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Hi everybody!

I’m new to this discussion group and am learning the rudiments of Objectivism, which I find quite interesting. I joined this group to learn more about this perceived to be atheistic philosophy, which appears to be allied with materialism, positivism, and empiricism.

Specifically, I am intrigued by the Objectivist assertion that the statement “God exists” is a contradiction of terms, similar to the term “square circle”. But the statement “God exists” is more of a proposition that is either true or false depending on the arguments for or against it, unlike the terms ”square circle”, which are contradictory because they are opposite terms, like existence and non-existence. Thus, it appears to be incorrect to say that “God” and “exists” contradict each other. Thus, it is possible that God could be part of existence.

However, the terms “God” and “exists” are opposed on the principle or presumption that God is a being, like us, who brought that which exists into existence from nothing or by merely thinking about it, which cannot be done precisely because we cannot make things exists by merely thinking about it. I do not know with your guys, but is this not the reason why God is God because He is not like us who cannot create things out of nothing? Why can’t we simply say that there is no God simply because matter is eternal and does not need a creator?

Speaking of eternity, can we prove strictly and scientifically that matter (or material existence/things, whether atoms or stars, that make up what we call the universe) is eternal? On the contrary, matter appears to be contingent and temporal—a strong argument for the probability of the existence of God—and not necessary and eternal. The fact of the expanding universe, the Theory of the Big Bang, the Second Law of Thermodynamics that points to the fact that things move towards disorder, and the fact that the energy of the universe is yet to be used up point to the fact that the universe had a beginning. Contingency and temporality are facts because material existence is composite and corruptible and therefore may or may not have existed in the first place.

As for the concept of mind-over-matter or the ability of the mind to move things, I think that psychology has grounds to prove that such ability exists in some people based on the studies of Dr. Nat Branden (who was a colleague of Ayn Rand and therefore may warrant serious attention).

I am not saying that we could be absolutely certain that God exists on the basis of philosophical speculation given the limitations of human reason, for this certainty about God could only be provided by theological speculation through divine revelation.

What I am saying is that the possibility that God exists emanates from the fact that material reality is marked with contingency and temporality, for if the universe were marked with necessity and eternity then there would be no room for God in the universe.

I am sorry for being inquisitive, but these are the issues that trouble me in studying this philosophy.

In brief layman’s language, please enlighten me on these issues/queries. I hope to get some responses/rejoinders from you soon.

Thank you.

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Heretic,

The search facility will bring up a few thread on this topic. Here is one. Here's another. A related thread, but not quite on topic is here. Some discussion of Thomist vs. Objectivist metaphysics, can be found in this thread. The most recent discussion that I remember happened in this thread here. Also, when one speaks of God, the idea of faith is usually close to follow. For a debate thread on faith vs. reason, see this one.

These threads should give you quite a bit of material to go on for now.

Edited by softwareNerd
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But the statement “God exists” is more of a proposition that is either true or false depending on the arguments for or against it, unlike the terms ”square circle”, which are contradictory because they are opposite terms, like existence and non-existence.
I'll just focus on one bit here, which isn't about the god stuff. You're talking about the analytic-synthetic dichotomy, a false dichotomy which is well-demolished by Leonard Peikoff in "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy", at the end of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. This essay shows how the supposed dichotomy rests on invalid assumptions about meaning, so that "square circle" is the same kind of contradiction as "Ice sinks in water". Put simply, there is just truth, not "necessary truth" vs. "contingent truth". Truth is the product of a mind grasping fact, and that has two consequences. First, a parrot accidentally uttering something that sounds like "Snow is white" is not an example of truth. Second, truth is distinct from evidence, so you have arguments that this is the truth, and you have this itself, which is truth -- they are different things. So for any proposition, its being true isn't determined by the arguments set forth for it.

Like all concepts, the concept "god" has a certain meaning -- namely all of the specific instances (for example, Yaweh, Allah, Vishnu etc.), and of the various attributes that are essential to "god" is "creating all of existence". That is a contradictory concept (which thus invalidates the concept "god"). If god created all that exists, god does not exist. Since, by assumption, god created all that exists and since effects follow causes in time, in order for god to create anything, god must exist before creating something. It follows then that there is one thing that god could not have created, namely god, so god did not create everything that exists (a contradiction). Therefore god does not exist.

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[Objectivism,] this perceived to be atheistic philosophy, which appears to be allied with materialism, positivism, and empiricism.

I think that psychology has grounds to prove that such [mind-over-matter] ability exists in some people based on the studies of Dr. Nat Branden (who was a colleague of Ayn Rand and therefore may warrant serious attention).

