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Refutation of existence of an all powerful being.

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Avila, I have only been able to keep up casually with this discussion, but I think many of your concerns about how this conversation have been going could be alleviated, and much more progress would be gained if you started it anew in this forum:

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showforum=50

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I was on topic when I pointed out that the explanation I was given as to what made an concept or assertion arbitrary (which was: unable to be proven true or false) would thus render arbitrary the various alternatives that had been offered to a caused universe, as well as moral positions, and gave Rand's assertion about putting work above family as an example. Not off topic yet.... This prompted numerous questions by those patient members. If you don't want to go off on a tangent, then don't ask questions of me if, in answering them, I will then be told I'm taking this topic far off onto a tangent.

To show that Rand’s statement wasn’t an arbitrary assertion will require grounding the Objectivist ethics, however summarily. It calls for a separate thread, this is a god(s) thread. I have things to say about it, but I won’t do it here, netiquette forbids.

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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.

This is a straw man, as I'm sure will probably be addressed by posts that I didn't get to read yet. Most people don't actually believe in ex-nihilo creation, and I would go as far as to say that the people who say they do unwillingly fell into your trap. It's a false dichotomy. "Either this universe was created by an intelligent being, or it was caused by nothing".

As far as "the infinite regress of causes is logically possible" Keep in mind that you are probably making assumptions that infinity in this context is being used in the context of absolute infinity.

Also, if you could actually show me what Thomas Aquinas' proofs are, that would be nice.

Edited by Black Wolf
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Most people don't actually believe in ex-nihilo creation

Most people here don't, of course, but since the majority of the earth's population are Christian or Muslim, and a fair number of the smaller religions (Judaism, some forms of Hinduism) also believe in ex-nihilo creation, your statement is untrue.

Also, if you could actually show me what Thomas Aquinas' proofs are, that would be nice.

You can find them here: http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/5ways.html

A basic explanation of the first cause argument can be found at the following address. The author is Peter Kreeft, Ph.D.. He's a professor of philosophy at Boston College and at the King's College (Empire State Building), in New York City

http//www.peterkreeft.com/topics/first-cause.htm

Edited by Avila
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Most people here don't, of course, but since the majority of the earth's population are Christian or Muslim, and a fair number of the smaller religions (Judaism, some forms of Hinduism) also believe in ex-nihilo creation, your statement is untrue.

Erm, I meant that nobody actually believes "something came from nothing", ie: ex-nihilo.

You can find them here: http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/5ways.html

A basic explanation of the first cause argument can be found at the following address. The author is Peter Kreeft, Ph.D.. He's a professor of philosophy at Boston College and at the King's College (Empire State Building), in New York City

http//www.peterkreeft.com/topics/first-cause.htm

Hmmmm...

The Argument of the Unmoved Mover. Wait.. but if someone claims that something can't be put in motion without something else putting it in motion, wouldn't an unmoved mover be contradictory to the claim that there had to be an unmoved mover? After all, if an unmoved mover is putting something in motion, is that not motion itself? So he is put in motion without being moved by something.

The Argument of the First Cause. The claim that nothing can create itself, so there had to be a first cause. So God, in other words.. didn't have to create himself? Isn't Yhwh referred to as "the self-existing one"?

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Most people here don't, of course, but since the majority of the earth's population are Christian or Muslim, and a fair number of the smaller religions (Judaism, some forms of Hinduism) also believe in ex-nihilo creation, your statement is untrue.

That the majority of the earth's population consider themselves to be affiliated with thelogical beliefs does not necessitate they have pondered ex-nihilo creation in depth. Nor does it ensure they have a method of validating their knowledge, much less if the validation is via obejctive versus rationalistic criteria. This assertion does not render Black Wolf's post untrue.

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Erm, I meant that nobody actually believes "something came from nothing", ie: ex-nihilo.

Hmmmm...

The Argument of the Unmoved Mover. Wait.. but if someone claims that something can't be put in motion without something else putting it in motion, wouldn't an unmoved mover be contradictory to the claim that there had to be an unmoved mover? After all, if an unmoved mover is putting something in motion, is that not motion itself? So he is put in motion without being moved by something.

