What do we really mean by "God"?

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by Magical Realist, Oct 7, 2012.

  1. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    God may fall out as an argued necessity in some cultural constructs; Kant pointed-out that this is what human reason concludes when beginning with the applicable starting axioms of such systems. According to Kant, God in the end is 'the representation of our own capacity to give ourselves the moral law through reason'. Just as an intellective process (with initial biases) may output that it is a necessity to reject something like solipsism, one of them may similarly output that God is unavoidable. People who are transcendental realists (who metaphysically reify the space of experience or the external, phenomenal world of extrospection) then unsurprisingly also depict God as a visual-conforming creature, usually with anthropic characteristics.

    Paul Guyer -- "In the latest stages of this work ... Kant returned to the broadest themes of his philosophy, and tried to develop a final statement of transcendental idealism. Here he argued that 'The highest standpoint of transcendental philosophy is that which unites God and the world synthetically, under one principle' - where that principle is nothing other than human autonomy itself. God and the world are 'not substances outside my thought, but rather the thought through which we ourselves make these objects'. The world is our experience organized by categories and laws of our own making, and God is the representation of our own capacity to give ourselves the moral law through reason. The moral law 'emerges from freedom...which the subject prescribes to himself, and yet as if another and higher person had made it a rule for him. The subject feels himself necessitated through his own reason...'. This is a fitting conclusion to Kant's philosophy of autonomy."

    While a noumenal circumstance (where items like God, freedom, immortality might be available] was declared unknowable in the context of Kant's theoretical / speculative philosophy, in practical philosophy it is possible to project argued necessities upon it, because therein there is no pretense of providing positive evidence or confirmation.

    Kant -- "But as will be shown, reason has, in respect of its practical employment, the right to postulate what in the field of mere speculation it can have no kind of right to assume without sufficient proof. For while all such assumptions do violence to [the principle of] completeness of speculation, that is a principle with which the practical interest is not at all concerned. In the practical sphere reason has rights of possession, of which it does not require to offer proof, and of which, in fact, it could not supply proof. The burden of proof accordingly rests upon the opponent. But since the latter knows just as little of the object under question, in trying to prove its non-existence, as does the former in maintaining its reality, it is evident that the former, who is asserting something as a practically necessary supposition, is at an advantage. For he is at liberty to employ, as it were in self-defence, on behalf of his own good cause, the very same weapons that his opponent employs against that cause, that is, hypotheses. These are not intended to strengthen the proof of his position, but only to show that the opposing party has much too little understanding of the matter in dispute to allow of his flattering himself that he has the advantage in respect of speculative insight. Hypotheses are therefore, in the domain of pure reason, permissible only as weapons of war, and only for the purpose of defending a right, not in order to establish it. But the opposing party we must always look for in ourselves. For speculative reason in its transcendental employment is in itself dialectical; the objections which we have to fear lie in ourselves. We must seek them out, just as we would do in the case of claims that, while old, have never become superannuated, in order that by annulling them we may establish a permanent peace."

    Kant -- ". . . But when all progress in the field of the supersensible has thus been denied to speculative reason, it is still open to us to enquire whether, in the practical knowledge of reason, data may not be found sufficient to determine reason's transcendent concept of the unconditioned, and so to enable us, in accordance with the wish of metaphysics, and by means of knowledge that is possible a priori, though only from a practical point of view, to pass beyond the limits of all possible experience. Speculative reason has thus at least made room for such an extension; and if it must at the same time leave it empty, yet none the less we are at liberty, indeed we are summoned, to take occupation of it, if we can, by practical data of reason. This attempt to alter the procedure which has hitherto prevailed in metaphysics, by completely revolutionising it in accordance with the example set by the geometers and physicists, forms indeed the main purpose of this critique of pure speculative reason. It is a treatise on the method, not a system of the science itself. But at the same time it marks out the whole plan of the science, both as regards its limits and as regards its entire internal structure."