That SO didn't help your argument :ninja:

Offhand, there are 3 general criticisms of "god":

  • metaphysically, that the concept of "exist" is contrary to the concept of "god"
  • epistemologically, that acceptance of an arbitrary claim (e.g. involving gods) is irrational
  • ethically (my fav), that a god would have no moral basis for her commandments

The statement “God exists” is more of a proposition that is either true or false depending on the arguments for or against it, unlike the terms ”square circle”, which are contradictory because they are opposite terms, like existence and non-existence.
Typically, "god exists" is considered a contradiction because "exists" (limited?) is taken to be contradictory to "god" (omnipotent, unlimited?) - any evidence would either prove something limited (and not proving omnipotent gods) or point to something "unlimited" (and thus be false/arbitrary/nonexistential).

Why can’t we simply say that there is no God simply because matter is eternal and does not need a creator?
Well, neither says that gods don't/can't exist, they merely say that gods are/were unnecessary.

This certainty about God could only be provided by theological speculation through divine revelation.
Hmm...
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How much of Ayn Rand's work have you read? Have you read either of her two long novels?

I joined this group to learn more about this perceived to be atheistic philosophy, which appears to be allied with materialism, positivism, and empiricism.

Materialism holds that the mind does not exist; positivism holds that knowledge isn't real, that it's just language, just sounds; empiricism holds that abstract knowledge is not possible, and that causality is a myth. Objectivism is very different, and highly critical, of each of these schools you mention, and on very fundamental terms, far more fundamental than the question of belief in or the existence of god.

Specifically, I am intrigued by the Objectivist assertion that the statement “God exists” is a contradiction of terms, similar to the term “square circle”.

The law of identity, the second axiom of metaphysics, says: to be is to be something in particular: something bounded and finite, something with certain attributes and no others, to certain finite degrees, neither more nor less, able to act in certain ways and not in others. God is held to be boundless and infinite, in violation of the law of identity. He is held to have no attributes at all, or all attributes imaginable, etc. He is held to be capable of every kind of action. To be but to be nothing in particular, or to be but to be unbounded or infinite, or to be but to have all properties to infinite degree, or to be but to be capable of anything at all - The law of identity says that those are all contradictions.

But the statement “God exists” is more of a proposition that is either true or false depending on the arguments for or against it.

There are no arguments for the existence of god.

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Speaking of eternity, can we prove strictly and scientifically that matter (or material existence/things, whether atoms or stars, that make up what we call the universe) is eternal? On the contrary, matter appears to be contingent and temporal—a strong argument for the probability of the existence of God—and not necessary and eternal. The fact of the expanding universe, the Theory of the Big Bang, the Second Law of Thermodynamics that points to the fact that things move towards disorder, and the fact that the energy of the universe is yet to be used up point to the fact that the universe had a beginning. Contingency and temporality are facts because material existence is composite and corruptible and therefore may or may not have existed in the first place.

Actually, it is only a particular form of matter that has "temporality". How do you arrive at the conclusion that matter, itself, has these properties.

The Big Bang Theory is just that. And noone who posits it says anything about what existed at the moment in time before such an event. The fact that some equations result in a discontinuity at a certain point does not mean that the universe does as well. Certainly up for discussion, but hardly proven.

The second law of thermo does NOT say that everything tends to disorder. This is a popular misuse of the law.

Energy of the universe used up? Energy (like matter) is conserved, so how can it be "used up".

I think your basis in reality for the claim of "a beginning" is highly suspect.

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I am not saying that we could be absolutely certain that God exists on the basis of philosophical speculation given the limitations of human reason, for this certainty about God could only be provided by theological speculation through divine revelation.

Heretic,

Certainty (as a form of knowledge of something) being provided by divide revelation, is a very succinct statement that there are other means to human knowledge besides reason. This is rejected by Objectivism, as a form of pure mysticism. One cannot know something by anything other than reason.

If you have evidence that there are other means of cognition that is one thing, but to create a gap in human ability, and then arbitrarily fill it with something is irrational in itself, don't you think.

The metaphysical argument against God that others have given above (some call it axiomatic, some metaphysical, some refer to the Law of Identity) is the basis for this rejection. It is not an argument on faith, but on axiomatic validation. It would be worth understanding the Objectivist view of axioms and how they are use and developed. Suffice it to say, they are NOT arbitrary assertions. They are completely validatable, even given the fact that man is not omniopotent.

Edited by KendallJ
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As for the concept of mind-over-matter or the ability of the mind to move things, I think that psychology has grounds to prove that such ability exists in some people based on the studies of Dr. Nat Branden (who was a colleague of Ayn Rand and therefore may warrant serious attention).

Branden and Rand had an ideological split and he no longer represents or promotes Objectivism. Branden's work on the supernatural and ESP should be judged on scientific grounds and his conclusions (if you stated them correctly) have not been accepted by the scientific community or proven to any extent. Don't ascribe any special attention to his work simply because of his past affiliation with Rand.

