Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Prayson Daniel vs. the Imaginative Nature of Christian Theism

A Christian blogger by the name of Prayson Daniel has responded to my blog A Proof that the Christian God Does Not Exist. Prayson’s blog entry can be found here: Bethrick: A Proof that the Christian God Does Not Exist? The basic syllogism of my argument is as follows:
Premise 1: That which is imaginary is not real.  
Premise 2: If something is not real, it does not actually exist.  
Premise 3: If the god of Christianity is imaginary, then it is not real and therefore does not actually exist.  
Premise 4: The god of Christianity is imaginary.  
Conclusion: Therefore, the god of Christianity is not real and therefore does not actually exist.
Prayson grants that my argument is formally valid, adding “and thus if premise 1-4 are true, Bethrick would have succeeded in showing that God, as believed by Christians, does not exist.” But of course, given his allegiance to the Christian worldview, Prayson can be expected not to accept that my argument is sound.
He asks:
Are all premises true? Is it a sound case? I think not.
Surely I recognize that Christian believers are poised to resist the conclusion that the god they worship is imaginary, regardless of how strong the case for that conclusion may be. After all, Christians have a confessional investment to protect, and central to that confessional investment is the supposition that the god they worship is real rather than merely imaginary, and in the case of more serious Christian believers, virtually everything in their stated worldview is riding on the premise that their god is real as opposed to an invention of the human mind. I grasp this, indeed as a former Christian myself: while I was a practicing believer, I surely did not want to admit that the god I worshiped was imaginary. In that phase of my life I would no doubt resent any suggestion that it was imaginary. So keen was I on the insistence that the god I worshiped was real that I was prone to suppressing any information which suggested otherwise, even to the point of squelching my own honesty on the matter. In fact, it was only when I made the conscious decision to be honest about the facts that I realized that what I was calling “God” was in fact merely a figment of imagination, nothing more.

The imagination can be very powerful indeed. If we allow it, our imagination can have drastic influence over our emotions. This can work negatively or positively in our experience. I can be in my house upstairs late at night with my family, for instance, all tucked into bed and supposed to be sleeping. But I am awoken thinking, perhaps rightly, that I have heard a noise in my house downstairs. As I lie there thinking about what may have produced the sound I think I heard, I can easily start to imagine things. Perhaps it was an animal that caused the noise. Perhaps it was an intruder. Perhaps it was something falling off the wall, like a picture or a wall clock. I can imagine all sorts of things, some benign, some threatening. If I imagine that what I heard poses a threat, if I feed this imagination, I can easily be overcome by fear. Indeed, living here in Thailand, there can be all kinds of real threats that can go bump in the night. A human intruder is unlikely, but it is still possible. A dangerous reptile may be more likely. Indeed, geckos have the run of my house, and yet even though they are harmless, they still make noise and can startle me as they dart out of a dark corner or behind a curtain. So long as it is not a spider or a snake, I should be okay. But then again, there may be threats here that even I am not yet familiar with.
 
In other contexts, certain things we imagine can be quite encouraging. If, for instance, my wife and I have decided to go out to pizza – a very rare occurrence, but one that would be quite welcome to the usual Asian fare that I am used to consuming on a daily basis here – I can be quite excited, especially if my appetite is aroused. As I begin to look forward anxiously to my pizza dinner, I cannot help but begin to imagine the pizza that I am about to enjoy. We are an hour away from even arriving at the pizza restaurant, and already my mouth is watering for something I know from experience to be wonderfully delicious. I imagine Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, sliced mushrooms, onions and bell peppers, oodles of cheese and marinara sauce, a crisp crust, a perfect blend of herbs and spices, etc. The pizza that I imagine as we come closer and closer to our arrival at the restaurant builds my excitement for my upcoming meal experience. Finally we get to the pizza restaurant and order our pizza, and when it comes I find that the “Italian sausage” is nothing more than a blond hotdog sliced into chunks, the sauce is merely ketchup, and instead of the delicious blend of herbs and spices that I had imagined, the pizza is covered with cut corn. Yes, that is what you can expect when you go to a pizza restaurant in Thailand. They just don’t know how to do things right here when it comes to western food. In spite of the enthusiasm that my imagination propelled through my emotions, reality always draws the final trump, and I’m left let-down.
 
The point to all this is that our imaginations can be quite active in our daily conscious experience, and it can have a profound impact on our choices and actions given its potential influence over our emotions. So the charge that the Christian god is merely imaginary, then, is not to be taken lightly. Nor is it to be dismissed prematurely as a mere passing fancy of some know-nothing bystander who has nothing of value to offer on the philosophical aspects of god-belief. I have investigated this matter deeply, drawing not only on my knowledge of rational philosophy, but also from my experience as a Christian believer and my interactions with believers.
 
In regard to the profound impact that imagination can have over our emotions and the choices we make in our lives, I would like to draw the reader’s attention to three relevant points of interest. The first comes from a documentary by John Stossel called “The Power of Belief.” I cited this in my blog Imagine There’s a Heaven in which I wrote the following (the link I originally gave for the video which I cited no longer appears to work, so I have replaced it with an updated link):
I recall, of all things, a John Stossel special I saw years ago called “The Power of Belief.” In it, Stossel explored the suggestibility of individuals disposed to confusing the imaginary with reality. I was delighted to find that portions of this documentary are accessible on YouTube (see here).  
In the initial installment of the program (at the link provided), you will see an experiment conducted on several groups of children and a large enclosed cardboard box. The kids play in the room with the large cardboard box and eventually the kids inquire on the contents of the box. The children are told that it is empty and invited to look in the box to see for themselves that it is in fact empty. After the box is closed back up, the children are told a story about a hungry fox which lives inside the box. They understand that they’re supposed to pretend that there’s a fox in the box, and they play along with the story. Then the adult excuses herself from the room for a few moments, leaving the children in the room by themselves. After a short while, their curiosity about the box grows and they start to wonder if in fact there’s something in the box that they had earlier seen to be empty.  
Soon the children begin to think they are hearing the fox in the box. Then they worry about it. Some get closer to the box to listen, but are afraid to open it. Some of the children in the experiment were confident that there was no fox in the box, but “most kids,” says Stossel,
aren’t sure. This is what happens in test after test. Almost every child begins to believe that the animal they helped create, might be real. Even when the researcher explains again that there was no fox in the box, most children believe it was there… Sometimes when we form beliefs, those beliefs persist against logic or evidence to the contrary. When I talked to kids later, many were convinced that the fox was in there.
Stossel says “magical thinking is fine for kids, but another thing when adults do it,” but quickly cautions that “we’re not talking mainstream religion here.” But why not? I’m guessing that Stossel didn’t want to alienate the mainstream religionists in his audience, even though the point he makes indubitably applies to their worldview.
Compare the experiment Stossel describes with Point 6 in my blog The Imaginative Nature of Christian Theism:
6. In Christianity, the bible requires adherents to have child-like faith, and a prominent feature of child psychology is an active imagination. I have already pointed this out in my blog With Minds of Children, which I published in December 2005. In that posting I quoted several relevant statements from the bible and from Christian apologist John Frame. For instance, Matthew 18:3-4 states:
Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Similarly, Mark 10:15 states:
Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
In such passages the New Testament clearly and explicitly makes it a defining requirement for the believer to be “as a little child.” A child is a person who is only beginning to learn about reality, and has no self-consciously understood worldview per se. His time is not spent tending to life’s needs, for these are typically taken care of by parents. Instead, he spends a great deal of his time in play, where fantasy is often the dominant mental counterpart to physical activity, whether it is role playing, playing with dolls, toy automobiles, arts and crafts, etc. In this way a child can be distinguished from an adult in the role his imagination plays in his mental life. As is clear from the statements quoted above, the New Testament makes it clear that this childlike mentality is the ideal persona demanded of the believer.  
Touching on this, presuppositional apologist John Frame tells us that
Scripture never rebukes childlike faith; indeed, Jesus makes such faith a model to be followed by adults (Luke 18:16). One who requires proof may be doing it out of ungodly arrogance, or he may thereby be admitting that he has not lived in a godly environment and has taken counsel from fools. God’s norm for us is that we live and raise our children in such a way that proof will be unnecessary. (Apologetics to the Glory of God, p. 66)
The passage which Frame cites, Luke 18:16, puts the following words into Jesus’ mouth:
"Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."
To say that the bible “never rebukes childlike faith,” or that “Jesus makes such faith a model to be followed by adults,” actually understates the position clearly expressed in the bible. The bible requires childlike faith; it is not simply a “model” to which adults are expected to conform. But Frame does make a good point: the bible requires that believers “just believe” what it tells them, and not to require proof. Also, the believer is to surround himself with other believers, all of whom are to be encouraging each other to sustain their belief in a shared fantasy, which is the essence of the “godly environment” Frame has in mind here. Proof is the stuff of reason, but since the biblical worldview is incompatible with reason, it is not surprising to see Christian authorities urging believers to “raise… children in such a way that proof will be unnecessary.” The active mind of a rational thinker is to be discouraged through shame and guilt; believers are expected to believe on the power of authoritative say so, period. This simply opens the door to the imagination as the only alternative to reason available to the believer, for in the final analysis there is no other alternative to reason. Notions like “divine revelation,” the “sensus divinitatus,” “faith,” etc., are merely euphemisms for what is in reality merely a reliance on the imagination.
And while it should be obvious that this evidence is indeed relevant to any inquiry into the whether or not the Christian god is imaginary, Prayson dismisses it out of hand as “irrelevant” and proceeds to ignore it along with the rest of the points I raised on behalf of my case.

The second point of interest comes from Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til’s paper Why I Believe in God. In this paper, as can be expected from its title, the author provides his reasons for believing in the Christian god. Van Til provides an autobiographical anecdote of his own decision to be a serious Christian in the following passage:
I can recall playing as a child in a sandbox built into a corner of the hay-barn. From the hay-barn I would go through the cow-barn to the house. Built into the hay- barn too, but with doors opening into the cow-barn, was a bed for the working-man. How badly I wanted permission to sleep in that bed for a night! Permission was finally given. Freud was still utterly unknown to me, but I had heard about ghosts and "forerunners of death." That night I heard the cows jingle their chains. I knew there were cows and that they did a lot of jingling with their chains, but after a while I was not quite certain that it was only the cows that made all the noises I heard. Wasn't there someone walking down the aisle back of the cows, and wasn't he approaching my bed? Already I had been taught to say my evening prayers. Some of the words of that prayer were to this effect: "Lord, convert me, that I may be converted." Unmindful of the paradox, I prayed that prayer that night as I had never prayed before.
Notice how Van Til’s own account of his own conversion experience highlights the role of his imagination in his decision-making, and at such a tender age to boot! Here the young Van Til was not an adult assuming the mentality of a child as the biblical passages cited above require of adults. Rather, Van Til was at this point yet a child, and his account of his own experience provides an example of what the bible has in mind in actual practice. Even as an adult, Van Til recognized that what he heard was not coming from “someone walking down the aisle back of the cows,” but he imagined otherwise as a child, and as an adult he never questioned the decisions he made as a child based on fears resulting from this frightening fantasy he later recounted. It is evidence such as this that Prayson would prefer to ignore and dismiss out of hand as “irrelevant.” But Van Til’s own effort to explain why he believed in the Christian god emphasizes not only its relevance, but also its importance to his god-belief.

The third and final point of interest that I want to cite here is from an exchange between atheist Steven Carr and Canon Michael Cole which took place some years ago. I quote from my 2006 blog entry Carr vs. Cole:
At one point, while defending the literalist Christian view, Cole stated (1:05:25):
Now the evidence that he is God does not depend entirely on the resurrection. Many other things as well. I think I also want to bring in personal experience. I said earlier on that I’ve been a Christian from the age of twelve. And I’m just aware of God being there in the person of Christ in all sorts of different situations, speaking to me by his spirit through the word of God. There was one particular experience when I was very, very conscious of the risen Christ, actually standing with me in the church I was serving, asking whether we would make him Lord of that church... I wouldn’t say anything about that for 24 hours, it was too personal, too close.
In responses to this, Carr pointed out (1:06:55):
Canon Michael again says he had an experience of the risen Christ. Now that wasn’t a bodily experience. So Conan Michael is disproving the bodily resurrection with his very own experiences.
Carr's point here is extremely significant. Many believers today claim to have experienced the "real Jesus," allegedly sensing Jesus standing right beside them even though we would not see this Jesus figure with them if we were to look at them. Cole himself claims to have had this kind of experience where he "was very, very conscious of the risen Christ, actually standing with me." Of course, Cole is not claiming that Jesus was beside him in a physical body, bloody wounds and all, that anyone could see and come up to touch, as the gospel of John has Doubting Thomas do. The point here is that the believer does not need Jesus to be in a physical body in order to claim to have a personal encounter with him. This certainly casts 1 Cor. 15:3-11 in a new light.
Cole’s opening statement could easily be rephrased to say that belief in the resurrection does not depend “entirely” on evidence. It is Cole who wants to introduce “personal experience” here. Notice that Cole confesses that he had “been a Christian from the age of twelve.” So, since he was a child he has been in the habit of worshiping the Christian god. Given what we saw above about having “childlike faith” and the role of imagination in childhood mental activity, this is significant. Cole says that he is “just aware of God being there in the person of Christ in all sorts of different situations,” but what is noteworthy here is the fact that he does not identify the means by which he is “just aware” of his god. Naturally as an adult believer who initiated his confessional investment in Christianity at the tender age of twelve, Cole had by this point become quite familiar with what the Christian bible says about its god. So by this point he had surely been exposed to the bible’s descriptions of the Christian god, so much so that they have completely colored the image he has formed of his god. And as Carr points out, Cole does not need a physical body of Jesus to experience “the risen Christ” standing right beside him. It would, however, be quite easy for a believer to imagine this in a state of religious ecstasy. Indeed, nothing Cole offers suggests that he was doing anything other than imagining what he claims here to have experienced.
 
Now since he grants that my argument is formally valid, Prayson must believe that one or more of its premises are not true. He continues:
Christians would probably agree that premise [sic] 1-3 are true, but 4 is false.
One would hope that even “Christians would probably agree that premise[s] 1-3 are true,” but we cannot take such a situation for granted. Recent activity on my own blog, for example, has produced an example of a Christian who does not seem prepared to grant Premise 1, namely that something imaginary is not real.
 
Reacting to my argument, beleaguered and battle-weary Christian apologist Michael David Rawlings wrote the following on 30 Dec. 2012 in the comments section of my blog Michael David Rawlings and the Primacy of a Bad Attitude:
If we let that which is imaginary is not real = that which does not actually exist outside any given person’s mind, then I suppose the argument is valid; therefore, assuming, for the sake of argument, that Premise 4 is true, the conclusion is true.  
But it is odd that the yet-to-actually-exist-outside-my-mind DVD cabinet that I shall soon build in my living room does actually exist in my mind right now and that my mind is part of that which actually exists right now. Let us allow that some outside observer observes me walking down the Home Depot lumber aisle. Now there I am, he sees me. He infers that I have a mind like he does, and he asks me, “Hey, what do you have in your mind to build?”  
And I answer, providing further evidence that indeed I do have a mind, “A DVD cabinet.”  
“Sweet!” He says.  
“And it’s all laid out in my mind as well as in the blueprint I made from the actually existent image I have of it in my mind right now,” I say.  
“Sweet!” he says again. “So the DVD cabinet actually exists in your mind, and I see that you actually exist in existence, so the DVD cabinet actually exists in existence, that is to say, its real as it actually exists in your mind.”  
“Sweet!” I say. [sic]
Given [a] that this statement was intended as a response to my argument, [b] that its author, like Prayson, grants that my argument is valid, and [c] that its author does not challenge Premise 4, the only way I can read this reaction is to suppose that Rawlings thinks that something he imagines in fact actually exists. He says that the DVD cabinet which he imagines “does actually exist in my mind right now,” and he proceeds in his statement as though this were in fact the case. Rawlings seems to believe that, since the person who imagines something exists, what he imagines therefore also exists. This is the essence of the point he makes in the statement he puts into the mouth of the Home Depot aisle attendant. Of course, this is an enormous non sequitur. But the record of the ensuing discussion with Rawlings shows that he was not willing to budge one millimeter from any of it.
 
So it is not a given that Christians, or theists in general, will automatically grant the truth of my argument’s first premise. Indeed, in a comment which Prayson himself posted on my blog entry, it is not clear that that he would consistently affirm the truth of Premise 1, as he states that “I can imagine something without it necessarily being imaginary.” Unfortunately, he did not give an example of something he can imagine that is not imaginary. I suppose that by this he means he can imagine something which he has seen before in the past, such as another person or an object like a tree or a stapler. But it is still unclear how what he imagines is itself not imaginary. On the one hand, there are objects in the world which we perceive, and on the other there is what we imagine when we rearrange what we have perceived in the confines of our imagination. They are not one and the same. I can perceive the front door of my house – here I am perceiving something that actually exists. I can also imagine the front door of my house, such as when I recall it from memory and form a mental image of it. A key point to keep in mind here is that imagination is always selective. Imagination is not the same thing as memory. When we imagine something, we can pull details from memory, but even here we are selecting which details to pull and focus on. The image in our mind is not an independently existing entity. While imagination itself is in fact an activity which our consciousness performs, the object of that activity is not something existing independent of that conscious activity. It is in the context of imagination that we come closest to approximating what the primacy of consciousness metaphysics could be like.
 
Prayson is correct that my argument “heavily depends on premise 4.” But he does not allow that I “succeed in showing that [the] Christian God is imaginary.” He makes reference to my blog The Imaginative Nature of Christian Theism where I identify 13 facts which in my view seal the case for the conclusion that the Christian god is in fact merely imaginary. Yet instead of interacting with any of these facts, Prayson simply dismisses them, saying that “even if all 13 points, which are not evidences but assertions, were true, they are irrelevant.”
 
But why would they be irrelevant even if they were true? What Prayson states in this regard does not explain his dismissal of the points I have cited on behalf of Premise 4. And since he is contending that Premise 4 is indeed not true, it seems that he should at minimum interact with the case that I have put forward on behalf of Premise 4. By citing the 13 points of evidence identified in my blog The Imaginative Nature of Christian Theism, it should be clear to anyone that I think they are relevant to my case. I would think that anyone who examined each of them with an honest attitude would find at least some of them are relevant to my Premise 4.
 
On this matter, Prayson offers only the following:
Showing that anyone can imagine supernatural beings, and that followers learn about their gods in written stories, and believe them by faith, and the “failure of religious philosophy to provide the mind with a sound metaphysical theory which securely and reliably allows the adherent to distinguish between reality and imagination” et cetera, even if true, does not show that Christian God is imaginary.
Prayson states this as though we could have awareness of his god independent of the testimony of the bible and/or people who believe that the Christian god is real. I highlight this very point, however, in both Point 3 and Point 10 of my case that the Christian god is imaginary. First Point 10, which states:
10. We learn about “the supernatural” only from other human beings, never from “the supernatural” itself. This is the case even in stories in which a human being is said to have come in direct contact with “the supernatural,” such as Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. This is a story which comes to us from other human beings. We do not learn about the Christian god, for instance, from the Christian god itself materializing before us and telling us about itself. We have no alternative but to learn about it from sources which are indistinguishable from sources which humans are known to have produced. Of course, believers are tacitly encouraged to profess personal encounters with the supernatural, which is what we find in cases like that of Canon Michael Cole, who claimed that Jesus was standing in his immediate presence (though apparently no one else present noticed even Jesus standing there beside him!). Human beings are the primary source of our “knowledge” of “the supernatural,” and when they point to other sources as testimony or evidence of “the supernatural,” they are never direct contacts with the supernatural which we can ourselves enjoy, but rather claims of religious experience and therefore secondhand or further removed from our own experience, and we are expected to accept these claims as if they were true, on another human being’s say so. How does one reliably distinguish what we are being asked to believe from a concoction of someone else’s imagination? Sadly, believers give us no objective compass on such questions.
Point 3 of my case states the following:
Adherents learn details about their god from written stories (which puts the Christian god, for example, in the same camp as characters in texts which are known to be fictional). Written stories give the human mind an opportunity to develop vivid imaginations and fantasies. The dominant function of allegory in religious literature is to provide the imagination with the fundamental material to work with in developing lifelike as well as larger-than-life psychological replicas of heroes, villains, events, and cosmic personalities portrayed in religious literature while allowing for a strong element of personal relevance. The Christian believer, for instance, reads about his god in the Old and New Testaments. In these sources, which are dubbed revelatory communication directly from the god he reads about in their pages, the believer finds stories which provide often vivid narratives which the believer personalizes in his imagination of them and accepts as truthful, historical accounts. To quell any nagging doubts about the historical authenticity of the content of these accounts, believers may absorb himself in extra-biblical literature which presumes their truthfulness, or at any rate seeks in one way or another to establish it. Such efforts overlook the fact that what has actually happened is that the believer has read a set of stories and has installed them in his imagination as if they were in fact true before the question of their truth has been critically examined.
It is certainly not the case that we learn about the Christian god from nature. That would nullify the need for “special revelation.” Even Christian theologians admit that we cannot learn, for example, of the “trinitarian” nature of the Christian god except through its alleged “self-revelation.” So Prayson seems anxious to dismiss as “irrelevant” factors which Christian theologians themselves affirm as indispensably important to Christian worship.
 
What Prayson ignores here is the fact that some or all of the facts which I have cited in my other blog are present in all cases of Christian god-belief. At minimum, believers inform their understanding – indeed their image – of the Christian god by assembling it from motivic inputs selected from the Christian bible. Indeed, Christians are expected to do precisely this: they are expected to inform their understanding of the Christian god according to what can be found in the Old and New Testaments.
 
Recall that the apostle Paul affirms (in Rom. 10:17) that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” This was written at a time when most Christian laypersons were probably no doubt illiterate and definitely before the time when printed bibles were available for the average adherent to read for himself. The only way most Christians could learn about the Christian god back in Paul’s day was by “hearing” some preacher tell them what to believe. And as the preachers told their adherents what they were expected to believe about the Christian god, their imaginations were excited and what they imagined the Christian god to be grew larger than life in their minds. And it was this idol of the imagination that the believer was then expected to worship and to which he was expected to sacrifice himself. Indeed, an idol in the imagination is still an idol. In this very way, Christianity is a form of idolatry, a “sin” which Christianity itself condemns.
 
Moreover, it can easily be argued that Prayson misses an important point in all this. The points which I highlight in my case are what we would expect to be the case if the Christian god were in fact merely imaginary. If the Christian god were merely imaginary, we would expect its believers to rely on their imaginations in ‘conceiving’ of their god; we would expect people to learn about this god from other human beings, either by oral reports or by written sources (or both), as opposed to discovering it by looking at the world itself, such as when we learn about the relationship between, say, ants and plants, soil erosion, the melting point of copper, etc. Human beings did not discover these things by listening to oral tales or reading primitive texts. We learned about them by interacting with reality. That is not what we have in the case of god-belief. On the contrary, everything about god-belief defies the exercise of reason. We would also expect that the worldview attendant to such belief would fail to explicitly teach its adherents to distinguish in principle between what is real and what is imaginary so as to equip them with what they need to guard against error. But as I point out, this is what we find in Christianity. Indeed, such concerns are far from what concerns its teachings. The issue of circumcision, of all things, has far greater gravity in the New Testament than anything approaching what we might recognize today as epistemology!
 
As for “showing” that the Christian god is imaginary, I have indeed cited evidences to support this. But Prayson simply dismisses them as “assertions.” Perhaps we can do the same with god-belief claims: after all, they are merely assertions. Christians offer no actual evidence for their god’s existence. But Prayson’s flippant dismissal of the evidences which I have cited should be concerning, at least for someone like Prayson. Suppose a defense attorney, when confronted with evidences implicating his client as the culprit of the crime for which he is on trial, replies to the citation of those evidences as, “Well, my client’s fingerprints are on the murder weapon, the security camera shows him murdering his victim, traces of the victim’s blood is found in his vehicle, but these are just assertions!” I suppose that most juries would not be persuaded by such feats of denial. Indeed, such bald-faced denial should not be confused with overcoming the evidence supporting the charge in question.
 
Also note that Point 4 in my list of evidences indicating that the Christian god is indeed merely imaginary cites religious philosophy’s antagonism towards reason. Prayson offers himself as an example of the mindset which insists on confusing the imaginary with the real when he dismisses evidences provided on behalf of a thesis in order to reject that thesis. The religious mind is one which acts on the assumption that reality can be revised merely by wishing that be other than what it actually is. If certain evidences are inconvenient for one’s position, then dismiss them as assertions. Unfortunately, this knife cuts both ways: Prayson’s claim that the evidences which I have cited are just “assertions” is itself just an “assertion.”
 
Moreover, Prayson needs to realize that it is in fact not incumbent upon the atheist to prove that the Christian god is imaginary, as though this were some kind of “obligation” that the atheist needs to fulfill. Even believers concede that people imagine supernatural things. Given this fact and the others that I have cited, the theist needs to show that his god is something other than imaginary. After all, he is the one who is claiming that it is real rather than imaginary.
 
If I imagine an invisible dragon, for instance, how is what I’m imagining not imaginary? Is Prayson or anyone else obligated to prove that what I am imagining is merely imaginary? I would not think so.
 
Curiously, Prayson writes the following:
If [the] Christian God exists, then it does not matter if anyone can imagine supernatural beings or that Christians learn about this God from written stories and accept them by faith et cetera, because what matters is not the epistemological status of subjects(i.e. Christian) but the ontological status of an object (i.e. God). It is here where Bethrick, thus, does not offer justification to think that premise 4 is true.
Notice the veiled affirmation here of the primacy of existence principle. Prayson is essentially saying that if a thing exists, it exists regardless of what anyone thinks, imagines, believes, does not believe, knows or does not know, etc., that something is the case independent of consciousness. And yet, it is this very principle which theists deny when they affirm the existence of a consciousness upon which the realm of facts depends and to whose conscious activity everything conforms. Theists routinely make use of a principle that is in principle incompatible with their worldview. They do not even know that they are doing this.
 
To put it plainly, it does no good to affirm that things exist independent of consciousness only then to turn around and affirm the existence of a consciousness upon which everything in existence depends. And yet this is precisely what a theist who appeals to the primacy of existence in order to defend his god-belief is doing in principle. He performatively contradicts himself.
 
But Prayson is correct in at least this respect: if something is the case, it is the case regardless of the “status” of the subject of consciousness. If the Christian god existed, it would exist independent of consciousness just as any other entity in the universe does. Unfortunately, however, citing this fact does not help Prayson’s case. Philosophy does not end with the recognition that existence exists; rather, this is where philosophy begins. When examining what exists or questions of what exists, we cannot dispense with epistemological concerns. Theists say that their god exists. Fine and dandy. But this assertion invites a long series of questions. Consider for example the following:
- What exactly is the theist saying exists?  
- Is what he calls “God” a thing that is supposed to exist independent of the believer’s conscious activity?  
- If so, does he claim to have direct awareness of what he is calling “God”?  
- If he does claim this, can he identify the means by which he has this direct awareness so that those he wants to convince can perchance make use of the same means to have direct awareness of what he is talking about?  
- If he does not claim this, does he claim to have inferred his god’s existence by reference to something he is directly aware of?  
- If so, what is that something that he is directly aware of, and how did he infer his god’s existence from it?  
- Etc., etc., etc.
Throughout this inquiry, the rational thinker should be on the lookout for clues in the theist’s answers and explanation. For instance, is what the theist describing in fact really just a process that is no different from imagination? If the theist admits that one can imagine supernatural beings like his god, he should be prepared to explain how we can reliably distinguish between what he calls “God” and what may merely be imaginary. It escapes me as to how one can deem such a policy unreasonable.
 
In my blog, I wrote the following:
Ultimately, there is a single question that any atheist who encounters a pushy apologist need pose. And that question is:
When I imagine your god, how is what I am imagining not imaginary?
Since we have no alternative to imagining the Christian god when believers tell us about it, this question is most appropriate, especially since we’re expected to believe that it is real. If theists think we have an alternative to imagining their god, what is that alternative, and how is it different from imagination.
In response to this, Prayson states:
I think, even before answering Bethrick’s atheist question, a pushy apologist could simply turn the table around, and reduce the atheist’s question to absurdity with a counter question:
When I imagine there is no god, how is what I am imagining not imaginary?
So, a pushy apologist could contend, since we have no alternative to imagining no god when an atheist tell us about it, this question is also most appropriate, especially since we’re expected to believe that it is real that god does not exist.
For one thing, the question that I have posed (namely “When I imagine your god, how is what I am imagining not imaginary?”) does not “reduce to absurdity.” The Christian who objects to this specific line of inquiry can easily replace the words “your god” with something like “Allah” or “Odin” “Mithras” or “Krishna” and see that in principle it has practical relevance. Indeed, if I were a believer in Avalokitesvara, I see no reason why one could not legitimately ask me “When I imagine Avalokitesvara, how is what I am imagining not imaginary?” And I have no idea how I would address this question while protecting my belief in Avalokitesvara at the same time. Perhaps Prayson does? If so, why does he not make use of that defense in the case of his god-belief? If not, what would that imply about his own god-belief?
 
Moreover, the question that Prayson offers in response to the one I have posed (and which he has yet to answer) is not at all analogous to the question which I have posed, even though he postures it as such. When we imagine, we imagine something, we imagine an object. While earlier Prayson wanted to reserve as a legitimate possibility the view that the object of imagination is real, in the question he offers in response to the one that I have posed, he dispenses with an object altogether. Consider a person who says there is a dragon in his living room. Would Prayson argue that we should ask that person “When I imagine that there is no dragon in your living room, how is what I am imagining not imaginary?” In positive terms, what exactly is being imagined here? There are no positive terms, for nothing is being imagined in such a case. The question seeks to deprive the imaginative act of anything positive to imagine. But this ignores the positive nature of imagination. Whenever one imagines, he is forming a mental image of something. This is positive in nature. In hoping to find some alternative question which stumps my position, Prayson finds that he needs to deny the very nature of imagination in order to come up with something that might stump the rational thinker. Of course, this does not work. It not only fails to address the question which I have posed, it also shows that he needs to ignore the nature of imagination in order to pretend to have come up with some way to circumvent it.
 
Unfortunately for Christians, the fact is that I know that I am imagining when I imagine the Christian god. And I know this because the conscious activity which I perform when I consider the Christian god as the bible and as Christians would have me consider it, is the same activity which I perform when I consider, for example, a dragon in my living room or a space ship orbiting a distant planet. Indeed, drawing on the very point which Prayson himself makes vis-à-vis the primacy of existence, even if I did not realize that I am imagining when I imagine the Christian god, I am imagining nonetheless. So even if I did not know this, I would still be imagining. Consequently the problem for the Christian remains: when I imagine the Christian god, how is what I’m imagining not imaginary? Nothing Prayson offers in response to this, either in his comment on my blog or in what he writes on his blog, shows that what I am imagining is not imaginary. And given the fact that the imaginary is not real – which Prayson himself granted when he affirmed the truth of Premises 1-3 of my argument – it is an incontestable truth that when I imagine the Christian god, what I imagine is imaginary and therefore not real. There is no way around this conclusion. The inference here is unimpeachable.
 
Now of course, Prayson could say that he is not imagining when he considers his god. If so, this would be a different matter; this would not show that I am not imagining when I consider the Christian god, nor would it show that what I imagine when I consider the Christian god is not imaginary. Far from it - such a contention would have no bearing on any of this whatsoever. It would be up to Prayson at this point to articulate as best he could the mental process he performs when he considers his god and distinguish this mental process from imagination. Preferably he would need to show how other thinkers can perform the same action he does and arrive at awareness of the same object he calls “God.” At no point in his reaction to my argument does Prayson take up this task.
 
Prayson continues, saying:
Bethrick confuses the verb imagine with its adjective (imagined/ing) thus fails to see that a person could imagine something that is not necessarily imaginary. Imagine as a verb is simply forming a mental image or concept of, while as an adjective is believing something unreal exists.
For one thing, there is a profound difference between imagining something and forming a concept. However, the very fact that Prayson lumps these two together only confirms my contention, which I have stated elsewhere (see for instance in the recent discussions of these blogs here and here), that Christianity has no theory of concepts to begin with. Indeed, Prayson’s lumping imagination with concept-formation only confirms the role of the primacy of consciousness in Christian “epistemology.” But exploring this will have to wait for another time.
 
