Total Posts:5|Showing Posts:1-5
Jump to topic:

Noncognitivism of God (Envisage's old debate)

SNP1
Posts: 2,404
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/6/2016 7:43:24 AM
Posted: 10 months ago
I am currently in the mood to discuss whether or not "God" is cognitive or noncognitive.
I will copy and past part of one of Envisage's old debates about it (source: http://www.debate.org...)

In this argument I will attempt to show that the concept of God as defined is meaningless, and in fact, to make God a meaningful concept would result in limiting God in some way (and hence violating some notion of omnipotence).[4,5]

I have adapted the argument from the attached reference, and contain the same concepts involved.

P1) "God" lacks a positivity defined attribute (A)
P2) If "God" lacks a positively defined attribute (A), then secondary (B) and relational attributes (C) cannot be justifiably applied
C1) "God" lacks a justifiable attribute (A, B or C)
P3) All attribute-less terms are meaningless
C2) Therefore, "God" is a meaningless concept

If God is a meaningless concept, then it follows its impossible to argue sensibly for the existence of such a concept, or to talk about it in any rational manner at all. The existence of such an entity would be able as logical as asserting the existence of a square circle.

To defend these premises, we need to consider what God is, in the rules round I defined God as follows:

"omnipotence, omniscience, creator, perfect, and free will"

In order to meaningfully describe something, the primary nature of an entity needs to be established, for example to state something has "10 lbs", it is reasonable to assert "10 lbs of what?". It is meaningless to then response "well, you know" 10 lbs!". The weight of something is a relational attribute, and gives no information on what the essence of the entity is. To speak meaningfully of anything we need to have a description of the fundamental character, or nature of the being. Take a chair for example, a primary attribute would be "A wooden mass with a sitting base and four posts made of wood", here we have the material and primary attributes of a chair, we can reasonably talk about it"s existence and apply secondary and relational attributes to it (such as its colour, mass, style, etc).

Now let"s have a look at the attributes of God which I have provided:
1. Omnipotence
2. Omniscience
3. Creator
4. Perfect
5. Free will

None of these go any way in defining God"s primary attributes, they are all secondary or relational attributes. Omnipotence regards power, or ability, but isn"t an entity in itself. Omnipotence can be applied to anything (my sister is omnipotent) as a secondary attribute, but is meaningless without the primary essence. Omnipotence in fact is meaningless without a physical universe to relate to. The same applies to the all five of these attributes.[6]

Often God is portrayed further, such as "metaphysical", or "immaterial", however these are not attributes of God, they are precidely descriptions of what God is not, the statement "I am not Barack Obama", gives zero information about my primary attributes, and hence goes no way into demonstrating my essence.

In order to actually provide a positive attribute of A (fulfilling P1), then we run into serious problems of the perfection, and omnipotence of God, since giving such an attribute would present limits to God, which violates the necessary secondary attributes of God, hence such a definition is impossible to attain.

SOME questions:
What is your view about this?
Do you think that "God" needs to be defined with Positive Attributes?
Do you think that defining "God" with Positive Attributes contradicts omnipotence?
What Positive Attributes do you think "God" has?
Do you think that "God" is a meaningful or meaningless concept?
Anything else (that is relevant to the discussion) that you want to add is also welcome.
#TheApatheticNihilistPartyofAmerica
#WarOnDDO
RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/6/2016 8:13:11 AM
Posted: 10 months ago
At 2/6/2016 7:43:24 AM, SNP1 wrote:
What is your view about this?
Thank you for posting the argument, SNP, and if you did so in response to my earlier suggestion, thank you for doing so.

While I always enjoy Envisage's reasoning, I don't support this argument. Envisage himself acknowledge his contention as optimistic, and despite his best efforts, I think the argument is cumbersome, tenuous, slightly misguided in its objectives, and in any case unnecessary, given that he was trying to defend Strong Atheism, and Strong Atheism has a simpler and better justification. :)

Do you think that "God" needs to be defined with Positive Attributes?
One reason I don't like this argument is that I'm concerned that the idea of 'Positively Defined Attributes' (not explicitly defined, as far as I could tell) may be subjective, and I don't think it's rigorous for subjective definitions to be used to define supposedly objective ideas.

Do you think that defining "God" with Positive Attributes contradicts omnipotence?
I don't know what omnipotence means objectively -- and this is part of the reason I think God is 'noncognitive' (in fact, whether we want to call God cognitive or not, I think it's something more important: the idea is epistemically bankrupt -- it's invalid with respect to reasonable ideas of objective knowledge or truth.) I'll be happy to sketch my full reasoning for that in a later post.