The Argument of the First Cause. The claim that nothing can create itself, so there had to be a first cause. So God, in other words.. didn't have to create himself? Isn't Yhwh referred to as "the self-existing one"?

This is a sly strawman of the Theistic position. The proponents of this strawman get away with it because most Theists don't care enough to make the issue more clear. I'm not one of them.

The claim is not "something can't be put in motion without something else putting it in motion", the claim is that all motion is caused either by outside motion or by volition. Since an infinite regress of outside motion (causes) is impossible, there must be a first motion which was not caused by outside motion, i.e. by volition.

Likewise with creation. The claim is that nothing can create itself (LNC), existence has always existed (Something can't come from nothing), "existence" refers to one or more actual existents. Therefore, of all existents, there must be at least one existent which was not created (i.e. which is eternal).

Now, obviously the Atheist will respond to the first (the motion argument) by appealing to some possible other explanation of the beginning of motion. That's fine, and we can debate that, but PLEASE please please do not take us BACKWARD in the argument to this ridiculous strawman of Theism.

Likewise, the Atheist will respond to the second (about creation) by saying that matter and energy are eternal. That's fine, we can debate that. But PLEASE please please do not take us BACKWARD in the argument to this ridiculous strawman of Theism.

I will debate FORWARD concerning ideas which logically come after what has been established. I WILL NOT entertain the idiocy of going back to things which have been covered over and over again because someone wants to drag out a dead horse all of a sudden.

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and there's only one term: we go where the conversation leads - or we are done.

If the conversation "leads" to an endless spiral of you taking back things already established and agreed to, then we most certainly will be done.

For now, I will answer you objection, assuming everything previously established and hope that the conversation will only "lead" forward.

You posit that the phenomena among energy and/ matter can account for the beginning of motion. The details don't matter, so spare me.

Whatever you or anyone else wants to claim was possible among energy or matter, none of it can violate the laws of identity and causality.

Any event which occurred (either with energy, or matter, or both) will have one of two possible causes. Either an event before that caused it (whether it was heating, cooling, expanding, contracting, gravitation force, a giant monkey, I don't care), or the energy/matter being discussed was somehow volitional and acted of it's own accord without the causal influence of anything else.

It doesn't matter how far back on the timeline you wish to go, it doesn't matter how far down the microscope you wish to peer, or how far out in deep space you wish to explore. No matter what, there will always be one of two options: The event was subject to external causes or The event was volitional. All events which are subject to external causes imply previous events which themselves are subject to the same alternative.

It's very simple. Like a math equation.

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Aarrgh I thought I double posted and then deleted what is quoted of me below. Sorry ! The quote below contains my actual post...

Once again, Plasmatic, I would like to express my appreciation for your ability to not get lost in a hyper-inductive, concrete-bound, special sciences, fit concerning these simple philosophical discussions.... and I look forward to interacting with you about these issues. :)

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No matter what, there will always be one of two options: The event was subject to external causes or The event was volitional. All events which are subject to external causes imply previous events which themselves are subject to the same alternative.

It's very simple. Like a math equation.

Volitional? As in, God's will? By what mechanism did God express his will? And could I have a definition of God, while you're at it?

Did you watch the Lawrence Krauss talk I embedded earlier? I realize it's long (1 hour), but I assure you, you won't be bored.

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=21289&view=findpost&p=277348

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Volitional? As in, God's will? By what mechanism did God express his will? And could I have a definition of God, while you're at it?

Did you watch the Lawrence Krauss talk I embedded earlier? I realize it's long (1 hour), but I assure you, you won't be bored.

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=21289&view=findpost&p=277348

I haven't watched it yet, but I might later. As to your question about the mechanism by which God expressed His will, I don't know, and I don't need to know. I might do some thinking and studying to find out, but that is quite off topic. Surely Objectivists would agree that one does not need to know all of the details of something in order to know some of the details concerning that thing.

