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THEISM vs. OBJECTIVISM

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heretic
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A debate of faith versus reason is not possible. Faith is belief without regard for evidence. One cannot use the method of reason -- logic and evidence -- to reject it.

I decline the debate invitation.

My starting point was reason and not religion, but if it eventually leads to that, then so be it.

I wanted to disabuse my mind of this God concept so that I would not be begging the question. My starting point assumed that everything that exists is material reality. However, in my analysis of such a reality or the things that make up such a reality, I found out that such things are dependent on something else or others for their existence. And if I consider the whole, I am inclined to think the same way. This lead me to the probabaility of the existence of the necessary entity, which many others have called GOD.

I think you hit the nail right on the head. The framework of Objectivism subescribes to the foundational principle that existence is nothing more that material existence, with nothing beyond that. Hence, any God does not belong to the realm of reality, but to the realm of fantasy. Any talk or debate about God is simply debating about the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster--it is purely nonesense. In the beginning, the Almighty Atom formed the heavens and the earth. In the beginning was the Atom, and the Atom was with God, and the Atom was God.

However, my reasoning points me to another direction. And so here I am to see if my direction is correct and to see if Objectivism will give me the right direction or if I have to look somewhere else.

1. One does not start with the idea that existence is material, spiritual or any other "fact."

2. Compositional fallacy.

3. While Objectivism is a philosophy of realism the idea of "enties," "properties," "attributes" etc [as traditional realism would have it] are just changes in our level of perception and have no "intrinsic nature." Existence exists, it exists some way and has primacy. An entity is that "part" which is focused upon now - the properties and attributes it has are things it has now. Later, we might change our focus regarding that "entity" and consider the "property" as an entity. [An orthodox objectivist may have a problem with this view.]

What is necessary is existence and it existing some way - what is contingent is are our "conceptions" of it.

Edited by heretic
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The universe is everything that exists? So you say. That is the Objectivist framework. And the soundness of that claim is exactly what I am trying to test.
That really isn't a claim; it's an explanation of the concept of universe. When we say universe, we mean "everything": everything we know about, everything we do not know about, us, you...everything. If this is not the way you understand the term, then you need to explain what you mean when you say "universe" other than "everything".

You claim that "Objectivism subscribes to the foundational principle that existence is nothing more that material existence,". Could you provide a reference for this, please. Did Ayn Rand say this anywhere? Alternatively, could you explain what you mean by "material"?

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1. One does not start with the idea that existence is material, spiritual or any other "fact."

2. Compositional fallacy.

What is necessary is existence and it existing some way - what is contingent is are our "conceptions" of it.

I started with what I saw, and what I saw is ths fact that there are things that are material and contingent. Please forgive me, but I am confused with your concepts of "necessary" and "contingent".

The fallacy of composition should be applied in its proper context. It is not absolute. For example, the components (the parts) of a radio (the whole) are defective. It follows therefore that the radio is defective. The stones (parts) of a necklace (whole) are precious. It follows therefore that the necklace is precious. So is it the case of the universe, where the whole is merely a conception of the mind for a collection of material things, from atoms to stars, which are the parts that we perceive with our senses.

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And that's what makes a debate so difficult. God can do anything he wants. He could have planted dinosaur bones and Australopithecus remains just to test our faith. He could have created the stars 6,000 years ago with light already billions of years on its journey to earth. And who are we to question God and His "mysterious ways?"

We are not even properly talking about God yet. We are merely talking about the existence of the NECESSARY ENTITY. We are not also talking about the NATURE of God. We are merely talking about the probability of the EXISTENCE of God.

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To be fair, Heretic isn't making a direct argument for faith. He's addressing metaphysics rather than epistemology. If I understand him right, he's saying:
  1. The stuff of which things are composed (matter, energy or whatever) could not have always existed.
  2. Therefore, something else must have always existed, which in it's turn caused the above to start to exist.

Please allow me to rephrase:

1. Things, as I see and know them (not merely the stuff of things), are temporal and could cease to exist.

2. These things appear to be dependent or contingent on others for their existence.

3. There is a likelihood that they could not have always existed.

4. There is a likelihood that there was a moment in the past when they did not exist, since by the nature of things, they are temporal and not eternal.