But have I, as Prayson states here, confused “the verb imagine with its adjective (imagined/ing)”? I do not think I have, and nothing Prayson offers here suggests that I have done so. The verb ‘to imagine’ denotes a type of activity which a mind can perform; ‘imagined’ used as a past participle can describe, as the object of that action, the mental image so formed. The present participle ‘imagining’ would describe the subject of consciousness which is performing such an action. There is also the gerund ‘imagining’, which is the action of a consciousness performing such action treated syntactically as a noun. I am explicitly aware of all these distinctions, and I have taken care not to confuse them, contrary to what Prayson has alleged here.
 
Indeed, at no point does any of this rescue the object of imagination from being an object of imagination. So what exactly is Prayson driving at here if not merely attempting to raise a distraction from the matter at hand?
 
He continues:
Example I can imagine how my wife would react if I forget our wedding anniversary. Does this follow that her reaction, if I forget our anniversary is imaginary? I do not think so, since if I forget our anniversary, I will bear her full anger, which is real and far from imaginary.
Here Prayson essentially helps to make my point, namely the point which I affirm in Premise 1 of my argument, i.e., that there is a fundamental distinction between what is real and what is imaginary. Prayson himself tells us that he can imagine how a person might react under certain conditions and how that person can be legitimately expected to react if those conditions applied. As Prayson himself points out, they do not necessarily agree. But Prayson also shows the inherent flexibility of imagination when he states, alternatively to the context to which he alluded in his denial, that “if I forget our anniversary, I will bear her full anger.” This, too, he is imagining. And while it may play out to be true should the conditions Prayson imagines come to pass, the anger he must endure from his wife will, as he himself points out, be “real and far from imaginary.” Further, Prayson states:
I believe, a pushy apologist could reply: “I want you to imagine(forming mental concept of) my God and I will give you a case to think it is warranted to believe that that God does exist. This, my friend, is why what you are going to imagine is not imaginary but real.” With that a pushy apologist may begin to offer a positive case to show that a belief in God is rationally acceptable position thus not imaginary.
Apologists can reply in a variety of ways, but what is important to note is that they cannot reply in a rational way – i.e., by consistently applying reason. They can only offer a pretended semblance thereof. As I have pointed out in other discussions, theistic “proofs” of every variety have the dubious problem of leaving us with no alternative but to imagine the god whose existence they are offered to secure. Whether it is the design argument, the cosmological argument, the ontological argument, the cumulative case argument, the presuppositional argument, Pascal’s wager, etc., all attempts to prove the existence of a god or validate god-belief in any way all leave us with no alternative but to imagine the god we are supposed to be convinced is real. So the remedy which Prayson offers here is of no use: the theist would still be stuck with the same problem. Indeed, if a rational proof could once and for all seal the case for the existence of the Christian god, why would one still need to continue imagining it? Blank out.
 
Unfortunately, none of what Prayson offers addresses the epistemological issue involved here, namely: by what means is the believer aware of what he calls “God”? He does not perceive it; it is supposed to be beyond the reach of our senses. It is invisible, immaterial, incorporeal, etc. It has no mass, it has no circumference, it has no shape or height or depth, it has nothing that is at all measurable by rational means. And yet it is supposed to be an actual entity, not an abstraction like ‘freedom’ or ‘justice’ or ‘contemplation’. So by what means is the believer allegedly aware of his god, if it is not by means of his imagination? And how does he distinguish this means of awareness from his imagination if he insists that he is aware of his god by some means other than imagination? Prayson addresses none of these questions.
 
Prayson concludes his blog entry with the following:
Question: What case would you offer for or against the notion that Christian’s God is imaginary?
But since he has baldly dismissed the evidences that I presented on behalf of the case for the conclusion that the Christian god is imaginary, I suspect he would probably do the same if others should present their own case. Indeed, I might even suspect that he would adopt a far less critical perspective with regard to any case advanced against the conclusion that the Christian god is imaginary.

By Dawson Bethrick

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179 Comments:

Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

Great to see you've got a new entry up! Although I haven't had a chance to dig into it, the subject matter is quite timely. It will no doubt come in quite handy in a current exchange I'm having with a theist named Josh over on Debunking Christianity.

In a recent comment I asked Josh: "how I am able to distinguish what you call 'God' from what you may merely be imagining."

Josh replied: "You are not. But you have the capability to know for yourself, 'if you dare' :) to try faith as a way of knowing."

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2013/01/peter-boghossians-challenge-to-william.html#comment-778342839

I'll be interested to read if the theist that you've interacted with in this new entry is as honest as Josh is about the role of imagination plays when it comes to deity belief.

Ydemoc

January 29, 2013 8:25 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

I just wanted to give you a heads up that in the quoted passage below, there might be an issue with the link.

When I click on the highlighted "my blog entry," it actually takes me to www.blogger.com which, for me, ends up being my own "Dashboard." If someone else clicks on it, I'm guessing it may take them to their own "Dashboard" also.

You wrote: "So it is not a given that Christians, or theists in general, will automatically grant the truth of my argument’s first premise. Indeed, in a comment which Prayson himself posted on my blog entry..."

Ydemoc

January 29, 2013 12:16 PM  
Blogger Matt Brown said...

Ok so i read your opening argument and the link to your support of premise 4. It seems to me that when you say "The god of Christianity is imaginary" you mean to show how Christians come to their belief in God. In light of this, could you please explain to me how P3 does not commit the genetic fallacy. What I understand from your writings is that you are arguing:

1.Christians have bad methods of forming their beliefs about the world.
2. Therefore, their beliefs are false.

Let me use a thought experiment to explain my point.

Lets *imagine*(yes that was on purpose) that one day I go outside and look up into the clouds and see the clouds in the shape of the following text: "2 + 2 = 4". After that I form the belief in my mind that 2+2=4. Now I would agree with you that looking at the clouds is a bad way to learn about mathematics, but that does nothing to say that 2+2 doesn't equal 4. For this reason, It is fallacious to argue against a position by pointing to the way a person went about forming those beliefs.

In closing, I would have you know that I am a Christian, but like yourself reject presuppositionalism as a valid way of arguing for the truth of a belief.

January 29, 2013 12:25 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

You wrote: “Great to see you've got a new entry up!”

Thanks! It came rather suddenly. I was working on other things when Prayson’s comment came over. Once I started reading his blog entry, I was set ablaze and dove into the pleasure of writing up a response. It was nice!

Over on Debunking Christianity, you asked Josh: "how I am able to distinguish what you call 'God' from what you may merely be imagining."

And Josh replied: "You are not. But you have the capability to know for yourself, 'if you dare' :) to try faith as a way of knowing."

Well, at least he admits that “you are not” able to distinguish what he calls “God” from what he may merely be imagining. That’s a good start. And of course I agree: there is no distinction between “God” and something believers are simply imagining. That’s an important point in all this. But of course, Josh is not going to let it go at that. He cites “faith as a way of knowing.” But does he ever explain how this works? Does he show how we can distinguish “faith” from imagination? If my neighbor says he’s out for a walk with his pet dragon, and I see no pet dragon, yet he assures me that his pet dragon is right there with us, can I use “faith as a way of knowing” to have awareness of this pet dragon? If it works for Jesus and the triune god of Christianity, why wouldn’t it work for the pet dragon? How exactly does it work? What are the steps I need to take, and how can I be sure that it secures genuine knowledge?

Of course, from what you’ve quoted here (I have not checked out the link), it does not seem that Josh has anticipated such questions. Again, as was confirmed in our discussions with MDR, Christianity really does not have an epistemology. “Just have faith” and “just believe” are all it really amounts to. These expressions are really no more than endorsements of relying on imagination as one’s means of “knowing.”

You wrote: “I'll be interested to read if the theist that you've interacted with in this new entry is as honest as Josh is about the role of imagination plays when it comes to deity belief.”

Yes, let’s see what happens. If you check out some of the comments over on Prayson’s blog, you’ll see that some commenters are saying my argument is stupid. One guy, posting under the moniker “Liberty of Thinking,” writes: “the presented argument is as dumb as Dumber’s mate, not worth the carbohydrates dealing with it.” What’s curious is that none of the folks who call my argument stupid or dumb explain why they think it’s stupid or dumb. That seems rather stupid to me.

By the way, thanks for pointing out the faulty link. I have repaired it.

Regards,
Dawson

January 29, 2013 1:51 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Matt Brown,

Thanks for your interesting comment.

You wrote: “Ok so i read your opening argument and the link to your support of premise 4.”

Thank you.

You wrote: “It seems to me that when you say ‘The god of Christianity is imaginary’ you mean to show how Christians come to their belief in God.”

That is not the primary point I’m making. The primary point is precisely that the god of Christianity is imaginary and therefore unreal. It’s a fantasy. It is no more real than Harry Potter or Alice in Wonderland, and for the same reasons, regardless of how any particular Christian comes to his belief in the Christian god. I think my argument is pretty clear in what it seeks to establish.

However, I would say in connection with this that all Christians rely on their imagination to some degree or another in forming their belief in their god. This secondary point is owing to the general primary point, namely the fact that the Christian god is imaginary, not real. I.e., since the Christian god is imaginary, human beings have no alternative but to use their imagination in order to “apprehend” it.

You asked: “In light of this, could you please explain to me how P3 does not commit the genetic fallacy.”

Premise 3 (“If the god of Christianity is imaginary, then it is not real and therefore does not actually exist”) cannot be fallacious since it is simply a specific hypothetical application of the truths identified in Premises 1 and 2 (i.e., “That which is imaginary is not real” and “If something is not real, it does not actually exist”). Premises 1 and 2 denote general truths and Premise 3 is a specific hypothetical application of those general truths, very much as we find in the following:

P1: All men are mortal.
P2. Socrates is a man.
C: Therefore Socrates is mortal.

While here P2 is not hypothetical in nature, it clearly links a specific case to a general truth. My argument’s P3 does essentially the same thing, though in a hypothetical manner. Indeed, the genus-species relationship involved is not fallacious, either in the above argument or in mine.

Of course, if you think my argument commits the genetic fallacy, it is up to you to demonstrate this.

Here’s a question for you: Can you provide an example of something that is both imaginary and real? I discuss this in my blog entry, so hopefully if you think you can propose something that is both imaginary and real, you can address the points I raise in my blog regarding this.

[continued…]

January 29, 2013 2:38 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “What I understand from your writings is that you are arguing: 1.Christians have bad methods of forming their beliefs about the world. 2. Therefore, their beliefs are false.”

I think, in the context of the argument I’ve defended in the present blog entry, it should be clear that I’m arguing that the Christian god is imaginary and therefore not real. I tried to make this as plain as possible.

Regarding your thought experiment in which you step outside one day and see something in the clouds, I would point out that, as an Objectivist, I recognize that knowledge is contextual, and that is because we formulate and retain our knowledge in the form of concepts which are integrated hierarchically. This hierarchical structure of concepts is the context underlying all knowledge beyond the axiomatic level.

There are specific reasons why 2+2=4 (assuming equivalent units) is true, and those reasons do not include reading what appear to be a bunch of symbols written in the sky. Given this, I would say that, if one believes that 2+2=4 because he saw it written in the clouds, he’s believing it for wrong reasons. Indeed, what specifically is he believing in that case? The scenario in your thought experiment suggests that abstract knowledge is a type of concrete and that we acquire abstract knowledge merely by means of perception. Thus it reduces to a denial of the conceptual level of cognition as such. Thus, contextually, such a belief would be entirely wrong since the context denies the role of conceptual integration.

Also, I would disagree that it is fallacious to reject the path your thought experiment proposes as a means of acquiring knowledge. The inference “I saw 2+2=4 written in the clouds, therefore it’s true that 2+2=4” is false. The truth of the equation 2+2=4 does not depend on it being written in the clouds. There is a fundamental difference between reason on the one hand (which my worldview consistently affirms as man’s only means of knowledge) and the many varieties of mysticism that are available in the shamanistic marketplace. To say that it is fallacious to reject irrationalism commits the fallacy of the stolen concept.

You wrote: “In closing, I would have you know that I am a Christian, but like yourself reject presuppositionalism as a valid way of arguing for the truth of a belief.”

Then perhaps you could help out. If you contend that your god is real and not imaginary, perhaps you can describe the cognitive process you performed in coming to the “knowledge” that your god is real. I would like to see if I get the same results you got from the process you use, assuming it does not involve the imagination. Right now, I know of no alternative to using my imagination when Christians tell me about their god. Appeals to “faith” are unhelpful of course, since this seems to be nothing more than a veiled affirmation of imagination. The term ‘faith’ is used essentially for smuggling purposes. I can “have faith” in Islam’s Allah or the Lahu’s Geusha just as easily as I can “have faith” in the Christian god. They all require me to imagine the object of worship in question and pretend that it is real when in fact there is nothing in reality (even symbols appearing in the clouds overhead!) which suggests that any of it is real. Indeed, if there were something in reality suggesting any of it were real, I would not find the need to use my imagination when contemplating the Christian god or any other mystical totem.

So perhaps you can help me out here?

Regards,
Dawson

January 29, 2013 2:38 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

I visited the Prayson's blog, and found a bunch of Christians whose cognitive skills are shitty. Then, what seems an atheist, whose cognitive skills are shitty. The guy dismissed the whole of Dawson's argument without reading it. Why are so many people so fucking lazy and avoid to read beyond the first few words?

January 29, 2013 8:52 PM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Hej Dawson.

Thank you for a robust response to my critic of your case. As I write a concisely short response to your response, I would like to make it clear that sadly it is atheists commenter who are firing ridicules.

I do not share their ridicules, Dawson, for I respect the passion you show and the intellect you put to make your case. That my friend is a beautiful mind at work.

It is my hope that you saw me encouraging them not to dismiss your case without reading and rereading it. I directed both to your two posts and your respond.

I also hope that you know I meant no ill in responding your case, as I hoped you will clarifies things that I might have misunderstood.

Cheers mate and I hope our to and fro writing will inspire as to think harder.

Love + Peace,
Prayson

January 29, 2013 9:37 PM  
Blogger Matt Brown said...

Thank you Bahnsen for the quick response!

I would like to ask for a precise definition of imagination that you use in your argument. Is it something that exists in ones mind(Inclusively) or is it something that that exists only in ones mind(Exclusively)? I am confused on this issue and it may effect how I would attempt to defeat your argument.


so maybe my thought experiment wasn't perfect but I think you agree with my main reason for purposing it. you said:
""There are specific reasons why 2+2=4 (assuming equivalent units) is true, and those reasons do not include reading what appear to be a bunch of symbols written in the sky. Given this, I would say that, if one believes that 2+2=4 because he saw it written in the clouds, he’s believing it for wrong reasons." I agree! For the simple facts that people can gain knowledge of true propositions by way of unreliable means, you cannot reject a proposition by pointing to the way someone came to believe in it.

You finally requested: "describe the cognitive process you performed in coming to the “knowledge” that your god is real."

I came to my belief in God by reading the bible. I realize that you think this is a horrible way to attain knowledge. Fine. (For w/e its worth I'm an old earth creationist with a lean towards theistic evolution so please don't think of me as "that fundamentalist guy")Though this is personally how I came to be a theist, I would never just tell you to have faith! I would tell you to look into evidential apologetics and natural theology.

Matt

January 29, 2013 9:58 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Photo,

Good to hear from you!

You wrote: “I visited the Prayson's blog, and found a bunch of Christians whose cognitive skills are shitty. Then, what seems an atheist, whose cognitive skills are shitty. The guy dismissed the whole of Dawson's argument without reading it. Why are so many people so fucking lazy and avoid to read beyond the first few words?”

Yes, I saw probably the same thing as you describe it accurately if not colorfully. At one point someone posting under the name “Shawn” wrote “I was alright until I saw premise 4. At that point I verbally said ‘Oh, come on!’” The author gives no explanation for this reaction. He probably wouldn’t want to verbalize that.

A couple commenters have challenged Prayson. One has pointed out that Prayson fails to address my question while responding to it with another question, which he (Prayson) apparently thinks is a stumper of sorts. Another referred to Prayson’s alternative question as “word play.” But then Prayson responded to this by saying my argument is “absurd.” Again, no explanation for this assessment is given. At minimum, ‘absurd’ means contrary to or at variance with reason. Reason calls that one produce evidence on behalf of his claims. I have done this. But Prayson has dismissed my evidences out of hand and proceeds as though epistemological concerns are irrelevant to knowledge claims. I find this absurd!

As for why folks choose the lazy way, as my beloved mother would often say to me, ‘water finds its own level’. People the world over never gave their own minds a chance, and still many others gave up at some point when they felt the effort was not worth the potential reward. Religion encourages such default on one’s own intellect.

Regards,
Dawson

January 30, 2013 4:21 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

By the way, comment moderation will turn on once my blog entry is more than a day old. Sorry for this. I hope this to be a temporary arrangement. Those who have been active on my blog in recent weeks know why.

Regards,
Dawson

January 30, 2013 4:22 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Prayson,

You wrote: “Thank you for a robust response to my critic of your case. As I write a concisely short response to your response, I would like to make it clear that sadly it is atheists commenter who are firing ridicules.”

That’s okay, Prayson. It really doesn’t bother me. I’ve heard much much worse over the years. You need not apologize for other people’s actions.

You wrote: “I do not share their ridicules, Dawson, for I respect the passion you show and the intellect you put to make your case. That my friend is a beautiful mind at work.”

Thank you.

You wrote: “It is my hope that you saw me encouraging them not to dismiss your case without reading and rereading it. I directed both to your two posts and your respond.”

Yes, I saw that. I appreciate it very much. I think it shows you’re willing to be fair to my position. There are many apologists out there who will not link back to my blog, even when criticizing selected portions of what I have written. So I notice things like this.

You wrote: “I also hope that you know I meant no ill in responding your case, as I hoped you will clarifies things that I might have misunderstood.”

Well, I didn’t see you calling me stupid or idiot or imbecile as some internet apologists posing as “credentialed scholars” have done, so I notice this too.

But while you’re at it, can you address my question once and for all? I’d really like to know your answer. Again, when I imagine your god, how is what I’m imagining not imaginary?

I really don’t think this is a trick question. It is not meant to be. Rather, I think it highlights a simple fact. Perhaps more than one.

Also, since you called my argument “absurd,” could you explain this as well? What exactly is absurd about my argument?

If you like, you can rephrase the argument to conclude something less personal for you. For example:

Premise 1: That which is imaginary is not real.
Premise 2: If something is not real, it does not actually exist.
Premise 3: If Islam’s Allah is imaginary, then it is not real and therefore does not actually exist.
Premise 4: Islam’s Allah is imaginary.
Conclusion: Therefore, Islam’s Allah is not real and therefore does not actually exist.


Is it still absurd? If so, how?

Regards,
Dawson

January 30, 2013 4:23 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Matt,

You wrote: “I would like to ask for a precise definition of imagination that you use in your argument. Is it something that exists in ones mind(Inclusively) or is it something that that exists only in ones mind(Exclusively)? I am confused on this issue and it may effect how I would attempt to defeat your argument.”

First of all, it is important to understand that imagination is a type of mental activity. We often use the noun ‘imagination’ to refer to the mental faculty which performs this type of activity, but any specific imagination is something one does or has done. This activity involves selectively rearranging things we have observed in reality to form a mental image. This activity can accurately represent things that have been observed (such as the pizza I hope to eat later), it can combine attributes of different things that have been observed (such as a snake with four heads and bat wings), etc. When you imagine something, that thing does not actually exist. What’s happening is that your consciousness is performing a certain type of activity. The object of this mental activity is secondary in nature – you were aware of other objects, objects existing independent of your conscious activity, well before you were able to manipulate them in your imagination.

So a working definition might be: the mental activity by which we selectively rearrange things we have observed in the form of a mental image.

Also, note that the mental image that you form when you imagine is fleeting and transitory: it lasts only as long as you perform the task of imagining it. Once you stop imagining it, it vanishes from your consciousness. Also, you can change the image at will while you are imagining it. The snake can have four heads, then five, then it can have roller skates instead of wings, etc.

Imagination does not give us awareness of things that exist independent of our consciousness. It is not a substitute for perception. When we imagine something, the something we imagine is not something that exists independent of our consciousness.

Since imagination is a mental activity, the best way to grasp what it is, is to perform it for yourself and introspect at the same time. If you read a page of a fantasy novel, like Harry Potter, you might find a description of its hero riding around on a broomstick. As you read this description, you may find yourself forming a mental image of what is being described. This is your imagination at work. Or, you may think what might happen if you touch a hot stove. You’re nowhere near a stove, hot or otherwise, but just reading this description may prompt you to form a mental image of a hot stove and yourself being careful not to touch it. Again, this is your imagination at work.

Does this help?

[continued…]

January 30, 2013 4:25 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "There are specific reasons why 2+2=4 (assuming equivalent units) is true, and those reasons do not include reading what appear to be a bunch of symbols written in the sky. Given this, I would say that, if one believes that 2+2=4 because he saw it written in the clouds, he’s believing it for wrong reasons."

You responded: “I agree! For the simple facts that people can gain knowledge of true propositions by way of unreliable means, you cannot reject a proposition by pointing to the way someone came to believe in it.”

Perhaps part of the problem here is that the example you use is so unrealistic. The point is that looking up into the sky and seeing what appear to be symbols written in the sky is not a means of gaining knowledge of what those apparent symbols are thought, in other contexts, to signify. In other words, this would not constitute knowledge of a basic mathematical equation to begin with. Grasping the truth of a mathematical equation requires more fundamental knowledge that is not presented in the scenario you propose – e.g., at minimum, knowledge of what each of those symbols is supposed to signify. I’m guessing you chose 2+2=4 deliberately because, in an actual hierarchical context, these symbols denote a commonly known truth, one that is quite elementary for learned adults. Indeed, no one wants to appear to be saying that 2+2=4 is false, right?

But speaking more broadly to the point I think you’re trying to make, I would respond that the way a person arrives at a given item of knowledge (or what may be wrongly presumed to be knowledge) is very crucial to whether or not it is true. That’s why we need epistemology. There are no shortcuts to genuine knowledge, so the steps one takes to the knowledge he claims to have are very relevant to whether or not that knowledge can be accepted as true. So I can indeed reject a proposition if the path by which one arrived at it is faulty. I’m confident that you would do the same. This is not the genetic fallacy by any stretch of its legitimate definition.

For example, if someone told you that ladybugs mate for life, and you asked him how he knew this, and he told you he knew this because Faure’s Barcarolle in a minor is written primarily in 6/8 time, you’d be perfectly justified in rejecting his claim about ladybugs, regardless of whether or not legitimately relevant contexts support the conclusion that ladybugs mate for life. Again, you would not be committing the genetic fallacy here. You’d simply be adhering to basic laws of logic. I would hope that you would agree that adherence to logic is a virtue.

[continued…]

January 30, 2013 4:27 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Over the years of my life, I have come to be very careful about what I accept as knowledge. Certain incidental things which have no real bearing on my life typically do not warrant critical attention. For instance, if my wife says that one of her friends is going to Hong Kong next weekend, I’m not going to examine this claim critically – it really makes no difference in my life. But Christians tell me that the universe was created by a supernatural consciousness, and they want not only that I believe this, but that I let this and a myriad of attendant beliefs rule my entire life. So you bet I’m not going to simply accept this claim as knowledge uncritically. This is why the bible puts so much emphasis on getting believers while they’re young and impressionable – they’re far less likely to have developed critical faculties at that point in their lives.

I’ve found that Christians in particular, who are charged by their worldview to go out into the world and actively proselytize for their religion, are far more critical of any reasoning given on behalf of *rejecting* their claims than they are of any “reasoning” given on behalf of promoting their beliefs. In general, in my experience, Christians are so eager for anything that confirms their beliefs that they will accept nearly anything as legitimating it. A fellow believer might say something like “I was praying last night and the Lord touched my heart,” and his “brothers in the Lord” typically are not going to challenge it: “Oh really? Now how do you know that the Lord was really touching your heart?” Believers take other believers’ pro-Christian claims at face value, never opening the hood to see how one arrived at what he is claiming. Critical faculties are engaged only when suggestions or claims raising doubts about their god-beliefs. Indeed, here, Matt, you ask me for “for a precise definition of imagination.” But when the apostle Paul speaks of righteousness, do you ever expect the apostle to give “a precise definition” of this term? Probably not.

I wrote: "describe the cognitive process you performed in coming to the ‘knowledge’ that your god is real."

Matt: “I came to my belief in God by reading the bible. I realize that you think this is a horrible way to attain knowledge.”

I don’t think it’s always bad to learn things by reading a book. I myself have learned a lot by reading the bible itself. For instance, I learned what some ancient people may have believed. They left us a record of what they believed. But that does not mean we should believe what they believed. That would not be intellectually responsible. My mind is more valuable to me than to accept everything I read.

Did you not have any knowledge of what Christianity taught about its god before reading the bible? Did you read it from cover to cover, beginning with Gen. 1 and ending with Rev. 22, as one might read a novel? Or did you jump around? Were you part of a study group, or was there someone mentoring you along? The bible is a huge tome. Can you recall what specifically you read that persuaded you that the god it describes is real? Did you ever stop and wonder if you were just imagining what the bible describes?

[continued…]

January 30, 2013 4:27 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In my experience, Christians tend to be frustratingly vague when it comes to the *how* of what they claim to believe and know, at least when it comes to the essentials of their religious confession. They will say that they *know* that the Christian god exists and does all the things that the bible says it does. But when asked *how* they know this, a wide range of usually elusive answers can be expected. Take for example “I read the Bible.” What if a person believed that it’s possible to ride through the sky sitting on a broomstick because he “read Harry Potter”? I’d think there’s a lot more to it than merely reading a text. For some unstated reason, the believer grants some kind of authority to one text that he denies to others. How does the believer make this decision?

Matt: “Though this is personally how I came to be a theist, I would never just tell you to have faith! I would tell you to look into evidential apologetics and natural theology.”

Well, I’ve submitted dozens if not hundreds of arguments for the existence of the Christian god to critical examinations, many of which I have posted on my blog and my website. And I’m more convinced now that ever that the Christian god is imaginary. So now what?

Regards,
Dawson

January 30, 2013 4:27 AM  
Blogger freddies_dead said...

Prayson appears to be a pretty typical Christian. Oh so quick to tell you what he "knows" i.e. that his God exists, but oh so determined to avoid telling you how he formed said "knowledge" i.e. by refusing to answer how he distinguishes between that which is real and that which is merely imaginary.

The dismissal of any and all evidence that suggests his God belief is wrong - especially when coupled with the feeling I have that he has done so without properly examining said evidence - doesn't really bode well for fruitful discussions. However, it's still a refreshing change to see discussions with someone who - for the time being at least - isn't a complete arsehole like MDR turned out to be.

January 30, 2013 5:47 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Greetings Friends: I too am anxious to read Prayson's and Matt's explanation of how they distinguish what they are imagining from what they know. This is a conundrum for them since Christianity lacks an epistemology and theory of concepts. However, that it is a conundrum may escape them as it escaped John Frame who explained "We know without knowing how we know." ~ Presuppositional Apologetics: An Introduction, Part 1 of 2; Introduction and "Creation," p. 6-7.

January 30, 2013 8:24 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Greetings friends. Part of the problem Christian Theists have in confronting the Argument From the Non-Reality of the Imaginary is confusion blurring the distinction between imaginary abstractions and speculative beliefs. This is no surprise because Christian thinkers must borrow epistemologies from naturalistic philosophies while ignoring how naturalism defines belief. The point here is that of the five main belief hypotheses, none are consistent with an immaterial, non-corporeal, A-spatial & A-temporal mind. Whichever belief model eventually becomes the dominate view or is actually true, the case will remain that an immaterial, non-corporeal, A-spatial and A-temporal mind cannot have beliefs. This is fatal to rational belief that the God of Classical Theism could possibly exist because knowledge as true justified belief cannot obtain within an immaterial, non-corporeal, A-spatial & A-temporal mind. Since the God of Classical Theism is by definition Omniscient, meaning having all knowledge (true justified beliefs) that is logically possible for it to have consistent with all its other basal attributes, then it cannot exist because it cannot have any belief and hence cannot have any knowledge. Therefore, the God of Classical Theism is merely an imaginary abstraction, but theists desperately want their God to be an actual entity. Their desire vivifies the feeling they identify as the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. The feeling in turn is employed to validate their beliefs which they can have by virtue of their physical brains.

January 30, 2013 2:00 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Thanks for your input regarding my interaction with Josh. Very helpful! He left some follow-up comments which I've yet to address. But I plan to.

As for your current blog entry, I find it interesting that in Romans 1:21 (KJ) we read:

"Because, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened."

I don't think much can be made from my asking: "vain in their imaginations" as opposed to *what* "in their imaginations"?

However, I do find it interesting that in other translations, we find "imaginations" replaced with terms like: "reasoning(s)," "thinking," "thoughts," "ideas," "speculations," and "useless discussions."

Although these are actions (or products) of consciousness, they are cognitively distinct.

If I were an apologist and saw "reasoning(s)" equated with "imaginations," (or with "speculations"), this would not sit well with me, especially if I was someone who desperately tried to pass himself off as a defender of reason while using the bible to do so.

Ydemoc





January 30, 2013 3:46 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Citing Romans 1:21, which states: "Because, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened."

Ydemoc asked: “I don't think much can be made from my asking: ‘vain in their imaginations’ as opposed to *what* ‘in their imaginations’?”

Very good question. I think the biblical answer to this would be: “approved in their imaginations” – for this would be the biblically approved approach to imagination. And it accords elegantly with 2 Timothy 2:15, which states: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Here’s an experiment: try reading any narrative passage of the bible without allowing your imagination to form mental images of what the text describes. This will only choke the life from the text. The only life it has is in the reader’s imagination.

Ydemoc wrote: “However, I do find it interesting that in other translations, we find ‘imaginations’ replaced with terms like: ‘reasoning(s)’, ‘thinking’, ‘thoughts’, ‘ideas’, ‘speculations’, and ‘useless discussions’."

And notice that in his blog entry responding to mine, Prayson conflates concept-formation with imagination. The biblical worldview has no theory of concepts, so its adherents will not understand, going by what the bible teaches them, the difference between a concept and a mental image of something. This is in effect how the mystical worldview shackles the mind to the concrete level of knowledge – it does not allow for the abstract level of knowledge to be anchored to perceptual awareness. Thus any abstract thinking for the believer is completely divorced from the reality in which we live, allowing the imagination to take over the mind.

Ydemoc: “Although these are actions (or products) of consciousness, they are cognitively distinct.”

Indeed, they very much are. Reasoning and imagining are not the same type of mental activity.

Ydemoc: “If I were an apologist and saw ‘reasoning(s)’ equated with ‘imaginations’, (or with ‘speculations’), this would not sit well with me, especially if I was someone who desperately tried to pass himself off as a defender of reason while using the bible to do so.”

But it seems not to bother believers at all. Again, notice how believers do not expect the apostle Paul to give a “precise definition” of terms like ‘righteousness’, or for Jesus to give a “precise definition” of ‘love’. Critical scrutiny is withheld by the believer in the case of what he reads in the bible. But if a non-Christian critic comes along and uses the term ‘imagination’, the believer suddenly starts demanding “precise definitions.” Only when something disconfirming the devotional program of the Christian belief system comes along, is critical scrutiny switched on. It is not applied consistently at all.

Regards,
Dawson

January 30, 2013 4:28 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Regarding beliefs being contingent to a being having a physical body or brain consider Representationalism. In this hypothesized belief schema representations of propositions or either linguistic or map-like abstract structures that are activated upon experience of particular stimuli and subsequently cause beliefs. God cannot experience anything as it is not a material being located in space-time, not can any aspect of God be caused. Thus if the Representational belief hypothesis is true God in the narrow sense of an Omniscient being holding all possible true justified beliefs cannot exist.

In Dispositionalism beliefs are viewed as complex patterns of behaviors and even if some type of structured representations are involved, they are of import only to the extent that they underwrite complex patterns of behavior. This imply's for someone to believe some proposition P is for that person to possess one or more particular behavioral dispositions pertaining to P. If this view is correct, then God cannot have beliefs because it doesn't have a body. Disembodied consciousness has no behavior. Hence God in the narrow sense of an Omniscient being holding all possible true justified beliefs cannot exist.