For now, let the definition of God be "that eternal existent which began all motion by volition".

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Sorry, but was Sagan refuted? Could I have a link, please? I thought I'd read the whole thread.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOYrlqF-IW0

I think I summed it up in the post which you quoted (just above the piece you quoted).

I'll elaborate.

The correct Philosophical position among Theists is not that "something had to be eternal and we choose God" as Sagan seems to imply. If that was the Theistic position, we certainly could (and probably should) "save a step" and just say "the Physical Universe is the eternal thing".

However, the issue is a bit more complex than that and the fact that Sagan is able to evade the real issue while walking through a sunny forest, declaring that he is courageously pressing into truth is offensive and somewhat nauseating.

I can forgive Sagan only on the assumption that he never spoke to/ read a Theist who actually addressed the real issue (which is possible).

The issue is not about arbitrarily picking your favorite eternal thing. The issue is identifying the necessary nature of the eternal thing. Philosophical Theists conclude that God is the eternal thing, not by whim, but because they see that the physical universe does not logically fit that category... they see that only an eternal, volitional being can logically explain motion/creation/etc...

That is the forward direction of the argument. Obviously you would like to challenge the assertion that only a volitional being can logically explain motion (and that's fine), but please do not go backward in the argument as though I am arbitrarily choosing God for no particular reason other than my personal whim. I have provided my reasoning. I am simply asking that everyone here refute it rather than evade it and set up straw-men.

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For now, let the definition of God be "that eternal existent which began all motion by volition".

So you don’t claim that a disembodied consciousness created matter, only that it set it in motion? Then how did the matter get there?

As to your question about the mechanism by which God expressed His will, I don't know, and I don't need to know. I might do some thinking and studying to find out, but that is quite off topic.

I ask for the mechanism in order to put you in an impossible position. I'm impressed that you're not totally evading the question, yet. By all means tell us what the latest and best theistic answer is. A reference would be nice, there’s someone on this site who keeps referencing Swineburne. I love that name, it makes me think of crispy bacon.

Anyway, this is invariably where what Objectivists call a “blank-out” occurs. Can you give an example of consciousness creating (or even modifying) existence? A disembodied consciousness, not associated with a physical, living brain in a body with, say, arms and legs. Does your belief in such entities arise out of observation, do you have evidence? I gather that you believe consciousness exists independent of matter. How to prove it? Or even to make it sensible conceptually, something better than Sagan’s “invisible dragon in my garage”.

Or do you believe God is the totality of all matter, like in Spinoza? I see that as another reading of your definition of God.

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This is a sly strawman of the Theistic position. The proponents of this strawman get away with it because most Theists don't care enough to make the issue more clear. I'm not one of them.

The claim is not "something can't be put in motion without something else putting it in motion", the claim is that all motion is caused either by outside motion or by volition. Since an infinite regress of outside motion (causes) is impossible, there must be a first motion which was not caused by outside motion, i.e. by volition.

Likewise with creation. The claim is that nothing can create itself (LNC), existence has always existed (Something can't come from nothing), "existence" refers to one or more actual existents. Therefore, of all existents, there must be at least one existent which was not created (i.e. which is eternal).

Now, obviously the Atheist will respond to the first (the motion argument) by appealing to some possible other explanation of the beginning of motion. That's fine, and we can debate that, but PLEASE please please do not take us BACKWARD in the argument to this ridiculous strawman of Theism.

Likewise, the Atheist will respond to the second (about creation) by saying that matter and energy are eternal. That's fine, we can debate that. But PLEASE please please do not take us BACKWARD in the argument to this ridiculous strawman of Theism.

I will debate FORWARD concerning ideas which logically come after what has been established. I WILL NOT entertain the idiocy of going back to things which have been covered over and over again because someone wants to drag out a dead horse all of a sudden.

Just trying to understand the argument, not attack straw men. Thanks for clearing it up.