5. Since they exist, their existence has been brought about by something else.

6. If we go back to the beginning and principles of things their existence would ultimately be depnednet on a being that is unlike these things, in that this being is necessary and not contingent.

7. Therefore, this being exists.

But this "whatever it is" is still subsumed under the concept "existence" - it doesn't matter WHAT existence is.

Of course, it exists. Why should I be talking about it if I believe that it does not exist by a long shot.

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You are arguing from the Fallacy of Composition. You are saying that the universe is contingent because it is composed of things which are contingent. This is not reasonable. By the same illogic, one might also conclude that the Milky Way Galaxy is smaller than a frog because it is composed of subatomic particles which are all smaller than a frog.

More fundamentally, you cannot apply characteristics of things in the universe to the universe itself, because the universe is not a particular existent with physical characteristics. It is merely a name for the collection of all individual existents.

That is exactly what I was saying all along. It is merely a term Therefore we cannot say that it is contingent or necessary. These terms we apply to things that exist in reality, and not to concepts or ideas that exist in the mind. We cannot say that the things in the universe are contingent. but the universe is necessary as if the universe is a separarte existing thing from its parts in reality. The fact is the things, which make up the universe, are contingent. even if we lump them together and call them the universe, they would still be contingent. Hence, this whole, which we call the universe, is still contingent. It does not assume a different way of existing simply because they are lumped together.

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Okay, I am no longer an "Advocate" for God or the Devil. I'll just be an atheist.

Heretic says:

He also says:

It seems pretty clear to me from the above two quotes that Heretic is trying to put the onus of proof on atheism. He is trying to inject doubt about a metaphysical axiom of the universe, that "Existence exists." He is saying that axiom is not good enough. Heretic is taking the position that one also has to prove that the universe is "infinite in duration (time) and extension (space)" in order for their to be no room for God.

Heretic is after God here. His is a religious argument. He is just constructing it as a philosophical argument about metaphysics.

He is also making an important epistemological assertion, "Absolute certainty could only be provided by divine relevation." That is the "argument" from faith. At that point, argument ceases.

Here we go again with this tautological proposition that "Existence exist." But what is wrong with asking "What does exist?" Why can't we transcend the temporality of things? What is wrong of even thinking about the possibility that a four-dimensional universe could have existed and not a three-dimensional one, such as what we have now? Is it because Objectivism is such a closed and absolute philosophical system that only material things exist as far as it is concerned? I dont want to be shackled by such intellectual tyranny. Thjere must always be room for doubt and possibilities in philosophy.

Absolute certainty and dogmatism belongs to the realm of religion. It is not something I want to propose here.

The argument is unsound for two reasons: its premises are false, and its logic is flawed. That the premises are false is obvious to us, though Heretic as accepted them without ground. Demonstrating their falsity is of no point, because we already know it, and he's already rejected in advance any such demonstration. But that the logic is flawed is not as obvious, neither to us nor to him, so it's what I focused on. For us, it's an interesting exercise in analysis, and for him, it's something to think on which he hasn't already rejected out of hand.

Pardon my density, but could you please rephrase that? What are these false premises that are so obvious to you and not to me? What false logic is not obvious to you, and how did you know of it if it is not obvious to you?

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That really isn't a claim; it's an explanation of the concept of universe. When we say universe, we mean "everything": everything we know about, everything we do not know about, us, you...everything. If this is not the way you understand the term, then you need to explain what you mean when you say "universe" other than "everything".

You claim that "Objectivism subscribes to the foundational principle that existence is nothing more that material existence,". Could you provide a reference for this, please. Did Ayn Rand say this anywhere? Alternatively, could you explain what you mean by "material"?

Ok, so everything that I see are contingent.

I am sorry if Ayn Rand did not say that. It was merely my impression of Objectivism. So, I stand corrected?

What do I mean by material? I stated my proposition, defined my terms and argued my position. Let me repeat myself, I said that "Material reality refers to physical things or to an existent that is palpable, physical, composite; that which could be seen, felt, touched, tasted, etc; that which is made up of parts, for example, compounds, elements, molecules, atoms, protons, quarks, etc. It is also observed and known to be apparently temporal and finite. This leads to the concept of contingency."

