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Hardly arbitrary... are you sure about that?

Consider his contingency proof - he's arbitrarily declaring that an eternal nature of existence is impossible - and declaring that it must have come from somewhere, and thus it must have come from a god being:

"Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity."

We could equally postulate that existence itself exists of its own necessity - so he's arbitrarily dropped that possibility.

I'm no philosopher (I'm an artist), but it seems to me that you are using the term "existence" in a way that makes it a thing, an entity. As I asked in an earlier post here, is it reasonable to say that "reality" and "the material universe" are somewhat synonomous? If so, then the material universe has not always existed, and therefore is contingent.

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It is baffling to me that Objectivists are incapable of seeing the horrendous error in equating "inability" to "ability" and "weakness" to "strength". Your argument basically says that in order f

"Worship"?? What you tell me by this inflammatory use of the term is that no rational discussion with you is possible. Good day, sir.

Yes. God. Have I ever seen Him? Do I have empirical proof that He exists and that He doesn't have a cause? No. Do I need it? No. Instead of asking insinuating questions with vague implic

This has been an interesting thread to read. It's made me think a great deal about assumptions I have made over the years. In reading Jacob's posts on this thread, I think that you're missing something here: yes, reality is not subject to human consciousness, but since human consciousness is all that Objectivism allows, it does not -- cannot -- address the fundamental creation of reality. Reality in and of itself - A is A - is addressed by Objectivism, but it does not address its ultimate creation. I just don't think Objectivism has the answer here. As a philosophy, it simply can't, as it has set finite limits to reality (observable reality) and doesn't have much to say about its origins. Saying "it's always been there" doesn't really satisfy.

If you're suggesting that the theistic side of the debate does not suffer from this problem, then you don't understand what they are arguing. Both sides in this discussion are positing that something "has always been there." The two sides simply disagree over what that something is; for us, it is the universe pretty much as it is now, while for the theists it is a conscious being, God, who initiated the universe as we know it. The reason for this is simple; if you're ultimately 'not really satisfied' with something always having been here, then your only alternative is truly causeless creation at some point in the past; something from (literally) nothing. Neither Jacob nor we Objectivists are willing to make that kind of claim. Are you?

...And is "reality" synonomous with "the material universe"? Would that be reasonable? My understanding is that, if so, the universe has NOT always existed, nor is it infinite. You say that reality has always existed, but if reality is synonomous with, or at least corresponds to, the material universe, then it hasn't always existed.

You cannot make that claim on the basis of the evidence. All that we can say at this point is that almost 14 billion years ago, the universe as we know it was a singularity which then rapidly expanded. We have absolutely no evidence at this point to suggest what shape the universe was in before that singularity, and certainly nothing on which to base the claim that it didn't exist before that point. A series of bangs and crunches stretching back forever (for example) is equally likely.

Again, I just don't think Objectivism is equipped to address these questions, as it addresses only observable reality and is not able to speculate beyond that to the origins of observable reality.

You seem to be suggesting that there might be something else which is equipped to address questions when we have absolutely no evidence to go on. Some kind of shortcut to knowledge when we don't have any hard facts. This is simply not the case. Any questions that cannot be addressed using 'observable reality' simply cannot be addressed. There is no shortcut to knowledge through faith or feelings or guessing or anything else.

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Again, I just don't think Objectivism is equipped to address these questions, as it addresses only observable reality and is not able to speculate beyond that to the origins of observable reality.

As opposed to unobservable reality? There is no way whatsoever to speculate about unobservable reality, and anything in "unobservable reality" necessarily has no affect on anything in observable reality. If anything in "unobservable reality" had an affect on observable reality, it wouldn't be part of "unobservable reality".

Edited by Eiuol
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I'm no philosopher (I'm an artist), but it seems to me that you are using the term "existence" in a way that makes it a thing, an entity.

I am, indeed.

As I asked in an earlier post here, is it reasonable to say that "reality" and "the material universe" are somewhat synonomous? If so, then the material universe has not always existed, and therefore is contingent.

No, reality and the material universe are not synonymous. There are theories suggesting that we are only in one universe of many - and the physical rules of those other universes may be different from ours - but they are all part of existence (if they exist), and if there were some kind of God being, it would be part of existence as well.

Existence is all that exists, and only that which exists.

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I think we agree that Objectivism is not equipped towards answering the whys and hows of the creation of the universe.

I'm not agreeing to that at all. You are positing something that does not take into account the possibility of future discoveries. My point was that it isn't necessary for Objectivist epistemology to posit the origin of the universe in order to demonstrate what tools we have available to us to learn the reality around us. Additionally, if the "creation of the universe" IS unknowable and this "creation" (or creator) in some way obliges me to live in some particular fashion, but there is no way that i can possibly know what that way is, there is no point in discussing it. If there exists some other "reality", one that lies beyond human ability to detect through their senses and reasoning, one that is beyond our ability to even understand or comprehend, for all intents and purposes it does not exist for purposes of guiding human behavior.