But it still seems to me that this contains the error of arbitrary assumptions. I assume that when you say "volition", in the context of a dichotomy between outside forces and volition, that means it moved by itself. What still remains unclear, is the difference between "The physical universe moved itself" and "An intelligent being set the physical universe in motion". I did read the posts between you and Ninth Doctor, by the way, and I'm still not convinced that the "intelligent being" is not an arbitrary extra step. Maybe you've had bad experiences with atheists in the past, but please don't accuse me of attacking straw men until it seriously seems like I am doing that. It makes it really hard for me to understand what you're arguing, and it'd be more helpful if you elaborated.

Edited by Black Wolf
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So you don’t claim that a disembodied consciousness created matter, only that it set it in motion? Then how did the matter get there?

I do also hold that God created matter, but that is not what I am attempting to prove in this forum and it requires somewhat of a different line of reasoning. For the purposes of the current discussion, God is the "Immovable Mover". God as "Creator", "Omniscient", etc.. can be dealt with in future conversations.

I ask for the mechanism in order to put you in an impossible position. I'm impressed that you're not totally evading the question, yet. By all means tell us what the latest and best theistic answer is. A reference would be nice, there’s someone on this site who keeps referencing Swineburne. I love that name, it makes me think of crispy bacon.

Never heard of him.

Anyway, this is invariably where what Objectivists call a “blank-out” occurs. Can you give an example of consciousness creating (or even modifying) existence? A disembodied consciousness, not associated with a physical, living brain in a body with, say, arms and legs. Does your belief in such entities arise out of observation, do you have evidence?

You say this is where a blank-out occurs, and I say this is where another lesson on epistemology is in order.

You heavily imply that my inability to produce an empirical example of this phenomena makes it automatically false. That is, you heavily imply that my position falls short of an important epistemological standard, but you do so without naming the standard-- and when the standards is not named, it is not scrutinized. Name it.

By what epistemological standard is it necessary for me to provide the requested empirical data in order for my position to be considered true?

If there is no such epistemological standard at work, and this is simple curiosity on your part, that is well and good-- I will just ask you to remember the difference.

I gather that you believe consciousness exists independent of matter. How to prove it? Or even to make it sensible conceptually, something better than Sagan’s “invisible dragon in my garage”.

Or do you believe God is the totality of all matter, like in Spinoza? I see that as another reading of your definition of God.

No, I do not believe that God is the totality of matter. I also do not hold that there is any sort of dichotomy between consciousness and matter.

I do hold that consciousness can exist independent from matter and that in Man, it is to some degree independent of matter in terms of causation.

As far as "proof" goes, that once again begs the epistemological question. What sort of proof would you accept, what sort would you reject, and why?

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Just trying to understand the argument, not attack straw men. Thanks for clearing it up.

But it still seems to me that this contains the error of arbitrary assumptions. I assume that when you say "volition", in the context of a dichotomy between outside forces and volition, that means it moved by itself. What still remains unclear, is the difference between "The physical universe moved itself" and "An intelligent being set the physical universe in motion".

First of all, it is rather confusing to use the term "universe" when we get to this point because that term subsumes a vast number of individual things. If you would like to say "the physical universe moved itself", what you mean is that some part of the physical universe moved itself (or perhaps the tiny spec of singularity with contained the whole physical universe moved itself). But what does that mean? Is it possible for inanimate (non-volitional) objects to "move themselves"? Obviously not. Perhaps one would like to posit an infinite chain of movements (like the oscillating universe model). This runs into the problem of an infinite regress dealt with in the "Infinite Quantity" Thread (see the last post in the thread by myself). Perhaps one would like to appeal to the gravitational force between two objects. The problem here is that if gravity were eternal, and the two (or multiple) objects being posited were eternal, then these objects would have been eternally together-- they never would have been apart and therefore gravity never would have acted upon them to cause motion.

These are a few examples of why I say that it doesn't matter what sort of special scientific model one wants to posit concerning the origins of motion, the laws of identity and causality will remain the same. No matter how far back on the timeline or how far down on the microscope, all action is either a response to previous action or it is volitional.