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Ok, so everything that I see are contingent.
So, is it your claim physical entities which are composed of atoms, which are then are further composed of some type of more elementary particle that can simply cease to exist, without being transformed into something else? Is that your basic factual claim? Or, are you terming "contingent" the fact that certain atoms combine in one way rather than in another way? Edited by softwareNerd
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That is exactly what I was saying all along. It is merely a term Therefore we cannot say that it is contingent or necessary. These terms we apply to things that exist in reality, and not to concepts or ideas that exist in the mind. We cannot say that the things in the universe are contingent. but the universe is necessary as if the universe is a separarte existing thing from its parts in reality. The fact is the things, which make up the universe, are contingent. even if we lump them together and call them the universe, they would still be contingent. Hence, this whole, which we call the universe, is still contingent. It does not assume a different way of existing simply because they are lumped together.

More precisely, my position is that existence is necessary. The universe, as we know it, will change form. Stars will die. Comets will crash into planets. New planets will be formed. Whole solar systems might be destroyed and broken down into subatomic particles or energy. Who knows what is going to happen to the universe? But I can tell you one thing: there will always be existence. Something will always exist, because just as you cannot create something from nothing, you also cannot convert something into nothing.

Nothingness does not exist--literally. You cannot have nothingness. All you can have is something changing into something else. The Sun might take billions of years to burn up its fuel. But when it "dies," it will change into something else. It might become a planet, or maybe a black hole. It might even explode into a billion little particles, but it won't become nothing. That is an impossibility. Just like dead human beings turn into dust, dead planets and stars will also turn into something else.

Thus, your entire view of "contingency" appears to be based on an impossibility. Where is your evidence that the universe, as a whole, can simply not exist? When you talk about things in the universe being "contingent," what are you really suggesting? That they merely change form? Or that they can completely vanish from existence, changing into nothing?

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What is wrong of even thinking about the possibility that a four-dimensional universe could have existed and not a three-dimensional one, such as what we have now? Is it because Objectivism is such a closed and absolute philosophical system that only material things exist as far as it is concerned? I dont want to be shackled by such intellectual tyranny. Thjere must always be room for doubt and possibilities in philosophy.

Absolute certainty and dogmatism belongs to the realm of religion.

First of all, both physical and mental existence exists. You clearly don't understand Objectivism.

Second, you have come to the wrong place if you are looking for philosophical skeptics. I, for one, can no longer take you seriously when you say things like "there must always be room for doubt and possibilities in philosophy." Do you see how silly that statement is? Do you doubt the existence of the world? Do you doubt the existence of this online forum? Do you doubt your own existence?

Do you doubt that there must always be room for doubt?

If you cannot be absolutely certain about anything, then I'm done taking you seriously. You have already shown that you have no problem evading the evidence against your position. Now you are mischaracterizing the Objectivist position and unjustly accusing us of being akin to religious dogmatists, while you are the one irrationally arguing for theism!?

A word of advice: when you pick an intellectual fight, bring some weapons.

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So, is it your claim physical entities which are composed of atoms, which are then are further composed of some type of more elementary particle that can simply cease to exist, without being transformed into something else? Is that your basic factual claim? Or, are you terming "contingent" the fact that certain atoms combine in one way rather than in another way?

Things are contingent because they are apparently dependent on someting else for their existence. They are dependent because they are observed to have been composed and are susceptible to being decomposed. It would therefore be reasonable to think that such things could not have existed in the past and would cease to exist in the future. If they did not exist in the past, their coming into existence is brought about by something else that is explicitly not contingent, but is implicitly necessary.

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More precisely, my position is that existence is necessary. The universe, as we know it, will change form. Stars will die. Comets will crash into planets. New planets will be formed. Whole solar systems might be destroyed and broken down into subatomic particles or energy. Who knows what is going to happen to the universe? But I can tell you one thing: there will always be existence. Something will always exist, because just as you cannot create something from nothing, you also cannot convert something into nothing.

I agree with you, as I agree with Parmenides, that something cannot come from nothing. Stars, atoms and all other existing material things will die. They are composites. They have been composed and would decompose. That is why they are contingent. That which you call necessary existence, I call the necessary entity.

Nothingness does not exist--literally. You cannot have nothingness. All you can have is something changing into something else. The Sun might take billions of years to burn up its fuel. But when it "dies," it will change into something else. It might become a planet, or maybe a black hole. It might even explode into a billion little particles, but it won't become nothing. That is an impossibility. Just like dead human beings turn into dust, dead planets and stars will also turn into something else.
Would it be unreasonable to think about the possibility that ALL things could not have existed in the past given their contingency? If things were to recycle infinitely, entropy would render everything in chaos already and energy useless and dead matter righ now.