If belief is defined by Interpretationism, then patterns of observable behavior provide evidence that attribute beliefs and desires to a person, and then predict that she will behave rationally, given those beliefs and desires. The person is viewed as a system with beliefs whose behavior falls into patterns that may be captured with relative simplicity and accuracy. The system has the particular belief that P if its behavior conforms to a pattern that may be effectively captured by attributing beliefs and desires to the person, and then to predict that she will behave rationally and attributing the belief that P. In this case as well, God in the narrow sense of an Omniscient being holding all possible true justified beliefs cannot exist because it cannot have behaviors nor can any influence cause its decisions.

In Functionalism mental states are viewed as responses of a particular type to its actual and potential, or its typical, causal relations to sensory stimulations or behaviors. Under Functionalism, beliefs stem from stimuli and in turn cause behaviors. The belief that one is in pain results from tissue damage and results in avoidance or amelioration behavior. If Functionalism is true, then God in the narrow sense of an Omniscient being holding all possible true justified beliefs cannot exist because it cannot have behaviors nor can any influence cause its decisions.

Eliminativism and Instrumentalism hold that belefs aren't valid abstract objects at all but do have usefulness as attributing a belief to someone says something true about that person's patterns of behavior and response. If these are correct, then knowledge as ture justified belief cannot obtain and God in the narrow sense of an Omniscient being holding all possible true justified beliefs cannot exist because there aren't any beliefs.

If Theism is to maintian that its God is real it has to discard the idea of knowledge as true justified belief and adopt the Objectivist view that “Knowledge” is . . . a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation. However, Dawson has shown that an Omniscient mind cannot hold knowledge in conceptual form.

January 30, 2013 9:18 PM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Thank you so much Dawson for a warm response to my comment. I believe you are one of the few atheists that I came across that shows how an atheist ought to be. You simply are a superb example not only for atheists but also theists.

Addressing your question, but I hope not once and for all :) , when I imagine X, how is what I’m imagining [X] not imaginary?

Simple answer is if X[object] exists, then what I am[subject] imagining is not imaginary, and if X does not exist, then what I am imagining is imaginary.

Simply put, we (subjects) cannot imagine X (object) in or out of existence.

Dawson, I did not call your argument "absurd", as I think it is a valid argument and if 4 is true, I think I should change from theism to atheism.

What I did Dawson is hê eis to adunaton apagôgê, reduce your question viz., when I imagine X [your God], how is what I’m imagining [X] not imaginary, to absurdity, by showing that we could substitute X[your God] with any preposition e.g. X = no God, a cat, your wife etc.

By substituting X with other prepositions, like "no God", then we end up in absurdities.

Hijacking your case to show this absurdity:

If you like, you can rephrase the argument to conclude something less personal for you. For example:

Premise 1: That which is imaginary is not real.
Premise 2: If something is not real, it does not actually exist.
Premise 3: If nonexistence of God is imaginary, then it is not real and therefore does not actually exist.
Premise 4: Nonexistence of God is imaginary.
Conclusion: Therefore, Nonexistence of God is not real and therefore does not actually exist.

Remember Dawson; my aim was not to argue that God is not imaginary, but to show that your argument is flaw. I could simply be an atheist, I am not, who simply want a good argument to think God is imaginary.

To show that God is imaginary, I believe, as Dawkins' God is a delusion, you need to give a positive case to show that that God does not exist.

Remember it is you who makes a claim, namely God is imaginary, and thus it is you who bears the burden to show that it is true that God is imaginary. You cannot claim God is imaginary, and then ask others to show otherwise. If we make a claim, then we defend our claim.

I did not address your 13 points because I assumed that they were all true but not relevant because what matters is not the epistemological status of subjects but the ontological status of an object.

Example: Jane Doe may ask John Doe, how many people do John think are in the library. John looks at his watch and sees 2:10 p.m. and imagined 210. He replies to Jane: “I there are 210 people in the library.”

Is John imaging imaginary? Yes if there are not 210, because he believe what was not real, and no, if there are 210 in the library.

Simply put, it is not about subject’s epistemology [John creative way of knowing] but object ontology [people in the library].

If the people in the library are 210, then it does not matter how John came to know, if he imagine 210 and they are 210 then his imagining is not imaginary. But if they are not 210, then yes John imaging is imaginary indeed.

So for we to claim that John’s 210 people imagination is imaginary, we need to show that there are indeed no 210 people in the library. Showing how John got to know that there are 210 people is irrelevant even if true.

So simply put if X exists or so e.g. God or 210 people, then what you or John are imagining is not imaginary, and if God/210 do not exist/not so, then what you or John are imagining is imaginary.

I hope this clarifies a bit and bring a tiny little understanding on what I attempted to say.

Thank you dearly much Dawson. Know that you are awesome and have a beautiful mind my dear friend. I salute you for formulating this case.

Yours,
Prayson

January 31, 2013 4:48 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello friends and Prayson (ProteusIQ)

Thank you for your interesting and stimulating response.
Dawson has indicated in past blogs that he allows others to respond to those whom address comments to him with proviso that such responses do not speak for him.

You point that Remember it is you who makes a claim, namely God is imaginary, and thus it is you who bears the burden to show that it is true that God is imaginary. You cannot claim God is imaginary, and then ask others to show otherwise. If we make a claim, then we defend our claim. is indeed valid and prompts me to suggest additional premises for Dawson’s main argument as follows.

Premise 1: Christianity’s God abstraction lacks explanatory power, is not parsimonious with human knowledge of reality, shows a dearth of scope of coverage, and has no extensibility to general theory.

Premise 2: The only ways by which human beings can gain knowledge of the Christian God are intimately associated with either self-imagination or the imaginations of those who authored, edited, redacted, redacted, or pseudepigraphically forged sacred scriptural writings.

Premise 3: A probability of actual ontological existence of the Christian God can be shown by Bayesian probability to be very low. (From premise 1 and premise 2)
Premise 4: That which is very likely imaginary is very likely not real.

Premise 5: If something is very likely not real, it very likely does not actually exist.

Premise 6: If the god of Christianity is very likely imaginary, then it is very likely not real and therefore very likely does not actually exist.

Premise 7: The god of Christianity is very likely imaginary.
Conclusion: Therefore, the god of Christianity is very likely not real and therefore very likely does not actually exist.

By modifying the argument it is removed from the category of strong atheistic argument and placed among the ranks of weak atheism/agnostic arguments. Since the probability of the Christian God actually existing can be shown to be very low, then the burden of proof goes on the shoulders of the religious adherent.

Many Thanks for participating in this stimulating and interesting discussion. I appreciate you as a person and sincerely hope you and your family prosper and enjoy good health.

January 31, 2013 6:19 AM  
Blogger NAL said...

Your imagining of your wife and the objective being that is your wife are not equivalent. They are two different classes of things. Imagine that your wife is pregnant and let us know how that works out.

I can imagine having sex with a cute girl I know, but I would never fool myself into believing that it happened in reality.

January 31, 2013 11:20 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello friends:

According to Newadvent.org’s The Nature and Attributes of God article the Christian God’s Infinity entails its Perfection.

When we say that God is infinite, we mean that He is unlimited in every kind of perfection or that every conceivable perfection belongs to Him in the highest conceivable way.

The same article offers a description of the Christian God’s Immutability.

That the Divine nature is essentially immutable, or incapable of any internal change, is an obvious corollary from Divine infinity. Changeableness implies the capacity for increase or diminution of perfection, that is, it implies finiteness and imperfection.

The Christian God’s Omniscience is described as follows.

That God is omniscient or possesses the most perfect knowledge of all things, follows from His infinite perfection. In the first place He knows and comprehends Himself fully and adequately, and in the next place He knows all created objects and comprehends their finite and contingent mode of being. Hence He knows them individually or singularly in their finite multiplicity, knows everything possible as well as actual; knows what is bad as well as what is good. Everything, in a word, which to our finite minds signifies perfection and completeness of knowledge may be predicated of Divine omniscience, and it is further to be observed that it is on Himself alone that God depends for His knowledge. To make Him in any way dependent on creatures for knowledge of created objects would destroy His infinite perfection and supremacy.

In The Impossibility of God essay no.17 is by Norman Kretzmann and is titled “Omniscience and Immutability. Kretzmann’s argument turns on a contradiction between God’s Immutability and Omniscience. If Kretzmann’s argument is good, then there cannot exist an Infinitely perfect being that is Omniscient and Immutable.

1. A perfect being is not subject to change.
2. A perfect being knows everything.
3. A being that knows everything always knows what time it is.
4. A being that always knows what time it is, is subject to change.
5. A perfect being is subject to change.
6. A perfect being is not a perfect being.
Finally, therefore,
7. There is no perfect being.
Premises 1 and 2 describe the Divine Attributes of Immutability and Omniscience while 3 appears to be a logical truth. 5, 6, and 7 follow inferentially from 1, 2, 3, and sub conclusion 4. Kretzmann’s argument is most vulnerable at 4.
Objection A: “It must be granted that a being that always knows what time it is knows something that is changing – say, the state of the universe, But change in the object of knowledge does not entail change in the knower.”
(cont)

January 31, 2013 2:10 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

(part 2) Kretzmann dispatches the first objection by noting that it depends upon an imprecise characterization of the object of knowledge. If the object is complex and what the subject knows is a general proposition about the object then small changes in detail do not necessitate change in the subject. If, however, the subject knows specific details about the object, then changes in those details necessarily impose changes to the subject’s beliefs about the object. If Smith knows the Chrysler building is 1046 feet tall, and it is predicated that the object of Smith’s knowledge is the Chrysler building in general, then changes to furniture arrangements inside offices with the Chrysler building will not cause a change in Smith’s beliefs. If the object of Smith’s knowledge is the height of the Chrysler building, and a 40 foot radio tower is installed atop the Chrysler building, If Smith is aware of such a change in the object of his knowledge, then Smith will stop believing the Chrysler building is 1046 feet tall and will start believing it to be 1086 feet tall. Kretzmann explained: In the case of always knowing what time it is, the object of knowledge is not the state of the universe but rather the changing of the state of the universe. … To know the changing of anything is to know first that P and then that not-P (for some particular instance of P), and a knower that knows first one proposition and then another is a knower that changes.

January 31, 2013 2:14 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Prayson,

Thanks for your message. I gave your comment some careful thought and have composed a response below. Please read it carefully. Let me know if you have any further questions.

You wrote: “Addressing your question, but I hope not once and for all :) , when I imagine X, how is what I’m imagining [X] not imaginary? Simple answer is if X[object] exists, then what I am[subject] imagining is not imaginary, and if X does not exist, then what I am imagining is imaginary.”

I think you’re missing something very fundamental here, Prayson. I will explain once again. I have a wife. She is real. She actually exists. But when I imagine here, what I am imagining is not real; what I am imagining is imaginary, regardless of how closely I have sought to tailor my imagination of her to what she actually is. NAL gave the example of imagining your wife pregnant. If I imagine my wife is pregnant, even if it turns out that my wife is in fact pregnant, I was still imagining this all the same. It just happens to turn out that what I imagined and what actually obtains are in agreement. But the imaginary is still imaginary nonetheless.

I have asked you to give an example of something you can imagine but is also real. Thinkers need to be more careful about the distinction between what is real and what they are imagining. I can imagine my wife as I know her to be; she is real, but I am still imagining her, and what I am imagining is not real – it will not get up and have a life of its own. It is still confined to a mere image of my making in my mind, regardless of how consistently I have formed it with what I know to be true. I can suddenly imagine my wife as I know her to sprout wings and fly to Jupiter. Reality will not suddenly conform to this. It is imaginary, it is unreal.

[continued…]

January 31, 2013 2:50 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You said: “Simply put, we (subjects) cannot imagine X (object) in or out of existence.”

That’s true – we cannot imagine something into or out of existence. This of course is a different matter from what we’ve been discussing. What we have been discussing up to this point is whether or not what we imagine is imaginary. I am saying that when we imagine something, what we imagine is imaginary, regardless of how closely it resembles the facts. I can imagine traffic jams in Tokyo; and behold, I’m betting there actually are traffic jams in Tokyo. But what I am imagining is still imaginary. And since I have never traveled throughout much of Tokyo, what specifically I imagine will not resemble what specifically is the case there. Only general agreement will obtain here.

As for whether or not imagination has the power to bring something into existence or wipe it out, my worldview consistently affirms a principle called the primacy of existence. This is the explicit recognition that existence exists independent of consciousness. Among the many things that this means in terms of application is that consciousness does not have the power to create existence. Given my worldview’s explicit affirmation of the primacy of existence principle, I can consistently hold that one cannot imagine something into or out of existence. You affirm this here which suggests that you at least implicitly recognize the truth of the primacy of existence.

The alternative principle is called the primacy of consciousness. This is the view that some consciousness, whether human, collective or supernatural, does have the power to bring things into existence or wipe them out by means of an act of will, such as imagination. This is the stuff of religion. Christianity, for instance, holds that a supernatural consciousness created the universe “ex nihilo” by an act of will. The Christian god “spoke” the universe into existence, as some sources put it. So while I can consistently hold that we cannot imagine something into or out of existence, you as a theist cannot consistently hold to this truth. You have to make allowance for a consciousness which does according to your worldview have this ability.

[continued…]

January 31, 2013 2:50 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “Dawson, I did not call your argument ‘absurd’, as I think it is a valid argument and if 4 is true, I think I should change from theism to atheism.”

Okay, yes, you’re right. You did not call my argument absurd. You called my question absurd. Here’s what you wrote:

<< I think Dawson Bethrick’s atheist question is not tricky but absurd. >>

This was on your blog in a comment you made in reply to “makagutu” date-stamp January 28, 2013 at 17:12. So I guess I don’t understand what you mean by ‘absurd’. My question was:

<< When I imagine your god, how is what I am imagining not imaginary? >>

I know that when I try to form an idea of the Christian god based on what the bible says and/or what Christians tell me about the god they worship, I need to use my imagination. When I was a believer, I know that I was imagining things. I recall, for instance, waiting painfully long periods for a bus and praying to Jesus to make the bus come faster. As I would pray, I would immerse my mind into the imaginary realm of dialoguing with this Jesus, hoping desperately for some kind of confirmation that I knew was not imaginary, a confirmation that I could not honestly say ever came. I imagined demons and devils trying to trick me and make my life more difficult. I imagined battles between Jesus and his adversaries. My entire imagination was filled with all this stuff. I recognized that this was happening with all the believers in my church, for what they verbalized about their experience and “relationship” with Jesus tracked everything I was doing very closely. Indeed, I learned to imagine Jesus from them! So I know that I was imagining. Thus my question is: when I imagine your god, how is what I am imagining not imaginary?

The points that I gave in the beginning of my reply to you should be sufficient to explain to you why I think what I imagine is entirely imaginary. Is it starting to sink in?

Indeed, the reverse seems to be the case: it is absurd to suppose that what someone is imagining is real.

[continued…]

January 31, 2013 2:50 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “What I did Dawson is hê eis to adunaton apagôgê, reduce your question viz., when I imagine X [your God], how is what I’m imagining [X] not imaginary, to absurdity, by showing that we could substitute X[your God] with any preposition e.g. X = no God, a cat, your wife etc.”

But it doesn’t matter what we put in place of X. If I’m imagining something, regardless of what it is, what is being imagined is still imaginary. This is what you are missing in all this. None of what you insert in place of “your god” as I originally fashioned my syllogism will change the nature of imagination. I can imagine my wife, and even though I do have a wife and my wife actually exists, what I imagine is still imaginary. This is guaranteed by the type of mental operation that imagination is. What specifically I imagine can come very close to what actually is the case, but this has no bearing on the matter. You’re allowing this to confuse you about the nature of imagination.

Prayson: “By substituting X with other prepositions, like ‘no God’, then we end up in absurdities.”

I’ve already spoken to the this viz. the nature of imagination. “No god” or “no cat” or “no wife” or “no pizza” are all negations; they affirm the absences of objects. But since imagination consists of forming a mental image, something needs to be the object of focus when we imagine. So this route does not show that anything that I have presented is absurd. Rather, the absurdity is in the denial of an object in a conscious process. Just ask: when I imagine that there is no cat, *what* (i.e., what object, in positive terms) am I imagining? Nothing positive here is given. Neither my question nor my argument has this flaw. To charge my argument with a flaw using this route of critique is to mischaracterize what my argument actually does. So you’re not addressing my argument, you’re addressing something other than my argument.

[continued…]

January 31, 2013 2:51 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson wrote:

<< Hijacking your case to show this absurdity:

If you like, you can rephrase the argument to conclude something less personal for you. For example:

Premise 1: That which is imaginary is not real.
Premise 2: If something is not real, it does not actually exist.
Premise 3: If nonexistence of God is imaginary, then it is not real and therefore does not actually exist.
Premise 4: Nonexistence of God is imaginary.
Conclusion: Therefore, Nonexistence of God is not real and therefore does not actually exist.
>>

Two very important points challenge the point you’re trying to make with this revision of my argument:

1. Your version of the argument denies an object to the imagination process. Imagine *what*? We don’t imagine absences of things; we imagine things. My argument does not suffer from this flaw. But yours does. Moreover, aside from imagination, I see nothing absurd about affirming the non-existence of any god, just as I see nothing absurd about affirming the non-existence of the tooth fairy. So just on this point, your attempt to show that my argument reduces to absurdity fails entirely.

2. I have presented evidence on behalf of my argument’s Premise 4 – no less than 13 significant reasons suggesting that the Christian god is indeed imaginary. Not only have you not addressed any of those points of evidence, your revised version of my argument is not supplied with any supporting evidence on behalf of your version’s Premise 4. So your version does not even have any support for its key premise, while mine does. It’s not clear how you think you can achieve what you say you’re achieving by using this process.

[continued…]

January 31, 2013 2:51 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “Remember Dawson; my aim was not to argue that God is not imaginary, but to show that your argument is flaw. I could simply be an atheist, I am not, who simply want a good argument to think God is imaginary.”

I’d say your attempts to show that my argument is flawed have failed decisively. Meanwhile, you have not actually shown how what I imagine when I imagine your god is not imaginary. You don’t even show how what you imagine when you imagine your god is not imaginary. I’ve completed many laps already, and you’re still stuck at the starting gate.

Prayson: “To show that God is imaginary, I believe, as Dawkins' God is a delusion, you need to give a positive case to show that that God does not exist.”

If the imaginary is unreal and what you call “god” is merely imaginary, then it is unreal. Thus it does not exist. This is plainly logical. Thus to show that your god is not real, all I have to do is point out that it’s imaginary. I certainly don’t have to do what Dawkins does. Hell no!

Prayson: “Remember it is you who makes a claim, namely God is imaginary, and thus it is you who bears the burden to show that it is true that God is imaginary.”

I realize this. That is why I presented my 13 points of evidence to support my case.

Prayson: “You cannot claim God is imaginary, and then ask others to show otherwise.”

Why not? My “claim” that the Christian god is imaginary is in fact not a baseless assertion. I have cited ample evidence on behalf of it. I am convinced that this conclusion is true. So I affirm it publicly. If others want to challenge it, why shouldn’t I expect them to show otherwise?

Prayson: “If we make a claim, then we defend our claim.”

So if you defend your claim that the proposition “the nonexistence of god is imaginary” is absurd?

[continued…]

January 31, 2013 2:51 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “I did not address your 13 points because I assumed that they were all true but not relevant because what matters is not the epistemological status of subjects but the ontological status of an object.”

Then you seem to have assumed that none of the 13 points I’ve raised have any bearing on the ontological question of the nature of the Christian god. But how did you establish this? Indeed, if the Christian god is in fact imaginary, as I have contended, then its ontological nature is that it is imaginary, as I have contended. Thus any epistemological issues which I can cite to support this are entirely relevant. So to dismiss them for the reasons you have, you are essentially begging the question.

Prayson: “Example: Jane Doe may ask John Doe, how many people do John think are in the library. John looks at his watch and sees 2:10 p.m. and imagined 210. He replies to Jane: ‘I there are 210 people in the library’.”

Okay. This sounds more like a guess than imagination. But let’s say John actually imagined here, for you say he “imagined 210.” So John imagined. Get that? John imagined.

Prayson: “Is John imaging imaginary?”

I’m not sure I understand this question. Did you mean to write “John’s” here? As I’ve pointed out previously, I have nowhere contended that the act of imagining something is itself imaginary. If John imagined something, he actually did imagine it.

Prayson: “Yes if there are not 210, because he believe what was not real, and no, if there are 210 in the library.”

See, here’s where I disagree. I say that if John imagined, he imagined regardless of *what* he imagined. That’s because imagination is a specific type of mental process. It could be the case that he imagined that 210 people were in the room, having no knowledge of the case otherwise, and after a count was made, it turned out that there were indeed 210 people. But earlier John was still imagining just the same. Imagination is a certain type of process, Prayson. Here John would have simply gotten lucky. And notice that it was not by means of imagination that the actual number of people in attendance was ascertained; they had to use reason to do this. Imagination was not a means of discovering what was the case.

[continued…]

January 31, 2013 2:52 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “Simply put, it is not about subject’s epistemology [John creative way of knowing] but object ontology [people in the library].”

But earlier in the example it was about John imagining. Remember? I pointed that out above. Later it was checked to see if John got lucky. And if he did get lucky, well he was still imagining earlier on. The actual count will not change this, Prayson.

Prayson: “If the people in the library are 210, then it does not matter how John came to know, if he imagine 210 and they are 210 then his imagining is not imaginary. But if they are not 210, then yes John imaging is imaginary indeed.”

I would say that if John “imagined 210” people, he imagined 210 people regardless of how many people were there, regardless of whether or not he later found out how many people were there, regardless of whether or not it turned out to be in fact 210 people. Imagination is still imagination. Do you see what I’m getting at here? The underlying point is that we need to distinguish between imagination and reality consistently. This is what you’re failing to do in all of this, Prayson.

Prayson: “So for we to claim that John’s 210 people imagination is imaginary, we need to show that there are indeed no 210 people in the library.”

No, we don’t need to do this, for we need to keep in mind that imagination does not have to correspond to reality for imagination to be imagination. It can correspond to a great degree, as when I imagine my wife.

Consider this example: I am sitting at my dining room table, and I imagine that I touch the hot stove later when I’m cooking, and consequently burn my finger. So at time X I am indeed imagining. This is fact. A half hour later, when I am standing in front of my hot stove and cooking, I accidently touch the hot stove with my finger and get burned. So at time X+30min I actually did touch the hot stove and burned my finger. You seem to be saying that because what happened at time X+30min, what happened at time X did not happen. But this, my friend, is entirely absurd. Back at time X, I was still very much imagining.

So I would say you need to give this all more careful thought before proceeding, Prayson, as you’re making some terrible blunders in all this, blunders that I’ve been trying to help you avoid.

Regards,
Dawson

January 31, 2013 2:52 PM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Well Dawson, I think we are using a different understand of imagine and imaginary. That you for your respond. I will compose a respond on my blog and let readers draw their own conclusions. Thank you dearly much for everything.

January 31, 2013 4:38 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson wrote: “Well Dawson, I think we are using a different understand of imagine and imaginary.”

I have made ample effort to explain what is happening when a person imagines something. So my understanding of what imagination is should be clear. If you have a different understanding in mind, I think you need to articulate what you have in mind and draw focus on what is different between our respective models. Matt Brown asked me to clarify what I mean by imagination, and I have done my best to do so. No one has challenged what I have presented on that score from what I have seen. So if you disagree with something I’ve presented, please spell it out clearly. I think that is only reasonable.

I would also hope that you could make some careful effort to grasp what I have been saying about the nature of imagination as it figures in the context of the argument I have presented. This is key to grasping the soundness of my argument and its implications for Christian god-belief. Since you recognize that my argument is valid, it is the context which informs its premises which you will have to challenge if you want to debunk its conclusion, for the conclusion follows logically from those premises. So I’d say you have your work cut out for you if you wish to proceed.

[continued...]

January 31, 2013 4:51 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Another point I’d like to make about imagination is that the image we form when we imagine something is always specific. If I imagine a girl, for instance, I will necessarily imagine certain specific details. These details can vary, and I can in fact vary them at will. But I cannot imagine no girl in particular. Whatever girl I imagine, there will be specific hair color, eye color, skin color, hair length, nose shape, clothing style (or none at all – which would introduce a whole new category of specifics!), etc.

So when I’m asked to imagine “no cat,” I still have to bring up what I know about cats and imagine some specifics to the cat whose absence I’m trying to imagine. So even here I’m imagining what I’m trying to imagine the absence of. It seems that I have to imagine a cat first before I can imagine “no cat.”

If that’s the case, then I would have to imagine “God” first before I could imagine “no God,” for the same reasons – i.e., given the nature of the process of imagining anything. This is yet another hurdle that I don’t think your counter-version of my argument will be able to overcome.

[continued…]

January 31, 2013 4:51 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Moreover, and this is important, when I imagine my wife, I am informing what I imagine with details that I have observed in reality, details which exist independent of my consciousness, independent of anything I imagine, in order for the image that I form to be an image of my wife specifically. Thus my imagination of my wife is ultimately based in perception, for I have perceived my wife on countless occasions, and all the perceptual details of my experiences of my wife become available for me to use in forming my image of my wife. It is precisely this – the fact that my imagination of my wife is based ultimately on facts that I have perceived firsthand – that makes it seem strange to the casual observer when I say what I imagine when I imagine my wife does not exist. Don’t I actually have a wife? Doesn’t she actually exist? Yes, she does. She exists independent of any conscious activity which I perform, including imagination. But what I imagine certainly does not exist independent of my conscious activity, even if it is intended to resemble what I have perceived in the world existing independent of my conscious activity. My imagination is still a mental process, and it cannot, as Prayson has pointed out, bring something into existence or wipe it out. There is no getting around the fact that there is a fundamental distinction between what I imagine and what actually exists, even if what I imagine is informed by facts which I have personally observed and perceived.

But notice that when we get to the notion of a god, the image we form of that god is not based on some concrete that we have perceived in reality existing independent of our consciousness as we find in the case of imagining a person with whom we are personally familiar. I have to piece together this image of a god from abstract descriptions that have no correspondence in the reality I perceive. The Christian god, for instance, is supposed to be a bodiless consciousness. But I have never perceived a bodiless consciousness. I have to abstract the attribute of consciousness from actual things that I have perceived, such as people I know (including myself) and wipe out, in the context of the image that I am forming, the body that always hosts that consciousnesses whose existence I can verify by rational means. Similarly with other attributes which the Christian god is said to have.

So even if one wants to say that what he imagines is real in the case of objects of which he has awareness by means other than imagination (e.g., he has perceived his wife, his cat, pizzas, trees, etc.), we see already that a profound dissimilarity obtains between such objects and something like the Christian god. For since we do not perceive what Christians describe as their god, we cannot form our imagination of the Christian god based directly on what we have perceived. So to say that what we imagine when we imagine the Christian god might have some reality because when we imagine a person we personally know, the person we know actually exists, constitutes a failure to integrate the fact that the two cases are profoundly dissimilar. We have knowledge of people we know by means of direct perceptual awareness, a means of awareness that is not imaginative in nature. But we do not have such awareness of the Christian god or any god. We have to imagine it first and only then pretend that what we imagine is real.

So I will stand by my argument. Prayson has acknowledged its validity. And I have defended, I think successfully, the truth of its premises. Therefore the conclusion follows necessarily.

But perhaps I’ve missed something. If so, please feel free to raise your challenges. I am happy to examine them, if for nothing more than for the opportunity to make my argument even stronger.

Regards,
Dawson

January 31, 2013 4:51 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

You wrote, regarding the argument Prayson presented: "Your [Prayson's] version of the argument denies an object to the imagination process. Imagine *what*? We don’t imagine absences of things; we imagine things."

If what you've taken the time to write and explain to Prayson doesn't sink in for him (and -- other his confessional investment being an obstacle to his understanding -- I can see absolutely no reason at all why it shouldn't sink in), then perhaps he might find it helpful to take a look at what Rand wrote on p. 149 of "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology." It's there that she talks about the concept "nothing." Perhaps he might find it relevant to the discussion.

Ydemoc

January 31, 2013 6:14 PM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

My respond is published on my blog. Thank you once again.

February 01, 2013 12:19 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson's response to my defense of my argument can be found on his blog here: Bethrick's Unsuccessful Case Against Christian God.

I have not read it yet - I just saw Prayson's own comment announcing that it was up. I will try to look at it this evening.

In the meantime, if anyone gets a chance to review it and would like to post a comment, please feel free to do so. I will publish your comments as soon as I am able to.

Regards,
Dawson

February 01, 2013 1:02 AM  
Blogger NAL said...

Prayson's response is simply a rehash of his comments here.

One can imagine something that exists or something that doesn't exist. Prayson can imagine his wife and he can imagine his wife 9-months pregnant. Of course he would need to have a mental image of a 9-month pregnant women to combine with the mental image of his wife.

It is ironic that Prayson uses an imagining of 210 people to claim that this is an ontological problem. The counting of the 210 people is an epistemological solution in determining if John's has imagined something that exists or not.

This is exactly point 2: "Religious philosophy provides no epistemological alternative to the imagination ..."

February 01, 2013 10:31 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Friends
Further to my reporting of Norman Kretzmann’s “Omniscience and Immutability” essay printed in “The Impossibility of God”, I will now describe Objection B and Kretzmann’s response.

Objection B: The beliefs of a being that always knows what time it is are subject to change, but a change in a being’s beliefs need not produce a change in the being itself. If last year Jones believed the Platonic epistles to be genuine and this year he believes them to be spurious, then Jones has changed his mind; and that sort of change may be considered a change in Jones. But if last year Jones believed it was 1965, and this year he believes it is 1966, he has not changed his mind, he has merely taken account of a calendar change; and that sort of change in beliefs should not be considered a change in Jones. The change in beliefs entailed by always knowing what time it is, is that taking account sort of change rather than a change of mind, the sort of change in beliefs that might reasonably be said to have been a least in part initiated by the believer and that might therefore be reasonably attributed to him.

Kretzmann describes a change in beliefs entailed by knowing the change of anything as the taking-account sort and by implication a change of mind is simply a consequence of a taking of account. Kretzmann characterized Objection B as a disappointment in the magnitude of the change necessitated by always knowing what time it is. He deflected Objection B by pointing out that entailed changes in belief following from knowing what time it is while not sufficient to cause a change in attitude or character were still sufficient to prove incompatible with Divine Immutability. I think this correct based on how beliefs are philosophically modeled and the way in which Divine Omniscience is described by the Catholic Encyclopedia found at newadvent.org.

He knows all created objects and comprehends their finite and contingent mode of being. Hence He knows them individually or singularly in their finite multiplicity, knows everything possible as well as actual; knows what is bad as well as what is good.

It is claimed this follows from Divine Perfection, hence is seems this alleged knowledge would have to ( if it were the case that the Christian God existed) encompass all entities equally to qualify as “Perfect.” The knowledge of what time it is as clocked by the state of the universe from infinitesimally small Planck time to the next would have to be equally important to a Perfectly Omniscient being as would things or states of affairs that Smith or Jones found to be matters of grave importance. I think Objection B fails to dissolve Kretzmann’s argumemt.

February 01, 2013 11:15 AM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

I suspect that Preyston is not really reading what you write Dawson. I doubt that he read your 13 points beyond a few words in each. He seems to form an image, a mirage, of what you said based on a glance at your words, takes the first sentence or paragraph that he imagines might be a summary of the whole thing, and there he goes misunderstanding the point and insisting in his already dismantled "answers."

February 01, 2013 5:59 PM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

If you meant Prayson,photosynthesis, then I can inform you that I did not only read but read it 4 times. As I explained, I assumed that all 13 points are true. I contended that they are irrelevant because they deal with the subject and not an object.

Example in 1865, Friedrich Kekule, a German chemist, dreamed about a snake biting its tail, and this led him to realize that the molecular structure of benzene was circular. Showing how Kekule got to know(epistemology) how the molecular structure was circular, is irrelevant to status the ontology(benzene structure).

Peter Medawar, English biologist wrote "“Scientists are building explanatory structures, telling stories which are scrupulously tested to see if they are stories about real life” (Medawar 1984: 133)

Example blackholes, and multiunverses et cetera. so Nal is not correct in deeming that "Of course he would need to have a mental image of a 9-month pregnant women to combine with the mental image of his wife." since scientist have not former mental image of multiverse.

Remember the example I gave was to show the absurdity of Dawson's question: Using a pregnant wife example:

John Doe imagined that Jane Doe is having a baby boy, while Jane Doe imagined she is having a baby girl.