EDIT: As I re-read your question, I realized that you might have been emphasizing a different aspect and I wanted to address it real quick. Were you asking "why does something which moves itself have to be an intelligent being?"

The answer is because to "move one's self" apart from the causal influence of anything else is to move by volition. And to have volition is to have an intelligent faculty by which to grasp alternatives (move or don't move) and a valuing faculty by which to choose (move, rather than not move) which give rise to the volitional movement.

I did read the posts between you and Ninth Doctor, by the way, and I'm still not convinced that the "intelligent being" is not an arbitrary extra step. Maybe you've had bad experiences with atheists in the past, but please don't accuse me of attacking straw men until it seriously seems like I am doing that. It makes it really hard for me to understand what you're arguing, and it'd be more helpful if you elaborated.

I apologize. I was sort of responding to others in this thread through my response to you and I failed to make that clear. I did not mean any of that part of my response to be directed at you. I am happy to re-hash or re-clarify for those who honestly need a refresher/reminder/catch-up on the debate.

I just don't want to start back at step 1 with the same people over and over.

Edited by Jacob86
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You posit that the phenomena among energy and/ matter can account for the beginning of motion. The details don't matter, so spare me.

That's rather like saying don't show me the fact that 2+2=4 to support your claim regarding how addition works - or better, don't show me the math proving the Earth isn't the center of the universe, the details don't matter.

IF the current theory about early matter physics is correct, then sticking your fingers in your ears and saying, "LA LA LA LA" won't change that.

Whatever you or anyone else wants to claim was possible among energy or matter, none of it can violate the laws of identity and causality.

True, but causality doesn't necessarily work the same way when you're going from early state energy to matter.

Any event which occurred (either with energy, or matter, or both) will have one of two possible causes. Either an event before that caused it (whether it was heating, cooling, expanding, contracting, gravitation force, a giant monkey, I don't care), or the energy/matter being discussed was somehow volitional and acted of it's own accord without the causal influence of anything else.

It doesn't matter how far back on the timeline you wish to go, it doesn't matter how far down the microscope you wish to peer, or how far out in deep space you wish to explore. No matter what, there will always be one of two options: The event was subject to external causes or The event was volitional. All events which are subject to external causes imply previous events which themselves are subject to the same alternative.

It's very simple. Like a math equation.

And if that's true, it's true for your God too - so what caused God? You cannot argue that God was necessary for first action therefore he existed - it is just as equally necessary for energy itself to be eternal, and be it's own first cause for action. Thus you cannot draw a CONCLUSION for God - or against - on those lines - which means you still have arbitrary premises - not provable true or false - so the only logical course of action is to dismiss the concept as arbitrary.

Edited by Greebo
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Never heard of him.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Swinburne

I misspelled it. I gather he's up there with William Lane Craig in the modern day theist's esteem.

You heavily imply that my inability to produce an empirical example of this phenomena makes it automatically false.

I was thinking arbitrary, not false. “Not even wrong” is another way of putting it.

That is, you heavily imply that my position falls short of an important epistemological standard, but you do so without naming the standard-- and when the standards is not named, it is not scrutinized. Name it.

I wrote "Does your belief in such entities arise out of observation, do you have evidence?" That covers it pretty well. Not good enough?

By what epistemological standard is it necessary for me to provide the requested empirical data in order for my position to be considered true?

Never mind true, make it falsifiable. Then you'll have to give me something to work with. Otherwise it's just like the dragon in your garage.

BTW, are you a physicist?

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I was thinking arbitrary, not false. “Not even wrong” is another way of putting it.

I wrote "Does your belief in such entities arise out of observation, do you have evidence?" That covers it pretty well. Not good enough?

By this do you mean to say that you are an empiricist? That the only way to know truth is through empirical observation and therefore any assertion without empirical data is either false or arbitrary? If this is your position, I will respond accordingly. If it's not your position (i.e. if you are not an empiricist) then please state any other epistemological standards which you may hold to.

Never mind true, make it falsifiable. Then you'll have to give me something to work with.