But I disagree that "No evidence has been presented that a god or gods exist" -- I find Aquinas's "proofs" to be quite rational. A person might not agree with his conclusions, but they're hardly arbitrary.

You can certainly disagree. Christians take the Bible as evidence of their God but that doesn't make it evidence. One question so I understand your mode of communication here... if you find Aquinas' "proofs" to be quite rational, why use the quotes around the word proofs?

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My point was that it isn't necessary for Objectivist epistemology to posit the origin of the universe in order to demonstrate what tools we have available to us to learn the reality around us.

That's reasonable.

Christians take the Bible as evidence of their God but that doesn't make it evidence

Some Christians do, but not all. I'm an ex-atheist, now Catholic, and Catholics don't take the Bible as the sole source of "evidence". Aquinas' "proofs", for example, do not rely upon the Bible (though he does quote from it).

if you find Aquinas' "proofs" to be quite rational, why use the quotes around the word proofs?

Because I don't think that's quite the word I'm looking for. For many people, the word "proof" means something seen or measured, but what Aquinas is arriving at his conclusions by use of reason. More like identifying gravity because of its effects, as opposed to literally seeing gravity.

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Aquinas is arriving at his conclusions by use of logic, resting on arbitrary premises. Logic can reach any number of conclusions, given the right premises - but while the conclusion reached may be valid, if the premises are unsound, logical argument itself is unsound.

REASON demands that the premises themselves not be arbitrary or unsound but be grounded in reality.

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We must add Jacobs claim that "the ability to lack a power is not a power" (paraphrased) Jacob did you get to read bluecherrys post ?

Thank you Plasmatic. That is also an important detail. It's been so long, could you direct me to the post you are referring to by bluecherry?

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What it does address is that from an epistemological point of view there is no point in entertaining arbitrary claims. Nothing can be learned about the existence or lack of existence of something UNLESS there is evidence presented to consider that claim. No evidence has been presented that a god or gods exist.

Remember though, that I have argued that the Objectivist epistemology (especially in respect to what it regards as "arbitrary") is flawed in that it is an inconsistently applied version of Empiricism. If you take the epistemological standards which you impose upon this debate, and apply them consistently to your entire worldview, you will find that no knowledge of anything beyond your immediate sensory perception is possible.

If you disagree with this conclusion, simply do the following:

State clearly and briefly what you mean by "arbitrary" and "evidence" and explain where my position contains "arbitrary" assertions and why what I present as evidence (my argument) should not be considered "evidence".

In other words, clearly define your epistemological standards and then demonstrate why my argument falls short of those standards.

I predict (based on reason, not prophecy) that either one of the following will be the case:

1) Your stated epistemological standards will be irrational (having no credibility--according to their own standards) and will not be rationally consistent with the rest of the Objectivist worldview.

2) Your stated epistemological standards will be rational and accurate but your description of my position will be erroneous (a straw-man), twisted to look as though I violate those accurate epistemological standards.

If you can do the above without committing one of these two errors, you will have succeeded in gaining the right to dismiss my position. Then, and only then.

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Because I don't think that's quite the word I'm looking for. For many people, the word "proof" means something seen or measured, but what Aquinas is arriving at his conclusions by use of reason. More like identifying gravity because of its effects, as opposed to literally seeing gravity.

Except the effects of gravity are observable and reproducible.

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If you can do the above without committing one of these two errors, you will have succeeded in gaining the right to dismiss my position. Then, and only then.

I'm not concerned with changing your beliefs. You haven't offered any evidence yet that is worth my consideration.

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I'm not concerned with changing your beliefs. You haven't offered any evidence yet that is worth my consideration.

But once again, this begs the question. What standards of "evidence" do you hold for that which is "worthy of your consideration"? Are these standards consistently applied to your entire worldview? And in what way does my actual position fall short of those standards?

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But once again, this begs the question. What standards of "evidence" do you hold for that which is "worthy of your consideration"? Are these standards consistently applied to your entire worldview? And in what way does my actual position fall short of those standards?

Give me his/her name, address and telephone number, then we'll talk... after I talk to him/her first.

You needn't take my responses to Avila as an indication that I want to discuss your beliefs with you.

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Some Christians do, but not all. I'm an ex-atheist, now Catholic, and Catholics don't take the Bible as the sole source of "evidence". Aquinas' "proofs", for example, do not rely upon the Bible (though he does quote from it)

I certainly didn't mean to imply 100% of Christians use the bible as their only source of "evidence". Certainly one can look at all the different variations of Christian beliefs and see that as a group, their beliefs are all over the chart. I admit, the term "Christians" is a very loose label when thinking in terms of some unified belief system, but it is one most people can relate to.