When John/Jane imagine there is a baby girl/boy, how is what John/Jane imagining not imaginary?

Well, the solution is, not how John or Jane imagining(subject status), but the the object status. If the baby is a boy, then John imagining is not imaginary, but Jane is.

From Dawson epistemology, both John and Jane imagining are imaginary which I find absurd.

Yours,
Prayson

February 02, 2013 1:19 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

After reviewing Prayson Daniel’s recent attempt to rebut my argument for the non-existence of the Christian god, I am of the repeatedly confirmed impression that he truly does not, or is not willing to, recognize the distinction between the real and the imaginary. As NAL has rightly stated, Prayson’s latest blog entry “is simply a rehash” of the comments he has posted on my blog. One would never know from Prayson’s new blog entry that everything he states in it has already been addressed over here on my blog. Indeed, he repeats statements that have already been answered, and yet he repeats them in his blog as though they were not answered.

Confirming this, photosynthesis “suspect[s] that Preyston is not really reading what” what I have written. And I suspect that is the case too. If he has, he has simply dismissed whatever I have written. Either way, Prayson is not holding up his end of the exchange by interacting with the responses that have been presented in reply to his challenges and in defense of my argument.

Photosynthesis also states:

<< I doubt that [Prayson] read your 13 points beyond a few words in each. He seems to form an image, a mirage, of what you said based on a glance at your words, takes the first sentence or paragraph that he imagines might be a summary of the whole thing, and there he goes misunderstanding the point and insisting in his already dismantled "answers." >>

If this is not what Prayson has been doing, he seems to have been doing something very close to it. At no point has Prayson interacted with any of the evidences that I cite in support of my Premise 4, and yet it is Premise 4 which he seeks to discredit. The proper thing to do in that case would be to examine the evidences presented in support of the disputed premise and determine whether or not they do in fact support it as they are intended to do so.

I’m guessing he will read what I write today with one eye shut as well.

[continued…]

February 02, 2013 3:14 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

On this, Prayson writes in his new blog entry:

<< Thus I did not have to address Bethrick’s 13 points because I assumed that even if all his 13 points were true, they are all irrelevant. As from my example, showing how John creatively imagined the amount of people in the library, even if true, is irrelevant to decide whether it is true or false that there are 210 people in the library because what matter is not the epistemological status of subjects but the ontological status of an object. If John’s imagined amount lacks factual reality then it is imaginary, if it does have factual reality then it is not imaginary. >>

But as I pointed out before Prayson posted his new blog entry responding to me, the “reasoning” which Prayson uses to justify his rash dismissal of the evidences I have cited in support of my Premise 4 reduces to circular reasoning. The hidden assumption to Prayson’s justification here is the assumption that the “ontological status” of the Christian god is something other than imaginary in nature. And yet that is precisely what is in question!

Thus Prayson repeats an error in his blog entry that he made in a comment he posted on my blog after it was corrected. So either he is not reading what I have written, or he is ignoring what he reads, either willfully or simply because he does not understand it. By not examining my interactions with his attempted rebuttal very carefully, Prayson has deprived himself of the opportunity to understand what my argument is actually saying.

[continued…]

February 02, 2013 3:15 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson apparently figures that his example of John and the number of people in the library is analogous to his god-belief in some way, for he clearly thinks it is relevant as a justification for dismissing the evidences that I have cited in defense of Premise 4. But nowhere does Prayson present any rationale that I can see which secures his example as analogous to what we have in Christian god-belief. Indeed, we can see right off that there are key differences which make his example at best a weak analogy, at worse a completely failed attempt. For instance, we can know by rational means that people exist (certainly more than 210 people exist), that libraries exist, and that libraries have capacities in some cases far exceeding 210 persons. But there is no rational means by which we can know that the Christian god is real. That’s one of my underlying points: we have no alternative but to imagine the Christian god. Nothing in Prayson’s example addresses this problem.

I also stated in my initial reaction to Prayson’s example that the mental operation attributed to “John Doe” looks more like a guess at a figure than the formation of a mental image. But as Prayson has informed his example, he was clear that John “imagined 210” people in the library. So I am just going by what Prayson says here – after all, it is his example. But as I have pointed out, and as Prayson’s own citation of dictionary definitions of ‘imagine’ affirm, to imagine something is at minimum to form a mental image (not “metal image”) of something. So in the context of Prayson’s example, I take this to mean that John Doe formed a mental image of specifically 210 people. By doing this, John Doe is forming images with at least some specific details beyond a mere count – e.g., what the people look like, how many men as opposed to how many women, how many children vs. how many adults, how many elderly, where they are situated throughout the library, what they are all respectively doing (e.g., some sitting at tables, some walking from one place to another, some standing or squatting in the stacks, some gathered at the drinking fountain, etc.), not to mention the hair color, skin color, height, body shape, facial features, clothing, accessories, bookshelves, newspaper racks, windows, lighting fixtures, etc. Prayson has ol’ John Doe doing a lot of imagining here! It’s a lot of work imagining 210 different individuals! But Prayson must have something like this in mind when he says that John Doe “imagined 210” persons in the library. If it was just a mere count, then I’d say what Prayson really had in mind was not imagination as the Christian believer uses it when he imagines his god, but rather a guess as when someone says, “Guess how many people are in the library right now?” What Prayson really seems to have in mind is John Doe enjoying a lucky guess more than anything else. This only makes the example even less relevant to my argument.

[continued…]

February 02, 2013 3:15 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Another point that I made in response to Prayson’s library example is the fact that in real life, one can go to the trouble of actually counting the number of people in the library to confirm or refute a guess. One can prior to stepping foot into the library guess at a number or even imagine the people in the library, and then go into the library and observe what can be seen firsthand. If there are people in the library, then some quantity of people needs to be in there. But this is far from saying that what one imagines to be the case (with all the detail that goes into forming a mental image of a group of people) turns out to be accurate. In the case of a guess, however, one can confirm the accuracy of what he guessed or imagined by empirical means. One cannot do this in the case of the Christian god. I cannot on the one hand imagine the Christian god sitting on its throne in heaven surrounded by a chorus of fawning angels and then empirically verify that such a realm actually exists. Indeed, let us have Prayson imagine how many angels are in heaven singing praises to the Christian god right now. How would he verify this? Blank out.

Indeed, Prayson’s example itself is imaginary. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but since it is imaginary, there is nothing fixed about it other than the details that have been stipulated already. Beyond those details, everything is variable, and even those details can be revised at will, such as for purposes of argument. I can imagine, oppositely Prayson’s version, that the person’s name is not John Doe but instead Alex Smith, that the location in question is not a library but a town hall, and that the figure Alex Smith imagines is not 210 people but 452 persons. I can even say, as Prayson does in his imaginary example, that Alex Smith turned out to be right in the amount of people in the town hall. But even here, since my revised version of Prayson’s example has Alex Smith imagining the 452 people in the town hall, just as Prayson’s example has John Doe imagining 210 people in the library, Alex Smith was indeed imagining per the details given of my version of the example, just as John Doe was imagining according to Prayson’s version of the example. What Alex Smith imagined (with all those details that go into forming a mental image of something) is just as imaginary as what John Doe imagined.

[continued…]

February 02, 2013 3:15 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In a comment on his blog dated 2 Feb., Prayson reaffirms that “how we got to know x, is irrelevant to show if that x is true or not(ontology).” He uses the library example to illustrate this point. He continues:

<< From my example, if you have read and understood my critique, I showed that showing how John Doe knew there were 210 people in the library, which was by looking at his watch and saw 2:10 p.m., is irrelevant. What is relevant is, are there 210 people or not in the library.

So we could show that John is a myth superstitious reader of an ancient book, with fairy tales , and that led John to look at his watch to imagine 210 people in the library. Even if true, this does not show that there are 210 people in the library or not.
>>

But of course, what Prayson ignores in all this is that we already know that people exist and that libraries exist. And presumably in the example that Prayson has presented, John Doe knew by means other than imagination that the library in question exists and that some people were in it, albeit quantity unknown. For at no point in framing his example does he say that these things are imagined as well. Only the quantity is imagined, and since imagination is involved, some mental image of those 210 people must also have been formed. So again, this is not at all analogous to the question of the existence of the Christian god.

As opposed to people in a library, if we apply Prayson’s reasoning to something we know is completely fictitious, such as Harry Potter flying around on a broomstick, the point he says he’s trying to make with his library example would mean that we could not know that Harry Potter flying around on a broomstick is imaginary simply because someone imagined it, for that someone imagined it is, according to Prayson, irrelevant to the question of whether or not there really is a Harry Potter somewhere out there flying around on a broomstick. On Prayson’s worldview, this could be a lucky imagination, and there really could be a Harry Potter flying around on a broomstick somewhere. And earlier Prayson suggested that I was the author of absurdity!

[continued…]

February 02, 2013 3:16 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

What Prayson also ignores is the fact that when Christians talk about the existence of their god, they also talk about belief in the existence of their god. So Prayson’s attempt to create an artificial divide between ontology and epistemology as he does, only suggests that he is trying to keep something out of sight. And what is it that Prayson seeks to keep out of sight here? I think broadly what Prayson is trying to hide are the facts that Christianity has no epistemology of its own and that there is no way to arrive at the conclusion that his god is real by means other than imagination. I also say that through all this he is tacitly admitting that he relies on imagining his god while hoping to provide a kind of justification which essentially says, “Well, I may be imagining my god, but that doesn’t mean my god does not exist!” This is a cutesy way of trying to skirt a major philosophical issue. I doubt any careful thinker would be persuaded by it.

Imagine means imagine. So when Prayson uses “imagine,” one would expect him not only to understand what it means (especially as I have used it in the defense of my argument), but also to stick with it as we explore his example’s relevance to my case. We have already seen many significant differences which call into question its purported value.

Regardless, at no point does Prayson show that my Premise 4 is false, let alone demonstrate that his god is anything other than imaginary

In fact, throughout Prayson’s responses to my counter-points to his rebuttals, it is stubbornly unclear what exactly his position on the imaginary is. He nowhere makes his position clear: is the imaginary real, or is it unreal? He seems to be trying to maneuver the pieces of his example in order to hedge his position and keep it obscure.

By contrast, my position should be clear, as I have consistently affirmed and defended it: the imaginary is unreal. If someone imagines that Harry Potter is flying around on a broomstick, what this individual is imagining is imaginary, thus it is unreal – there is no actual Harry Potter flying around on a broomstick. It would be baffling if an adult thinker really has a problem both grasping and accepting this view.

But in spite of Prayson’s stated ascent of my argument’s first three premises, the first of which affirms that the imaginary is unreal, it is unclear if Prayson is fully on board with the view that the imaginary is unreal. He seems to be saying that sometimes what a person imagines is real. That is what his example about the library seems to be intended to show. If so, it is another indication that he does not grasp what the mind is doing when one imagines.

So again, I stand by my argument. Prayson’s attempts to interact with it are woefully inadequate to show that any of its premises are false. And since he has conceded that my argument is formally valid, the conclusion is soundly established since the premises offered in support of it are firmly established.

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 3:16 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “If you meant Prayson,photosynthesis, then I can inform you that I did not only read but read it 4 times.”

Then why do you proceed as if you either did not read what I have written, or did not understand any of it? What you posted in your new blog entry is simply a “rehash,” as NAL puts it, of statements you made here and which had already been addressed before you posted them on your blog. You posted them on your blog as though they had not been addressed. That hardly seems honest.

Prayson: “As I explained, I assumed that all 13 points are true. I contended that they are irrelevant because they deal with the subject and not an object.”

Where do you show that they deal exclusively with the subject and not the object? Since there is discussion of the subject, there is naturally and unavoidably discussion also of the object, for there is no discussion of a subject without an object. The object in this case happens to be imaginary. This is exactly what the points of evidence that I have cited show.

It is expected that you would dismiss them as irrelevant without interacting with them. For I don’t think you could interact with any of them successfully. Thus the safest route for you is to simply brush them aside and ignore them. That is precisely what you have done. You say you’ve done this for a specific reason, but at no point do you establish that this specific reason you give applies. You have simply assumed them out of the way. That is not at all intellectually responsible behavior. But I have come to expect as much from individuals who want to pretend that something imaginary is real.

Prayson: “Example in 1865, Friedrich Kekule, a German chemist, dreamed about a snake biting its tail, and this led him to realize that the molecular structure of benzene was circular. Showing how Kekule got to know(epistemology) how the molecular structure was circular, is irrelevant to status the ontology(benzene structure).”

Again, this is a weak analogy when applied to Christian god-belief, even if it accurately represents how Kekule formulated his hypothesis. We know that snakes exist. We know that chemicals exist. We know that chemicals have molecular structure. And we know all these things through empirical means. The objects adapted in this case to a mental image formed in one’s imagination exist in reality and are known by empirical means prior to any imagining one performs regarding them.

So again, Prayson, you ignore all these entirely relevant points in the example you have given and in the way you have reacted to my argument. The bottom line is that at no point do you show that the Christian god is not imaginary. Thus my argument’s Premise 4 remains unchallenged. The conclusion then is secure.

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 3:31 AM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

But this is my point Dawson. Calling Christian God imaginary assumes we already know that God does not exist. That is why I call this assumption to question.

February 02, 2013 3:49 AM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Dawson, my aim is not to show that Christian God is not imaginary, it is possible He is, but to show that your argument does not show what you claim it show.

My examples are to show that even if true what we said about Christian, or John or Kekule, that does not show that something is imaginary.

Your argument assumes that God does not exist, which could be true, or from my example that the number is not 210 and proceed to show it is imaginary and not the verse.

Gentlemen, we may not share conclusion but we share critical logical thinking. Focus on what I wrote.

It is amazing that both atheists in reddit philosophyofreligion and on my blog agree that your case does not work even though they they are not Christian.

February 02, 2013 4:01 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “But this is my point Dawson. Calling Christian God imaginary assumes we already know that God does not exist.”

If evidence shows that something is imaginary, then we have to go with what the evidence confirms. That is only rational. I am not assuming that the Christian god does not exist. Rather, I looked at the evidence and found that it is imaginary, and then concluded from this that it is not real, per Premise 1 of my argument.

So again, you seem not to have grasped the general procedure that my argument executes.

Prayson: “That is why I call this assumption to question.”

No, you assumed my points of evidence are irrelevant because you assume that your god is real instead of imaginary. That is how you beg the question against my argument.

In the examples you cite, you should see how they are not at all analogous to your god-belief. For in the case of the library, we already know, prior to imagining how many people might be in the library, that people exist and that libraries exist by empirical means. Similarly with your citation of Kekule: we know that snakes exist, that chemicals exist, and that chemicals have molecular structure by empirical means. In each case, the imaginer is taking something he has experienced empirically and forming a mental image on the basis of what he has empirically experienced.

When we imagine the Christian god, however, we are not taking something we have experienced empirically and then forming a mental image of it, as we find in the examples you have cited. Rather, we are having to invent it from scratch, primarily by ripping otherwise legitimate abstractions from their objective basis and projecting them into a subjective realm of pure imagination.

So here’s the challenge you face if you still disagree: Can you show how you have awareness of your god by some means other than imagination, and can you show how we as outsiders can distinguish the means by which you allegedly have awareness of your god from what may merely be your imagination?

I will await your answer.

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 4:03 AM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

I believe Dawson you responded my comment even without publishing it. Could you be fair to publish it.

February 02, 2013 4:06 AM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Could you share the evidence that Christian God does not exist?

February 02, 2013 4:09 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “Dawson, my aim is not to show that Christian God is not imaginary, it is possible He is, but to show that your argument does not show what you claim it show.”

But to do this, you would need to interact with the evidences which I have cited in support of my argument’s Premise 4. You have not done this. Instead, you’ve brushed them aside calling them irrelevant without even making the case for them being irrelevant. Amazing!

Prayson: “My examples are to show that even if true what we said about Christian, or John or Kekule, that does not show that something is imaginary.”

Then clearly you do not recognize how the examples you have cited are not at all analogous to your god-belief. You do not even show how you can have awareness of your god apart from imagining it. If you look at the three points of interest that I gave in the first part of my blog, you will find explicit examples of how Christians rely on their imagination when they “apprehend” the Christian god. Why should we ignore relevant facts like this? You give no reason.

Prayson: “Your argument assumes that God does not exist,”

How does my argument assume that the Christian god does not exist? Do you not see that this is the conclusion which my argument establishes? And it establishes it in a very elegantly simple manner – i.e., by drawing on the fact that the imaginary is not real and by citing evidences which show beyond any doubt that the Christian god is imaginary. The conclusion of my argument is not assumed at any point in this process. It is drawn in a directly logically manner.

Prayson: “Gentlemen, we may not share conclusion but we share critical logical thinking. Focus on what I wrote.”

But Prayson, I have focused on what you wrote, and comprehensively to boot. It is you who is not focusing on what I have written.

Prayson: “It is amazing that both atheists in reddit philosophyofreligion and on my blog agree that your case does not work even though they they are not Christian.”

Atheists are a mixed bag, Prayson. Simply because one identifies himself as an atheist does not entail that he is a careful thinker. I have shown that I am a very careful thinker, and I have shown how my argument withstands challenges, including yours.

But since you admit that your god may very well be imaginary, I’m happy to see you admit this.

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 4:14 AM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

I believe it is you Dawson, who misunderstood. I did not assumed your points of evidence are irrelevant but show if and I will repeat IF, God exist.

You seem to miss the point. If God exist, or John 210, or Multiverses, or blackholes etc is true, then showing how poor people got to know is irrelevant. Because truth does not depend on subjects but objects.

You seem to fail to understand that. So I may share your belief that God does not exist, but I do not think your case show that. I think it shows that the way Christian know things is weird or unreliable, but it does not show that God is imaginary

February 02, 2013 4:18 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “Could you share the evidence that Christian God does not exist?”

This is like asking if one could cite evidence that the tooth fairy does not exist. Evidence is positive in nature, and in the case of existential claims, evidence pertains to that which exists, not to that which does not exist or is completely imaginary. There is no “evidence” that a woolly mammoth is not currently lounging in my living room. I just look in my living room and see what’s there, and a woolly mammoth is not among the items that are in my living room. So it is only rational to recognize that there is no woolly mammoth in my living room.

What I have presented are evidences showing that the Christian god is imaginary. You already have the link to this, and you yourself have indicated that you are aware of at least where you can find these evidences. These evidences support Premise 4 of my argument. It is in the form of my argument that I draw the conclusion, from premises stated (including the premise that the imaginary is not real and therefore does not exist as well as the premise, supported by cited evidences, that the Christian god is imaginary), that the Christian god does not exist.

I’ve done my homework. I have vindicated atheism. I have shown that theism is false.

What more do you want?

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 4:20 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “I believe it is you Dawson, who misunderstood.”

Then you believe wrongly. Perhaps you have imagined that I misunderstood and are running with that? You certainly have not shown that I have misunderstood you.

Prayson: “I did not assumed your points of evidence are irrelevant”

Here is what you wrote in your blog:

<< I did not have to address Bethrick’s 13 points because I assumed that even if all his 13 points were true, they are all irrelevant. >>

Here you clearly state that you “assumed” that the evidences which I have cited “are all irrelevant.”

Now you say that you did not assume this. Your words disagree with themselves.

Prayson: “You seem to miss the point. If God exist, or John 210, or Multiverses, or blackholes etc is true, then showing how poor people got to know is irrelevant.”

How an individual comes to what he claims to know is never irrelevant to assessing the truth of what he claims to know. It is bizarre that anyone would even suggest this.

Prayson: “Because truth does not depend on subjects but objects.”

Truth is epistemological. It is not ontological. Things exist. The things that exist are neither true nor false. They simply exist. It is statements that are either true or false, or arbitrary. So if we speak of truth, then we are on the turf of epistemology. There is no getting around this.

Prayson: “You seem to fail to understand that.”

It is not a question of whether or not I understand what you are saying. I simply disagree entirely. Even your examples do not show what you are claiming here.

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 4:27 AM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Dawson you still did not publish one of my comment even though you responded to it.

If truth is epistemological and not ontological then I see where we disagree. I will agree to disagree and let's live :)

Surely we have done enough. Hopefully you will publish my comment reply to LAN and photosynthesis. Our readers will have to decide for themselves.

Thank you so much for everything Dawson. You are simply awesome, brilliant, thoughtful and robust thinker. You rock Dawson. Thank you for everything.

Yours,
Prayson

February 02, 2013 4:57 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: "Dawson you still did not publish one of my comment even though you responded to it."

Which one? Can you post part of what you wrote so that I can search for it? I checked and from what I can tell I published all your comments.

If there's one there that I have failed to publish, I will publish it if I can find it.

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 5:02 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “So I may share your belief that God does not exist, but I do not think your case show that. I think it shows that the way Christian know things is weird or unreliable, but it does not show that God is imaginary.”

Even you should recognize that it is entirely possible for a person to imagine something that does not exist. I can imagine the tooth fairy, and I’m confident that you can, too. But even you should be willing to admit that what you imagine is not real. My evidences show that this is what is happening in the case of Christian god-belief. Nothing you have provided in your challenge to my argument has overcome these evidences or in any way suggests that this is not what is happening in the mind of the Christian believer viz. the Christian god.

A significant point that you’re missing in all of this is that Christians have no rational means of coming to know their god. Christians sit in their church pews hearing stories about their god and Jesus running around with his disciples. We know that one can tell stories that have no basis in reality. Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland, etc., are all good examples of this. For Christians, these stories are repeated and repeated, and belief in them, which Christians actively want to have, is positively reinforced by means of repetition, continual affirmation and an encouraged desire to believe that they are true. They go to their churches and even elsewhere huddle in groups of fellow believers all positively reinforcing each other’s commitment to believing something they can only imagine.

We cannot empirically observe a supernatural consciousness inhabiting a supernatural realm. We can, however, imagine a supernatural realm inhabited by supernatural conscious beings. When we imagine a library full of people, we are forming the image we imagine on the basis of things we have empirically observed. So attempting to draw analogies between imagining the Christian god and imagining things we empirically observe in the world around us is a dead end.

If the way Christians “know” things is not rational in nature, then what they call “knowledge” is not knowledge. It is imagination. It is motivated by emotion (even the bible makes it clear that, for the believer, “fear” is “the beginning of knowledge” – cf. Prov. 1:7) and informed by images which the believer forms in his imagination given various descriptions found in ancient texts which he is told to consider both sacred and authoritative. So the how of what one claims to know is as important as the what that he claims to know.

Belief in other deities is essentially similar, whether it is Islam’s Allah, Hindu’s Brahma, Mithras, Osiris, Horus, Zoroaster, Ahura Mazda, Odin, Zeus, Neptune, Izanaki, etc., etc., etc. These are all just as imaginary as Jesus. None of them really exist. To say that all but one of them is imaginary simply defies reason entirely.

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 5:05 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “If truth is epistemological and not ontological then I see where we disagree. I will agree to disagree and let's live :)”

Well, I certainly plan to continue living ;)

But how is truth not epistemological? When I see a rock, for instance, something that is ontological, how is the rock either true or false? If I said that the rock is true, what exactly am I saying is true?

Can you explain your disagreement? I’d hope that this is not where the discussion suddenly stops.

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 5:08 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Okay, found it. Sorry about that!

I'm new to "comment moderation." I invoked it a few weeks ago for the first time in my blog's entire life (I started my blog back in March 2005). I did so only reluctantly because of persisting abuse by a couple commenters.

I long for the days when I didn't have this added task!

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 5:23 AM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

It seem we have different understand. When you see a stone, the stone either exists, it is true that the stone exists, or it does not, it is true that the stone does not exist.

This truth, as 2 + 2 = 4 are independent of our epistemology. You deny this. So it is here we differ because I think it is true that 2+2=4 even if we did not know. And you do not.

It is here Dawson I agree to disagree and let's live :) you are an amazing thinker. I enjoyed and got edified reading your work. I had to revisit my philosophy books which were getting dust :)

Thanks for everything. I hope we have learn from each other, and know I treasure your work highly.

Yours,
Prayson

February 02, 2013 5:26 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “It seem we have different understand. When you see a stone, the stone either exists, it is true that the stone exists, or it does not, it is true that the stone does not exist.”

The stone exists. The stone itself is neither true nor false. It just exists.

The statements “the stone exists” and “it exists” are what are either true or false. Thus truth pertains to the correspondence between a statement and the facts to which they are intended to correspond. That is the stuff of epistemology.

Prayson: “This truth, as 2 + 2 = 4 are independent of our epistemology.”

The statement “2+2=4” is still a statement. It is not ontological; it is not something we find lying on the ground, like a rock. It is a statement representing an integration of numerous abstractions, including the concept ‘unit’ and the operators “plus” and “equals.” These are all epistemological - not only the statement as a whole, but also the abstractions which it integrates. They are not things existing in the world apart from our conscious interaction. We don't find the concept 'plus' lying on the ground like a rock. 'Plus' is conceptual, and thus epistemological. It is not ontological - i.e., an entity existing apart from the subject-object relationship.

Prayson: “You deny this.”

Yes, because in both cases – the statement “the rock exists” and the statement “2+2=4” – we have cases of identification. Identification is a task which a subject of consciousness performs about some object(s).

Prayson: “So it is here we differ because I think it is true that 2+2=4 even if we did not know. And you do not.”

That is not exactly true to my position. My view is that the facts which inform our identifications obtain independent of conscious activity, but that identification itself is a form of conscious activity regarding some object ultimately based on what exists independent of consciousness. There is the rock, and there are statements we make about the rock. The rock exists independent of any conscious activity, but our statements making identifications about the rock are cases of conscious activity, and thus epistemological.

Still disagree?

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 5:41 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Dawson stated regarding Prayson:

He nowhere makes his position clear: is the imaginary real, or is it unreal?

oxforddictionaries.com indicates imaginary means existing only in the imagination:

and merriam-webster.com shows

a : existing only in imagination : lacking factual reality

b : formed or characterized imaginatively or arbitrarily:

Dawson's first premise, That which is imaginary is not real., appears to be a logical truth. If Prayson is denying this, then he automatically losses the discussion.

When Prayson described John Doe's prompting to imagine 210 people in a library after noticing his watch reading a time of 2:10, he made an incomplete comparison fallacy. The metaphysical nature of the hypothetical persons in the library would include all the details of their minds, bodies, attire, dispositions, knowledge, memories, and so forth. Mr Doe did not cognitively apprehend any of those details, for he was not perceiving any of the 210 people or library. A lucky guess regarding a single or a few details of an alleged entity or state of affairs does not change a mental representation into a perception of an instantiation.

In the case at hand regarding the Christian Triune God, but more generally in extension to all the Gods and supernaturalism, as there are no evidences supporting metaphysical primacy of consciousness, there aren't any valid foundations from which to construct conceptual framework upon which to hang an ontology of mysticism. Speculations of Gods and supernaturalism are non-cognitive.

Prayson's point fails to storm the bulwarks of Dawson's premise 4.

February 02, 2013 6:52 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Prayson offered an example to show an imaginary representation is not necessarily fictional. He wrote:

Remember the example I gave was to show the absurdity of Dawson's question: Using a pregnant wife example:

John Doe imagined that Jane Doe is having a baby boy, while Jane Doe imagined she is having a baby girl.

When John/Jane imagine there is a baby girl/boy, how is what John/Jane imagining not imaginary?

Well, the solution is, not how John or Jane imagining(subject status), but the the object status. If the baby is a boy, then John imagining is not imaginary, but Jane is.

From Dawson epistemology, both John and Jane imagining are imaginary which I find absurd.


This example fails and does not serve his purpose because it is another incomplete comparison fallacy. Jane's and John's imaginative speculation as to the sex of their potential baby has no effect on whether Jane is indeed pregnant. But since there is no evidence Jane is pregnant, Prayson is begging the question of Jane's pregnancy by suggesting John's and Jane's incomplete speculations serve as evidence Jane is pregnant. This is because of the Law of the Excluded Middle. Jane is either pregnant or she is not. John's and Jane's incomplete vague speculations as to the nature of their potential baby left open the question of whether Jane was actually pregnant. Prayson ignored this in claiming John's and Jane's speculations were irrelevant as to the existence of Jane's pregnancy, and this begs the question because in the example Jane is not specifically identified as actually being pregnant.

In the analogous case of Theism/Deism, believers have expended much ink in constructing fanciful definitions of their Gods, yet there is nothing in reality that suggests Gods are actual entities. This means Dawson's premise 4 is an empirically valid proposition, but this does not deter believers from principio principii.

Best and Good

February 02, 2013 7:33 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@ProteusIQ

Perhaps this wiki article would help you better understand the point Dawson is trying to make

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Map%E2%80%93territory_relation

(the map is not the territory)

@Dawson, Robert, Ydemoc, Photo and the rest of the usual suspects

This conflating of the map (concepts) for the territory (reality) is becoming for me one of the defining psychological traits of theists. Richard did this constantly, and every other theist that has visited here has as well to one degree or another.

February 02, 2013 7:52 AM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Yes Dawson, I still disagree. You, as did Immanuel Kant, hold that humans cannot know reality as it is in itself, independent of our human concepts, what is known as antirealism.

Unlike your antirealism, a philosophical theory that denies the mind-independent existence of some type of being or of being in general, I hold realism, namely a belief that there are real entities that exist independently of human knowers.

It is two different views and that is why I agreed to disagree and let's live.

Thanks for everything Dawson. Again, you rock. I love your beautiful mind.

Yours,
Prayson

February 02, 2013 8:42 AM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Robert, you totally miss the point. I did not offer example to show that an imaginary representation is not necessarily fictional but that imagined objects are not necessarily imaginary.

My example was not to show Jane is pregnant, but to show that it is absurd that John imagined it is a boy, and Jane it is not a boy, are both imaginary following Dawson reasoning.

According to the dictionary definition of imaginary, something existing only in imagination, lacking factual reality, it is absurd that both a boy and not-a boy lack factual reality. Surely both cannot be only existing in imagination.

Dawson 13 points if successful show that God exists in Christians imagination, but not that God exists only in Christian imagination, lacking factual reality.

For Dawson case to succeed, he need to show that God lacks factual reality, and that my friends means giving a positive case against existence of God.

One cannot show that x is imaginary unless he shows x does not exist. If x does not exist, then x is imaginary. The problem, Dawson get this backwards, which I think is a problem with his case.

Thank you Robert.

February 02, 2013 8:59 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “Yes Dawson, I still disagree.”

What specifically do you disagree with? I hold that the rock on the ground exists independent of consciousness. But I also recognize that making a statement about the rock is a type of conscious activity. What specifically are you disagreeing with here? Are you saying that the rock does not exist independent of consciousness? Are you saying that making a statement about the rock is not a type of conscious activity? What exactly about my position do you reject?

You say you disagree, but you do not make your disagreement clear.

Prayson: “You, as did Immanuel Kant, hold that humans cannot know reality as it is in itself, independent of our human concepts, what is known as antirealism.”

What exactly are you trying to say here? What is “reality as it is in itself” as opposed to what we perceive when we look at the world? When I see a rock, how is it that I am not seeing what the rock is?

Also, how is knowledge without concepts possible? How does one know anything “independent of… concepts”? Can you give an example of something you know without using concepts?

Prayson: “Unlike your antirealism, a philosophical theory that denies the mind-independent existence of some type of being or of being in general, I hold realism, namely a belief that there are real entities that exist independently of human knowers.”

Excuse me? I stated the following explicitly: “My view is that the facts which inform our identifications obtain independent of conscious activity.” After I make this statement about my position explicitly affirming that facts obtain independent of consciousness, you attribute to me “a philosophical theory that denies the mind-independent existence of some type of being in general”?

I think you need to make a better effort to read what I say more carefully.

Moreover, it is the Christian worldview, Prayson, which holds that facts are mind-dependent. Christianity holds that the realm of facts was created by an act of supernatural consciousness – that the Christian god “spoke” the world into being. So since you confess allegiance to Christianity, it is not the case that you hold to a philosophy theory which recognizes the mind-independent existence of being.

You seem extremely confused on so many things.

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 9:00 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson wrote: “Robert, you totally miss the point. I did not offer example to show that an imaginary representation is not necessarily fictional but that imagined objects are not necessarily imaginary.”

As I suspected. So Robert, get this straight: if you imagine Harry Potter flying around on a broom stick, or the tooth fairy placing a quarter under your pillow when you’re sleeping, what you imagine is not necessarily imaginary, according to Prayson. On Prayson’s view, these things very well might be real!