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Thanks everybody for your kind inputs and to Paden for welcoming me.

Thanks softwareNerd for the materials to start with. I know that there is a lot of theistic undercurrent going on here. This cannot be avoided in philosophical discussions, such as these.

I have encountered such terms and concepts also in my recent online discussion with Objectivist Anton Thorn and in reading Dr. David Kelley’s articles on this subject. I have learned a lot from these gentlemen, despite the fact that, in answer to y feldblum’s question, I have not read Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead (you must be referring to these novels?). Incidentally, Dr. Kelley has some fundamental differences with Dr Leonard Peikoff on the methodology of this philosophy, or on whether this philosophy is a closed system or is an open system sans dogmatism, if I am not mistaken. And by the way, I am sorry Myself for not knowing that Dr Branden holds unorthodox views from the prism of Objectivism, and had a personal and professional disassociation from Rand.

Let me speak my mind out.

Given the limitations of the human intellect, and the fact that we are not omniscient, and is dependent on what is “validatable” (or “verifiable”, as in logical positivism?), it would be wrong for us to be dogmatic about certain things. Thus, Tettrabyte’s claim that there is no proof that God exists is not absolute on the basis that the absence of proof does not necessarily mean that the thing does not exist. During the time of Aristotle, it cannot be proved the way we could prove today, strictly and scientifically speaking, that our sun is at the center of our solar system, but this is not so simply because it cannot be proved at that time. At present, it has been said that we cannot claim that God is not part of existence simply because we cannot see God.

On the other hand, I would not go to the extent of favoring dark unicorn’s argument on the basis of divine revelation because that would be going out of the playing court and playing in another court that was not built for the game we are playing. I would want to stay in the philosophical playing field and stir clear of the theological field. I would rather stick with the proposition that: “God does not exist unless proved otherwise.” Or that: “God possibly or probably exists because of the contingency of material reality.” I was told that these statements are laden with “stolen concepts.” But stolen from where? Western theistic philosophy or the middle ages? When is a concept stolen?

I agree with David that there is just truth and that it is a product of the mind grasping fact. I believe that truth or being true is the value of a statement or a claim so far as it agrees with what exists/reality/facts regardless of who made that statement or whether that statement or claim was made by a man or a parrot that merely imitated what a man says. Thus, a parrot that blurts “Snow is white!” is telling the truth or makes a true statement or a statement of fact because the fact/reality is that snow is white and the fact that a parrot makes this factual statement would not change the fact/reality that snow is white. Evidence is what we show to prove that what is claimed or stated is true. The argument must be based on this evidence so that we would be able to prove the truth of our claims. Truth is not the fact itself, but the product of the mind, which makes statements about facts, grasping that fact.

The statement “Ice sinks in water” is not a contradiction in terms because a contradiction exists between two terms or sets of terms that effectively extinguish (contradict) each other, like “black white.” It is a statement that is either true or false depending on whether it agrees with reality or not. The statement “Square circles exist” is the proposition the truthfulness or falseness of which would depend on whether it agrees with reality. Clearly, it is not true since “square” and “circle’ contradict each other.

What is the concept of meaning from the Objectivist viewpoint? I think we have differing concepts here.

Your argument against God’s existence is based on the statement that God created ALL that exists. But supposing that this statement is not entirely accurate/true, but has to be qualified from the term ALL to ALL MATERIAL REALITY. Would this change the nature of the statement in favor of God’s existence? I believe that the statements we make are either true or false depending on whether they agree with reality. The statement “God exists” is no exception to this. The contradiction that is proposed here is based on the underlying assumption that the terms “God” and “exists” contradict each other on the principle or presumption that God is a being, like us, who brought that which exists into existence from nothing or by merely thinking about it, which cannot be done precisely because we cannot make things exists by merely thinking about it. However, if we say that God is not like us, will that radically change the equation? Will that tell us that God has always been? Would that be unthinkable? Unthinkable from the viewpoint that ALL that exists is what can be validated by the senses? Unthinkable from the viewpoint that man does not know everything and has yet to discover everything about existence?

That brings us to the question: What then is God? (not Who, but What, because that would make a significant shift in the discussion from philosophy to theology). Now, y feldblum says that God is a contradiction because he is everything but at the same time he is nothing—violating the Law of Identity, which says that man is man and not a tree, or a cat is a cat and not a dog, or that a square is a square and not a circle. How about God is God and not a man? Cannot be, because God lacks identity since we know him by what he is not and not by what he is? Yes, but from the viewpoint of finite material existence. How about if we say that from what he is not (from the view point of material existence) we can extract what God is? Hence, God is simple (a spirit; not a composite and therefore corruptible, contingent and temporal), immense (not finite and limited thus, his attributes, such as goodness, are limitless), omnipotent (almighty), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (all-present).

