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For Deists; A Question

 
 
xris
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 02:35 pm
@Khethil,
As an agnostic it is not question that stops me believing,there are lots more that I find harder.
We examine our existance and we cant conceive of other existences but that does not prove we can exclude them.Our time started with the BB but others maybe in a diferent time frame to ours.
If you try to answer this question with preconceived ideas of a particular god then you could have a problem with this question.These gods dont speak of such things and to omit such an important concept is pointing to the fact that they to are ill conceived.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 10:13 pm
@Khethil,
xris;81778 wrote:
Its just a question that you might ask.You have to consider a question before you dismiss its relevance.Its only your opinion that its not relevant,it is to most others.


As if I have not considered it? Length of text is not always indicative of length of contemplation.

As for "most others", I have no idea where you get this idea. Aquinas, who was not lost to the Deists, most notably the American Founding Father Deists, says that "God is His own existence" - and this basic concept of God survived among most learned Desists. For any Desists who accepts that aspect of God-concept, which is more popular than any other in the West, the question is incomprehensible.

Khethil;81782 wrote:
I don't know - if I am the creator of all things, it's not so "incomprehensible" that perhaps I existed before I created all things. If so, what might have been that state?


If it is not incomprehensible, then there must be a way for man to know, or approach knowing such a thing. Okay - how does man begin to know God ontologically as He was prior to existence?

Khethil;81782 wrote:
Yea, don't be so quick to dismiss. I think it's a good, meaningful exercise to elicit and talk out such concepts.


It is great to discuss, and important. But there is nothing to talk about if the question is incomprehensible. As far as I can tell, the question is impossible to approach. And if that is the case, then that is the whole of the topic - the realization that we are asking an incomprehensible, irrelevant, possibly idolatrous question.

Unless we do the pantheistic retreat and call God nature, I do not see how the question could make any sense at all. And if we make that move, then the answer is purely scientific - and as yet, we don't know that answer, either. We don't know what happened prior to the Big Bang - incidentally, the difficulty of asking what happened before the Big Bang is quite like knowing God ontologically prior to existence in that there does not seem to be any way to gather knowledge about such a thing.
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 02:04 pm
@xris,
xris;81796 wrote:
As an agnostic it is not question that stops me believing,there are lots more that I find harder.
We examine our existance and we cant conceive of other existences but that does not prove we can exclude them.Our time started with the BB but others maybe in a diferent time frame to ours.
If you try to answer this question with preconceived ideas of a particular god then you could have a problem with this question.These gods dont speak of such things and to omit such an important concept is pointing to the fact that they to are ill conceived.


Yes, exactly right. I've run across quite a number of people whose belief systems tell them they can talk about, muse or otherwise examine the possibilities of a god before we were created.

Many can't, as is evidenced by some of these replies.

Thanks

---------- Post added 08-09-2009 at 03:19 PM ----------

Didymos Thomas;82004 wrote:
If it is not incomprehensible, then there must be a way for man to know...


I don't think so. Were we to constrain ourselves to only what can be known, much of philosophy (perhaps the bulk of metaphysics) likely wouldn't even qualify for our attention. Further, in this area we're speaking about beliefs - concepts that people hold to.

Couched in your belief system, it sounds (as you say) incomprehensible. But to many it's not. I only think that's a healthy outlook to keep when we talk about religion.

Didymos Thomas;82004 wrote:
... or approach knowing such a thing. Okay - how does man begin to know God ontologically as He was prior to existence?


Again, we're talking about beliefs here; not necessarily knowledge. As such, "knowledge" may or may not have any role in the belief process. It sounds, DT, like your mindset here draws its distinctions and correlations in very set - very carefully thought out lines. Kudos! I think it'd be great that we all should be so exacting and ardent.

But please bear in mind that what may sound utterly absurd to you, and your beliefs, may not be so with others in theirs. As an atheist, I find myself in this quandary often. But I've learned over time that beliefs are funny things; they need to just be accepted by us (on the "judging" or even better - the "listening" side), lest we end up disrespecting them and hamstringing good conversation. In other words: To profess "I think this absurd" is right and fair - to say "It is absurd", of an aspect concerned with belief, begs addressing; with such qualification as I'm hoping to give now.

Thanks for engaging; and yes, I get what you're saying completely.

Cheers
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 04:29 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil;82133 wrote:

I don't think so. Were we to constrain ourselves to only what can be known, much of philosophy (perhaps the bulk of metaphysics) likely wouldn't even qualify for our attention. Further, in this area we're speaking about beliefs - concepts that people hold to.


I did not limit my statement to what can be known with certainty, I also invited the possibility of approaching knowledge. Perhaps this was too vague, so let me (try in the most pathetic manner to) clarify. This is exactly what we do in metaphysics - we obviously cannot know, but we can approach knowledge, we can in some systematic way attempt to express some truth.