    Otto F. Kraushaar -- "Kant ... shows ... the forms of sensibility and understanding cannot be employed beyond experience in order to define the nature of such metaphysical entities as God, the immortal soul, and the World conceived as a totality. If the forms are valid in experience only because they are necessary conditions of experience, there is no way of judging their applicability to objects transcending experience. Thus Kant is driven to the denial of the possibility of a science of metaphysics. But though judgments of metaphysics are indemonstrable, they are not wholly useless. The 'Ideas of Pure Reason' have a 'regulative use', in that they point to general objects which they cannot, however, constitute. Theoretical knowledge is limited to the realm of experience; and within this realm we cannot know 'things-in-themselves', but only the way in which things appear under a priori forms of reason; we know things, in other words, as 'phenomena.'

    "But reason is not limited to its theoretical use. Besides objects of cognition and thought, there are also those of will and feeling. Kant's 'practical philosophy', the real foundation of his system of transcendental idealism, centers in a striking doctrine of freedom. Even in its theoretical use reason is a law-giver to Nature, in that the data of sense must conform to the forms of the sensibility and understanding if Nature is to be known at all. But in moral experience, as Kant shows in the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), the will of a rational being is directly autonomous -- a law unto itself. ... As phenomenal beings we are subject to the laws of nature and reason, but as pure rational wills we move in the free, noumenal or intelligible realm, bound only by the self-imposed rational law 'to treat humanity in every case as an end, never as a means only.'"
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  3. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I think that MR was talking about the very different meanings that attach to the word "God", and perhaps was suggesting that some of the more philosophical meanings like 'first-cause' or 'fundamental ontological being' have no obvious connection to traditional religious concepts like the Bible's blustering Yahweh.

    I'm basically an atheist, so I'm not going to start with the idea that there's a "God" out there somewhere, and that it's our job to find it, to examine it and then to describe it correctly. I'm not inclined to believe that the word "God" has any literally existing referrent at all. What's more, if we propose to seek out "God" in order to describe what it is, then we will have to have some idea of what we are seeking and some means of recognizing when it's finally been discovered.

    What we obviously are confronted with here in real life is a language that prominently features this word 'God'. Where we probably should begin our inquiries is in describing the different ways that the word 'God' has been and continues to be used, by describing the diversity of ideas that people have employed 'God' to try to communicate.

    Then, at that point, we can inquire into whether any of those ideas has an existing referrent.

    It's conceivable that some of them do and some don't. I think that it's highly unlikely that the Yahweh or Allah of religious tradition literally exist. But on the other hand, I remain non-committal about whether the universe had a first-cause or possesses some ultimate ontological ground-of-being.
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    It's not really a parody or an accurate analogy.

    It's a reductio-ad-absurdem of the fideistic idea that in the case of certain objects, the proper route to knowledge is through faith, instead of reason.

    The FSM suggests that it's possible to have faith in just about anything, no matter how absurd it is.

    Schizophrenic delusions are another example that makes the same point.
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  7. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    So you seem to be asserting that there is something about the nature of knowledge of God that makes it self proving. I would assert that only the knowledge that you exist is self-supporting (as well as the laws of logic), otherwise you couldn't be thinking that thought. Unless you are also omniscient, I don't see how God could provide certainty of his existence. The only way to be certain would be to be God himself. Even the best demonstration of God's power could be theoretically faked by sufficiently advanced technology.
  8. kx000 Valued Senior Member

    The ancestor of all things. Emotion, and bouncy balls alike.
  9. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    summum bonum etc etc.

    Unless you can't quite get whether the FSM is parodying Italian cooking or issues of divinity, you already know this and are simply being spurious.
  10. gmilam Valued Senior Member

    I guess you're unaware of the title of this thread. Do you have a definition or not? (etc etc...)
  11. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    do you know what summum bonum means or are you still simply being spurious?
  12. Balerion Banned Banned

    Please don't sully Sagan's work by equating it to religion. One can have passion without being religious, thank you very much. One can appreciate mystery and feel awe without attributing some grand meaning to it all.
  13. Balerion Banned Banned

    Of course it's a parody. It mimics the thing it is ridiculing for comedic purposes, as well as making a point about it (I suppose this is where parody and satire overlap). While one could carve a reductio ad absurdum argument from it, that's not what it actually is.
  14. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I am not asserting this as my own position; only as something that seems to follow from some common theistic definitions of "GOD."