On the other hand, why cannot God create another equally infinite God? According to theistic philosophers, this cannot be because that would limit his nature since no two Gods can be equally infinite, or else one God would be a limit to the other God. It’s like dividing an infinite pie between themselves thus, both of them would not be infinite but would have limits—one limiting the other. That would be impossible, for it would be tantamount to God contradicting himself, which cannot be possible because of the tautological Law of Identity. God cannot be God and not God at the same time. The same could be said of the impossibility of God to create a stone to heavy for him to carry or creating a square circle, which are non-entities or nothings (there is no such stone that God cannot carry and there is no such a thing as a square circle), since the infinite power of God is not measured by his ability to create nothing, but by his ability to create something.

I also cannot understand Hunter’s definition of existence as that which is limited. Is not matter, which you equate with existence itself, supposed to be unlimited or eternal from the lens of Objectivism? If God is unlimited (otherwise, he won’t be God the Creator, but a mere creature, right?) it does not follow that he does not exist. I think what the Objectivists are saying is that an infinite God cannot exists because this cannot be validated by the senses or the mind of man, which are of course finite instruments that are being proposed to be used in gauging the infinite. I think that in the lexicon of the Objectivist, existence is nothing more than what is or can be apprehend by the senses. This is why existence is equated with the finite thus, if God exists, this entity would be necessarily finite.

We cannot make the gratuitous claim that there are no arguments for the existence of God because we have now spent many sentences arguing for or against God. Now, whether our statements that make up our arguments are in consonance with reality/existence/facts or are based on the evidence or whether or not our arguments are valid constitute another matter altogether.

I agree with Kendall that we cannot prove the theory that matter itself is not eternal. Neither can we prove that it is. Theories are just theories. Correct! The expanding universe and thermodynamics are theories. They can be otherwise. The theory that everything had a beginning is highly suspect. However, this does not mean that the theory that things do not have a beginning is absolutely true! Just because we cannot prove it, does not mean that it does not exist. Right? But how should the Second Law of Thermodynamics be defined if it has been misused or abused? This law posits the dispersal of energy or entropy whereby things tend to lapse into a state of disintegration and disorder, which we would be at this point if the universe were infinite as the theory goes. Energy is recycled and therefore can be used up from one form to another. Unless we have better theories to explain physical reality we would have to stick to these theories. However, theories are not absolute.

On the other hand, my observation of things, whether atoms or stars, are contingent come from my observation. As to matter itself? I go back to what I said about theories. Unless we could prove in a laboratory or in an observatory in a strict and scientific manner that matter is eternal, then we stick with what be know—that it is contingent. And contingency is the key to the possibility or probability of the existence of the entity we call God. This is the essence of what I posited in my first post.

I believe that we come to know about reality/existence through the apprehension of our senses and/or through the comprehension of our mind. We come to know the existence of a tree, for example, by first seeing a tree. Then, we come to know about the essence of a tree by seeing the tree and understanding the tree. Aristotle was right. Nothing comes to the mind unless it first passes through the senses. The reality (material thing) about the tree that we see with our eyes enables us to understand more realities (immaterial essence) about the tree that we could only do with our minds. Hence, we see here two levels of knowing (the concrete and the abstract) and two kinds of realities that exist (the concrete/material and the abstract/immaterial). The process of knowing starts from the concrete and progresses into the abstract. It is in abstracting the nature of things from the things themselves that come to comprehend the possibility or probability of the existence of an entity called God from the contingency of material reality.

I am afraid that if I would become an Objectivist, I would have to disabuse my mind of all these thoughts and, should I say, unlearn what I have learned? I have not been dogmatic and an absolutist in matters philosophical. I believe that the existence or non-existence of God cannot be absolutely proven from the viewpoint of science or philosophy.

Edited by heretic
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I believe that the existence or non-existence of God cannot be absolutely proven from the viewpoint of science or philosophy.

So do Objectivists. But when something can be neither proven nor disproven, it enters the realm of the arbitrary, and is therefore dismissed out of hand.

Edited by Chops
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To entertain the arbitrary - that which has no positive evidence - is madness. You might as well devote as much effort to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Giant Purple Space Oyster and every other fairy tale as you do to god: they have as much evidence for them as he does: none. Your error is in stating that the arbitrary must be considered - it must not, it must be dismissed as nonsense.

You also ignore that god is impossible. That an entity created existence is self contradictory - the creator god is impossible. Omnipresence means not having physical identity, omnipotence means not having any identity to ones actions, omniscience means not having identity to the mind. The definition of god is that he does not exist!