In other words, Prayson’s worldview does not provide him with the epistemological tools to distinguish between what is real and what is merely imaginary. Things you imagine are not necessarily imaginary – they may be real!!

Need I say anything more? Prayson is making my point in spades!

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 9:05 AM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Maybe I am. Dawson lets present your case and my critique at debate.org and let people vote.

Yours,
Prayson

February 02, 2013 9:05 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson: “Maybe I am.”

Given what you have stated, Prayson, I’d say there’s no “maybe” about it. You are very confused. Perhaps you’re looking at these issues for the first time since now you find yourself having to defend your god-belief from a genuine philosophical challenge. You’re groping in the dark here. You have no philosophical compass. You don’t know what is real and what is not real. You continually conflate the imaginary with the actual. You don’t seem to understand what the mind does when it is imagining something, even though I’ve been very careful to spell this out explicitly. You say you disagree with things, but keep the nature of your disagreement unspecific. But in the context of where you express disagreement, the only interpretation is that you affirm utter absurdities while at the same time claiming to affirm things that my worldview affirms explicitly. You borrow from my worldview while failing to grasp exactly what it is that you stand for.

Prayson: “Dawson lets present your case and my critique at debate.org and let people vote.”

For one thing, I do not leave to a “vote” what I hold to be true. Voting is not a means of determining what is true. If that’s what you like, you’re on your own. Second, I’m quite happy right here on my blog. I don’t need to go anywhere else to find approval. I do not need anyone’s approval. If you do, then again you’re on your own. Water finds its own level – be happy with the votes you get when you stick your foot in your mouth. Third, why not just examine what I explain to you and recognize what exactly I’m saying? It’s all right here. You don’t need to go somewhere else. We can work this out together, but only if you’re honest. That’s the key. If you are not honest, you will remain lost in the labyrinth of your own confusion.

“…let people vote…” Are you serious?

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2013 9:15 AM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Yes I am serious. You think your case is good, I think it is not. Let people read, evaluate and judge for themselves.

So I am serious. Let put the case and critique out at debate.org and see what others judge your case and my critique.

If yours case is good then I am sure others will agree. Put to find that out, let not sing to our choirs and present it to people out there at debate.org

February 02, 2013 9:44 AM  
Blogger NAL said...

Prayson:

According to the dictionary definition of imaginary, something existing only in imagination, lacking factual reality ...

That is one meaning of imaginary. Right below that definition is an equally valid one:

formed or characterized imaginatively or arbitrarily

According to this definition, something that is imaginary is formed by the imagination. The Christian god fulfills both definitions. Imagining a wife, only the second.

Restricting the definition of imaginary to the only one which suits your needs is disingenuous.

February 02, 2013 11:40 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Prayson,

This is from Wikipedia: "Vishnu (Sanskrit: विष्णु) is a main Vedic God (including His different avataras and/or expansions), venerated as the Supreme Being in the Vaishnavism. He is also commonly known as Narayana or Hari. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God.[1] The Vishnu Sahasranama[2] declares Vishnu as Paramatman (supreme soul) and Parameshwara (supreme God). It describes Vishnu as the All-Pervading essence of all beings, the master of—and beyond—the past, present and future, one who supports, sustains and governs the Universe and originates and develops all elements within. This illustrates the omnipresent characteristic of Vishnu. Vishnu governs the aspect of preservation and sustenance of the universe, so he is called 'Preserver of the universe'.

In the Puranas, Vishnu is described as having the divine colour of water filled clouds, four-armed, holding a lotus, mace, shankha (conch) and chakra (wheel). Vishnu is also described in the Bhagavad Gita as having a 'Universal Form' (Vishvarupa) which is beyond the ordinary limits of human perception or imagination.[3]"

When people tell me about Vishnu, how can I distinguish what they tell me about this "Supreme Being" from what they may merely be imagining? What alternative do I have to imaginations when contemplating Vishnu? In what way is it any different when it comes to your deity?

Ydemoc

February 02, 2013 2:47 PM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Nal that defintion will do too. I took the first definition because it had better explantory power. Meaning it tells what it takes, lacking factuary reality, that contributes to what is imahined to be imaginary. Thus if what is imagined does not lackbfactual reality, then it cannot be grouped as imaginary.

Dawson redefine imaginary, as using your term, to suits his needs, to mean whatever is imagined is imaginary which is absurd. In the example I gave namely P imagined X, while Q imagined not-X, e.g John imagined Jane is having a boy, while Jane imagined a gilr, not-a-boy. One imagined gender has factual reality, since a baby will be a boy or not-boy,girl. For Dawson, borh Jane and John imagined genders are imaginary, lacking factual reality which is absurd.

If you agree that both John and Jane imagined genders cannot be imaginary, since one has factual reality, then it follows that not all imagine objects are imaginary. For Dawson to show that God is imaginary, he has to show that God does not exists, as to show who is imaginary, John or Jane, you have to show the gender of the baby, if it is a boy, then Jane is imaginary but not John and verse.

13 points, Dawson offered are irrelevant, because I could say the same with John. Namely John is superstious, myth lover, and put coins on Janes belly and imagined it is a boy. It does not matter how John imagined, but is John imagined object have factual reality or not. For that Dawson need to show does God have factual reality or not. The problem is, that is his conclusion, namely God does not have factual reality, which makes his case unsuccessive.

Your,
Prayson

February 03, 2013 5:40 AM  
Blogger NAL said...

I give up.

February 03, 2013 7:20 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

"Dawson need to show does God have factual reality or not"

mmm..... no he does not. You and others like you are the ones making a positive ontological claim. You are the one with the burden. This attitude held by so many simply blows my mind away with its arrogance and presumption. It implies that if I or anyone else cant disprove any and all arbitrary assertions concerning the positive existence of this or that made by anyone then we are obligated to believe them. Or failing that at least respect their beliefs. Ok ProteusIQ, I believe there is an ice cream factory on Jupiter, since you cant prove that I am merely imagining this then you should believe it too! Or failing that not consider me childish or foolish for believing it myself.

February 03, 2013 7:31 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Thanks and Kudos to Ydemoc who made an excellent point in posting the Wiki description of the Supreme Deity of Hinduism, Vishnu. Ydemoc's question that

When people tell me about Vishnu, how can I distinguish what they tell me about this "Supreme Being" from what they may merely be imagining? What alternative do I have to imaginations when contemplating Vishnu? In what way is it any different when it comes to your deity?

invites a further question that I would like to pose to Prayson. Sir, on what basis do you justify summarily rejecting Vishnu belief and religious practice? Furthermore, if you were to apply those same methods you use to reject Vishnu as the Supreme Being to your own presumably Christian faith how would then justify holding that Jehovah is the Supreme Being?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I was feeling quite sick last night with my persistent Cold and so took a dose of Nyquil and retired early. I'm feeling a bit better today and so will continue with my report of Norman Kretzman's essay "Omniscience and Immutability" published in "The Impossibility of God." The next installment regarding Objection C will be posted this evening.

Many Thanks to Prayson for taking time to respond to Dawson's argument. Best Wishes to All

February 03, 2013 9:31 AM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Prayson,

Yes, I meant you. Sorry for misnaming.

«Example in 1865, Friedrich Kekule, a German chemist, dreamed about a snake biting its tail, and this led him to realize that the molecular structure of benzene was circular. Showing how Kekule got to know(epistemology) how the molecular structure was circular, is irrelevant to status the ontology(benzene structure).»

Kekule did not get to know about the structure by the dream. The dream was a combination of his thinking a lot about the problem, and feed back into a possible solution. But what he imagined does not become knowledge until demonstrated. Once demonstrated we are no longer talking about some imaginary snake, but about a chemical structure. How many dreams become solutions to a real problem Prayson? How many would become knowledge without any connection to reality and thus possibility for testing?

«Peter Medawar, English biologist wrote "“Scientists are building explanatory structures, telling stories which are scrupulously tested to see if they are stories about real life” (Medawar 1984: 133)»

So what? Using our imaginations to guide our problem-solving does not make those possible solutions anything but imaginary. Only after testing they can become knowledge. The keyword is testing. Also, do you have any idea about how many imagined solutions came to be false? How many would become knowledge if they did not have any connections to reality that allowed them to be tested?

«Example blackholes, and multiunverses et cetera. so Nal is not correct in deeming that "Of course he would need to have a mental image of a 9-month pregnant women to combine with the mental image of his wife." since scientist have not former mental image of multiverse.»

But scientists do have some phenomena and their abstractions that allows them to imagine and then test multiverses, at least mathematically. The idea did not come from empty space. Even your god to be imagined is historically based on our ability to imagine human characteristics into natural phenomena, such as volcanoes being angry gods. The problem is that then they happen to be nothing more than imaginary.

...

February 03, 2013 1:45 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

[...2 ...]

«Remember the example I gave was to show the absurdity of Dawson's question: Using a pregnant wife example:

John Doe imagined that Jane Doe is having a baby boy, while Jane Doe imagined she is having a baby girl. When John/Jane imagine there is a baby girl/boy, how is what John/Jane imagining not imaginary?»

It is imaginary in both cases. It cannot become knowledge until tested. How could they test unless she is pregnant and they can verify?

«Well, the solution is, not how John or Jane imagining(subject status), but the the object status. If the baby is a boy, then John imagining is not imaginary, but Jane is.»

So, how then can we tell if the god you imagine is not imaginary? You are quite good at how to do that about Jane's baby. But wouldn't it work better if you told us about how to tell your god appart from mere imagination?

«From Dawson epistemology, both John and Jane imagining are imaginary which I find absurd.»

And they are both imaginary. Only when you verify the idea on the mind of one of them becomes knowledge. But not before. before that it is not knowledge. It is just imagination.

Your problem is that you mistake imagination with knowledge. We can imagine tons of things. We can mistake what we imagine with reality. But, for as long as we can't verify the reality of any of it, we can't say that those things are anything but imaginary.

So, the Christian god is imaginary. Everything points to it being imaginary. There is no objective reality to test for this god that you can point to. Therefore it is imaginary.

But I do understand the other side of your protest. You are saying that if you have something only in your imagination, it does not follow that such a thing does not exist. I counter that if we show that the only way you can "learn" about such thing is by imagination alone, then there's no reason to think that such a thing corresponds to a real thing, other than the anthropomorphisms following humanity since times immemorial (in the case of gods such as yours).

Is that absolute proof that your god is not real? If not, it is still a very strong reason to be very very very very skeptical. Skeptical to the point that just thinking that your god might as well be real looks just as ridiculous as thinking that there is a Harry Potter who really flies around on a broomstick.

P.S. The imaginary status of the Christian god becomes even more evident if we remember the tendency of humanity to anthropomorphize, and thus give a "divine" status to, natural phenomena. Specially when the phenomena are not well understood.

[DONE]

February 03, 2013 1:46 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Regarding Prayson’s futile efforts to challenge my argument:

1. All evidence points to the Christian god being imaginary. No evidence even barely suggests that the Christian god Is real. This is the real reason why Prayson will not interact with the evidence that I have presented in defense of Premise 4. This is also why he continually misconstrues the nature of imagination. Prayson gains no ground by rehashing statements of his which have already been answered. At this point, it seems that he is merely trying to save face.

2. None of Prayson’s examples show that the imaginary is real. When a person imagines something, he forms a mental image in his mind. That mental image, regardless of its content, is not a mind-independent reality. This is what I have been saying all along. Nothing Prayson has stated or given in his examples undermines or overturns this fact.

3. My wife is real, but when I imagine her, what I imagine is not real – it is merely a mental image that I selectively construct in my mind. It is not a real thing. When I imagine her, no additional version of my wife suddenly comes into existence. What I imagine is imaginary because I’m imagining it, regardless of what specifically I am imagining at a given moment. What I imagine can be modeled on what is real, but that does not make what I imagine real. This has been pointed out to Prayson repeatedly, but he continually ignores it entirely.

4. Prayson uses examples which involve people modeling their imagination on the basis of things that they have observed in an effort to obscure the distinction between the real and the imaginary. His examples include things like people, babies, libraries, etc., things that we know exist by means of natural observation. All these things are fundamentally different from the god which Christians and other religious believers worship in their imaginations, for when they imagine their gods, they are not modeling their imagination on the basis of things they have observed in the world. We do not observe Jesus, Yahweh, Elohim, Allah, Brahma, Zeus, Zoroaster, Geusha or Blarko in the world. We can imagine these things, but when we imagine them, we are not modeling them on things we have observed. Prayson ignores this crucially relevant fact entirely.

5. As I suspected earlier, it is clear that Prayson is conflating mere guessing with imagining. It is he who is departing from the meaning of ‘imagine’ as it figures in my argument. This is clear from the examples he gives in an effort apparently to show that the imaginary can be real (which of course is absurd on the face of it). He does this in order to remove the image-forming process of imagination, i.e., the distinctive operation of imagination as such, from his examples so that agreement between a guess and what turns out to be the case in his examples can be construed as an instance of something one “imagines” being real. But in his examples, all that Prayson is really describing is guessing, not imagination as such. In his earlier example, he has John Doe guessing a numerical value; his new examples involves a guess about an unborn baby’s sex. None of what Prayson’s examples seek to show focus on a mental image which his examples’ players form in their minds, but rather a mere guess at what may turn out to be the case. All his examples are designed to systematically prevent focus on whether or not a mental image formed in the mind is real or not.

[continued…]

February 03, 2013 2:19 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

6. If my sister-in-law gets pregnant, and upon hearing this news I imagine one day bouncing her six-month-old baby boy on my knee, what I am imagining is not really happening. What I am imagining is not the actual state of affairs. It couldn’t be, for the baby hasn’t even been born yet. Even if it turns out that my sister-in-law is pregnant with a boy, something which I did not know when I first imagined bouncing a baby boy on my knee, this does not mean that I was not imagining, nor does it mean that what I imagined is real. The image of a baby boy that I formed in my imagination is not a real baby boy – it is imaginary. It was imaginary all along. Prayson seems to be saying that what I imagined in this case would be real if it turns out that my sister-in-law was really pregnant with a boy. But this is absurd. How can I be bouncing a baby boy on my knee that hasn’t even been born yet? In fact, when I form a mental image of myself bouncing a baby boy on my knee, there are numerous specifics – where I’m sitting, what I’m wearing, what the baby boy looks like, whether he’s enjoying it or getting upset or vomiting, etc. – which will not directly mirror any future actuality. So contrary to one interpretation of what Prayson seems to be suggesting about imagination, it is not a form of “seeing the future.” Over and over again, Prayson seems hopelessly confused on all of this.

7. Prayson says that I need to prove that his god does not exist first before I can set out to show that his god is imaginary. But as Justin Hall rightly pointed out, theists are the ones who have the onus of proving that their god is real. There is no onus to prove that the unreal does not exist. The beauty of my argument is that it takes into account numerous evidences which solidly indicate that the Christian god is in fact merely imaginary, and draws from this implication the conclusion that it therefore is not real and thus does not exist. The course that my argument takes is entirely logical – it begins with evidences and correlates them to a factual principle, namely the principle that the imaginary is unreal. The same general procedure can be applied to other things people imagine, whether it is Islam’s Allah or a child’s imagination of a dragon sleeping under his bed.

So again, I stand by my argument. All of Prayson’s attempts to discredit my argument’s conclusion involve significant departures from the content of the argument which I have assembled to support it. He blatantly ignores the evidences which I have cited on behalf of my argument’s more controversial premise and he completely distorts the meaning of imagination as my argument understands it in order to evade the implications it has with regard to what is real. If Prayson’s god-belief were rationally secure, he would not need to resort to such disingenuous tactics. And yet he repeatedly employs them, which can only suggest that he realizes deep down that he has no defense against it.

Regards,
Dawson

February 03, 2013 2:19 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello friends. After a 12 mile bicycle ride, a snack, booting the XP box and checking status of my Euro trade, I logged onto Infidels.org and found this in their quote of the minute box.

"Negative existential hypotheses in natural language can be supported by the failure of proofs of their contradictories, but positive existential hypotheses are not made plausible by the failure of disproofs of their denials." ~ Michael Scriven, "God and Reason" Critiques of God (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1997) p. 113.

I have a copy of this book, (previously owned by Professor Michael Martin) but I've not yet read it. Scriven's point makes prima facie sense because circumstances involving existential hypotheses are not commonly found in normal experience. By their very nature they are extraordinary.

Consider the case of the devout Vishnu worshiper who insists her subjective religious ecstasies are irrefutable evidence of the Truth of the Bhagavad Gita and Puranas. No matter how rational an argument brought against an actual Vishnu, she will have some excuse or counter argument, valid or not, to discount them. Does this make it any more likely Vishnu actually exists? Does it provide a means whereby Prayson may reliably distinguish the Vishnu adherents Vishnu belief from a Vishnu fantasy? Interesting. Scriven put his finger directly on the hot button issue underlying Dawson's premise 4.

February 03, 2013 2:39 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Prayson,

More on the "burden of proof," this from Dawson's piece "Presuppositionalism and the Evasion of the Burden of Proof, Part 1":

"It's both strange and telling that a Christian would have a problem accepting the burden of proof if he wanted others to accept his claim that his god is anything more than imaginary. How much confidence does the believer have in his god-belief? How much confidence does he have in his reasons for believing what he claims?

Peter continues:

'The unbeliever reasons that because he is not the one positing the claim of someone's existence (in this case, God) that he bears no burden to disprove God's existence since the claim isn't true or can't be known unless it is first proven.'

No, that’s not why the atheist does not have the burden of proof. The atheist has no burden of proof because no one needs to prove that the non-existent does not exist. If the Christian god does not exist, no one needs to prove that it does not exist; in that case it simply doesn’t exist, and people either accept this or live in denial, hoping that it does exist. Again, the theist is asserting the existence of an entity, an entity which he says exists beyond our ability to perceive (so we have no means by which we can have direct awareness of it), beyond our ability to measure (so we could never know how to integrate it conceptually into the sum of our knowledge), beyond our ability to prove (for proof requires evidence, and legitimate evidence is finite while the Christian god is said to be infinite). We are expected to accept as knowledge something that we could never know, given the characteristics Christians use to describe their god. At best, we can only use our imaginations to 'know' such a being, and yet it needs to be borne in mind that the imaginary is not real. So not only does the theist bear the burden of proof, he also boobytraps any attempt at proof given the nature of his god-belief claims. This accounts for why so many theists resent the burden of proof being put on their shoulders: deep down they know it's a hopeless task, because deep down they know their claims are simply not true."

( http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2008/02/presuppositionalism-and-evasion-of.html )

Ydemoc

February 03, 2013 5:01 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

part 1
Norman Kretzmann's strong atheist argument against the Christian God goes:

1. A perfect being is not subject to change.
2. a perfect being knows every thing.
3. A being that knows everything always knows what time it is.
4. A being that always knows what time it is, is subject to change.
5. A perfect being is subject to change.
6. A perfect being is not a perfect being.
Therefore
7. There is no perfect being.

Objection (C): For an omniscient being always to know what time it is, is to know the state of the universe at every instant, but it is possible for an omniscient being to know the state of the universe at every instant all at once rather than successively. Consequently, it is possible for an omniscient being always to know what time it is without being subject to change.

Kretzmann says the superficial flaw in (C) regards ambiguity in the phrase "to know the state of the universe at every instant". I think the doubtfulness in meaning he identified here is two fold. (C) takes the universe to be a thing rather than the set of all that exists, and it assumes that all instants of time can reduce to a single Euclidian like timeless point. Kretzmann characterized this ambiguity flaw as minor and choose to focus on "drastic incompleteness of this account of omniscience regarding contingent events."

I don't know if Kretzmann accepted a Humean view of casualty as relations between events, but certainly (C) assumes such, for if it did take casual relations to exist between entities and their own attributes the objectors behind (C) would not have taken this line of reasoning. Information is contingent to entities because casual relations obtain between entities and their own attributes rather than as disassociated events. Kretzmann failed to identify this asspect of (C)'s impotence. Kretzmann did, however, proceed to what Christianity means by "to know the state of the universe at every instant all at once rather than successively." He explained The kind of knowledge ascribed to an omniscient being in this account is sometimes characterized as "seeing all time at a glance," which suggests that if one sees the entire scheme of contingent events from beginning to end at once, one sees all there is to see of time. The totality of contingent events, we are to suppose, may be know either simultaneously or successively, and an omniscient being will of course know it not successively but simultaneously.

Ironicly Kretzmann's Christian sources disagreed with Catholicism's take on omniscience that states ...is on Himself alone that God depends for His knowledge. To make Him in any way dependent on creatures for knowledge of created objects would destroy His infinite perfection and supremacy. In the Catholic view, the perfect and omniscient being doesn't see time or have any sort of perception. It just knows by magic.

Citing Aquinas' discussion from Summa Contra Gentiles, I.55.6-9, on the doctrine of knowing all at once rather than successively he quoted:

[6] Furthermore, the intellect of one considering successively many things cannot have only one operation. For since operations differ according to their objects, the operation by which the first is considered must be different from the operation by which the second is considered. But the divine intellect has only one operation, namely, the divine essence, as we have proved. Therefore, God considers all that He knows, not successively, but together.

[7] Moreover, succession cannot be understood without time nor time without motion, since time is “the number of motion according to before and after.” But there can be no motion in God, as may be inferred from what we have said. There is, therefore, no succession in the divine consideration. Thus, all that He knows God considers together.
continued

February 03, 2013 8:07 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

part 2
[8] Then, too, God’s understanding is His being, as is clear from what we have said. But there is no before and after in the divine being; everything is together, as was shown above. Neither, therefore, does the consideration of God contain a before and after, but, rather, understands all things together.

[9] Every intellect, furthermore, that understands one thing after the other is at one time potentially understanding and at another time actually understanding. For while it understands the first thing actually it understands the second thing potentially. But the divine intellect is never potentially, but always actually, understanding. Therefore, it does not understand things successively but rather understands them together.


Kretzmann next pointed out the drastic flaw in (C) and the doctrine of divine considering all knowledge simutaneously. On this view an omniscient being's knowledge of contingent events is of the form event e1 occurs at time t1, and contingent event e1 occurs at time t1+x, and contingent event e3 occurs at time t1+x+y, and the set of simultaneous events (e1a,e1b,...e1n,...) also occur at time t1. All accounts of omniscient beings claim it also knows all necessary truths, including arithmatic, so it knows how much time elapses between Kretzmann's birth and his death. Like Kretzmann, I am writing these words just now, and on Aquinas' and Newadvent's view an omniscient being is incapable of knowing that is what I am now doing because it is not considering individual instants of timeNor can an omniscient being know what I know when I am writing these these words, but surely a perfect being that knows "everything possible" should be able to know what a non-omniscient being knows when they write words at a particular time.

Kretzmann here identified the arguement from essential indexicals and characterized it as like a producer having produced a movie and memorized it exactly in all its details so that the producer would know a clock pictured in scene 1 showed 3:45 and the clock in scene two showed 4:30 and so forth. Suppose the movie was being shown in a theater. The producer knows it immeasurably better than the audience who are seeing it for the first time, but the members of the audience know something the producer can't know. That is what is going on on the screen now.

Thus the familiar account of omniscience regarding contingent events is drastically incomplete. An omniscient being must know not only the entire scheme of contingent events from beginning to end at once, but also at what staage of realization that shceme now is. It is in this sense of knowing what time it is that it is essential to claim in premise (3) that a being that knows everything always knows what time it is, and it is in this sense that always knowing what time it is entails incessant change in the knower, as is claimed in preimise (4).

If a perfect omniscient being didn't know what Kretzmann knew when he was writing the words of his essay, then it does not know everything possible and is not an omiscent or perfect being. But a being that knows all contingent facts simultaenously can't know what is realized in any particular instant of time. That's a tough dilemma.

February 03, 2013 8:08 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Good morning friends. I should have noted that the argument from essential indexicals has been attacked by theistic philosophers and strongly defended by Nicholas Everrit and Patrick Grim. Grim's work is featured in "The Impossibility of God", and Everrit's book is titled "The Non-Existence of God." After concluding my report of Krtezmann's essay, I'll do a report of Grim's essay titled "Against Omniscience: The Case From Essential Indexicals."

Many Thanks and Best Wishes

February 04, 2013 5:53 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@Robert

Man you need to start a blog. I don't mean that in jest, seriously. You have some good ideas and explore interesting topics.

February 04, 2013 10:50 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Justin,

I believe Robert has a blog. He hasn't been active on it lately, though (as far as I can tell). See here:

http://robertbumbalough.blogspot.com/

Ydemoc

February 04, 2013 1:41 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@Ydemoc

thanks I'll check it out

@Dawson

Hey there, stupid question. I noticed how you have your somewhat lengthy posts formated so that only a small initial portion shows and if they reader wants to read more clicks the link you provide. Care to share how you do that?

February 04, 2013 7:41 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Justin,

Well, I just use magic! I just wish, and presto, the "read more" link appears where I want it.

Actually, yours is not a stupid question at all. It puzzled me for a while too!

The function you’re asking about is called “Insert Jump Break.” It appears as an icon on your blog post editor form in Compose mode (not HTML mode). The icon looks like a sheet of paper with a jagged rip across the middle, left to right. Locate that icon in your editor before doing anything else.

Next, once you have your post ready to publish, find a point somewhere in the post and place your cursor in the text at that point. (I usually put it about a paragraph or two down from the top.)

Then simply hit that Insert Jump Break icon and it will insert a line across your blog text. That will appear as a “Read more” link on your blog’s main page.

Try it. It’s pretty nifty.

Thanks to NAL who patiently helped me make use of this function some 14 months ago!

Regards,
Dawson

February 05, 2013 2:52 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@Dawson

many thanks. I am in the process of posting a novel I am writing on-line and a 30 plus page post (a single chapter) is well lengthy. Wanted to have like you said only the first paragraph or two show on the main blog.

February 05, 2013 3:29 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Sounds great, Justin. I hope it works!

Good luck!

Dawson

February 05, 2013 3:34 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

In your response to Matt Brown, I'm reminded of what Peikoff wrote in OPAR:

"A relationship between conceptual content and reality is a relationship between man’s consciousness and reality. There can be no 'correspondence' or 'recognition' without the mind that corresponds or recognizes. If a wind blows the sand on a desert island into configurations spelling out 'A is A,' this does not make the wind a superior metaphysician. The wind did not achieve any conformity to reality; it did not produce any truth, but merely shapes in the sand. Similarly, if a parrot is trained to squawk '2 + 2= 4,' this does not make it a mathematician. The parrot’s consciousness did not attain thereby any contact with reality or any relation to it, positive or negative; the parrot did not recognize or contradict any fact; what it created was not truth or falsehood, but merely sounds. Sounds that are not the vehicle of conceptual awareness have no cognitive status.

An arbitrary claim emitted by a human mind is analogous to the shapes made by the wind or to the sounds of the parrot. Such a claim has no cognitive relationship to reality, positive or negative. The true is identified by reference to a body of evidence; it is pronounced 'true' because it can be integrated without contradiction into a total context. The false is identified by the same means; it is pronounced 'false' because it contradicts the evidence and/or some aspect of the wider context. The arbitrary, however, has no relation to evidence or context; neither term, therefore — 'true' or 'false' — can be applied to it." (p. 165 - 166)

Just thought I'd toss that in the mix.

Ydemoc

February 05, 2013 4:49 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

That's a great quote from Peikoff. I remember reading it some time ago. It applies at least somewhat to what Prayson was saying. But not entirely. Prayson seems to be saying that if one forms a guess at a figure by referencing something completely irrelevant, such as the number of people currently in a library by glancing at the numbers appearing on his watch, and that figure happens to turn out correct, it wasn't a guess after all. I don't think that's what Prayson originally wanted to present with his example (he originally wanted to say if someone imagined something in the way described, what he imagined was not actually imaginary), but that's essentially what his example describes.

Either way one looks at Prayson’s examples, it’s clear that he is not allowing imagination to be imagination. On the one hand, what he describes resembles guessing more than imagining; on the other hand, he wants to say that if someone was imagining, it wasn’t really imagining, but somehow knowing. As I’ve been trying to explain to him, imagination is a specific type of activity which the mind performs, and my argument has this type of activity in mind, not guessing, not getting lucky with some trivial item, etc. My argument has this type of activity in mind because this is the type of activity which the believer performs when he marinates his mind with his god-belief: he imagines his god, its many manifestations as described by his religion (including the incarnation), the actions it is said by his religion to have performed, other supernatural beings whose existence his religion affirms – whether they are angels or demons, devils or giants that procreated with human females way back when, and all the other fun stuff we read in the bible, such as the Adam and Eve story, Noah and the flood, Abraham and his ready willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, David and Goliath, Jonah and the whale, Daniel in the lion’s den, Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, Peter impressing thousands of Jerusalem’s Jews shortly after Jesus’s crucifixion with Septuagint translations of Hebrew texts (in Acts – like so much else in the bible, this is way beyond believable), the drug-induced visions in Revelation, etc.

We can imagine all these things, and believers are actively encouraged to imagine them by their devotional program, a program that calls for continual repeating and reaffirming of what the believer is expected to accept as knowledge. A fundamental consequence of this program is the blurring of the distinction between reality and imagination, to the extent that believers think they are “knowing” when in fact they are merely imagining.

Also, thanks for quoting the passage from my blog “Presuppositionalism and the Evasion of the Burden of Proof, Part 1", above. I would urge Prayson and other believers to consider what I wrote there.

Regards,
Dawson

February 07, 2013 3:50 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 07, 2013 8:30 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Thanks for taking the time to elaborate on all this!

You wrote: "Either way one looks at Prayson’s examples, it’s clear that he is not allowing imagination to be imagination."

Yes. He did seem intent upon blurring the distinction between imagination and other forms of cognitive activity, all in order to rescue his god-belief from the fantasy that it is.

That such theists fight so hard for imagination, wanting its products to be actual, is quite telling.


Thanks!

Ydemoc

February 08, 2013 3:19 AM  
Blogger freddies_dead said...

Prayson thinks that a phrase that he found during his research into the definition of imagination is some sort of magic bullet.

That phrase? "lacking factual reality".

If there are 210 people in the library then it is a fact of reality that there are 210 people in the library - sounds simple enough. On that basis Prayson seems to think that, because what John Doe "imagines" happens to coincide with what is factually real, then what John is "imagining" is also real.

On his blog Prayson asks:

"Is John’s imagining imaginary? Is John’s imagining existing only in the imagination: lacking factual reality?"

And he answers himself thus:

"Yes if the amount of people in the library is not 210, because his belief lacks factual reality, and no, if the amount of people is 210, thus John’s belief does have factual reality."

Of course, as Dawson and others have pointed out, John is not actually "imagining" those 210 people in the library he's merely guessing at a number. Were John to actually attempt to fully imagine those 210 people his imagining would no longer coincide with factual reality. If he imagined their genders, races, ages, heights, hair colours, eye colours, names etc... then, whilst some details might correlate in a small way (as the guessed number did) what he would be imagining is still entirely imaginary. Not only does John's imagining have no existence independent of his mind, it lacks the factual reality Prayson imagines that it has.

February 08, 2013 3:34 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

Here's that story that I'd previously mentioned:

Man Quits Job Over 'Satanic' 666 on His W-2 Form

"Walter Slonopas received his W-2 tax form and found the number 666 stamped on it. Calling it a satanic omen, he quit his job.

'I cannot accept this number. If you accept that number, you sell your soul to the devil,' Slonopas told ABC News."

And even though it may seem like a story out of The Onion, it's actually from:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/satanic-666-omen-tax-form-tennessee-man-quit/story?id=18433425

Allllllrighty then...

Ydemoc

February 08, 2013 4:40 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

some twenty years ago when I was right out of high school one of my first jobs was as a cashier at a grocery store. I rang up this one woman and the total was $6.66. She literally freaked out and ran from the store. I chuckle about that every time I remember it.

February 08, 2013 5:19 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Greetings Friends: I had a brief exchange on Twitter with believer who mentioned The stuff in here has been long discredited and shows finite man's limited ability to conprehend infinity! in reference to Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier's anthology "The Impossibility of God"

I responded with a post frpm twitlonger.com that follows.

@MartelloTower @cf1969 You mentioned “the infinite”; I think this poses a problem in the form of a dilemma for Theism. As the God of classical Theism is alleged to be a necessary being that necessarily exists in all possible worlds as Divine Creator, then if there are actual infinities, no theistic believer can legitimately claim to hold rational God beliefs. In this case, an infinite regression of causation then isn’t in any way logically repugnant. Consequently, the God of classical Theism then would not be a logically necessary being in this possible world (and actual existence) or any other possible world where numbers and maths exist independently of cognition. The implication of that would be that God would be an impossible being by the Law of Excluded Middle. Christian apologist William Lane Craig recognizes this and consequently argues strenuously against existence of actual infinities.