Edited by RationalBiker
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@Avila:

In all your worship of Aquinas's "use" of logic and of non-contradiction, you have ignored what makes reason effective (or even able to be used) in the first place: stable and objective reality. If the nature of reality is subject to the whim of a consciousness (human or otherwise), then stability is only apparent and therefore logic is not useful. In other words, if some god can alter reality or create new reality, reality becomes subjective (aka subject to this other being's volition). Try re-reading what I said before, as I'm under the impression you willfully misunderstood what I said.

To repeat myself, considering you accept the idea that a single existent can have always existed, what is so hard (in your words "not satisfying") about accepting that the sum of all existents can have always existed?

@Jacob86:

Your complaints about the concept "arbitrary" seem to be rooted in a fundamental ignorance of how it is used in Objectivist literature.

By "arbitrary" is meant, roughly, "characteristic of a claim which definitionally lies outside the realm of proof." This is the central reason for rejection of theism. Any claim in support of theism always contains a contradictory and/or unable-to-be-proven tenet. When it does not, we can trace the concept or entity truly being defined to something other than a "god."

Please, please, please understand a position before you attack it. It saves a lot of time. ("I think what Objectivism calls arbitrary is a stupid idea." "What does Objectivism mean by arbitrary again?")

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http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/arbitrary.html

it is an inconsistently applied version of Empiricism

We aren't Empiricists.

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/rationalism_vs_empiricism.html

Objectivist epistemology can be complex and nuanced. To properly and thoroughly understand it you will have to read ITOE.

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You start out OK here, for the first six words, but then you assert that there is no need for this hypothesis. It doesn't appear, then, as an honest attempt to engage the argument. I mean, you're already finding it necessary to blow the hypothesis away, not by argument, but by saying it's not necessary. Your arguments should be able to stand on their own, without a defensive "We'll tacitly accept...but we don't need to because...". I'm intrigued, for example, with the origin of observable reality: how do you know that it has always been and will always be? And is "reality" synonomous with "the material universe"? Would that be reasonable? My understanding is that, if so, the universe has NOT always existed, nor is it infinite. You say that reality has always existed, but if reality is synonomous with, or at least corresponds to, the material universe, then it hasn't always existed. If you disagree, then I'd like to know what you envision reality separate from the universe looks like. And isn't it just as possible that it need not have existed? If it does (and obviously it does), why? Again, I just don't think Objectivism is equipped to address these questions, as it addresses only observable reality and is not able to speculate beyond that to the origins of observable reality.

I didn't assert a single thing. Read the whole sentence in my post rather than only what you think you will respond to.

Do I really have to repeat myself so many times? I said "If we accept [your premise], then we also therefore accept [this clearly irrational premise]." That's what I said.

There is no reality separate from the universe. Reality is existence. Existence is the universe. If we assert that a supernatural entity creates or has created reality, science (and really all attempt at a use of reason) is useless because any "law" we discover could change tomorrow.

Objectivism has plenty to say about your questions, it is merely you who are unwilling to read any of it. (edit: I say this because the information I'm sharing with you is literally in the very first sections of the book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand)

This just seems to defy all data from observable reality. Causation involves agents who cause. How could you even use the term "causation", if you're divorcing it from agents? I hope you'll explain yourself here.

Causality is inherent in the nature of reality. Since all existents are themselves (they have identities), they act in accordance with their natures. The nature of an entity is what causes it to act in accordance with its nature. This is what is meant by causality.

All data from observable reality confirm this fact.

Edited by chuff
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I certainly didn't mean to imply 100% of Christians use the bible as their only source of "evidence". Certainly one can look at all the different variations of Christian beliefs and see that as a group, their beliefs are all over the chart. I admit, the term "Christians" is a very loose label when thinking in terms of some unified belief system, but it is one most people can relate to.

Thank you, Rational Biker. I agree with you that the term "Christians" is a very loose label.

I'm not here to persuade Objectivists/atheists that their position is wrong. Beyond that being a violation of forum rules, I like Objectivism for many reasons (not the least because that I think Ayn Rand understood the visual arts, at least to some degree), and in my youth I considered myself an Objectivist. I'm not here to slam Objectivism.

I like thoughtful discussions of metaphysics, epistemology, aesthestics, ethics.....and in many cases, Catholicism and Objectivism share particular attributes. What I don't like is the assumption that any theism is irrational. Granted, I think there are forms of theism (polytheism, for example) which don't stand up to much logical scrutiny, but the hostility sometimes shown here to theism is, at times, quite irrational.