What Positive Attributes do you think "God" has?
I think the question is meaningless because God is epistemically bankrupt. So whatever properties you think the concept has is up to you, but such conjectures are objectively useless whatever you decide, given the 'core' properties already attributed.

(Which is not to say the concept might not be useful as fiction, entertainment, personal inspiration for for some other subjective purpose. Only that it's useless in the production of objective knowledge.)

Do you think that "God" is a meaningful or meaningless concept?
Invalid, in the sense of an idea whose core properties as commonly defined, cannot contribute usefully to objective human knowledge. So meaningless, if you define 'meaning' as 'epistemically useful'. :D

Anything else (that is relevant to the discussion) that you want to add is also welcome.
I'd be happy to explain why I think the idea isn't epistemically useful by any reasonable, modern standard of epistemology (despite being thought epistemic in earlier times.)

I hope that may be of interest.
skipsaweirdo
Posts: 1,872
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/6/2016 10:47:16 AM
Posted: 10 months ago
At 2/6/2016 7:43:24 AM, SNP1 wrote:
I am currently in the mood to discuss whether or not "God" is cognitive or noncognitive.
I will copy and past part of one of Envisage's old debates about it (source: http://www.debate.org...)

In this argument I will attempt to show that the concept of God as defined is meaningless, and in fact, to make God a meaningful concept would result in limiting God in some way (and hence violating some notion of omnipotence).[4,5]

I have adapted the argument from the attached reference, and contain the same concepts involved.

P1) "God" lacks a positivity defined attribute (A)
P2) If "God" lacks a positively defined attribute (A), then secondary (B) and relational attributes (C) cannot be justifiably applied
C1) "God" lacks a justifiable attribute (A, B or C)
P3) All attribute-less terms are meaningless
C2) Therefore, "God" is a meaningless concept
This is a personal opinion fallacy, so the rest of your post is irrelevant. But you have a nice circular reasoning example here. Maybe even some equivocation fallacies. Exactly what makes you think omnipotence needs a physical uNiverse? It isn't stated in the definition.
Exactly why do you think saying positive attributes is somehow different than justifiable attributes? A lot of word play, just no substance.
If God is a meaningless concept, then it follows its impossible to argue sensibly for the existence of such a concept, or to talk about it in any rational manner at all. The existence of such an entity would be able as logical as asserting the existence of a square circle.
If God is, but God isn't, so what's your point besides a really long way back to the beginning assertion.
To defend these premises, we need to consider what God is, in the rules round I defined God as follows:

"omnipotence, omniscience, creator, perfect, and free will"

In order to meaningfully describe something, the primary nature of an entity needs to be established, for example to state something has "10 lbs", it is reasonable to assert "10 lbs of what?". It is meaningless to then response "well, you know" 10 lbs!". The weight of something is a relational attribute, and gives no information on what the essence of the entity is. To speak meaningfully of anything we need to have a description of the fundamental character, or nature of the being. Take a chair for example, a primary attribute would be "A wooden mass with a sitting base and four posts made of wood", here we have the material and primary attributes of a chair, we can reasonably talk about it"s existence and apply secondary and relational attributes to it (such as its colour, mass, style, etc).

Now let"s have a look at the attributes of God which I have provided:
1. Omnipotence
2. Omniscience
3. Creator
4. Perfect
5. Free will

None of these go any way in defining God"s primary attributes, they are all secondary or relational attributes. Omnipotence regards power, or ability, but isn"t an entity in itself. Omnipotence can be applied to anything (my sister is omnipotent) as a secondary attribute, but is meaningless without the primary essence. Omnipotence in fact is meaningless without a physical universe to relate to. The same applies to the all five of these attributes.[6]

Often God is portrayed further, such as "metaphysical", or "immaterial", however these are not attributes of God, they are precidely descriptions of what God is not, the statement "I am not Barack Obama", gives zero information about my primary attributes, and hence goes no way into demonstrating my essence.

In order to actually provide a positive attribute of A (fulfilling P1), then we run into serious problems of the perfection, and omnipotence of God, since giving such an attribute would present limits to God, which violates the necessary secondary attributes of God, hence such a definition is impossible to attain.