    I don't know for myself if the nature of knowledge of GOD indeed is such that makes it self-proving. But following the common theistic definitions of "GOD", this seems to be the conclusion.
  15. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Now if only LG and Balerion would take this up with you!
  16. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    But in the case of GOD, if we go by the common definitions of "GOD", it is humanly impossible to identify whether "GOD" has an existing referent or not - because humans cannot test whether some entity is omniscient or not, for example.

    IOW, seeking the referent in the case of "GOD" is a dead end. So why suggest it?
  17. GASHOLE Registered Senior Member

    Definition of "God":

    Imaginary Friend
  18. Balerion Banned Banned

    Did I not do that?

    So we're supposed to just accept their claim? Or, at the least, accept that we can't rule it out? I think not. Just like any other claim, there are plenty of ways to discern the probability of its validity. For instance, following the common definition of the monotheistic God, there is a creation story that does not jibe with our understanding of the birth of the universe. The idea that this God's own account of creation is not accurate is a big ol' strike against it. There are countless other ways to circumstantially determine whether or not this so-called creator actually exists.
  19. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I don't know how you've come to that conclusion.
  20. gmilam Valued Senior Member


    Latin's not my first language, but I looked it up before responding to you. Not a lot to go on. Rather subjective. Doesn't offer anything for scientific investigation.
  21. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    I think the word God is a semantical black-hole when it comes to any
    sort of intelligible discussion, and this for several reasons.

    One, there is, so far, no perceptual experience of the said referrent
    for the word God. Many religions CLAIM to have images and symbols
    representing him/her/it, but at no point does anyone have any direct
    sensory experience of what a God is like. A least not one that can for
    the purposes of linguistic definition be publically consensual and
    shared. So what are we even describing with the word God? Precisely
    nothing. A chimera of a thousand different religions and mythologies. Or
    at best some transcendental variable like Aleph Null. We might as well
    be talking about the Jabberwocky or the Bandersnatch.
    God becomes at once the most fruitful and most fruitless topic of
    conversation two or more people can have about something.

    Two, what traits we DO attribute to God are always of a rather vague
    superlative nature. He's the most perfect. He's the most powerful. He's
    the all-knowing. He's eternal. But all of these are traits that in no
    way could ever be empirically established. They are attributions of
    magnitude not quality. How do you know if this shining being in front of
    you IS divine in nature. How could you prove he/she/it is the greatest,
    the most perfect, the ultimate of these properties? Could just be an
    advanced alien for all we know.

    Third, we are talking about a being who's very mode of being is
    non-categorical precisely because he/she/it is the only INSTANCE of such
    a mode of being. There are no other instances of God to compare him to
    such that we could abstract some general qualities like we do with
    apples or diamonds or vacuum cleaners. Everything about God therefore
    becomes a totally unique trait, making him not only the one exception to
    all other modes of being but perhaps even a total anomaly. God by
    definition, to the extent that we even have one, defies definition as A
    being. He is THE being who arbitrarily happens to have such and such
    traits, and that's all that can be said about him. Even the word God is
    used more as a name than of as a noun. People refer to God as "God" as
    if that is his title. But how can a name contain information ABOUT the
    nature of the being it designates. It can't. It is a mere designation.
    All information about the referrent must be acquired by a direct
    encounter with that referent--an experience that so far and by its very
    nature would seem totally impossible to us.
  22. Balerion Banned Banned

    Seems pretty cut and dry to me. What am I missing?
  23. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Is it a logical conclusion, or just something they assert?

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