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Given the limitations of the human intellect, and the fact that we are not omniscient, and is dependent on what is “validatable” (or “verifiable”, as in logical positivism?), it would be wrong for us to be dogmatic about certain things.
Absolutely, and we aren't dogmatic. But we are certain. This is probably the most important distinction to grasp. Dogmatism is (unshakable) acceptance of a principle simply because it was given by some authority. But our knowledge of the nonexistence of god, or various other things that we know, is by logically integrating facts that we know. It is essential to not slip into nihilism as the alternative to dogmatism.
Thus, Tettrabyte’s claim that there is no proof that God exists is not absolute on the basis that the absence of proof does not necessarily mean that the thing does not exist.
You're invoking a number of concepts and I am not certain that you get them, correctly. If you simply mean that the product of consciousness does not determine what reality is, then that is the fundamental "primacy of existence" principle of Objectivism. But the lack of proof of some idea means, then, that the idea should not be expressed as a possibility, and should not be considered. The basis of all of man's knowledge is perception, and if a claim cannot be reduced to something that counts as evidence, we should simply not give it any consideration.
I would rather stick with the proposition that: “God does not exist unless proved otherwise.” Or that: “God possibly or probably exists because of the contingency of material reality.”
This is the "primacy of consciousness" mistake. Existence is not contingent on proof; whether unicorns exist or not is not determined by whether you have been persuaded that they do. Again, we have two problems to deal with. First is addressing the proof that god cannot exist and therefore does not. The second is, what should we do if you have a "logically imaginable" scenario, such as unicorns, which has no proof. If there is no evidence for the claim, the claim should not be considered. Not even considered. When evidence is presented, we can evaluate that evidence.

BTW "stolen concept" refers to reverse petitio principii, i.e. assuming a concept to disprove the concept.

Thus, a parrot that blurts “Snow is white!” is telling the truth or makes a true statement or a statement of fact because the fact/reality is that snow is white and the fact that a parrot makes this factual statement would not change the fact/reality that snow is white.
No, I'm afraid you misunderstood this point. Parrots cannot utter the truth. Truth is not contained in sentences or things that seem to be sentences. If I say "Snow is white", that is a truth because my mind has grasped a fact of reality, and related it to a proposition. Truth is not something about Platonic sentences.
The statement “Ice sinks in water” is not a contradiction in terms because a contradiction exists between two terms or sets of terms that effectively extinguish (contradict) each other, like “black white.” It is a statement that is either true or false depending on whether it agrees with reality or not. The statement “Square circles exist” is the proposition the truthfulness or falseness of which would depend on whether it agrees with reality. Clearly, it is not true since “square” and “circle’ contradict each other.
Anyhow, I don't think that "contradiction in terms" really means anything. These are all contradictory notions, and they all contradict reality.
What is the concept of meaning from the Objectivist viewpoint?
The meaning of a word is the concept that it represents. The meaning of a concept is the referents of the concept (for example the meaning of "goat" is all goats).
Your argument against God’s existence is based on the statement that God created ALL that exists. But supposing that this statement is not entirely accurate/true, but has to be qualified from the term ALL to ALL MATERIAL REALITY.
First, I don't understand what that means. Second, that's contrary to the standard definition of god (though you can present the argument for a being "The Boogie Man", and we can see where it goes). Third, there's no evidence that such a thing exists. Problem 1 is the most important problem, IMO: I don't see how this solves anything, esp. I don't see how slapping on "material" means anything. Does it mean "having mass"? So like, god is a pile of photons?

[ed: IO error fixed]

Edited by DavidOdden
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Your argument against God’s existence is based on the statement that God created ALL that exists. But supposing that this statement is not entirely accurate/true, but has to be qualified from the term ALL to ALL MATERIAL REALITY. Would this change the nature of the statement in favor of God’s existence?

No. Note that you must use the qualifier "material" here, because that gets you around the fact that God did not self-create, and so the question arises who or what created him. Omnipotence requires that he created everything right? So God is just really big alien with limited powers.

I believe that the statements we make are either true or false depending on whether they agree with reality. The statement “God exists” is no exception to this. The contradiction that is proposed here is based on the underlying assumption that the terms “God” and “exists” contradict each other on the principle or presumption that God is a being, like us, who brought that which exists into existence from nothing or by merely thinking about it, which cannot be done precisely because we cannot make things exists by merely thinking about it. However, if we say that God is not like us, will that radically change the equation?

No, because ultimately you have to say that God is something. He has a particular identity. It doesn't matter if he is not like us. Everything in reality tells us that everything is something. That everything has a particular identity. This is the axiom of existence and identity. I see it every day, in every single thing there is, and have to admit it in order to try to refute it. Omniscience, omnipotence. These are nothing in particular. If God is a thing in reality, and he created the part of reality that we know, then he still is part of reality.