I've enjoyed reading this thread as well as others when I've been lurking here. Good food for thought...but I won't bother to answer any posts which assume that theism is synonomous with irrationality.

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Thank you, Rational Biker. I agree with you that the term "Christians" is a very loose label.

I'm not here to persuade Objectivists/atheists that their position is wrong. Beyond that being a violation of forum rules, I like Objectivism for many reasons (not the least because that I think Ayn Rand understood the visual arts, at least to some degree), and in my youth I considered myself an Objectivist. I'm not here to slam Objectivism.

I like thoughtful discussions of metaphysics, epistemology, aesthestics, ethics.....and in many cases, Catholicism and Objectivism share particular attributes. What I don't like is the assumption that any theism is irrational. Granted, I think there are forms of theism (polytheism, for example) which don't stand up to much logical scrutiny, but the hostility sometimes shown here to theism is, at times, quite irrational.

I've enjoyed reading this thread as well as others when I've been lurking here. Good food for thought...but I won't bother to answer any posts which assume that theism is synonomous with irrationality.

Do you mean to tell me that the term "worship" is offensive to a Catholic?

I don't simply assume without reasons that theism is irrational. I have given my reasons and you have retreated from them on both occasions.

Any hostility on this forum that is shown to be irrational should be corrected; we both agree there.

We won't permit that you simply call our arguments "assertions" or "assumptions" when you don't like them.

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Stating that theism is irrational is not an assumption, it's a conclusion drawn by refusing to entertain any arbitrary claims as having some kind of epistemological value. Put bluntly, refusing to accept the idea of a divine being without real evidence is like refusing to accept the idea of an invisible pink unicorn that loves pizza.

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Stating that theism is irrational is not an assumption, it's a conclusion drawn by refusing to entertain any arbitrary claims as having some kind of epistemological value. Put bluntly, refusing to accept the idea of a divine being without real evidence is like refusing to accept the idea of an invisible pink unicorn that loves pizza.

Nothing new....the idea that the existence of God is an unnecessary hypothesis has been around for centuries. You haven't stumbled onto some new, conclusive proof. Nor does it prove that God does not exist, though you seem to think it does. No one invests invisible, pizza-loving unicorns with the attributes of the Judeo-Christian God. I've never found that particular argument very forceful, though certainly I spouted it often enough when I was an atheist. Aquinas's five ways begin with sense data and conclude that the entity known as "God" is a rational explanation of the data -- it's a rational process, though you disagree with his conclusions. I haven't found any refutations of his five ways convincing, at least so far.

There are other arguments for the existence of God besides Aquinas -- that they don't persuade you is fine with me. I don't assume all atheists are irrational because they think, for example, that an infinite regress of causes is logically possible, or that matter can create itself out of nothing.

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Nothing new....the idea that the existence of God is an unnecessary hypothesis has been around for centuries. You haven't stumbled onto some new, conclusive proof.

And you haven’t presented a new, or even an interesting argument. Reap what you sow.

Nor does it prove that God does not exist, though you seem to think it does.

You can’t prove a negative, who claimed they had?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTmac2fs5HQ

No one invests invisible, pizza-loving unicorns with the attributes of the Judeo-Christian God.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster believers do, mutatis mutandis.

Aquinas's five ways begin with sense data and conclude that the entity known as "God" is a rational explanation of the data -- it's a rational process, though you disagree with his conclusions. I haven't found any refutations of his five ways convincing, at least so far.

No one here can tell what refutations you’ve investigated, so this is a conversational non-starter. Aquinas’s arguments are addressed here, if you want a reading recommendation.

There are other arguments for the existence of God besides Aquinas -- that they don't persuade you is fine with me.

After all those generations of evangelical martyrs you're just shrugging your shoulders in the face of unbelief? No heavenly reward for you!

I don't assume all atheists are irrational because they think, for example, that an infinite regress of causes is logically possible, or that matter can create itself out of nothing.

Who says that?

I’ve noticed there’s a lot of talk of God, both on this site specifically, but also in general in Rand-land. I wonder if this is because Glenn Beck fans (and ilk) are being exposed to Rand’s thinking, and are going on to investigate and question the stuff that doesn't fit their worldview. It might be a good sign, though they should understand that the subject isn’t very interesting to actual Objectivists.

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And you haven’t presented a new, or even an interesting argument. Reap what you sow.

Wow -- I guess this subject is a sore spot with some Objectivists, so that a reasonable discussion without sneers is apparently impossible. "Reap what you sow"?? I have already said that I'm not here to convince anyone. I found this thread interesting, and made some comments, but I didn't expect to find such vitriol. For people who claim that the subject is as irrelevant as pizza-loving pink uinicorns, your passion seems.....odd.

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