Thus, your entire view of "contingency" appears to be based on an impossibility. Where is your evidence that the universe, as a whole, can simply not exist? When you talk about things in the universe being "contingent," what are you really suggesting? That they merely change form? Or that they can completely vanish from existence, changing into nothing?

Would it be also unreasonable to think about the possibility that ALL things could cease to exist altogether in the future given their contingency? Scientific evidence I do not have. Philosophical reasoning is all I can give you. Do you have scientific evidence of the eternity and inifnity of the universe?

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First of all, both physical and mental existence exists. You clearly don't understand Objectivism.

What are examples of mental existents? How do they exist? Can I see one?

Second, you have come to the wrong place if you are looking for philosophical skeptics. I, for one, can no longer take you seriously when you say things like "there must always be room for doubt and possibilities in philosophy." Do you see how silly that statement is? Do you doubt the existence of the world? Do you doubt the existence of this online forum? Do you doubt your own existence?
Reasonable doubt is more like it. Should I not doubt the philosophical position I have been taking now? Or should I be doggedly dogmatic about my insistence on the existence of God?

Do you doubt that there must always be room for doubt?

Would that be reasonable?

If you cannot be absolutely certain about anything, then I'm done taking you seriously. You have already shown that you have no problem evading the evidence against your position. Now you are mischaracterizing the Objectivist position and unjustly accusing us of being akin to religious dogmatists, while you are the one irrationally arguing for theism!?

I'm sorry if I have offended you. I was only trying to undermine your position.

A word of advice: when you pick an intellectual fight, bring some weapons.

Ok. I'll do that.

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Things are contingent because they are apparently dependent on someting else for their existence. They are dependent because they are observed to have been composed and are susceptible to being decomposed. It would therefore be reasonable to think that such things could not have existed in the past and would cease to exist in the future. If they did not exist in the past, their coming into existence is brought about by something else that is explicitly not contingent, but is implicitly necessary.

Well I would have taken this argument before the atomic age, but at this point the fallacy of composition is relevant.

Put another way, there is plenty of evidence that some things are contingent; however, this is also plenty of evidence that the basic building blocks of those things are not contingent. Matter and energy are conserved. Matter and energy are interconvertible, but still conserved. It is only the particular combinations of matter that are contingent. So I would say in fact that there is evidence that the universe itself is not contingent. It is not at all unreasonable to think that matter itself has always existed. There is not basis for claiming that it hasn't since it is not contingent.

All of your other arguments for parrallel universes and non-materiality rest on this premise.

Edit: forgot the un in "unreasonable"

Edited by KendallJ
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If things were to recycle infinitely, entropy would render everything in chaos already and energy useless and dead matter righ now.
My extremely limited understanding of entropy indicates that the process wouldn't necessarily lead to "dead matter".

From Wikipedia on entropy:

The role of entropy in cosmology remains a controversial subject. Recent work has cast extensive doubt on the heat death hypothesis and the applicability of any simple thermodynamic model to the universe in general. Although entropy does increase in the model of an expanding universe, the maximum possible entropy rises much more rapidly and leads to an "entropy gap", thus pushing the system further away from equilibrium with each time increment. Other complicating factors, such as the energy density of the vacuum and macroscopic quantum effects, are difficult to reconcile with thermodynamical models, making any predictions of large-scale thermodynamics extremely difficult.

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It is not at all unreasonable to think that matter itself has always existed. There is not basis for claiming that it hasn't since it is not contingent.
The curious thing about the argument Heretic makes is that he claims existence must have a beginning. In other words, matter cannot have always existed. At the same time, he offers an eternal being (one that has always existed and that exists outside of existence as we know it) as the explanation or cause for existence coming into being. In my opinion, the most logical position and the one that coincides with my knowledge of reality, is simply that existence exists. I have yet to see any convincing evidence of the "prime mover" that some claim must exist.
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The curious thing about the argument Heretic makes is that he claims existence must have a beginning. In other words, matter cannot have always existed. At the same time, he offers an eternal being...
Exactly, and that's the old pre-atomic way of arguing against "there must have been a creator". If there must have been a creator, then who created the creator. If something could just be, then it follows that the proposition "there must be a creator" is untrue.
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In my opinion, the most logical position and the one that coincides with my knowledge of reality, is simply that existence exists. I have yet to see any convincing evidence of the "prime mover" that some claim must exist.