Will that tell us that God has always been? Would that be unthinkable? Unthinkable from the viewpoint that ALL that exists is what can be validated by the senses? Unthinkable from the viewpoint that man does not know everything and has yet to discover everything about existence?

As mrockot said. This is simply accepting the arbitrary for which there is no evidence. I guarantee you that whatever I don't know, I will never find anything that is not something in particular. I don't take that on faith, I'm absolutely certain of it. Axioms are evident, and pervasive. Man is limited and fallible, but this axiom is immediately validatable and universal. It is the nature of reality. I see it directly daily. You asserting that there is part of reality that simply isn't "our reality", but still exists, is simply arbitrary. You have no evidence of it, you simply want to assert it. It is a claim from ignorance: "I'm fallible, therefore God exists." Wha?

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So do Objectivists. But when something can be neither proven nor disproven, it enters the realm of the arbitrary, and is therefore dismissed out of hand.

I am not sure Chops, but God is not just something. Besides I was talking about PROOF that is ABSOLUTE in a strictly scientific manner the way we prove that ice is water by experimentation.

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God is simple (a spirit; not a composite and therefore corruptible, contingent and temporal), immense (not finite and limited thus, his attributes, such as goodness, are limitless), omnipotent (almighty), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (all-present).

If you wish to remain rational, you cannot define God from pure fantasy. You need to explain your evidence for ascribing God these traits.

Why is God all-knowing? Is his brain really big? Has he traveled all around the world and therefore learned many things, like the Wild Boyz?

How is he all-present? Is he like a super-Santa Claus with a reindeer sleigh that goes everywhere in the blink of an eye?

What makes him almighty? Have you seen him eat a star?

Or, maybe you read this nonsense in a book? The Bible maybe?

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I joined this group to learn more about this perceived to be atheistic philosophy, which appears to be allied with materialism, positivism, and empiricism.
I'd like to respond to this, since I don't entirely agree with y_feldblum's response. It's true that Objectivism rejects materialism, since materialism denies the existence of the mind, and that Objectivism rejects positivism for many reasons.

But, technically speaking, Objectivism could be considered a form of empiricism. Empiricism simply means the belief that all knowledge is derived from experience, and that there are no innate ideas. In that sense, Ayn Rand was an empiricist. The confusion comes from the modern tradition of empiricism beginning in the 18th century with David Hume. Starting with Hume, and ever since then, most (virtually all) empiricists have also been nominalists and sensualists. Since Ayn Rand rejected nominalism and sensualism, many people think that she couldn't be an empiricist. But there is nothing inherent in empiricism which suggests that it must incorporate nominalism or sensualism. Empiricism existed before nominalism and sensualism. Aristotle is also properly considered to be an empiricist, but not a nominalist or sensualist.

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To entertain the arbitrary - that which has no positive evidence - is madness. You might as well devote as much effort to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Giant Purple Space Oyster and every other fairy tale as you do to god: they have as much evidence for them as he does: none. Your error is in stating that the arbitrary must be considered - it must not, it must be dismissed as nonsense.

You also ignore that god is impossible. That an entity created existence is self contradictory - the creator god is impossible. Omnipresence means not having physical identity, omnipotence means not having any identity to ones actions, omniscience means not having identity to the mind. The definition of god is that he does not exist!

Peter, what do you mean by positive evidence? Does it mean that which has resulted from experimentation? Does it mean that which we can merely apperehnd by the senses, or that which can see or are capable of seeing, like cars and stars? Does it also encompass that which we can only comprehend with the mind, like human nature and consciousness? We can comprehend God and we can comprehend the Flying Spaghetti Moster? However, with God we can comprehend that to him we could ascribe the beginning of contingent reality; with the Spaghetti Monster can we comprehend that it belongs purely to the realm of the imagination unless it is also omnipotent in which case God and the Monster are the same entity. Where is the physical evidence? None. Where is any kind of evidence? None? Still, the absence of evidence is not he evidence of absence, unless we are arbitrary.

What is identity? Is it the same as to be identified as something? Omnipresence does not have any physical identity? But who said that God is physical. God is not physical, therefore he is not real? How about human nature and consciousness. Omnipotence means not having any identity to one's actions? But he created the world. What identity of actions do you mean? Omniscience means not having identity to the mind? Whose mind? The limited human mind?

The definition of God as a physical being means that such a God does not exist.

I am sorry for sounding like Socrates, but I think that I, of all the aspiring philosophers, know that I know nothing.