SOME questions:
What is your view about this?
Do you think that "God" needs to be defined with Positive Attributes?
Do you think that defining "God" with Positive Attributes contradicts omnipotence?
What Positive Attributes do you think "God" has?
Do you think that "God" is a meaningful or meaningless concept?
Anything else (that is relevant to the discussion) that you want to add is also welcome.
SNP1
Posts: 2,404
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/6/2016 6:24:15 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
At 2/6/2016 8:13:11 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 2/6/2016 7:43:24 AM, SNP1 wrote:
What is your view about this?
Thank you for posting the argument, SNP, and if you did so in response to my earlier suggestion, thank you for doing so.

It is part that, part me being on the border of if I accept the idea and want it critiqued more before I make a decision.

While I always enjoy Envisage's reasoning,

One of my favorite debaters on the site.

I don't support this argument. Envisage himself acknowledge his contention as optimistic, and despite his best efforts, I think the argument is cumbersome, tenuous, slightly misguided in its objectives, and in any case unnecessary, given that he was trying to defend Strong Atheism, and Strong Atheism has a simpler and better justification. :)

I do not remember where Envisage said that his contention was optimistic. Do you think you could find a source?

Also, even if there are better arguments for strong atheism, I still think this is an important aspect to look at.

Do you think that "God" needs to be defined with Positive Attributes?
One reason I don't like this argument is that I'm concerned that the idea of 'Positively Defined Attributes' (not explicitly defined, as far as I could tell) may be subjective, and I don't think it's rigorous for subjective definitions to be used to define supposedly objective ideas.

I will actually copy a definition of this from a different debate (source: http://www.debate.org...)
A fundamental character of a thing, may be defined as the basic nature a particular thing is composed of. What a thing is, specifically, that it may do particular things or affect those around it in a particular way. The following two types of attributes provided below can only be applied to a thing if they can be related to an existant's primary attribute and the primary attribute is positively identified

I do not think this can be seen as subjective, like you implied.

Do you think that defining "God" with Positive Attributes contradicts omnipotence?
I don't know what omnipotence means objectively -- and this is part of the reason I think God is 'noncognitive' (in fact, whether we want to call God cognitive or not, I think it's something more important: the idea is epistemically bankrupt -- it's invalid with respect to reasonable ideas of objective knowledge or truth.) I'll be happy to sketch my full reasoning for that in a later post.

I guess I understand that view with Omnipotence since it is defined differently be different people.
I personally like the following definition:
An Omnipotent Being- A being that is unable to have limits imposed on it, has no limits, and can act without limitations.

What Positive Attributes do you think "God" has?
I think the question is meaningless because God is epistemically bankrupt. So whatever properties you think the concept has is up to you, but such conjectures are objectively useless whatever you decide, given the 'core' properties already attributed.

(Which is not to say the concept might not be useful as fiction, entertainment, personal inspiration for for some other subjective purpose. Only that it's useless in the production of objective knowledge.)

Do you think that "God" is a meaningful or meaningless concept?
Invalid, in the sense of an idea whose core properties as commonly defined, cannot contribute usefully to objective human knowledge. So meaningless, if you define 'meaning' as 'epistemically useful'. :D

Anything else (that is relevant to the discussion) that you want to add is also welcome.
I'd be happy to explain why I think the idea isn't epistemically useful by any reasonable, modern standard of epistemology (despite being thought epistemic in earlier times.)

I hope that may be of interest.

I am interested. Please, go on.
#TheApatheticNihilistPartyofAmerica
#WarOnDDO
RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/6/2016 9:28:45 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
At 2/6/2016 6:24:15 PM, SNP1 wrote:
At 2/6/2016 8:13:11 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 2/6/2016 7:43:24 AM, SNP1 wrote:
What is your view about this?
Thank you for posting the argument, SNP, and if you did so in response to my earlier suggestion, thank you for doing so.
It is part that, part me being on the border of if I accept the idea and want it critiqued more before I make a decision.
Okay. I'll be interested in your views.

While I always enjoy Envisage's reasoning,
One of my favorite debaters on the site.
Mine too.

I don't support this argument. Envisage himself acknowledged his contention as optimistic, and despite his best efforts, I think the argument is cumbersome, tenuous, slightly misguided in its objectives, and in any case unnecessary, given that he was trying to defend Strong Atheism, and Strong Atheism has a simpler and better justification. :)
I do not remember where Envisage said that his contention was optimistic. Do you think you could find a source?
From the preamble in your link [http://www.debate.org...]:
I appreciate [Con] for taking this debate for what is probably one of my most optimistic resolutions, and indeed should be an entertaining one.

Also, even if there are better arguments for strong atheism, I still think this is an important aspect to look at.
I agree.