I think you are correct in your assertion here. That is the basic argument against heretic. However since heretic is trying to induce the proposition that existence must have been created from the supposed nature of reality itself, I wanted to offer evidence to counter that induction. In other words I wanted to go back to reality to debunk his use of it.

He hasn't brought God into the picture explicitly and can't do so if contingency is excluded, without making a leap of faith. If he does, then it is simply as SN says, using his argument for contingency against him.

Inductively breaking the logic requires attacking his basic assertion of contingency.

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I think you are correct in your assertion here. That is the basic argument against heretic. However since heretic is trying to induce the proposition that existence must have been created from the supposed nature of reality itself, I wanted to offer evidence to counter that induction. In other words I wanted to go back to reality to debunk his use of it.

He hasn't brought God into the picture explicitly and can't do so if contingency is excluded, without making a leap of faith. If he does, then it is simply as SN says, using his argument for contingency against him.

Inductively breaking the logic requires attacking his basic assertion of contingency.

Very good Kendall! You finally nailed me there. The fact of contingency is the key to the whole argument! I have maintained that the most reasonable position to take is that God does not exist unless proven otherwise, and that the infinity in duration eternity of the universe, once proven scientifically, would mean that there is after all no room for a Creator.

However, there is still room for doubt. Is there scientific proof for an eternal universe going around in a cyclical motion for billions and billions of years and using and reusing its energy and organizing and disorganizing itself in an infinitely inexhuastible manner? How about the scientific theory of the singularity of the big bang and expanding universe that point to the age of the universe and point to its beginning, and the fact that the sun has been converting its energy to another form that cannot be used by it later that would lead to its expected demise in the far future, and the expected heat death or disorder of the universe, which is posited by the theory of entropy, simply because there would come a time when it would have converted (used up) its energy to another form that could not be used by it any more? If the universe is eternal, there would only be helium by now since all of the hydrogen in the universe would have been converted already and there would be no more environment for the development of life forms. How there be a cycle unless helium would be capable of converting back into hydrogen, which is not so but the other way around if we are to consult science. It appears that the universe is not eternal. It had a beginning and will have an ending. See what I mean when I say that scientifically and philosophically speaking, there is reasonable doubt and absolute proof is impossible for us to arbitrarily dismiss the possibility or probability of the existence of a necessary being?

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However, there is still room for doubt.
So now we're back to the fact that we don't know everything there is to possibly know about existence and in your opinion that leaves room for a creator. Now it is incumbent upon you to bring forth the evidence. Edited by gags
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If the universe is eternal, there would only be helium by now since all of the hydrogen in the universe would have been converted already and there would be no more environment for the development of life forms. How there be a cycle unless helium would be capable of converting back into hydrogen, which is not so but the other way around if we are to consult science.

What science did you consult?

I'm no expert on the subject, but it is my understanding that after a star's hydrogen burning sequence, it goes through a helium burning process which forms a carbon and oxygen core. A massive star will then go through several more burning sequences, creating several additional elements, on its way to becoming a supernova. Photodisintegration also occurs, causing elements within the star, under extreme pressure, to disintegrate into protons and other basic particles. Such a star ultimately explodes and sends its material into space. From this supernova remnant many elements are formed. And since hydrogen is the most common and most basic element, I think it is a good bet to assume that the supernova remnant forms a lot of hydrogen atoms.

Again, I'm not an expert on this subject, so maybe I got something wrong. I read a few articles online. I particularly liked this one and also this one, both from the NASA site; and I liked this free, online course as well.

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What are examples of mental existents? How do they exist? Can I see one?

Your mind is a mental existent. Your concepts, your ideas, your dreams, your memories, your fantasies, they are all mental existents. They exist because you have a brain that produces and sustains a mind--your mind. You can observe the products of your mind by thinking and introspecting. If you take the time to sit down and think, the contents of your mind should be clear enough to you. Ask yourself a question and pay attention to what pops into your head. That is a mental existent.

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