Edited by heretic
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Absolutely, and we aren't dogmatic. But we are certain. This is probably the most important distinction to grasp. Dogmatism is (unshakable) acceptance of a principle simply because it was given by some authority. But our knowledge of the nonexistence of god, or various other things that we know, is by logically integrating facts that we know. It is essential to not slip into nihilism as the alternative to dogmatism.You're invoking a number of concepts and I am not certain that you get them, correctly. If you simply mean that the product of consciousness does not determine what reality is, then that is the fundamental "primacy of existence" principle of Objectivism. But the lack of proof of some idea means, then, that the idea should not be expressed as a possibility, and should not be considered. The basis of all of man's knowledge is perception, and if a claim cannot be reduced to something that counts as evidence, we should simply not give it any consideration.This is the "primacy of consciousness" mistake. Existence is not contingent on proof; whether unicorns exist or not is not determined by whether you have been persuaded that they do. Again, we have two problems to deal with. First is addressing the proof that god cannot exist and therefore does not. The second is, what should we do if you have a "logically imaginable" scenario, such as unicorns, which has no proof. If there is no evidence for the claim, the claim should not be considered. Not even considered. When evidence is presented, we can evaluate that evidence.

BTW "stolen concept" refers to reverse petitio principii, i.e. assuming a concept to disprove the concept.No, I'm afraid you misunderstood this point. Parrots cannot utter the truth. Truth is not contained in sentences or things that seem to be sentences. If I say "Snow is white", that is a truth because my mind has grasped a fact of reality, and related it to a proposition. Truth is not something about Platonic sentences.Anyhow, I don't think that "contradiction in terms" really means anything. These are all contradictory notions, and they all contradict reality.The meaning of a word is the concept that it represents. The meaning of a concept is the referents of the concept (for example the meaning of "goat" is all goats).First, I don't understand what that means. Second, that's contrary to the standard definition of god (though you can present the argument for a being "The Boogie Man", and we can see where it goes). Third, there's no evidence that such a thing exists. Problem 1 is the most important problem, IMO: I don't see how this solves anything, esp. I don't see how slapping on "material" means anything. Does it mean "having mass"? So like, god is a pile of photons?

[ed: IO error fixed]

David, you are right about dogma, the source of which in religion is divine revelation. Facts that we know would be a correct basis for believing in the non-existence of God. But it is not a complete basis unless we know everything there is to know in the universe. There are many things we have yet to discover, so that we cannot be arbitrary and absolute about our knowledge of reality.

The lack of proof of some idea does not also mean that we should arbitrarily and absolutely dismiss the idea as false. That is what the Renaissance churchmen did, among others, when they burned Giordano Bruno and interdicted Galileo and Copernicus for their astronomical theories.

How do we reduce something into evidence? How do we reduce human nature and consciousness into evidence?

I believe that reality simply is, regardless of whether you can prove it, see it, know it, or not. That is my point. A thing exists even if we do not have proof or evidence of it. The absence of proof or evidence does not mean that it does not exist.

What is proof? Where is the proof that God cannot exist? What would be the reverse of the fallacy of begging the question or petitio principii (the fallacy of the stolen concept)? Could you show some examples of this? How and why are they stolen?

I thought that truth was the quality of a statement as to whether it agrees or disagrees with reality, so much so that a statement is true if it agrees with reality, e.g. Snow is white; and is false if it does not agree with reality, e.g. Snow is black.

Arguments (which are either valid or invalid) are made up of statements (which are either true or false), statements are made up of terms (which are either accurate or inaccurate), and the value of terms depend upon the meanings and concepts we predicate upon them. Am I correct here? I guess I have to learn more about the concepts and meanings being used and their references in Objectivism.

Material means anything that is physical, composite, has dimensions. If everything that exists is merely material then to say that God exists means that God is also material. Moreover, to say that God created ALL that exists means that God created himself. Otherwise, who created God? However, to say that God is not material would mean that what God created were ALL THINGS THAT WERE MATERIAL. This is the reason why we have to say the immaterial God created all things that are material to avoid asking the question who created God. God is not created reality, and not contingent and temporal being. He is uncreated reality, and a necessary and eternal being. We determine what he is by determining what he is not. But this is the theistic concept that concerns the NATURE of God, and not the philosophical endeavor that merely concerns itself with the EXISTENCE of God.

Thanks David for the rejoinder.

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First, let me remind you that in responding to a post, we quote the necessary parts, and not the whole post. so, now...