Do you think that "God" needs to be defined with Positive Attributes?
One reason I don't like this argument is that I'm concerned that the idea of 'Positively Defined Attributes' (not explicitly defined, as far as I could tell) may be subjective, and I don't think it's rigorous for subjective definitions to be used to define supposedly objective ideas.
I will actually copy a definition of this from a different debate (source: http://www.debate.org...)
A fundamental character of a thing, may be defined as the basic nature a particular thing is composed of. What a thing is, specifically, that it may do particular things or affect those around it in a particular way. The following two types of attributes provided below can only be applied to a thing if they can be related to an existant's primary attribute and the primary attribute is positively identified
Thank you for the link. That's helpful.

I do not think this can be seen as subjective, like you implied.
It hinges on how we recognise when a characteristic is fundamental, Snip. Arguably, that depends on choice of ontology (i.e. what we think exists, and how it classifies), and since it's generally possible to supply two different but self-consistent ontologies for the same ideas, I think that makes our choice of ontology, and hence our recognition of what is fundamental, subjective.

Do you think that defining "God" with Positive Attributes contradicts omnipotence?
I don't know what omnipotence means objectively -- and this is part of the reason I think God is 'noncognitive' (in fact, whether we want to call God cognitive or not, I think it's something more important: the idea is epistemically bankrupt -- it's invalid with respect to reasonable ideas of objective knowledge or truth.) I'll be happy to sketch my full reasoning for that in a later post.
I guess I understand that view with Omnipotence since it is defined differently be different people.
Yes, but more than that, nobody has ever been able to tell me how they'd recognise it if they saw it, and the inability to define or reason with it coherently seems to me a symptom of that underlying lack of epistemic grounding.

I personally like the following definition:
An Omnipotent Being- A being that is unable to have limits imposed on it, has no limits, and can act without limitations.
Precisely. Yet how do we recognise such an inability? And if we can't recognise it, how do we verify or falsify it? And if we can't do so, what relevance has it to truth or knowledge?

I'd be happy to explain why I think the idea isn't epistemically useful by any reasonable, modern standard of epistemology (despite being thought epistemic in earlier times.)
I hope that may be of interest.
I am interested. Please, go on.
Okay, I'll probably need more than one post to set the idea out, but as a sketch...

Our minds seem happy to treat language as though it has objective meaning, whether or not it does. In particular, we can tell stories about something that exists, which most everyone has seen (e.g. a dog), or something that nobody has seen, yet everyone could recognise if it existed (e.g. a unicorn), or even something nobody has seen and which strains intuitions so badly, nobody could recognise it whatever they saw (e.g. a transcendental god.)

We know that thinking about dogs (and studying them, because they exist) contributes to human knowledge. It's not hard to show that hunting for unicorns on Earth also contributes to human knowledge, even though they don't exist: because you'll find out to whatever confidence that they don't exist here. But does hunting for evidence of something you couldn't recognise, and can't verify or falsify add to human knowledge?

My contention is that it doesn't, and this seems the same contention underpinning Envisage's use of noncognitivism: if the idea has never been verified and thinking about it can't possibly help you, why not categorically dismiss it? That is, not give it a value of 'possibly true', like the existence of a unicorn but 'unrelated to truth' -- the kind of value we give to incoherent nonsense.

So that's the sketch, and I think the formal reasoning underpinning it should entail discussion of:
1) What (objective) knowledge is and how we recognise it, since we want it to be both independently confirmable and useful;
2) What we might see as the 'core' properties a transcendental god;
3) Why these properties cannot be confirmed or falsified objectively, and the reasonable consequences of being unable to do so;
4) Why such ideas are popular despite being (as I mean to show) so epistemically useless;
6) Why it's better for knowledge and the benefits knowledge produces to dismiss them, rather than leaving them hang around; and finally
7) What that means for 'strong' atheism, and why at times it may actually be an epistemological position, and not simply a theological or ontological one.

Since it's an epistemological discussion, Snip, I think it aligns with the noncognitivism question well, though it's not quite what Envisage was arguing, and I may take a different view on 'strong atheism' than some theological noncognitivists seem to take.

I'd also like to point out that the name 'noncognitivism' is unfortunately easy to dismiss, because it course the response 'Well, I'm religious and I can think about God just fine'.

Yet really, it's not whether you can think about it, but rather whether thinking about it supports good epistemic practice that's the issue -- so I've been saying 'epistemically bankrupt' or 'epistemically invalid', rather than 'noncognitive', because minds can play with incoherent fictions as though they were truths, but that doesn't make them truths.

So that's the proposed structure of my exposition, Snip. Please let me know if you think it suitable, and whether you'd like to add, remove or change anything.