On the other hand, if numbers and maths do not actually exist independently from cognition and are just conceptual phenomena, then there aren’t actual infinities. If that is the case, then there can’t be any infinite Theistic God because a personal being must of necessity be finite, and no finite being can exist as one most worthy of worship.

Here’s a link to an interesting blog written by my internet pal Dawson Bethrick. Dawson has been arguing against Christianity for seven years now, and as far as I can tell has not been defeated by any apologist or advocating adherent.

http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2013/01/prayson-daniel-vs-imaginative-nature-of.html

Dawson asks (and I echo this)

When I imagine your god, how is what I am imagining not imaginary?

Here’s Dawson’s argument. Maybe you’d like to take a run at it.

Premise 1: That which is imaginary is not real.

Premise 2: If something is not real, it does not actually exist.

Premise 3: If the god of Christianity is imaginary, then it is not real and therefore does not actually exist.

Premise 4: The god of Christianity is imaginary.

Conclusion: Therefore, the god of Christianity is not real and therefore does not actually exist.

February 10, 2013 7:22 PM  
Blogger shotgun said...

I'm sorry if someone has noted this already, but:

The first premise:

"That which is imaginary, is not real" ...

Seems to automatically exclude any view of reductive physicalism or Identity theory.

For instance, for every particular imagining (I), we have an identical brain state (n).

In this case, an imagining, would "exist" as a brain state.

Of course, it wouldn't be consistent with Christian theology to claim God is a series of particular brain states.

Nevertheless, it would serve as a defeater for premise 1, 2, and 3, as well as the conclusion.

Supposing we were to grant 4, that the Christian God were "imaginary", and further, that "imaginary" is identical to brain state (n).

I'm not sure we would be able to move, logically, to the conclusion, therefore, that brain-state (n) does not correspond to an actual state of affairs in the world.

If we automatically reject the possibility that any one belief(any various brain state, including brain-state n), corresponds to actual states of affairs, then we've effectively undercut the legitimacy of the entire argument at the outset, since our beliefs about there even BEING an argument, couldn't correspond to an actual state of affairs.

February 12, 2013 1:21 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Shotgun,

Let me get this straight. You don’t think Premise 1 of my argument is true? You think, contrary to my Premise 1, that the imaginary is actually real?

For instance, when I imagine the tooth fairy, the tooth fairy that I imagine really exists?

Keep in mind what I explained to Prayson: I am not implying nor have I affirmed that imagination is not an actual activity which a mind performs. If I imagine the tooth fairy, I really am imagining. So if you want to say there’s a “brain state” here, my argument is not challenging that at all.

Anyway, perhaps you could clarify your view here viz. my above questions?

Regards,
Dawson

February 12, 2013 2:00 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

hello everyone. This is not germane to the topic but of interest to objectivists. I appears that at least some French are going Galt

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/376512/The-French-are-Les-Miserables

February 12, 2013 5:21 PM  
Blogger shotgun said...

I'm not arguing anything about the nature of imaginings.

I'm saying that if we grant premise 1, then we are automatically discounting any theory of "mind / brain" that numerically equates brain states with mental states (such as, many popular forms of Identity theory, or reductive physicalism).

If you don't think mental states are identitical to brain states, then premise 1 might be true.

But if mental states *are* identical to brain states, then any "imagining" (a mental experience) would be identical to a particular physical brain state, and thus: would exist (where "exist" means, has a presence in space and time).

'sall I meant.

February 17, 2013 7:25 AM  
Blogger shotgun said...

Also, there's something else I'm curious about, and again, I apologize if this has already been covered:

I'm having a hard time accepting premise 1 as written.

Setting aside the questions concerning Identity Theory I raised above for a moment: is it possible that just because someone imagines something, that "something" cannot actually exist?

Suppose I imagine a man named "Wang" who lives in China. It's entirely possible that I can imagine such a man.

Is there some logical reason, therefore, the man cannot exist in China as I've imagined him?

It might be statistically improbable, sure. But I see no reason why it is logically impossible.

Mightn't someone imagine Wang and, by complete coincidence, happen to have arrived at correct beliefs through their imagining?

I don't see why not. I don't see why the imaginary is automatically to be considered unreal, unless we're applying the property "unreal" to all imaginings at the outset.

And, by the way Dawson, I answered your question to me, but I'm not sure if that post made it through or not. If it didn't I'll gladly re-post.

February 17, 2013 8:13 AM  
Blogger shotgun said...

Also, there's something else I'm curious about, and again, I apologize if this has already been covered:

I'm having a hard time accepting premise 1 as written.

Setting aside the questions concerning Identity Theory I raised above for a moment: is it possible that just because someone imagines something, that "something" cannot actually exist?

Suppose I imagine a man named "Wang" who lives in China. It's entirely possible that I can imagine such a man.

Is there some logical reason, therefore, the man cannot exist in China as I've imagined him?

It might be statistically improbable, sure. But I see no reason why it is logically impossible.

Mightn't someone imagine Wang and, by complete coincidence, happen to have arrived at correct beliefs through their imagining?

I don't see why not. I don't see why the imaginary is automatically to be considered unreal, unless we're applying the property "unreal" to all imaginings at the outset.

And, by the way Dawson, I answered your question to me, but I'm not sure if that post made it through or not. If it didn't I'll gladly re-post.

February 17, 2013 8:14 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Shotgun,

You wrote: “I'm not arguing anything about the nature of imaginings.”

You aren’t? I thought this is where the focus of your dispute is. That is what Premise 1 is all about – it says that the imaginary is unreal. Either you dispute this, or you don’t. Which is it?

You wrote: “I'm saying that if we grant premise 1, then we are automatically discounting any theory of ‘mind / brain’ that numerically equates brain states with mental states (such as, many popular forms of Identity theory, or reductive physicalism).”

Ultimately you would have to present your argument for this view. I would say that granting Premise 1 automatically rules out any view which affirms what one imagines as something actually existing, i.e., actually existing independent of conscious activity. Earlier it appeared that you had interpreted my Premise 1 to be saying that imagination is not an actual activity which a mind can perform. I grant that imagination is a type of activity which human minds can perform. Premise 1 in no way conflicts with this.

You wrote: “If you don't think mental states are identitical to brain states, then premise 1 might be true.”

I really don’t see the relevance either way. If someone imagines something, he’s imagining. Imagination is a specific type of mental activity regardless of how one might distinguish “mental states” from “brain states.” It’s still imagination, and existence still has metaphysical primacy over consciousness.

You wrote: “But if mental states *are* identical to brain states, then any ‘imagining’ (a mental experience) would be identical to a particular physical brain state, and thus: would exist (where ‘exist’ means, has a presence in space and time).”

So again, on this view, if I imagine the tooth fairy, are you saying that what I imagine “has a presence in space and time”? Please be very clear on this.

In my view, imagination is not so much a “state” as it is a type of *activity* which the mind performs. Imagination is something that *happens* - it is an activity which needs a performer, namely the individual who does the imagining. Imagination begins and then it ends, per the performer’s choices. Imagination is not something that takes place outside of a mind. Nor does it produce existents which exist independent of the mind performing the activity of imagining.

[continued…]

February 17, 2013 2:51 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “I'm having a hard time accepting premise 1 as written.”

I really don’t understand why. I’ve tried to make my argument’s premises as straightforward as possible. And yet above, you say that you’re “not arguing anything about the nature of imaginings.” But that’s what is at issue in Premise 1.

So again, on your view, when I imagine the tooth fairy, what I’m imagining may not be merely imaginary? Since this is the kind of thing that my argument is about, can you speak to it directly?

You asked: “is it possible that just because someone imagines something, that ‘something’ cannot actually exist?”

Yes, I have addressed questions of this nature already, but I’m happy to revisit the issue.

You wrote: “Suppose I imagine a man named ‘Wang’ who lives in China. It's entirely possible that I can imagine such a man.”

Sure, it’s possible for you to imagine a man named ‘Wang’. No one has contended that you or anyone else cannot imagine such a thing. What I’m saying is *what you imagine* is imaginary, regardless of how closely it may resemble something that actually exists. I really don’t see how that can be controversial.

You asked: “Is there some logical reason, therefore, the man cannot exist in China as I've imagined him?”

If you are imagining, you are imagining. Imagination is a mental activity and the image your imagination forms when you imagine something is entirely internal to your mental experience. When you imagine something, the image you form in your mind is not an independently existing entity or state of affairs.

There may be a man (or a million men) named “Wang” in China – probably more. That fact alone does not make what you imagined real or actual. You simply supplied a name to what you have imagined that happens to correspond to what actually does exist over in China. What actually exists over in China does not depend on what you imagine, and what exists over in China exists independent of whatever you might happen to imagine. The image you form in your mind is fleeting and ends the moment you stop imagining it; you can reassemble it from memory, but it will likely alter as you reform it with new details.

Now, you can inform your imagination with details that you have learned from empirical experience, in order for what you imagine to more closely resemble what you understand to actually exist in China. But this does not make what you imagine real. It’s still just your imagination.

[continued…]

February 17, 2013 2:52 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “It might be statistically improbable, sure. But I see no reason why it is logically impossible.”

By virtue of the fact that you are *imagining* makes it factually impossible. Imagination is a specific type of mental activity. I have been careful to contrast imagination from memory; the two are different. I am simply taking you at your word that you are imagining Mr. Wang and that you understand what your mind is doing when you imagine Mr. Wang. What you imagine may include certain details which appear to correspond to what actually exists – e.g., the Mr. Wang that you imagine would have a head, a torso, two arms, two legs, clothes, teeth, eyes, a nose, etc. But these are details that you have selectively included in the image you form in your imagination. The image that you form in your imagination is like a fleeting vapor. It’s gone soon as you stop imagining it. Meanwhile, Mr. Wang over in China is very much real and exists independent of what you or anyone else imagine.

You asked: “Mightn't someone imagine Wang and, by complete coincidence, happen to have arrived at correct beliefs through their imagining?”

Even if someone could do this (and how would anyone ever be able to know that he has?), it is irrelevant. The distinction between the real and the imaginary is not a matter of how “accurately” the image one forms in his imagination corresponds to what actually exists. Even if one could comprehensively get all the details right (really, an impossible feat so far as I could tell), he is still imagining, and what he imagines is still merely a mental image he’s formed in his mind that has no causal effect on reality. When he stops imagining Mr. Wang, for instance, the real Mr. Wang continues to exist.

You wrote: “I don't see why not. I don't see why the imaginary is automatically to be considered unreal, unless we're applying the property ‘unreal’ to all imaginings at the outset.”

I can only suppose that you’re ignoring what is involved in the process of forming a mental image. “Accuracy” of details does not matter.

Does that help?

Regards,
Dawson

February 17, 2013 2:52 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Dawson, Shotgun, Ydemoc, Justin, Freddie, Photo, Nal and all the other readers.

Discussion between Shotgun and Dawson of premise one which reads as "That which is imaginary is not real.", prompted me to think of a case that may invalidate p1.

What if I imagine that I am imagining myself engaged in the act of imagining myself as an exercise in Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation. This would be a type of metaimagination. Would the brain activity of imagining myself actually exist while the content of my imaginary representations were that of me imagining myself imagining me?

By way of substitution let my brain activity that equates to me imagining be designated as I1. Let the content of I1, that being me imagining me engaged in the activity of imagining me imagining, be designated as I2. If the specifications of I2 actually matched those of I1, then would not I1 equate in some way to I2? If so then would that equality invalidate p1?

Best and Good, Many Thanks to Dawson and all other commentarians.

February 17, 2013 4:52 PM  
Blogger shotgun said...

Thanks for the responses, Dawson and Mr. B.

In reply, I'd like to lay out a scenario:

Brain state N (say - a particular set of neurons firing) ----> produces Mental Event E (say - an imagining) ----> which delivers Imagination Content W (a mental image of our Chinese friend Wang).

So,

N ---> E ---> W.

For premise 1 to function as you intend in your argument, N and W cannot be numerically identical, else W would "exist" in the real world (it would exist as mental state N).

Given the law of Identity, A=A in all possible worlds (about which we're presently concerned)if N = W (if they're numerically identical) then W shares all the properties of N, including "existence".

If N existed (and most everyone here would agree that brain states exist) then W too, would exist, since the two share all properties.

Thus, to grant premise 1, you would have to reject any view of Identity theory or physical reductionism that equates N and E, or N and W, or N,E, and W.

That's my first observation.

---------------------

Secondly, I was worried with the way premise 1 was worded.

I appreciate you taking the time to go over this again with me Dawson, though I'm still a little unclear.

You seem to grant that N and W are not numerically identical. Well and good. (Only a few die-hard internet materialists might deny it).

But you don't seem to differentiate between E and W.

Are you really saying that E cannot possibly produce any W (where W corresponds to an actual state of affairs)?

In that case, N ---> E, can NEVER produce a W (where W corresponds to an actual state of affairs).

I'm not clear why this is logically impossible.

Would it be more precise to word premise 1, this way?:

1. Mental Event E (imagining)never produces phenomena that correspond to the real world.

If that's what you really mean, then it seems demonstrably false, as all kinds of mental events (and mental images) routinely correspond to the world, indeed they must else we're driven to solipsism and skepticism.

I understand that mental phenomenon W (say - a mental image of Wang) is not numerically identical to the Wang that just happens to exist in real life...as if we could imagine an object and, by mere force of our imagining, cause it to manifest in front of us.

Nevertheless, I don't see why mental phenomenon W cannot correspond to an actual Wang, and this sort of correspondence is all that seems necessary to defeat the entire argument.

February 18, 2013 5:47 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Shotgun,

I have to say I’m a bit stymied as to what it is you’re trying to argue, or what exactly it is you’re disputing in my Premise 1. So let me ask a few questions:

1. When I imagine Mr. Wang or anything else, in what way do you think *what I imagine* exists?

2. When I imagine Mr. Wang or anything else, what does *what I imagine* exist as?

3. How does whatever your answers to these questions defeat my Premise 1?

Your “N ---> E ---> W” scenario seems specifically to relate to the *act* of imagining rather than the *content* of that act. I will repeat: I have in no way argued that imagination as a mental process is not real; I wholly and happily grant that imagination is an actual process which the human mind can perform. What my Premise 1 essentially says is that the image one forms in his mind when he imagines something, is not a mind-independent reality. As an object of consciousness, it is a selective fabrication. If I imagine Mr. Wang, what I’m imagining is not some mind-independent reality, even if there is a real Mr. Wang walking around the earth somewhere. In that case, there is the real Mr. Wang walking around the earth, and there is what I imagine. The two are not the same. It doesn’t matter how closely the imagine I form in my mind resembles Mr. Wang. When I stop imagining Mr. Wang, the image in my mind vanishes – i.e., the activity by which I selectively form the image in my mind stops. But any real actual individual bearing the name “Mr. Wang” continues to exist completely unaffected.

You wrote: “For premise 1 to function as you intend in your argument, N and W cannot be numerically identical, else W would ‘exist’ in the real world (it would exist as mental state N).”

Again, since this has to do with what you call a “mental state,” you can only be talking about the *act* of imagining here. Again, I do not deny the existence of minds or the specific activities which any particular mind performs. So again, you do not seem to be raising any actual criticism of what my Premise 1 states.

You wrote: “Thus, to grant premise 1, you would have to reject any view of Identity theory or physical reductionism that equates N and E, or N and W, or N,E, and W.”

Actually, to grant Premise 1, all one needs to do is recognize that the image one forms in his mind is not a mind-independent reality. That’s what it means to say that the imaginary is not real. I can imagine a fairy visiting children around the world in their sleep and replacing lost baby teeth tucked under their pillows with a quarter. But it would not follow from this that the fairy I’m imagining is actually real. There is a fundamental distinction between reality and imagination. Is this really that difficult to grasp?

[continued…]

February 19, 2013 1:19 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “You seem to grant that N and W are not numerically identical.”

It’s not clear to me what you mean by “numerically identical” in the first place. It seems that to argue that two things are “numerically identical” in some way, one would need to identify commensurable values between the two things being related that can be measured by a single type of measuring stick. But I don’t see that you have done this. I don’t know of any single measuring stick that relates to “neurons firing” (your “N”) and any imagination content (your “W”). Can you identify such a form of measurement which does this?

That said, it still seems to me that you’re interpreting my Premise 1 incorrectly. As I’ve stated – I’ll state it again, hoping it sinks in this time: I am not disputing the fact that imagination is an actual process which a mind can perform. When a person is imagining, he really is imagining. So talk of “neurons firing” and their relation to the mental image one forms in his mind (the content of his imagination) does not address my Premise 1, since a) my Premise 1 does not deny the reality of imagination as a mental process, and b) the nature of the relationship between brain activity (“neurons firing”) and the imagine one forms in his mind when he imagines (the “imagination content”) does not imply in any way that the image one forms in his mind is actually an independently existing reality (which is what my Premise 1 is actually about).

You asked: “Are you really saying that E cannot possibly produce any W (where W corresponds to an actual state of affairs)?”

I don’t think mental activity produces any actual *mind-independent* state of affairs, period. I cannot wish the tooth fairy into existence any more that I can imagine it into existence. That’s the primacy of existence. Are you familiar with this principle?

You wrote: “In that case, N ---> E, can NEVER produce a W (where W corresponds to an actual state of affairs). I'm not clear why this is logically impossible.”

It’s important that we’re not talking past each other in all this. What you mean specifically in the context of your point by “actual state of affairs” is ambiguous. Are you talking about some internal subjective experience? If so, I would agree that if one imagines something, he has fabricated an evanescent quasi-object for his consciousness to be aware of within the confines of his imagination. Is that an “actual state of affairs” in your view? That’s for you to tell me. Also, what do you mean by “logically impossible”? Many thinkers who use this kind of locution think that if someone can imagine something, it is “logically possible.” I am not one of those kinds of thinkers. I can imagine myself breathing water, but I would not say that this will ever be possible. I’m interested particularly in facts, not thought-experiments which gratuitously depart from reality.

[continued…]

February 19, 2013 1:20 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You asked: “Would it be more precise to word premise 1, this way?: 1. Mental Event E (imagining)never produces phenomena that correspond to the real world.”

No, I don’t think so, because correspondence per se is not the issue in my Premise 1. We can all think of examples where we imagine things that correspond to the real world. I can imagine, for example, the arrangement of items on my desk. I close my eyes, and imagine my desk and the items that I know are on it, including my computer, my notebook, a flashlight, some pens, a few books, post-it notes, pens, a stapler, etc. So my mental event (imagining) is producing a phenomenon (a mental image) which in this case corresponds to this world. So the revision of my Premise 1 that you suggest could be shot down immediately. Meanwhile, Premise 1 as I have stated it remains impervious to such counter-examples.

You wrote: “I understand that mental phenomenon W (say - a mental image of Wang) is not numerically identical to the Wang that just happens to exist in real life...as if we could imagine an object and, by mere force of our imagining, cause it to manifest in front of us.”

Great!

You wrote: “Nevertheless, I don't see why mental phenomenon W cannot correspond to an actual Wang, and this sort of correspondence is all that seems necessary to defeat the entire argument.”

Where does my argument contend that mental phenomena cannot “correspond” to the actual world????? Where does my argument say anything about “correspondence” to begin with?????? What are you reading?????

Regards,
Dawson

February 19, 2013 1:20 AM  
Blogger NAL said...

This discussion is fascinating. Both shotgun and Prayson are trying to refute Premise 1. Neither are going after Premise 4. They seem to know that their god is imaginary and are trying to set up an argument that even if their god is imaginary, it is not logically impossible for it to be real. That's a mighty small gap to try and fit your god into.

February 19, 2013 7:35 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You’re exactly right, NAL. By going after Premise 1, Christians are tacitly conceding the truth of Premise 4, whether they realize it or not. Typically from what I’ve seen, Christians initially accept Premises 1-3 and wince at Premise 4. But then they double back and start picking at Premise 1. Quite a phenomenon, I must say!

Regards,
Dawson

February 19, 2013 2:52 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

shotgun argued and concluded:

Nevertheless, it would serve as a defeater for premise 1, 2, and 3, as well as the conclusion.

No it wouldn't. This is the most painfully evident case of equivocation I have witnessed in my life, and I have seen some. The reality of a mental state does not "defeat" the argument because the argument is not about mental states, but about imaginary shit. Equivocating a mental state with the imaginary shit is painfully stupid. Sorry, shotgun, but it is. I tried to avoid the word, but could not. It's so incredibly stupid that it hurts.

It gets worse:

I'm saying that if we grant premise 1, then we are automatically discounting any theory of "mind / brain" that numerically equates brain states with mental states (such as, many popular forms of Identity theory, or reductive physicalism).

This is false. Premise 1 has nothing to do with accepting/rejecting physicalism. Also, physicalism does not "numerically equate" brain states and mental states. It would only mean that mental states are reflections/products of brain activity. "Numbers" do not have to be identical There might be one billion neuronal firings/connections for just one mental image, and so on. There is nothing in physicalism demanding equal numbers.

But if mental states *are* identical to brain states, then any "imagining" (a mental experience) would be identical to a particular physical brain state, and thus: would exist (where "exist" means, has a presence in space and time).

Again, mental states would be the result of brain states/phenomena. Whatever number of brain activities making a mental image does not mean that the imagined thing is real. It means that the mental states are real. That's it. This is, again, arguing for an equivocation. Dawson never meant that mental activity was not real, but that imaginary things were not real.

February 19, 2013 4:24 PM  
Blogger shotgun said...

Thank you all for the kind words.

I'll not do a line by line response, preferring instead to re-state myself with everyone's observations in mind:

My motives for posting here are irrelevant, but because we're civil people, a brief word: I've been doing work on a personal project in the field of taxonomy, and as a result, have gotten interested in philosophical problems concerning the indiscernibility of identicals and the operation of rigid designators between discernible objects; areas of philosophy that apply to the discussion here in interesting ways.

I've made two general observations.

The first:

If we accept premise 1, we're rejecting many popular approaches to the philosophy of mind.

Contrary to what our friend Photo suggests, there are many materialists / physicalists, who do equate brain states with mental states. But the physical reductionists aside, we would also be rejecting (out of hand) contemporary disciples of Rudolf Steiner, who attempt to systematize a Romantic epistemology that claims a specific function for imagination.

If everyone here is ok with rejecting these positions out of hand, then great. We can move on to my second (and what seems to be: more interesting) observation.

-----------------

The Second:

Premise 1 seems prima-facie false to me.

If I imagine my girlfriend in a sexy cow-girl outfit, will she cease to exist?

That seems more than just false. It seems absurd!

So, Dawson must mean something else.

But in his responses to me, Dawson has denied that he means to discuss the correspondence of mental states to actual affairs. (Thanks for clarifying that, Dawson).

I take this to mean, then, that Dawson wants to talk about imaginary objects in the abstract, meaning:

"An imaginary object, by definition, does not exist."

But this seems problematic on the face of it as well. If an object doesn't exist, it has no properties. And if an imaginary object has no properties, then it is indiscernible.

It follows, therefore, that we would never be able to claim a specific object is "imaginary" if the specific object is conceptually discernible from other objects (since to discern one object from another, requires recognition of properties).

So, what Dawson means, I think, is that imaginary objects have at least three properties:

1. They're not extended in space / time.

2. They have no causal affect on objects in space time.

and

3. They are produced mostly by human bodies (this property is implied in Dawson's premise 4).

Objects with these three properties, might, nevertheless, be said (colloquially) to not exist. And I think Dawson was speaking colloquially when he framed his argument.

Is this a fair characterization, so far, Dawson?

If so, then for Dawson to prove premise 4, he has to present evidence that God has the three properties I've laid out above.

Most all Christians believe God has the first property.

(It's worth noting at this point, about property 2, that BELIEF in an imaginary object might have a causal effect in the world, but the imaginary object itself, does not).

So, it seems Dawson would have to focus on proving that God has property 2 and 3.

Would a survey of popular theologians be adequate to prove an object has property 2 and 3?

I don't think so. Given the "primacy of existence" an object exists, quite independent of what is thought (or imagined) about it.

February 21, 2013 6:27 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Shotgun,

You wrote: “If we accept premise 1, we're rejecting many popular approaches to the philosophy of mind.”

This may be true, though I don’t think you’ve successfully established this one way or another yet. But ultimately that doesn’t matter to me per se. There are many philosophical notions out there that I reject, their popularity notwithstanding. My philosophical position is in disagreement with literally billions of people across this planet. I’m aware of this already.

You wrote: “Premise 1 seems prima-facie false to me.”

Again, it’s not clear to me why. Nothing you’ve presented in any of your messages so far suggests to me that Premise 1 is at all false. Especially when you ask a question like the following:

“If I imagine my girlfriend in a sexy cow-girl outfit, will she cease to exist? That seems more than just false. It seems absurd!”

Have you been reading what I’ve been writing? Do you really have the impression that my Premise 1 is suggesting that if you imagine your girlfriend in some way, she will consequently “cease to exist”? Where are you getting this?????

You wrote: “So, Dawson must mean something else.”

I certainly do not mean that if you take something which actually exists “out there” (and which you have awareness of by direct means, i.e., by means of perception) and rearrange it in the confines of your imagination, that the object “out there” will cease to exist. I really don’t see how you could come away with the impression that it does, if you’ve been reading what I’ve been saying.

I’ve posted a series of questions to you. But for some reason, you have not addressed them. Why is that?

I will rephrase them given your latest example:

1. When I imagine your girlfriend or anything else, in what way do you think *what I imagine* exists?

2. When I imagine your girlfriend or anything else, what does *what I imagine* exist as?

3. How do your answers to these questions defeat my Premise 1?


How do you answer these questions?

You write: "An imaginary object, by definition, does not exist."

I explained specifically what I mean in the context of Premise 1 by “unreal.” Here it is again:

When I imagine Mr. Wang, your girlfriend, or anything else, the image I form in my mind is not a mind-independent reality.

Read that again – let it sink in.

Example: I can imagine anyone’s girlfriend dancing in a sexy outfit right here in my living room. But when I open my eyes and scan my living room, the sexy woman I’m imagining is nowhere to be seen. It’s just a figment of my imagination. Is that really so difficult to grasp???

It’s bewildering that you are having such a hard time with this. Let’s make sure you grasp this much first before moving on to your other questions.

Regards,
Dawson

February 21, 2013 10:56 AM  
Blogger shotgun said...

As is often the case in philosophy, what the average person thinks is simple, sometimes turns out to be fairly complex on closer analysis.

"Imagination" for example, is far more complex than (perhaps) you realize. I know (off the top of my head) at least two sophisticated analytical treatments, as well as a book-length essay on the topic.

But that aside, I think you've misunderstood my girlfriend illustration.

I used it as a way to show what you most likely did NOT mean, in order to reduce the range of possible options to a reasonable level to aid the process of precise criticism.

I'm very glad that you do NOT believe my girlfriend disappears, just because I imagine things about her.

But that leads you into the other options I've presented, and to which you've yet to respond.

Namely: You must come up with a way to ascribe the three properties I've highlighted to an object, before you can say it is "imaginary" ... and I don't see anywhere in your writings where you've managed to do so yet.

--------

As for your series of questions, I'm sure you're not interested in my personal opinions on these matters, so I take them to be rhetorical. But in any case:

1. In what way does "what I imagine" actually exist?

Qualitative properties of mental phenomena *can* be identical with actual states of affairs, while quantitative properties usually are not.

You can't get around that without driving yourself into solipsism and skepticism.

You seem to be arbitrarily focusing on quantitative properties of mental events. I mean: A mental image of Wang, no matter how accurate, is not numerically identical to the actual Wang.

That's fine. No one would deny that most mental states are not numerically identical to actual states of affairs. (I say *most* because we could play Mr. Bumbalough's game, and have mental states produce images of mental states, in which case, the mental state would be quantitatively identical to the actual state of affairs - namely the actual mental state, ie: imagining myself imagining).

The problem is, for your argument to work, theists of all stripes, might imagine things about God, such that their mental state produces images that are qualitatively identical to actual states of affairs, even though they're not numerically (or quantitatively) identical.

That's all that is required to defeat your argument.

2. What do my imaginings exist "as"?

Mental events which may or may not share properties with actual states of affairs.

By the way ... I'm not sure how you can talk about imaginings (or imaginary objects at all) if they don't exist, ie: if they have no properties.

3. How do your answers defeat premise 1?

My point isn't to "defeat" premise 1, rather, I hope to clarify what *exactly* you mean by premise 1.

And, I hope after our investigation, you'll agree with me that to adequately state premise 1, requires moves that defeat the rest of the argument.

I hope this helps, and thanks for the discussion.

February 21, 2013 1:15 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Enough with the games, Shotgun or whoever you are. My position has been very clear and consistently so all along.

You wrote: “My point isn't to ‘defeat’ premise 1, rather, I hope to clarify what *exactly* you mean by premise 1.”

I’ve been painfully clear on what I intend Premise 1 to mean. It is not complicated. I’ve explained it thoroughly and given numerous examples. It appears that you are deliberately trying to complicate something that is not and should not be at all complicated.

It’s very simple: Premise 1 says that the imaginary is not real. Either you agree with this, or you don’t. Your whole purpose seems to be driven from disagreeing with this premise. If that’s the case, then you hold that the imaginary *is* real. That is what can be inferred from your persistent yet ambiguous challenges. If that’s the case, then my questions need to be answered. So far, you seem to be doing anything but answering my questions. It is ridiculous to go on about “qualitative properties” and “quantitative properties,” “solipsism and skepticism,” etc. It seems that you are introducing these topics simply to blur your own position while attributing to me something that I do not hold in the first place. Recognizing that the imaginary is not real in no way leads one into solipsism or skepticism.

The position that my argument takes is when I imagine something, what I imagine is not a mind-independent reality. I am real, my mind is real, the activity by which I form the image is real, but the image is not something existing “out there.”

So very simply: Do you think that when someone imagines something, the image he conjures in his mind is a mind-independent reality? This is a simple yes-no question. There’s no need to be complicated here. Either it is, or it isn’t.

Over and over again, this is what seems to be hanging you up. And quite frankly, you remind me of an individual who overstayed his welcome on my blog in recent months.

So can you address this simple yes-no questin in a straightforward manner?

Again, NAL is quite right: it’s curiously telling how theists want to attack Premise 1!

You wrote: “I'm not sure how you can talk about imaginings (or imaginary objects at all) if they don't exist, ie: if they have no properties.”

This should be clear from my response to Matt Brown above, where I wrote: “it is important to understand that imagination is a type of mental activity.” Again, have you been reading what I’ve been writing?

We can talk about imaginings just as we can talk about other forms of conscious activity, such as perceiving, thinking, remembering, doubting, believing, etc.: consciousness exists, and consciousness is able to perform various types of mental activities, such as imagination. We can talk about actions, whether it is running, watching, swimming, etc. Imagination is a type of action, and as such it is something we can talk about. Clear now?

Also, since you have mentioned that you’re aware of book-length treatments on the topic of imagination, can you cite any quotations in any reputable source which argues, contra my Premise 1, that the imaginary *is* real?

Regards,
Dawson

February 21, 2013 2:29 PM  
Blogger shotgun said...

In short:

- This is the first time I've ever posted on your blog. I assure you I'm not here under any disguise nor do I intend any false pretenses.

- I understand your position that mental phenomenon (imaginary objects) are not numerically identical to actual states of affairs (though now you do seem to be willing to admit that mental events are actual states of affairs, even if they have no spatial extension). I've said, however, that we cannot deny that some imaginary objects share qualitative properties with actual states of affairs, and this seems to topple your entire argument.

- I specifically and directly answered your three questions in my post. I'd love to hear your response.

- As for citations from other sources: my point was that the topic of "imagination" is one (of many) complex philosophical topics. It would be irrelevant (I think) for me to type out large blocks of randomly selected texts. If you're just curious about the topic (as would be healthy for someone trying to find the best-possible formulation of an argument), I might suggest Owen Barfield's essay "The Epistemology of Coleridge" or Steiner's "Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path", or for a more analytical approach to imagination, try Lynne R. Baker's "On Making Things Up: Constitution and its Critics".