So is "falsifiability" the epistemological standard you wish to assert? Would you say that all non- empirically falsifiable statements are necessarily false/arbitrary?

Otherwise it's just like the dragon in your garage.

This is a straw-man. Theistic philosophers do not put forth their whim or their imagination as the sole reason for their Theism. They do provide non-empirical reasons, but if you wish to bar non-empirical reasoning, then you must be prepared to explain why... and to be consistent (i.e. you must be prepared to state your epistemological standards, to defend them, and to fully integrate them into your worldview).

BTW, are you a physicist?

No. I'm a college drop out. And a Bible-college dropout at that!

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That's rather like saying don't show me the fact that 2+2=4 to support your claim regarding how addition works - or better, don't show me the math proving the Earth isn't the center of the universe, the details don't matter.

IF the current theory about early matter physics is correct, then sticking your fingers in your ears and saying, "LA LA LA LA" won't change that.

No, its more like saying "A is A" even when we're talking about energy and I don't want to waste time.

True, but causality doesn't necessarily work the same way when you're going from early state energy to matter.

Could you elaborate on what you mean here and on how it is relevant?

And if that's true, it's true for your God too - so what caused God?

If you ask this straw-man question again, I will ignore it. We are both in agreement that SOMETHING eternal is necessitated. We are not debating that. We are debating the NATURE of that eternal thing (volitional or not). What you have written below would have sufficed.

You cannot argue that God was necessary for first action therefore he existed - it is just as equally necessary for energy itself to be eternal, and be it's own first cause for action. Thus you cannot draw a CONCLUSION for God - or against - on those lines - which means you still have arbitrary premises - not provable true or false - so the only logical course of action is to dismiss the concept as arbitrary.

Yes, it is equally necessary for there to have been eternal energy. This begs the question though- energy of what? And when the state of the energy was altered (in whatever form and by whatever means you wish to posit), was this alteration a result of some prior event (for which another causal explanation is required) or was it volitional?

You see, I am not saying "God was necessary for the first action... just because". I am saying a VOLITIONAL action must have been the first action (because A is A) and therefore God (a volitional being) was necessary.

Edited by Jacob86
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By this do you mean to say that you are an empiricist? That the only way to know truth is through empirical observation and therefore any assertion without empirical data is either false or arbitrary? If this is your position, I will respond accordingly.

Fire away, assume I’m an empiricist. Objectivism rejects the dichotomy between rationalism and empiricism, but never mind that, I’m curious to read your answer.

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Fire away, assume I’m an empiricist. Objectivism rejects the dichotomy between rationalism and empiricism, but never mind that, I’m curious to read your answer.

This is why I ask you (and others) to state your epistemological premises. I don't think very many Objectivists are able to state their epistemological standards and then to be consistent with them.

**Please don't take this as a total indictment against Objectivism/Rand/etc... I think Rand operated off of a very different epistemology than that which she wrote about and therefore Objectivism in general is not as negatively effected by the minor (but important) errors**

Back to empiricism. There are a few basic variants of empiricism which are easily dismissed.

Perhaps your standard is that "Only that which can be observed with sensory perception can be considered true"

Can you observe with sensory perception that that standard is accurate? No. It falls by it's own weight.

Perhaps it is "Only that which can be empirically verified can be considered true".

Can you empirically verify that? No. It cannot be considered true by it's own standards.

Perhaps it is "That which is not falsifiable is arbitrary".

Is this falsifiable? No. Then it is arbitrary by it's own definition.

You see, your functional definition of "arbitrary" in your objections against me is "arbitrary" by it's own definition. You classify as arbitrary any assertion for which an empirical test cannot be applied without realizing that you cannot apply an empirical test to that definition of arbitrary.

None of this means that empirical data is useless. It simply means that empirical observation/testing/falsifying/verifying/etc.. cannot be considered the epistemological standard for all of truth. There must be other, more foundational epistemological criteria, or else nothing beyond the range of the moment (immediately perceived) can be known at all.

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