a middle you need to have a beginning, you are right, but do you think we have a middle? This is not something you can assume. If you would prove that there is a middle, you would prove that there is a beginning, indeed. But that is what you have to prove, not what you have to rely upon.

I don't think these are really arguments. They ignore that they need to prove their basic idea.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Infinite regression is a fallacy in the epistemological sense. If to know something, you would need to know something else and to know that thing, you would again need to know something else - ad infinitum, then you cannot know anything.

However, this is a different case, you are talking about the physical universe. This doesn't apply. Infinte regression in the sense of an infinite "chain" of causation is not the same idea.

Edited by samr
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The question is an invalid question. What is an "x?" There is no comprehensible definition of a deity (an x). An "infinite being" is an oxymoron. Any being would be limited; that's what makes it x and not y. "God" is a floating abstraction, an empty term with no referent in reality. To speak of an x as if it were known or knowable requires evidence, and what could qualify as evidence for the supernatural? "Where did the universe (existence) come from" is also an invalid question. Existence exists and only existence exists. All definitions and evidence are within existence and is in terms of existence. Existence is an axiom, the starting point and depends upon nothing more fundamental. It is.

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There is no comprehensible definition of a deity (an x).

Well, using the metaphysical principles worked out by Aristotle and perfected by Aquinas (the four causes that are involved in the production and motion of all material things), a comprehensible definition could be "uncaused cause"; "unmoved mover"; etc.

An "infinite being" is an oxymoron

How do you support this assertion?

Where did the universe (existence) come from" is also an invalid question.

No, it's not an "invalid" question. It is one that has intrigued scientists for centuries.

Existence exists and only existence exists.

"Existence exists" is a fairly meaningless statement. It's true, of course, but not much can be derived from it. "Only existence exists" means what, exactly? Do you mean that only things that actually exist, exist? If that's what you mean, that's a big "duh", right? It's not that profound.... Or do you mean that only things that can be physically measured actually exist? If that's the case, does the mind exist?

I think it's important to point out, on this thread, that atheism and theism (or at least Judaism and Christianity) represent two differing philosophical interpretations of the results of science. The existence of God is a question of philosophy, not of science.

Edited by Avila
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No, it's not an "invalid" question. It is one that has intrigued scientists for centuries.

It is indeed invalid to ask where existence as such came from, or equivalently to ask the question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" This is distinct from the question of where the universe as we know it today came from, or how it got to be the way that it is now (that is the scientific issue in question that you refer to). As is often pointed out, Christians and Objectivists alike accept the idea of existence as such not requiring a cause. For Christians, the eternal existent is God, while for Objectivists it is not specified beyond existence as such, although positing that the eternal existent is a consciousness is arbitrary, and positing that it is supernatural is meaningless.

Edited by Dante
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It is indeed invalid to ask where existence as such came from, or equivalently to ask the question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

Why? These are legitimate philosophical questions (and in the case of the origins of the universe, one that science looks at as well).

For Christians, the eternal existent is God, while for Objectivists it is not specified beyond existence as such, although positing that the eternal existent is a consciousness is arbitrary, and positing that it is supernatural is meaningless.

The position that the eternal existent is a consciousness is not arbitrary, but is instead based on the awareness of purpose and design in the world. Now, the atheist looks at the world and interprets it with a differing philosophical worldview -- but it is not arbitrary. Nor is the position that the eternal existent is supernatural "meaningless" -- if the eternal existent created the material universe (nature) then of course it is "super" -- meaning, "above" -- nature.

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From your profile section on Experience with Objectivism, Avila:

"Have read quite a number of her books, including Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, The Virtue of Selfishness, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemolgy, Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, the Romantic manifesto"

Seeing the words on a page, reading the words aloud or enunciating the words within the mind is not the same as grasping and comprehending the materials with to which you exposed yourself. to.

Edited by dream_weaver
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Why? These are legitimate philosophical questions (and in the case of the origins of the universe, one that science looks at as well).

Because causal factors always operate through existents. Literal nonexistence, nothingness, has no causal efficacy. Take a Christian who holds that the universe as we know it today was created by a conscious God. God is the existent to which he appeals in order to explain the universe. Where did God come from? Well, he is eternal, uncaused. Or take a quantum mechanics researcher who posits that the universe as we know it popped out of a quantum fluctuation. In that case, the existent to which he is appealing is the quantum-mechanical nature and features of the 'wider universe', out of which popped this present universe. Where did that QM structure come from? Well, that's just the way it is. Maybe we can also explain that structure, but however we explain it, it will be through the causal processes of yet another existent. In any case, whatever it is that you appeal to to explain the creation of this universe, that thing is also part of existence as such.

The position that the eternal existent is a consciousness is not arbitrary, but is instead based on the awareness of purpose and design in the world. Now, the atheist looks at the world and interprets it with a differing philosophical worldview -- but it is not arbitrary. Nor is the position that the eternal existent is supernatural "meaningless" -- if the eternal existent created the material universe (nature) then of course it is "super" -- meaning, "above" -- nature.

The relevant question re: supernatural is, are you proposing that the eternal existent has a definite nature, with definite capabilities, which works through definite causal processes to interact with and change (or in this case create) the world outside itself? If you are, then your deity is simply another existent with a definite nature. If not, if you're proposing literal magic, this deity can do things without any sort of causal process, then you're talking nonsense; hence, 'meaningless.'

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From your profile section on Experience with Objectivism, Avila:

"Have read quite a number of her books, including Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, The Virtue of Selfishness, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemolgy, Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, the Romantic manifesto"

Seeing the words on a page, reading the words aloud or enunciating the words within the mind is not the same as grasping and comprehending the materials with to which you exposed yourself. to.

Now there's a solid refutation of my position. Bravo!

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