Hope this helps, and thanks for the discussion. :)

February 21, 2013 3:02 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Shotgun,

You wrote: “This is the first time I've ever posted on your blog. I assure you I'm not here under any disguise nor do I intend any false pretenses.”

Of course, I do not know the individual who recently overstayed his welcome for being honest. So if you were him, I would expect you to deny it. Let me just say that I have my suspicions.

You wrote: “I understand your position that mental phenomenon (imaginary objects) are not numerically identical to actual states of affairs”

Again, I don’t know what numericality has to do with any of this. I’ve been very clear: what one imagines is not a mind-independent reality. I’ve stated this consistently from the beginning.

You wrote: “(though now you do seem to be willing to admit that mental events are actual states of affairs, even if they have no spatial extension).”

I have not changed my position in any way, nor have I “admitted” something that earlier I was denying. I’ve maintained all along that imagination is a very real activity which the human mind is capable of performing. Check the record. This is nothing new.

You wrote: “I've said, however, that we cannot deny that some imaginary objects share qualitative properties with actual states of affairs, and this seems to topple your entire argument.”

So long as the image one conjures in his mind when he imagines something is not a mind-independent reality, my argument is undamaged and remains sound. Nothing you’ve presented will suffice to “topple” my entire argument. That you want your imaginary god and to eat it, too, is your problem, not mine.

You wrote: “I specifically and directly answered your three questions in my post.”

You did not. You obfuscated. That’s clear for anyone reading this to see.

So try again: In your view, when I imagine the tooth fairy, in what way does the tooth fairy I imagine exist?

You wrote: “As for citations from other sources: my point was that the topic of ‘imagination’ is one (of many) complex philosophical topics.”

It may be the case that it can be a complex philosophical topic. But even in that case, there are general truths about the nature of imagination and the images we form in our minds when we imagine. My argument does not need to go beyond any of these general truths. They’re very clear.

You wrote: “It would be irrelevant (I think) for me to type out large blocks of randomly selected texts.”

If you had anything relevant to share from the sources that you have mentioned, I wouldn’t expect it to be “randomly selected” in the first place, but chosen specifically to support whatever point you want to make. And if you had supportive citations to make, it would hardly be irrelevant for you to quote them. Seeing though that you have not done this, I can only gather that you know of no “sophisticated analytical treatments” or “book-length essay on the topic” which argues, contra my Premise 1, that the imaginary *is* real.

Premise 1 says that the imaginary is not real. Either you agree with this, or you don’t.

In practical application, when I imagine the tooth fairy, either you think the tooth fairy I’m imagining really exists, or you don’t.

With all your efforts to make the matter more complicated than it really is or should be, it seems you’re trying to position yourself so that you can say both yes *and* no to these questions. Beyond that, it is up to you to make your position and the intended nature of your challenge clear.

Regards,
Dawson

February 21, 2013 4:22 PM  
Blogger shotgun said...

Your last post was amusing for various reasons. I like making observations about human nature. You seem religiously devoted to your position (for instance). Most philosophers approach their subject tentatively, where as you have asserted that there is nothing I might possibly say that would defeat your position. Interesting.

At any rate, last night I thought of a way to simplify my main objection for you. I'd like to try contrasting two questions, and get your reaction:

1. If I imagine my girlfriend, does she cease to exist?

You have stated very clearly that you would answer "of course not" to this question. But now consider 2:

2. If I imagine God, does He cease to exist?

It seems to me, you're obligated to say "yes" to 2. But, why no to 1 and yes to 2?

That's what I'm confused about. I don't see how an object becomes imaginary, just because somewhere in the world, someone imagines something about it.

Thanks for your help.

February 22, 2013 4:38 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Shotgun,

Are you deliberately trying to misinterpret my argument? I agree that it would be silly if someone claimed that an actually existing, mind-independent entity stopped existing if someone formed a mental image of it in his mind. But that’s not what either Premise 1 in particular or my entire argument in general is saying, arguing, or suggesting. Nor does any portion of my argument require this.

I have given numerous examples to help theists understand what my argument is saying. (It’s noteworthy in itself that I would need to do this for theists; non-theists seem to understand my argument quite readily.) None of my examples indicates or implies what you are now interpreting my Premise 1 to be saying.

Consider what I stated in response to Prayson Daniel above on 31 Jan.:

Thinkers need to be more careful about the distinction between what is real and what they are imagining. I can imagine my wife as I know her to be; she is real, but I am still imagining her, and what I am imagining is not real – it will not get up and have a life of its own. It is still confined to a mere image of my making in my mind, regardless of how consistently I have formed it with what I know to be true. I can suddenly imagine my wife as I know her to sprout wings and fly to Jupiter. Reality will not suddenly conform to this. It is imaginary, it is unreal.

Throughout my defense and explanation of Premise 1, I’ve been entirely consistent with the primacy of existence: what exists in reality exists independent of conscious activity. Imagination is a type of conscious activity, so even if I form a mental image based closely on something that I have perceived in reality, such as my wife, what exists in reality remains unaffected, and what I imagine in my mind is simply a figment of my imagination.

For example, my wife (an actually existing person) can be sleeping on the couch, and I can imagine her skydiving. My wife does not suddenly stop existing when I do this. Nor is she really skydiving. She continues sleeping on the couch completely unaware of and wholly unaffected by what I imagine about her. What I imagine about her is not an actual reality – i.e., she’s not actually skydiving instead of sleeping on the couch.

Premise 1 nowhere requires that any actually existing thing “cease to exist” if one forms a mental image of it in his mind. If I imagine the tooth fairy, Premise 1 is not saying that a real tooth fairy somewhere in the world stops existing.

So back to my earlier questions:

Premise 1 says that the imaginary is not real. Either you agree with this, or you don’t. Do you agree with Premise 1? Or are you going to try to find some new way to misconstrue it?

When I imagine the tooth fairy, do you think that the tooth fairy I’m imaging is an actually existing mind-independent reality?

Regards,
Dawson

February 22, 2013 11:19 AM  
Blogger shotgun said...

When you imagine your wife sleeping on the couch, in what way is the content of your imagining event, identified with the actual state of affairs (your wife)?

Since your wife illustration implies that you believe imagined objects correspond to actual states of affairs, then why can't the imaginings of Christians also correspond to actual states of affairs?

What's good for your wife, is good for God, eh?

February 22, 2013 12:52 PM  
Blogger NAL said...

3. If I imagine the tooth fairy, does the tooth fairy cease to exist?

February 22, 2013 1:20 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Dawson,

It always gets to this misreading, misrepresenting, and half-reading with theists, doesn't it?

I did not see shotgun saying that he was a believer, but there's so many giveaways. Shit, the pretence to knowledge about things they know from no other source but their apologetics. Example, the "numerical" identity cannot be but a creationist invention. Only an imbecile (sorry shotgun, you reduced yourself to that) would think that because physicalists think of mental imagery as being necessarily physical it follows that they think that there must be "numerical identity" between the physical activities producing the imagery and the imagery itself. That's just preposterous non-sequitur after non-sequitur. But creationists love doing these kinds of misleading overstatements of positions they prefer to be false, which means anything that conflicts with their religious inclinations.

Anyway, I don't see any way in which this conversation with shotgun would lead anywhere. He/she will never read a comment with the intent to understand it. Classic creationist M.O. Take a few words, deform, ignore the rest.

February 22, 2013 4:21 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Shotgun,

You asked: “When you imagine your wife sleeping on the couch, in what way is the content of your imagining event, identified with the actual state of affairs (your wife)?”

I really don’t understand this question. How is what I’ve provided so far still not sufficient to help you understand? I would suggest not trying so hard to make something simple so difficult and beyond your comprehension. I would also suggest simply addressing the question: Do you think the imaginary is real, or not?

If I imagine the tooth fairy going around and collecting baby teeth, do you think that’s really happening? Why not answer this question? Why ignore my questions and continue to come back with increasingly sillier questions by return? What are you trying to hide, and why are you trying to hide it?

You wrote: “Since your wife illustration implies that you believe imagined objects correspond to actual states of affairs, then why can't the imaginings of Christians also correspond to actual states of affairs?”

What do you mean when you say “imagined objects correspond to actual states of affairs”? When I imagine my wife skydiving while in fact she is sleeping, how does what I imagine “correspond to [any] actual state of affairs”? She’s sleeping, not skydiving.

It’s amazing how you are deliberately trying to make all this so confusing. It’s not confusing at all, but you seem entirely bent on confusing yourself.

You wrote: “What's good for your wife, is good for God, eh?”

Hmmm… let’s see. Food and water are good for my wife. Are food and water good for your god? Again, you’re being vague, and this opens what you are trying to say to many interpretations. My wife exists – she is not imaginary. I have awareness of her by means of perception – I can see her, I can touch her, I can hear her voice, her breathing, her footsteps. I can hold her in my arms and I can walk through a field of sunflowers with her. I can eat lunch with her, or play a game with her, or raise a child with her. No one can do any of these things with a god, unless of course one imagines that it is there. But even then, one cannot see, touch or hear that god. I don’t have to rely on my imagination to know my wife. But I would have to rely fundamentally on my imagination to “know” any god from the mystical pantheon, including the Christian god.

Regards,
Dawson

February 22, 2013 4:59 PM  
Blogger NAL said...

shotgun:

When you imagine your wife sleeping on the couch, in what way is the content of your imagining event, identified with the actual state of affairs (your wife)?

However, that's not what Premise 1 states. Premise 1 states that the content of your imagination does not exist outside your mind, not that the content of your imagination does not correspond to something that exists outside your mind.

To defeat Premise 1, you must argue that the content of your imagination and the sleeping wife both exist separately outside your mind. Separately because the mental image of a sleeping wife is not the same thing as an actual sleeping wife.

February 22, 2013 5:31 PM  
Blogger shotgun said...

Why didn't Dawson say:

"I imagine a woman that resembles my wife in many ways, skydiving" ?

Instead, he said:

"I imagine my wife skydiving."

In what way was Dawson's imaginary event identical with his wife? He obviously thinks it's identical enough to call it an image of "my wife".

In other words ... mental events (even imaginary ones) can (and do, frequently) correspond to actual states of affairs.

In light of this possibility, it follows, that Christians too, when they imagine things about God, may also be having mental events (imaginings) that correspond to actual states of affairs.

I agree this isn't really difficult.

(By the way, I happen to believe a series of entities sneak into children's bedrooms, take their teeth, and replace them with money. Just because the child may attribute a few properties to the entities that do not actually obtain, doesn't mean the entities don't exist).

February 22, 2013 6:50 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Shotgun,

You write: “Why didn't Dawson say: ‘I imagine a woman that resembles my wife in many ways, skydiving’?”

What difference would it make? It certainly would not alter or challenge the truth of my Premise 1.

You are clearly looking for ways to distort and confuse what I have stated. If I wrote “a woman” instead of “my wife,” you could still get yourself confused on whether what I imagined was real or not. That is why I have posed some key questions to you. You have continually ignored them. But they speak directly to the heart of your persistent and self-inflicted confusion.

You write: “In what way was Dawson's imaginary event identical with his wife? He obviously thinks it's identical enough to call it an image of ‘my wife’.”

In point #3 in my comment summarizing problems in Prayson Daniel’s objections to my argument, I stated the following:

What I imagine can be modeled on what is real, but that does not make what I imagine real.

And in a recent reply to you, I wrote the following:

Throughout my defense and explanation of Premise 1, I’ve been entirely consistent with the primacy of existence: what exists in reality exists independent of conscious activity. Imagination is a type of conscious activity, so even if I form a mental image based closely on something that I have perceived in reality, such as my wife, what exists in reality remains unaffected, and what I imagine in my mind is simply a figment of my imagination.

When one models what he imagines on what is real, this does not make what he imagines “identical” to what is real. I have never suggested this. This is your confusion, shotgun, not mine, and it cannot be traced to anything I have presented.

You wrote: “In other words ... mental events (even imaginary ones) can (and do, frequently) correspond to actual states of affairs.”

No one has denied this. Premise 1 certainly does not deny this. In the present context, when one closely bases what he imagines on something he knows is real, such as when I imagine my wife doing something she isn’t presently doing, there can be some correspondence in terms of resemblance. But this is only because I based what I imagine on *what I have perceived*. I can try to imagine your wife, assuming you have one, but I would not be able to base what I imagine on someone I know to be your wife.

You wrote: “In light of this possibility, it follows, that Christians too, when they imagine things about God, may also be having mental events (imaginings) that correspond to actual states of affairs.”

If the believer wants to argue this, he is free to take it up. If so, he would immediately be conceding that his imagination is involved, which vindicates the relevance of my argument. Next he would have to show that he is basing his imagination on something he has perceived. But this is insurmountably problematic for the believer, for the believer maintains that his god cannot be perceived – it’s invisible, it’s incorporeal, it’s immaterial, etc. There’s nothing to perceive. So he’s stuck forming what he imagines without any objective reference. Then he would face the problem we have in examples such as mine, where I imagine my wife skydiving when in fact she’s not doing anything of the sort.

But none of this would be helpful in the final analysis anyway. For if the believer acknowledges that his imagination is involved, he will have to admit, if he’s going to be rational, that *what he imagines* is not real, no matter how he slices it. Even you, shotgun, have not been able to produce a single example of something that is both imaginary *and* real.

So again, I stand solidly behind my argument. And the more theists attempt to challenge it, the stronger my argument seems to grow.

Regards,
Dawson

February 22, 2013 8:23 PM  
Blogger shotgun said...

*What I imagine can be modeled on what is real, but that doesn't make what I imagine real*

Hark! Progress!

So, you agree that certain imaginary objects can, nevertheless, have properties that obtain in the world outside the subject's mind (even if it's only an iconographic correspondence).

In the case of the mental image of your skydiving wife, there are many properties of the mental image that obtain outside the mind of the subject(enough properties correspond between your imaginary wife and your actual wife, to allow you to say you're imagining "your wife").

But you make an odd assertion after admitting this.

*(The Christian) would have to prove he is basing his imagination on something he has perceived.*

Now, remember, your argument is not concerned with the ability to know actual objects. Rather, it's focused on existential claims.

If it is logically possible for the mental image of your skydiving wife to, nevertheless, have many properties that correspond to your actual wife, then it is possible for this to be the case without you knowing it's the case.

For instance, suppose you get knocked on the head, and have amnesia, but retain certain mental images.

Hypothetically, you may still have a mental image of your skydiving wife, but not know that it corresponds to any actual states of affairs.

See?

Knowing or not knowing that a mental object has properties that correspond to actual states of affairs, has NO EFFECT on IF the properties correspond to actual states of affairs. They may, or may not, quite independently of a person's knowledge about them.

It follows then, that a Christian, even if he imagines God to have properties that God may not really have, might still produce mental images that, nevertheless, have substantial amounts of correspondence to actual states of affairs; EVEN IF he didn't know this was the case.

This is all we need to reject your argument (as you've written it).

February 23, 2013 6:26 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Shotgun: “So, you agree that certain imaginary objects can, nevertheless, have properties that obtain in the world outside the subject's mind (even if it's only an iconographic correspondence).”

Again, you’re blatantly distorting what I have stated. I haven’t said anything about “imaginary objects” having “properties that obtain in the world outside the subject’s mind.” Go back and re-read what I wrote. This time, try to understand what I have written.

Shotgun: “In the case of the mental image of your skydiving wife, there are many properties of the mental image that obtain outside the mind of the subject”

What “properties of the mental image” do you think “obtain outside the mind of the subject” who has formed that mental image? How do you determine what “properties” a mental image has?

Shotgun: “If it is logically possible for the mental image of your skydiving wife to, nevertheless, have many properties that correspond to your actual wife, then it is possible for this to be the case without you knowing it's the case.”

In the case of god-belief, I do know, because I can imagine gods just as other people do. So I have the same firsthand experience imagining a god that believers have. It is not an image that is based on something I have perceived before. It’s a complete figment of imagination. That is what you want to be real. Sorry to break the bad news to you, but it’s not real. It is no more real than Harry Potter flying around on a broomstick.

Shotgun: “Knowing or not knowing that a mental object has properties that correspond to actual states of affairs, has NO EFFECT on IF the properties correspond to actual states of affairs.”

Even if true, it is irrelevant. If one is imagining, he is forming an image in his mind. It is not a mind-independent reality. I realize you don’t want to admit this to yourself, but it’s a fact. If you insist otherwise, provide an example of an image that you form in your mind that is also a mind-independent reality. At bare minimum, this is what you would need to produce if you think you can raise a sustainable challenge to my Premise 1. Essentially, you need to argue for a complete absurdity. But theists already accept the absurd.

Regards,
Dawson

February 23, 2013 6:55 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Shotgun is continuing to distort my statements in order to portray me as saying things that I have not affirmed. As this habit is persistent and he shows no indication of making any effort to curb it, I can only surmise that it is deliberate.

So I will not approve any more of his comments until he addresses my questions about the following scenario in a straightforward, non-evasive way.

Scenario: I'm imagining a 500-foot tall robot attacking Phoenix, Arizona right now. It is clawing its way through the city's streets, knocking over skyscrapers and squashing buses and cars as though they were cockroaches. People are frantically trying to flee the city in utter chaos. The death toll is rising by the minute. Damages are estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.

Question for shotgun: Is the scenario I'm imagining really happening in Phoenix, Arizona?

Yes or no?

If yes, why and how do you know?

If no, why not?

I will await shotgun's answer.

Regards,
Dawson

February 23, 2013 7:26 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello friends. I appreciate the opportunity to interact with each of you and of course I respect each person as well. Hence nothing I type should be construed as expressing pejorative intent to insult. People deserve respect. Ideas have to earn respect.

I want to chime in here because I think Shotgun has erred in the following statements.

A. Qualitative properties of mental phenomena *can* be identical with actual states of affairs, while quantitative properties usually are not.

B. You can't get around that without driving yourself into solipsism and skepticism.

Qualitative means: Relating to, measuring, or measured by the quality of something rather than its quantity; Of, relating to, or concerning quality.

Quality means: The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; an essential or distinctive characteristic, property, or attribute.

On these standard denotative meanings taken from Google dictionary and Thefreedictionary.com its plainly apparent that Shotgun’s statement A doesn’t serve his purpose in validating B to defeat Dawson’s premise one because A is a tautology in that the word qualitative expresses a distinction between qualities and quantities while the statement merely reiterates such distinction; hence A carries no argumentative gravitas.

However, there is another reason why A does not function as validation for B. The notion of quality as The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; an essential or distinctive characteristic, property, or attribute. when applied to mental images of non-mathematical entities is ambiguous. This is so because of the way in which concepts are formed,

("concepts represent classifications of observed existents according to their relationships to other observed existents. To form a concept, one mentally isolates a group of concretes (of distinct perceptual units), on the basis of observed similarities which distinguish them from all other known concretes (similarity is the relationship between two or more existents which possess the same characteristic(s), but in different measure or degree); then, by a process of omitting the particular measurements of these concretes, one integrates them into a single new mental unit: the concept, which subsumes all concretes of this kind (a potentially unlimited number). The integration is completed and retained by the selection of a perceptual symbol (a word) to designate it. A concept is a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s), with their particular measurements omitted. are formed a mental image cannot be measured against other things of a similar kind." *),

and because mental images of non-mathematical entities are not subject to measurement. Being of a subjective nature, comparison between similar mental images cannot yield a singular interpretation. Hence concepts cannot be formed from imaginary representations of non-mathematical entities, so assertion of connectivity between such imaginary entities and actual concrete objects cannot be rationally maintained.

*quoting Leonard Peikoff from ITOE , "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy," 97-98

Shotgun, I think you’ll have to do better to defeat Dawson’s argument.

Best Wishes to All.

February 23, 2013 7:52 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Crap Dawson! I have family in Phoenix, couldn't you have chosen Pittsburg or something!

February 23, 2013 7:56 AM  
Blogger shotgun said...

LOL

Been fun.

February 23, 2013 8:27 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Scenario: "I'm imagining a 500-foot tall robot attacking Phoenix, Arizona right now."

Unfortunately, that's not too far removed from what has happened on a nightly basis to the Phoenix Suns. This year, when NBA teams have visited the city, the aftermath usually hasn't been pretty for the townsfolk.

Ydemoc





February 23, 2013 8:46 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

You posed a scenario and a few simple questions for "shotgun" to answer.

Instead of addressing them, he seems to have wandered away.

That's unfortunate. It makes me think that he's concerned about facing the fact that his worldview is built upon a fantasy (and, really, a nightmarish one at that!)

Ydemoc

February 23, 2013 9:26 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Shotgun wrote:

<< LOL

Been fun
>>

And off he runs.

Shotgun strained himself to the breaking point in his attempts to distort and misconstrue virtually everything I had stated in answer to his confused objections.

Then, when I make addressing a simple yes-no question the condition for continuing his participation on my blog, he shirks the opportunity to provide an answer and just says “LOL,” signing off with the words “Been fun.”

Perhaps he is so confused about the distinction between imagination and reality that he’s now scouring news sources to see if in fact a giant robot has attacked Phoenix, Arizona.

Now who was it in recent months that used the archaic internet chat expression “LOL” in comments on my blog? Who was it? Does anyone remember?

Also, why do internet Christians so often like to hide their identities, choosing to post on serious topics using a moniker and concealing their names? Christians are always telling us that they are in the majority, so what do they have to fear? It’s not secularists who are out there strapping bombs to their chests and blowing up buses or shooting up abortion clinics. Religionists do this kind of thing. So I can understand when critics of Christianity prefer to conceal their identities – after all, they may want to do so in order to protect their families from belligerent Christopaths. Didn’t the apostle Paul write in Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”? Why do internet Christians often act as though they were ashamed of the folly they defend? Is it perhaps because they recognize deep down, that their worldview really is folly?

At any rate, the premises of my argument have handily withstood criticism. Neither Michael David Rawlings nor Prayson Daniel nor now “shotgun” has been able to raise sustainable objections against any aspect of my argument.

And as NAL reminded us, it is fascinating that Christians choose to attack Premise 1 rather than Premise 4. That, I think, is the most telling implication of all their actions.

Regards,
Dawson

February 23, 2013 9:27 PM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Hej Dawson,

Yesterday I revisited your case trying to give a positive case that if Christian God is, as Anselm put, the greatest conceivable being,a being worthy of worship then God cannot be in Christians' mind alone.

Reading your argument again, I discover that it is question begging. I do not know why I did not see this before until I reconstructed myself. Your case Dawson:

P1: That which is imaginary is not real.

P2: If something is not real, it does not actually exist.

P3: If the god of Christianity is imaginary, then it is not real and therefore does not actually exist.

P4: The god of Christianity is imaginary.

Conclusion: Therefore, the god of Christianity is not real and therefore does not actually exist.

Since P2 (If something is not real, it does not actually exist.) explains what "is not real" is, viz., imaginary =[is] not real =[does] not actually exist, then we can emerge it with P1 to form a reformulated R1 as:

R1. That which is imaginary does not actually exist.

This is a dictionary definition of the term "imaginary"

P4 can also be reformulated, given R1 to R4.

R4. The god of Christianity does not have actual existence.

Because what is imaginary does not have actual existence. If x is imaginary, then x does not have actual existence.

Given R1, which is (P2 emerged in P1 namely [substituting "is imaginary" with explanation "does not actually exist]), Premise 3 can also be reformulated to R3.

R3. If the god of Christianity does not actually exist then it does not actually exist.

Now the reformulation of your argument which I substituted "is imaginary" with its explanation "does not actually exist", would then be:


R1. That which is imaginary does not actually exist.[P2 emerged in P1]

R3. If the god of Christianity does not actually exist then it does not actually exist.

R4. The god of Christianity does not have actual existence.

Conclusion: Therefore, the god of Christianity does not have actual existence

The conclusion is assumed in R4 thus question begging.

So it is a valid argument, but now I think it is not only unsound but also question begging.

Let me know your thoughts Dawson.

- Prayson

February 26, 2013 4:25 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Prayson,

Again you come back to me.

I see that my argument has been gnawing on you. Well and good, it should.

Earlier you sought, without success, to challenge my argument’s Premise 1. A commenter calling himself “shotgun” also sought to dispute Premse 1. Like you, he was unsuccessful. So my argument pains you like an open sore.

Apparently having abandoned your earlier approach, you now want to argue that my argument begs the question.

Pay very close attention to what logician H.W.B. Joseph has to say on the matter:

<< By petitio principia, or begging the question, as it is called in English, is meant assuming in one of your premisses what you have to prove. Of course, the premisses must implicitly contain the conclusion; otherwise you would have no right to draw it from them, and could deny it, while admitting them : this much is true of every kind of cogent inference, whether syllogistic or not, though it has been sometimes treated as a peculiarity of syllogism by persons who thought they could find other kinds of inference not obnoxious to it. But you do not beg the conclusion in the premisses, except where the conclusion is necessary to establish one or other of the premisses. >>

(An Introduction to Logic, p. 301)

Now, according to Joseph’s definition of begging the question, my argument would have to assume in one of its premises what needs to be proven. You have not identified anything assumed in any of my argument’s premises which needs to be proven.

Notice also that Joseph states: “Of course, the premisses must implicitly contain the conclusion; otherwise you would have no right to draw it from them, and could deny it [the conclusion], while admitting them [the premises].” I would submit that it is what Joseph describes here, which he says is “true of every kind of cogent inference,” that you are citing as an instance of question-begging. If so, then clearly you are mistaken in your charge of this fallacy against my argument. Indeed, notice how you have had to completely rephrase my argument in order to remove from my Premise 3 the issue of imagination. You’ve had to revise my argument significantly in order to charge my argument with fallacy.

Again, I think what you’re overlooking, what you’ve been overlooking from the beginning, is all the evidential support that I have provided on behalf of Premise 4 – that the Christian god is imaginary. Who would not draw from the premise that something is imaginary that it therefore does not exist? Only someone who supposes that the imaginary is indeed real. But that is why I supplied my Premise 1: Premise 1 is an explicit recognition of a basic fact serving to remind thinkers that there is a fundamental distinction between reality and imagination. Consider the scenario I offered to shotgun to bring this point home once and for all:

Scenario: I'm imagining a 500-foot tall robot attacking Phoenix, Arizona right now. It is clawing its way through the city's streets, knocking over skyscrapers and squashing buses and cars as though they were cockroaches. People are frantically trying to flee the city in utter chaos. The death toll is rising by the minute. Damages are estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.

Question for shotgun: Is the scenario I'm imagining really happening?

Yes or no?

If yes, why and how do you know?

If no, why not?

Prayson Daniel, how do you answer this?

Regards,
Dawson

February 26, 2013 2:22 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson,

Why is it that Christians are so ready to reject arguments which (allegedly) commit the fallacy of begging the question, but are so ready to accept notions which commit the fallacy of the stolen concept?

Some may suppose that Christians do this because they do not know what the fallacy of the stolen concept is. There may be some truth to this. But I’m guessing that many Christians would see the error in “reasoning” which affirms the truth of geometric theorems while denying the truth of basic arithmetic. Indeed, how could one rationally affirm the truth of the Pythagorean theorem while denying the validity of basic operations like addition and multiplication? That would be an example of the fallacy of the stolen concept.

And yet, the very notion of “God,” particularly as Christians imagine it, commits this very fallacy given its assumption of the primacy of consciousness metaphysics. By granting metaphysical primacy to consciousness over its objects, the notion of “God” denies the axiom of consciousness while attempting to make use of it at the same time. At minimum, the axiom of consciousness holds that consciousness needs an object independent of itself, and is therefore a metaphysical dependent. But the notion “God” as Christians inform it affirms the existence of a consciousness which has no independent consciousness, and makes all objects distinct from itself dependent on it. It’s a complete reversal which denies the axiom of consciousness in the process. And yet, “God” is supposed to be a conscious being. Thus it affirms consciousness while denying the axiom of consciousness. It’s a stolen concept either way you slice it.

So why are Christians ready to reject arguments which they say commits one type of fallacy while ignoring the fallacious nature of the object of worship they enshrine in their imaginations? This cannot be due to any genuine concern for logical integrity, for a genuine concern for logical integrity would lead them to reject anything which commits the fallacy of the stolen concept as well. But they don’t. Rather, Christians seem to pick and choose what they want to accept and reject, and pretend to have logic on their side, when in fact they do not (see for example here).

Regards,
Dawson

February 26, 2013 2:40 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Everyone,

Check out the comment that was left on Prayson’s blog (here) back on 21 Feb. by someone posting under the moniker “bethelbaptistchurchblog”. This individual sought to tackle my Premise 1 in the following manner:

“Premise 1: That which is imaginary is not real.”

<< This is an a priori assumption, and isn’t even accurate on its face. To whom is it not real? What are the conditions for “reality?” I think we can all agree that leprechauns are not “real,” but if I were to draw a leprechaun on a sheet of paper, it would exist in reality despite the fact that it did not exist elsewhere. If I write a story to accompany the illustration, the leprechaun becomes even more real in that its character, actions and interpersonal relationships are described in detail; the more detail I add to either the drawing or the story, the more “real” the leprechaun becomes. The story and the drawing are limited in scope only by my imagination, not by the constraints of empirical reality; even though leprechauns do not exist in “the real world,” there is, clearly, one leprechaun which does exist– mine.

In light of this, the more accurate premise would be: That which cannot be imagined is not real. However, since our leprechaun can be imagined, it has been given reality. So to say that God, Who can be imagined, is not real based on the premise that He is imaginary begs the question.
>>

I tell you, Christians are the entertainment around here. They are the gift that keeps on giving!

Wow!

Regards,
Dawson

February 26, 2013 3:10 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

As I was reading that quote from “bethelbaptistchurchblog,” I found it difficult to ignore the phrase "primacy of consciousness... primacy of consciousness... primacy of consciousness..." that kept popping through my mind

What this person writes is about as open an admission as you can get -- that the Christian god is merely imaginary -- that I've seen coming from a Christian in quite a while.

"Wow," indeed!

Ydemoc

February 26, 2013 4:18 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Ydemoc,

You wrote: “What this person writes is about as open an admission as you can get -- that the Christian god is merely imaginary -- that I've seen coming from a Christian in quite a while.”

It is indeed an open admission that the Christian god is merely imaginary. I would say that Rawlings’ example of the DVD cabinet was just such an admission as well. Prayson’s examples are at the very least tacit examples of such admission. And shotgun’s efforts to take down Premise 1 also constitute an admission.

Thus I could feasibly add a 14th piece of evidence to my blog The Imaginative Nature of Christian theism, namely the fact that Christians themselves admit that their god is imaginary.

What more does one need to show that the Christian god is imaginary? It’s entirely revealing that Christians want to dispute the view that the imaginary is unreal. Why else dispute it, unless of course Christians recognize that they are simply imagining the god they worship?

I’m so glad these aren’t my problems!

Regards,
Dawson

February 26, 2013 4:32 PM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

I have Dawson identified P4 as assumed in your argument’s premise which needs to be proven?

I forgot about your case until I started reading contemporary ontological arguments last week, which made me think of your case and try to see if Christians could show that P4 is necessarily false if God is the greatest conceivable being.

Could you deal with my reformulation above. I would enjoy if we focus on argument I presented to show that your argument is question begging. Lets put medium, I being Christian or you not being, out of this discussion and focus the case presented.

"Difficult as it may be, it is vitally important to separate argument sources and styles from argument content. In argument the medium is not the message" - Bruce N. Waller.

Could you deal with R1, R3, and R4 showing that they cannot be the reformulation of your case, for if they are, then your case is valid but question begging since R4 a reformulated P4 is the same as your conclusion.

-Prayson

February 26, 2013 10:30 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson,

You wrote: “I have Dawson identified P4 as assumed in your argument’s premise which needs to be proven?”

It’s not clear if this was intended to be a question or a statement, or what exactly it is stating or arguing. Premise 4 of my argument affirms that “the god of Christianity is imaginary.” If you are saying that I have not at least made any attempts to prove the truth of this premise, you are in denial. I have already cited 13 points of evidence which emphatically support precisely this premise. You have not made a single dent in even one of those points of evidence. Beyond that, you have not identified the means by which you are aware of your god and explained how one can reliably distinguish between those means and imagination as such.

Moreover, as I mentioned in my previous message responding to Ydemoc, Christians who have sought to attack my argument have focused on Premise 1, namely the recognition that the imaginary is not real, you yourself among them. If Christians want to deny my argument’s Premise 4, why would they seek to undermine my argument’s Premise 1?