Facts that we know would be a correct basis for believing in the non-existence of God. But it is not a complete basis unless we know everything there is to know in the universe. There are many things we have yet to discover, so that we cannot be arbitrary and absolute about our knowledge of reality.
This doesn't make any sense. You cannot "discover something new" that would establish the existence of god. The concept of god in incompatible with the axiomatic principles "existence exists" and "existence is identity". All knowledge derives from the validity of those two principles, so you cannot deny them and still claim to ever have knowledge.
The lack of proof of some idea does not also mean that we should arbitrarily and absolutely dismiss the idea as false.
No, I said that first that when a claim has no support, it should not be considered. And when a claim is disproven, it should also not be considered (and in fact consigned to the category of the false).
How do we reduce something into evidence?
Read ITOE for a careful treatment of the subject.
What is proof?
A logical reduction of a proposition to the axiomatic (the perceptual) by logic.
Where is the proof that God cannot exist?
Are you familiar with the search function on the forum? I recommend using it -- it is very helpful.
What would be the reverse of the fallacy of begging the question or petitio principii (the fallacy of the stolen concept)?
I explained to you what the expression "stolen concept" refers to. Do you not understand the idea of "assuming a proposition to refute it"?
I thought that truth was the quality of a statement as to whether it agrees or disagrees with reality, so much so that a statement is true if it agrees with reality, e.g. Snow is white; and is false if it does not agree with reality, e.g. Snow is black.
That's a common Platonic mistake, which has led to all sorts of philosophical messes. In classical theories of truth, correspondence theory is close, but no cigar, since (in non-Objectivist implementations) it sees truth as being a Platonic abstraction where a consciousness is not involved.
Material means anything that is physical, composite, has dimensions.
Let's suppose then that quarks are in fact elementary particles; then would then be non-material since they are not composite? That isn't what material means: so let's take "composite" out of there. Then "material" simply means "exists", which means, among other things, "has a specific identity", which then means "is finite".

Anyhow, I suggest that you do some more basic reading of Objectivist metaphysics and epistemology. Once you understand the basics, the disposition of the god concept is pretty simple.

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No. Note that you must use the qualifier "material" here, because that gets you around the fact that God did not self-create, and so the question arises who or what created him. Omnipotence requires that he created everything right?

I subscribe to your contention Kendall for the need for the qualifier "material" because it enables me to posit that God did not self-create since to self-create would mean that he would have to exist to be the creator and, at the same time, not exist to be the creature, which is impossible. God cannot “be” and “not be” at the same time. The question about who created God, however, could also be avoided when we posit God as the Uncaused Cause. Omnipotence requires that he created everything that is material. So God is an immaterial, spiritual entity with infinite power.

Of course, God is given as “something” and not “nothing”, and a particular being but different from particular beings or things that exist that we see everyday. Here is where we encounter the distinction between the Creator and the creation. God is posited by theistic philosophers as reality itself who gives reality to all things. But we are wading into deeper waters already in the sea of theism.

I am fallible and limited, therefore I cannot say that God does not exist. I do not want to assert God’s existence. I am looking at the evidence for it, so that in the end, I would not be saying (with Bertrand Russell): “Not enough evidence God! Not enough evidence!” I am only stating what I have learned from theistic philosophy.

[ED: removed excess quotation. DO]

Edited by DavidOdden
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If existence is the sum of everything that exists, then either God exists and is part of existence, which makes it impossible for him to have created existence (and himself), or God created existence, which means that he cannot exist. Either way you look at it, it's impossible.

If as you say God is the uncaused cause, then that means he doesn't exist by virtue of the fact that he doesn't belong within the sum of everything that exists: existence.

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I think that in the lexicon of the Objectivist, existence is nothing more than what is or can be apprehend by the senses.
How else could you possibly define "existence"?

I know that I know nothing.
Hmm. Would you really want someone to take that at face value? Wouldn't it kinda invalidate anything else you say?
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Material means anything that is physical, composite, has dimensions. If everything that exists is merely material then to say that God exists means that God is also material. Moreover, to say that God created ALL that exists means that God created himself. Otherwise, who created God? However, to say that God is not material would mean that what God created were ALL THINGS THAT WERE MATERIAL. This is the reason why we have to say the immaterial God created all things that are material to avoid asking the question who created God. God is not created reality, and not contingent and temporal being. He is uncreated reality, and a necessary and eternal being. We determine what he is by determining what he is not. But this is the theistic concept that concerns the NATURE of God, and not the philosophical endeavor that merely concerns itself with the EXISTENCE of God.

It doesn't matter whether your God is material or immaterial. It remains a hard fact that it is logically impossible to create something from nothing. With nothing material to work with, your God could not have created the material universe. Your immaterial God could immaterially sit on an immaterial pole and then immaterially spin his ass around and around until immaterial hell immaterially freezes over. That, however, wouldn't change the fact that your God could not have made a material universe because, by your account, there was absolutely no material around to work with.

Creation ex nihilo is impossible. Therefore, your God is impossible and does not exist. He lives only in your mind.

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