Take a look at the statements made by the commenter on your own blog that I quoted above. He wrote: “since our leprechaun can be imagined, it has been given reality.” Using this “reasoning,” one could easily say: “since our god can be imagined, it has been given reality.” If that’s not what this individual is essentially saying, he needs to revise what he writes significantly. But this commenter is not alone: Michael David Rawlings, a Christian who left scores of comments on my blog since early November last year, made similar statements. So did “shotgun” in the present thread. Clearly Christians want to dispute my argument’s Premise 1. That is most revealing.

You wrote: “I forgot about your case until I started reading contemporary ontological arguments last week, which made me think of your case and try to see if Christians could show that P4 is necessarily false if God is the greatest conceivable being.”

The so-called “ontological argument” is about as blatant as one can get in trying to argue that something is real essentially because it can be imagined, without stating it in such terms. Typically such arguments use the term “conceived,” but in actually this is code for imagined, since what is involved in god-belief is not conceiving in the sense of forming concepts (not even close!). Ontological arguments try to establish the existence of “the greatest imaginable being.”

You wrote: “Could you deal with my reformulation above.”

I did, in my above comment. As I pointed out, you had to revise it in such a way that it no longer contain the inference of my original argument. My original argument inferred the non-existence of the Christian god from the fact that it is imaginary. This, by the way, made the previous premises relevant to the whole argument. Your proposed revision leaves this inference out and makes an abrupt departure from the foregoing premises, such that they are no longer relevant. You have had to mischaracterize my argument in order to find it guilty of a fallacy. But that only means you are no longer interacting with my argument, but instead with a straw-man.

I also provided additional reasons for why my argument is not question-begging. Can you deal with my rebuttal to your criticism?

Regards,
Dawson

February 26, 2013 10:50 PM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Dawson I think you are confusing me with someone else since I did not earlier " sought, without success, to challenge my[your] argument’s Premise 1."

If you read my blog article I believed that Christian would agree that P1, P2 and P3 are true. Yes there are same who disagree, but I do not see how. Following dictionary definition, what is imaginary does not have factual reality, period. P1-P3 are true. I contended you did not give reasons to accept P4 because to show something is imaginary, you have to show that it does not have factual reality and not the other way around.

Showing how x got to know y, to discredit y is a text book example of genetic fallacy. As from my examples of John Doe superstition led him to imagine Jane Doe is having a baby girl, to say that John superstitious imagine gender is imaginary, we need to show the gender of the baby, if the baby is a girl, then John imagined gender has factual reality therefore not imaginary, if not then it is.

Showing it is not a girl(ontology) because John's methods of knowing(epistemology) is committing a genetic fallacy. This is true with your P4 and 13 reasons you gave to think is true. They fall into the same error.

Lets put that behind us and focus on the case I presented R1, R3 and R4. Remember I simply substitute P2 to the rest of the premises. If what is imaginary does not exist in reality, then all places with "is imaginary" can be substituted with "does not exist in reality". If this is so, then I think P4, is question begging.

It was an atheist at reddit Philosophy of Religion who pointed out that the premises are redundant. He is the one who directed me reformulate your case.

Let me know your thoughts Dawson.

-Prayson

February 26, 2013 11:09 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson,

You wrote: “Dawson I think you are confusing me with someone else since I did not earlier ‘sought, without success, to challenge my[your] argument’s Premise 1’."

You did. Remember your going-on about John Doe and the library example? That certainly was not an attempt to challenge Premise 4 of my argument. It did nothing, for instance, to show that the Christian god is not imaginary.

You wrote: “If you read my blog article I believed that Christian would agree that P1, P2 and P3 are true.”

But clearly that’s not the case. Even if you agree with my Premise 1, other Christians are clearly not comfortable affirming it and have sought specifically to challenge it.

You wrote: “Yes there are same who disagree, but I do not see how.”

They disagree because they realize, at some level, that their god-belief rests on imagination. Thus they cannot rest content when a non-believer presents an argument which explicitly affirms that the imaginary is not real. So they choose to attack exactly this premise. Why else would they dispute Premise 1?

You wrote: “Following dictionary definition, what is imaginary does not have factual reality, period. P1-P3 are true.”

Okay, good. You’re way ahead of other Christians.

You wrote: “I contended you did not give reasons to accept P4 because to show something is imaginary, you have to show that it does not have factual reality and not the other way around.”

Yes, you did contend that, and I corrected you on this. If the imaginary is not real (Premise 1, which you have affirmed), then it is perfectly reasonable to show that something is not real on the basis that it is imaginary. And to show that something is imaginary, all one needs to do is to cite reasons supposing that people imagine it. That’s what my 13, soon to be 14, points of evidence do. I do not have to prove that something does not exist first before I can show that it is imaginary. That is absurd. There’s no such thing as an obligation to prove that the non-existent does not exist. Meanwhile, if evidence can be cited to show that the Christian god is in fact imaginary, that evidence, given the truth of Premise 1 of my argument, is sufficient to show that it is not real, that it does not exist.

[continued…]

February 27, 2013 12:19 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Showing how x got to know y, to discredit y is a text book example of genetic fallacy.”

Even if this is true, it is not a suitable criticism of my argument, since imagination is not a means of acquiring knowledge of things existing independent of one’s mind in the first place. Indeed, that you would seek to raise this objection suggests that the relationship between imagination and epistemology is unclear to you. That is a legacy of the Christian worldview. If people are imagining something, they are not performing epistemological actions by which they can acquire knowledge of what is real.

I have asked numerous Christians over the years a question which I will now explicitly pose to you:

By what means are you aware of your god, and how can I reliably distinguish between those means and what may actually only be your imagination?

Similarly, in regard to the ontological argument, which you say you’ve been reading up on recently, how does one distinguish what “conceive” means as it is used in such arguments from *imagination*? If one says that he can “conceive” of a god, of a supernatural realm, of life beyond death, etc., how is this distinct from imagining? How is imagination not involved?

Speaking for myself, in order to “conceive” of any god, whether Christianity’s or Islam’s or the Lahu’s, I have to use my imagination. I am honest enough to recognize and admit this. Indeed, this is essentially what the commenter on your blog that I quoted above is admitting, though he’s not being honest about it.

You wrote: “As from my examples of John Doe superstition led him to imagine Jane Doe is having a baby girl, to say that John superstitious imagine gender is imaginary, we need to show the gender of the baby, if the baby is a girl, then John imagined gender has factual reality therefore not imaginary, if not then it is.”

And as we saw above, none of this is relevant as a criticism of my argument. If one is imagining, he’s imagining, and what he is imagining is not real, given Premise 1. Also, we need to be careful, as I pointed out in our earlier conversation, to distinguish between imagination and mere *guessing*, which is what your examples seem to have in mind. The examples that you raise to support your objections only show that you are confusing the two. Moreover, if the Christian god is imaginary, it is imaginary, and therefore it is not real. Your examples do nothing to challenge these truths.

You wrote: “Showing it is not a girl(ontology) because John's methods of knowing(epistemology) is committing a genetic fallacy.”

Again, this has no relevance to my argument. Imagination is not a method of knowing in the first place. If I imagine a giant robot attacking a city in the western United States (Justin, it does not have to be Pheonix!), do you think what I’m imagining is actually taking place? Yes or no, Prayson?

Now, if you have some means other than imagination by which you have awareness of your god, then please identify them, and explain how we can reliably distinguish between your alleged means of awareness of your god, and what may in fact merely be your imagination. Otherwise, I am content to rest on my growing list of evidences which show that Christians are in fact imagining their god. Thus my argument stands.

[continued…]

February 27, 2013 12:20 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “This is true with your P4 and 13 reasons you gave to think is true. They fall into the same error.”

No, what you’re actually trying to do is hedge your position. You’re essentially trying to position yourself such that, if it turns out that Christians are imagining their god, you want to say that their god could still be real, in spite of their reliance on imagination. Sorry, Prayson, it doesn’t fly. Christians are still relying on their imaginations. Thus the god they imagine is not real, given the truth of Premise 1.

You wrote: “Lets put that behind us and focus on the case I presented R1, R3 and R4.”

I have already addressed it.

You wrote: “Remember I simply substitute P2 to the rest of the premises.”

No, what you did is erase the entire basis for the inference which my argument is intended to make explicit. If my argument were in fact fallacious, you wouldn’t need to do this. But you have chosen to do precisely this. I have already quoted H.W.B. Joseph to the effect that in an argument, “the premisses must implicitly contain the conclusion; otherwise you would have no right to draw it from them, and could deny it [the conclusion], while admitting them [the premises].” This is exactly where you think you’ve discerned an instance of circular reasoning. But in fact, as Joseph points out, “this much is true of every kind of cogent inference.”

Indeed, my argument does not have a premise which states “If the god of Christianity does not actually exist then it does not actually exist.” This revision of yours erases the substance of the inference which my argument actually does contain and make explicit. In order to discredit my argument, you find it necessary to squelch the very inference which establishes its conclusion. Thus it’s no longer my argument that you’re criticizing. This is called straw-man, Prayson. Are you familiar with it?

You wrote: “If what is imaginary does not exist in reality, then all places with ‘is imaginary’ can be substituted with ‘does not exist in reality’. If this is so, then I think P4, is question begging.”

This is akin to saying that any instance of transitivity in logic is fallacious on the account that certain terms can be removed from an argument and replaced with their corresponding relation. But that’s absurd. It’s a blatant denial of transitivity. Indeed, it’s not even applicable to my argument in the manner that you intend it. “Imaginary” is at most a species of the unreal and non-existent; things that no longer exist can also be included in the concept ‘non-existent’, such as the Twin Towers in NYC, old receipts that I shredded, etc. The material that made up these things still exists in some other form, but the things they used to be no longer exist. Moreover, there will be things in the future that will exist which no one has imagined, and yet, they would currently belong to the ‘non-existent’ category. So ‘imaginary’ and ‘unreal’ or ‘non-existent’ are not interchangeable in the way that your revised version of my argument requires them to be.

You wrote: “It was an atheist at reddit Philosophy of Religion who pointed out that the premises are redundant. He is the one who directed me reformulate your case.”

Frankly that does not impress me. If you get right down to it, the statement “God does not exist” is redundant. It’s like saying “the non-existent is non-existent.” But since people want us to believe in something that is not real, I’m happy to point out why it’s not real. Hence my argument.

[continued…]

February 27, 2013 12:20 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Let me know your thoughts Dawson.”

Here are some thoughts, stated in the form of questions:

If someone provided evidence that something is in fact imaginary, wouldn’t you accept that as sufficient reason to conclude that it does not exist?

Yes or no?

Now consider: If you were sitting on a jury in a murder trial, and the accused gave testimony to the effect that, although he was discovered seconds after the crime standing over the body of the victim with a bloody knife and blood all over his hands and clothing, the victim was really killed by a bat which flew into the room through a window, turned into a person wearing a big black cape, stabbed the victim repeatedly and then placed the murder weapon in the accused’s hands before turning back into a bat and flying out of the room, wouldn’t you suppose that he was imagining and therefore conclude that there was no bat which flew into the room and turned into a person to do the crime? Wouldn’t you infer from the fact that the person was imagining to the non-existence of the bat he claimed was there?

Certainly you wouldn’t suppose that you would first need to go out and prove that there was no bat in order to then prove that the accused was imagining.

But that is the methodology which you say I need to apply before I could conclude that the Christian god is imaginary. That is beyond ridiculous. But that is what you are affirming in defense of your god-belief.

Amazing!

Regards,
Dawson

February 27, 2013 12:21 AM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Dawson, I am more interested with the case I presented, not my commenters on my blog nor what other Christians think.

As I say, we have to separate the medium with the message.

You claim that my reformulation is not your case. How so? Let me show you again:

Your P1:That which is imaginary is not real.

Which is true.

P2: If something is not real, it does not actually exist.

which is true.

If P2 is true, then we can substitute it to P1("not real" with "does not actually exist) since P2 states that if x = (is) not real, x = (does) not actually exist. since x = x what I do is logically acceptable.

Thus P1 reformulated R1 is:

R1:That which is imaginary is does not actually exist.

Do you mean to say that R1 is not a correct reformulation P1?

Yours,
Prayson

February 27, 2013 4:34 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson,

You wrote: “Dawson, I am more interested with the case I presented, not my commenters on my blog nor what other Christians think.”

I’m not surprised by this.

But two points:

1. I have already addressed your revised version of my argument. You continue to ask, which means you have not understood my counterpoints. This suggests that you have not read them. You need to go back and read what I wrote in response to your queries.

2. I am very curious how you would explain the approach other Christians take with regard to my Premise 1 (i.e., they challenge its truth). Do you agree with my assessment, or do you have an alternative explanation? Or would you just rather not think about it at all?

You write: “As I say, we have to separate the medium with the message.”

I don’t know what this is supposed to mean.

You asked: “You claim that my reformulation is not your case. How so?”

Again, I explained this. Here is a portion of what I wrote:

<< … my argument does not have a premise which states “If the god of Christianity does not actually exist then it does not actually exist.” This revision of yours erases the substance of the inference which my argument actually does contain and make explicit. In order to discredit my argument, you find it necessary to squelch the very inference which establishes its conclusion. Thus it’s no longer my argument that you’re criticizing. This is called straw-man, Prayson. Are you familiar with it? >>

Read that over again until it sinks in. It’s not that difficult to understand. Also, review the points I brought out from the Joseph quote.

As for Premises 1-3, you have already expressed agreement with them. So I do not see any need to revise them. They are there for a purpose, mainly to make the truths they contain explicit.

Again, I raised some questions which you have yet to address. I will ask again:

1. You have already expressed agreement with Premise 1 – that the imaginary is unreal. Thus, if one has good reason to suppose that something is imaginary, why would this not be sufficient basis to infer that that something is not real?

2. Also, see my scenario of the murder trial. Do you really think that one would first need to prove that the bat which could turn into a man does not exist before it can be determined that the accused was imagining it? Do you really think that? That seems extremely naïve. But if that’s what you think, can you explain why?


I await you to address these questions specifically.

Regards,
Dawson

February 27, 2013 1:50 PM  
Blogger ProteusIQ said...

Dawson, I am not attacking a straw-man. Are you not familiar with rules of logic?

Let's focus on logic and reason first and for most. Let present your case in a simple form so we can see the follow of meaning and that I can show you that my R4 is the correct reformulation of P4 thus question begging.

Let A be "Imaginary", B be "not real", C be "does not actually exist" and D be "god of Christianity".

So:

P1: That which is imaginary is not real.

S1: That which is A is B
S2: If something is B , it is C
S3: If D is A , then D is B , therefore D is C
S4: D is A
C: Therefore D is C

Do you agree or disagree with this simple presentation of your argument?

- PD

February 28, 2013 3:39 AM  
Blogger freddies_dead said...

I have to say I'm loving this.

Prayson starts by hand waving away the evidence and claiming your argument is all irrelevant. He fails.

Shotgun turns up and tries to claim premise 1 is false. Getting more and more convoluted with each post in an effort to blur the distinction between what is real and what is imaginary. He fails.

In an attempt to show your argument is false "bethelbaptistchurchblog" as good as admits God is imaginary. Drawing what you imagine a leprechaun to be apparently makes them real - I haven't laughed so hard in quite a while. They failed.

Now Prayson is back with a new tactic - mangling your argument beyond all recognition in a bid to call it question begging. He has, of course, failed.

Not one of these people has managed to answer how we can distinguish between what they call God and what they are simply imagining.

February 28, 2013 4:57 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

freddies_dead,

You wrote: "Not one of these people has managed to answer how we can distinguish between what they call God and what they are simply imagining."

So true!

So eager are these Christians to have the imaginary be real, that they seem to take no notice (or to not even care) that, in the process, they end up sacrificing their minds on the altar of irrationality.

As Dawson put it: "That is a legacy of the Christian worldview."

Ydemoc

February 28, 2013 7:21 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson,

I realize that you want to rescue your god-belief in the worst way. Anyone watching this exchange sees that. However, an important fact that you’re overlooking in your efforts to make your charge of fallacy stick in regard to my argument is the member-class relationships of the terms distributed in my argument’s premises.

Note the following relations present in my argument’s premises:

- Premise 1 affirms that members of Class A (imaginary things) are also members of Class B (unreal things).

- Premise 2 affirms a General Truth about all members of Class B (and therefore all members of Class A by virtue of their inclusion in Class B) (namely: unreal things are things that do not actually exist).

- Premise 3 hypothetically affirms that if Specific Case G (the god of Christianity) is a member of Class A (imaginary things), then it is also a member of Class B (unreal things) and therefore the General Truth which applies to all members of Class B thereby applies to Specific Case G by virtue of its inclusion in that class.

- Premise 4 affirms that Specific Case G is a member of Class A.

- The Conclusion is drawn that, since Specific Case G is a member of Class A, it is therefore also a member of Class B, and hence the General Truth which applies to all members of Class B therefore applies to Specific Case G.

There is nothing at all fallacious in this logic. If you agree with the first two premises, then you would agree that those premises apply to any specific case which is a member of the first class.

Consider the following:

S1: Men are Human Beings.
S2: Human Beings are Mortal Entities.
S3: If Socrates is a Man, then he is a Human Being and therefore a Mortal Entity.
S4: Socrates is a Man.
C: Therefore, Socrates is a Human Being and therefore a Mortal Entity.

Thus, if we establish that Socrates is a man (i.e., a specific case of the class Men), then per the first two premises we also establish that Socrates is a Human being, and therefore Socrates is also a Mortal Being.

It’s hard to see how anyone familiar with basic logic would still object to the logical integrity of my argument. But again, I realize that you want to protect your god-belief. Since you are so anxious to immunize your god-belief from my argument, you are willing to sacrifice demonstrably logical relations. This is an example of how god-belief contaminates one’s rational judgment.

Now I must ask you again, Prayson, since still you resist answering:

1. You have already expressed agreement with Premise 1 – that the imaginary is unreal. Thus, if one has good reason to suppose that something is imaginary, why would this not be sufficient basis to infer that that something is not real?

2. Also, see my scenario of the murder trial. Do you really think that one would first need to prove that the bat which could turn into a man does not exist before it can be determined that the accused was imagining it? Do you really think that? That seems extremely naïve. But if that’s what you think, can you explain why?


If you want to continue dialoguing with me on this, you will need to proceed by answering my questions. Over and over Christians come here and try to use my blog as their podium. It is not your podium. I have answered enough of your questions. It is time you start answering mine.

Regards,
Dawson

February 28, 2013 8:13 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Prayson,

Here are some more questions from a previous message which you have yet to address:

3. By what means are you aware of your god, and how can I reliably distinguish between those means and what may actually only be your imagination?

4. In regard to the ontological argument, which you say you’ve been reading up on recently, how does one distinguish what “conceive” means as it is used in such arguments from *imagination*? If one says that he can “conceive” of a god, of a supernatural realm, of life beyond death, etc., how is this distinct from imagining? How is imagination not involved?


I have numbered them so that we don’t lose track of them. I would like you to answer them. If you have confidence in your god-belief, I would not expect you to shy away from these questions. By failing to address them, you only imply that you don’t have confidence in your god-belief. Indeed, it seems quite backward that Christians would squint, stammer and strain at the logic of a simple argument like I have proposed, and yet swallow without any hint of concern the notion that the creator of the universe was right in commanding Jewish males to be circumcised in OT times, only later to waive that commandment entirely. Believers seem extremely choosy about when it’s time to start checking for fallacies.

Regards,
Dawson

February 28, 2013 8:35 AM  
Blogger NAL said...

The Ontological Argument demonstrates that the imaginary nature of the Christian god has been on apologists' minds for a long time.

Dawson's views on the OA can be found here:

As for why the ontological argument fails, in my opinion it fails because ultimately it reverses the orientation of the subject-object relationship. The existence of something does not follow from our ability to conceive of something or stipulate that what we conceive exists by definition. Consciousness does not have this kind of power.

February 28, 2013 9:45 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

All,

Prayson has submitted yet another comment to my blog, but as I pretty much expected, he has not answered one of my questions. That’s right, not one of my questions which I have repeatedly urged him to address. So I will not be publishing it.

Minus salutation and closing, and one smiley icon, Prayson’s new comment is 395 words long. He begins his comment with the following words:

<< I am more interested with the logic truth of your argument's P4 and the soundness of the whole argument. >>

Clearly he wants to keep the focus on trivial issues he’s tried to raise against my argument rather than allow the focus of attention to be directed on his worldview. After holding Prayson’s hand and stepping him through the logic of an argument that already seemed to me to be painfully obvious, he still says that he’s “more interested with the logic truth” of my argument. He has not raised any challenges to the many defenses that I have presented on behalf of my argument, nor has he raised any new criticisms of my argument proper.

He also suggests that I ignore the fact that he is a Christian apologist. He writes:

<< Let's assume I am a fellow atheist for argument sake. >>

In other words, pretend. But he ignores the fact that merely being an atheist would not make him my “fellow.” Many atheists out there are as opposed to reason as Christians naturally are. I seriously doubt that another Objectivist would have a hard time grasping the simple, direct logic of my argument.

He then writes the following:

<< Remember we agree that if x is imaginary then x does not have factual reality. Here is where we differ: How do we rational judge/know if x does not have factual reality? >>

This simply raises an old point that I addressed earlier: if someone is imagining something, he’s forming an image in his mind; he is not perceiving something independent of his consciousness and validating knowledge of it. I know I’ve addressed this at least twice before by my recollection. That I found need to point this out to Prayson before only suggests that he doesn’t realize that imagination is not a means of acquiring knowledge of entities independent of his mind.

He continues:

<< You think by showing how a person P came to know(epistemology) x (if it is through reading ancient books, holding it by faith etc your soon 14 points) is unwarranted then x does not have factual reality. >>

This only confirms that Prayson is confusing imagination with a means of epistemology. With background confusions of this magnitude, how can he judge the logical integrity of any valid inference? How?

He then wrote:

<< I think that is committing a genetic fallacy since you gun down the source(genesis) of the belief/knowledge and not the merit of that belief/knowledge. >>

Again, this was already addressed: if we have good reasons to suppose that someone is imagining in the first place, then we have to follow the implications of my argument’s initial premises. But Prayson may object to the suggestion that believers merely imagine their god. That’s why I posed Question 3 above:

3. By what means are you aware of your god, and how can I reliably distinguish between those means and what may actually only be your imagination?

But again, he demonstrates no willingness to address this question.

Then, in spite of his persistent unwillingness to have a genuine dialogue (i.e., one in which he addresses questions posed to him just as I have addressed questions posed to me), he again suggests that we move the discussion to another forum.

Why is it that every time I dialogue which a Christian, I have the growing sense that I’m dealing with a child who refuses to grow up?

At any rate, if Prayson refuses to address my questions, which would be the polite thing to do, he can take his comments elsewhere.

Regards,
Dawson

February 28, 2013 2:01 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello friends. Ydemoc noted So eager are these Christians to have the imaginary be real, that they seem to take no notice (or to not even care) that, in the process, they end up sacrificing their minds on the altar of irrationality.

Ironically, those same Christians use rational reasoning to find the many holes in the Swiss Cheese of other religions they reject in order to buttress their confirmation bias for whatever version of Christianity to which they adhere. If they were honest, they'd apply a uniform rationality, as if they were outsiders, in critically examining Christianity as they do to religious claims they reject. They would be wise to apply John Loftus' Outsider Test for Faith.

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/06/ouitsider-test-for-faith-otf-is-not.html

February 28, 2013 2:13 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Robert wrote: “If they were honest, they'd apply a uniform rationality.”

That’s right – honesty, or the lack of it as the case may be, is the fulcrum on which all this hinges.

Consider the following:

Back on 2 Feb. in this thread, Prayson wrote:

<< For Dawson case to succeed, he need to show that God lacks factual reality, and that my friends means giving a positive case against existence of God.

One cannot show that x is imaginary unless he shows x does not exist. If x does not exist, then x is imaginary. The problem, Dawson get this backwards, which I think is a problem with his case. >>

Then on 3 Feb., he wrote:

<< 13 points, Dawson offered are irrelevant, because I could say the same with John. Namely John is superstious, myth lover, and put coins on Janes belly and imagined it is a boy. It does not matter how John imagined, but is John imagined object have factual reality or not. For that Dawson need to show does God have factual reality or not. >>

I find this very odd given Prayson’s expressed agreement with my argument’s first two premises. The first premise affirms that the imaginary is unreal, and the second merely reminds us that the unreal does not actually exist. So if he agrees with my argument’s first two premises, then he agrees that if something is imaginary, it does not actually exist. Given this, it seems he would happily concede that if one determines that something is imaginary, it would therefore be sufficient basis to conclude that it does not exist.

But his two quotes above say that this procedure is reversed and that the proper method is first to prove that something does not exist before one can show that it is imaginary. This is wrong on so many levels, but I’m thinking presently of its utter impracticality.

Here in Thailand, the locals generally believe in ghosts and believe that ghosts are present in many public places. It’s very common to find young people afraid to go into bathrooms alone because they say they’re afraid of ghosts. On my worldview’s premises, such irrational fears are easily dismissed: since ghosts are imaginary, they are not real and thus do not actually exist anywhere, bathrooms included.

But on Prayson’s view, one would first have to grant the possibility that ghosts are real and then set out to prove that they are not real before establishing that people are really only imagining them. How does Prayson suggest one go about doing this?

Notice how Christians turn epistemology completely on its head. If I announced “there’s no such thing as ghosts,” they would immediately start probing my position with as many “how do you know?” questions as they could fire off. But if someone says he thinks there’s a ghost somewhere, this concern for how one knows something vanishes. They dare not question it because it might be revealed that someone is imagining the ghost, and that would give away the big secret that Christians are trying to hide from themselves and from others.

Remember Sye Bruggencate and all his “how do you know?” questions? If you’ve ever watched one of his videos, you’ll never see him pulling out questions of this sort on his fellow believers. One could come along and say “I believe Jesus rose from the dead!” and STB would never respond with “How do you know?” If the means by which one knows something were truly important to these folks, they would as Robert puts it “apply a uniform rationality.” But they don’t.

Regards,
Dawson

February 28, 2013 2:32 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Dawson,

These guys can't read. You give them explanations and when they "answer" they ask you to explain despite you just did. It's as if they filter out explanations when they "read" what you wrote, and keep only a few wordings to make it appear as if they are acknowledging what you wrote, but not really.

It's shitty, frankly. I think that the reason I was able to escape Christianity is that I do listen. I pay attention. Maybe that's why they don;t pay attention, afraid that they might discover that they are wrong.

So glad that those aren't my problems.

Great weekend to all!

March 01, 2013 6:12 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Photo,

Thanks for your comment.

You wrote: “Maybe that's why they don;t pay attention, afraid that they might discover that they are wrong.”

Whether they pay attention or not is hard to discern from what they write. But it’s clear that they try to redirect the discussion, in order to take control of the focus of what’s being discussed. I remember Steve Buscemi’s line from Fargo when he says “Two can play at that game, smart guy!” I’m happy to do what I can to keep the focus of the conversation on the essentials.

As Prayson indicated in a comment above, he stated in his first blog entry interacting with my argument that “Christians would probably agree that premise 1-3 are true.” But does he make his own agreement with these premises explicit? In the same breath, he points out that Christians would retort that “[premise] 4 is false.” In regard to Premises 1-3, Prayson states above that “Yes there are same who disagree, but I do not see how.” He also says that “Following dictionary definition, what is imaginary does not have factual reality, period. P1-P3 are true.”

So I can infer, at least tentatively, from Prayson’s statements that he agrees that Premises 1, 2 and 3 of my argument are true.

But if that’s the case, then his objections are incoherent. For instance, he wrote above:

<< I contended you did not give reasons to accept P4 because to show something is imaginary, you have to show that it does not have factual reality and not the other way around. >>

Again, if Prayson agrees that, per Premise 1, the imaginary is not real, then why would it be wrong to infer that something is not real if there are good reasons to conclude that it is imaginary?

My argument takes this approach: that if something is found to be imaginary, then it can be concluded, given Premise 1, that it is unreal.

Since Prayson apparently agrees that the imaginary is unreal, it remains completely unclear why he would find the approach my argument takes objectionable. He certainly has not given any reasons why my argument’s approach is wrong, and he has not given any argument to support the claim he makes in the bracketed quote above.

So Prayson needs to explain himself.

If he wants to present his case, I am willing to examine it. But at this point, it’s up to him if he wants to take this up.

Regards,
Dawson

March 02, 2013 5:35 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Dawson, Prayson, Friends and Readers.

The Christian God is defined in part as God is necessarily present everywhere in space as the immanent cause and sustainer of creatures.

This is the doctrine of Divine Conservation. This doctrine carries an axiomatic corollary that Science is false. That Science is false or true is testable, and Science proves to be true. This means the Hartle-Hawking Wave Function of the Universe as a solution of the Wheeler-Dewitt Equation is true. Quentin Smith Explained.

God cannot conserve (in the sense of continuous creation) the successive states of the universe if the wave-function law is true.

It is part of quantum mechanics that any quantum-mechanical system Q is governed by a wave function, and that the wave function evolves in accordance with the Schrodinger equation unless interfered with by an outside influence. Now the evolution of the quantum mechanical system Q in quantum cosmology is governed by the gravitational Schrodinger equation (the Wheeler-DeWitt equation). Since the system Q that is the subject of quantum cosmology involves a physically closed system, the entire universe, there can be no outside influences. The evolution of the probabilities of the metric and matter field of the universe cannot be due to divine influence.

This argument can be presented more formally.

1a. The universe is a physically closed system that is described by the Hartle-Hawking "no-boundary" wave function of the universe.

2a. The probability distribution of the metrical and matter properties of any given three-dimensional spatial slice of the universe that has a preceding three-dimensional spatial slice, follow deterministically from the metrical and matter properties of the preceding 3-space in accordance with the "no-boundary" solution of the Wheeler-DeWitt equation.

Therefore,

3a. There are always sufficient conditions for the probabilistic evolution of the universe that are physical.

Therefore,

4a. There is no causal role for the god of classical theism to play in determining the probabilistic evolution of the universe.

Note that if we introduce at this point a theological ceteris paribus clause about divine conservation, we are introducing an argument that science is false, and are not showing how science is consistent with theism. Note, first, that there cannot be a theological ceteris paribus clause about divine conservation that is logically consistent with quantum cosmology, for such a clause would entail that the probabilities of the successive 3-spaces of the universe never evolve in accordance with initial conditions and the "no-boundary" solution of the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. But if they never evolve in this way, Hawking's "no-boundary" quantum cosmology is false.
~ Link

Since God is not the immanent cause of existence, then it does not necessarily exist in this actual universe of this possible world which means it does not exist at all. Thus notions of God are internally generated by the subject of thought and aren't perceived objects of thought.

Best, Good, Cheers!

March 02, 2013 8:01 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@Robert

Hello there friend. You said

"This is the doctrine of Divine Conservation. This doctrine carries an axiomatic corollary that Science is false."

could you expound on that some more. I don't see the automatic connection.

March 02, 2013 9:03 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hi Justin: Good morning my friend. I hope you and yours are doing well.

Sir, I am unable to explicate Smith's assertion any better than he did in his 1998 paper that can be read at the link I posted above. Here's the url again.

http://www.philoonline.org/library/smith_1_1.htm

The quoted text comes from section 6 of the paper where Smith explains why the doctrine of Divine conservation argues Science is false. Smith's argument depends upon the truth of Hartle-Hawking quantum cosmology. If HH is true and is a solution to the gravitational Schrodinger equation (the Wheeler-DeWitt equation)that governs evolution of the quantum mechanical system Q in quantum cosmology, then as Smith noted, the doctrine of Divine conservation is an introduction of a ceteris paribus clause (Ceteris paribus means "all other things being equal" and implies such equality lacks affect.) that argues Science is false. This is so because the Feyman path integrals that Hartle and Hawking employed to discover the Wave Function of the Universe have a scope of coverage that includes all identity, action, causality, and entity in existence since inception of cosmic inflation. If HH is true, then This means Science demonstrates that existence just exists all alone without any grand cosmic consciousness holding existence instantiated.

I apologize that I am unable to explain it better than Smith, but then again professor Smith is piled high and deep and I only have an associate degree from my local community college. Nevertheless, I appreciate you, Dawson, and all the readers.

Best Wishes for Continued Success

March 03, 2013 7:23 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@Robert

Thank you, I have the day off today so I will follow the link and try to comprehend it. In the meantime I think you might find this short article of some interest. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130303154958.htm

March 04, 2013 10:40 AM  

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