Khethil;82133 wrote:
Couched in your belief system, it sounds (as you say) incomprehensible. But to many it's not. I only think that's a healthy outlook to keep when we talk about religion.


And all I am asking for is an explanation as to how the question could be anything other than incomprehensible.

Khethil;82133 wrote:
Again, we're talking about beliefs here; not necessarily knowledge


And neither am I.

Khethil;82133 wrote:
But please bear in mind that what may sound utterly absurd to you, and your beliefs, may not be so with others in theirs. As an atheist, I find myself in this quandary often. But I've learned over time that beliefs are funny things; they need to just be accepted by us (on the "judging" or even better - the "listening" side), lest we end up disrespecting them and hamstringing good conversation. In other words: To profess "I think this absurd" is right and fair - to say "It is absurd", of an aspect concerned with belief, begs addressing; with such qualification as I'm hoping to give now.


I have yet to call anything absurd. Instead, I am saying that I can see no way around this question being incomprehensible, which I have given some explanation of, and asked for some response that explains how the question could be anything other than incomprehensible. If the question is not incomprehensible, great - explain how.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 9 Aug, 2009 05:31 pm
@Khethil,
Quote:
I don't think so. Were we to constrain ourselves to only what can be known, much of philosophy (perhaps the bulk of metaphysics) likely wouldn't even qualify for our attention. Further, in this area we're speaking about beliefs - concepts that people hold to.


Actually, this raises a very interesting point in my mind - the assumed dichotomy between 'beliefs' and 'knowledge'.

Do you consider the possibility of 'higher knowledge' which has been called by various terms in the different religious and philosophical traditions - for example, gnosis, sophia, sapience, or in the Eastern traditions, Prajna, Jnana, or vidya; as distinct from belief in the sense of faith ('pistis')?

Is it conceivable that, were such knowledge to exist, then transcendental beings and the like might actually be known, as distinct from just 'believed in'?

Or do you think that all such knowledge has as its object only what you call 'concepts' or 'mental constructions'?

This actually speaks to what you what you understand as the nature of religious belief.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Aug, 2009 03:40 am
@jeeprs,
Its a dangerous concept in faith,if we have no answer we accept it blindly.Its beyond our comprehension,its ok on matters that do not harm but on dogma that injures its very damaging to say, i accept it blindly as its beyond my reasoning.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Aug, 2009 03:56 am
@Khethil,
Indeed it is.

The original question I responded to seems to indicate that if it is not 'knowledge', then it must be 'belief'. I am proposing that there might be something which is neither knowledge nor belief, in the sense that we generally understand them. It may be that you haven't considered this perspective, which is OK as well. I am just drawing attention to this perspective.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Aug, 2009 04:29 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;82265 wrote:
Indeed it is.

The original question I responded to seems to indicate that if it is not 'knowledge', then it must be 'belief'. I am proposing that there might be something which is neither knowledge nor belief, in the sense that we generally understand them. It may be that you haven't considered this perspective, which is OK as well. I am just drawing attention to this perspective.
Sorry but i dont grasp what else it could be.Either you dont know or you believe it by faith alone.If your certain there is no god its not relevant to even consider.
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Aug, 2009 05:16 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;82265 wrote:
Indeed it is.

The original question I responded to seems to indicate that if it is not 'knowledge', then it must be 'belief'. I am proposing that there might be something which is neither knowledge nor belief, in the sense that we generally understand them. It may be that you haven't considered this perspective, which is OK as well. I am just drawing attention to this perspective.


Hey Jeep,

Yes, I think this is a good point to draw attention to. I wouldn't necessarily separate belief and knowledge completely since much of what one considers knowledge is likely based on beliefs (once could call it "confidence" as well) and vice versa; that beliefs may have knowledge on which they too are based. As far as a third epistemological element (something aside from combinations of faith-and/or-knowledge based support), I'm not sure what that might be but am open to the possibility. As we speak about such things; however, and if I say "beliefs" - I hope it is understood that this entails - just perhaps - more faith, emotion and hope than "knowledge" per say (although this is by no means absolute). Your point is well taken.

So no, I wouldn't draw a hard-and-fast line in every case but I think individual cases have their distinctions depending on the individual and the relative weight each person gives to <this> or <that>.

Thanks - very good point. We discussed this not too long ago in this thread. My view's refined somewhat since then, but it still speaks to types of support used in the belief/knowledge scheme and might make good reading.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Aug, 2009 05:59 am
@Khethil,
Thanks Kethil. I have read the other post and it does indeed touch on similar points. When you wrote

Quote:
I suggest that discovering what is already in ones' mind and heart (what knowledge, what need for belief) is absolutely paramount to really *knowing* oneself. Taking this step; critically and without ego, is - I think - a necessary first step in understanding ones own theology.


I completely agree.

The element that has been turned into 'belief' is something else, and it is often spurious, whether one is for it or against it, if you catch my drift. Yet this is what almost everyone understands religion/spirituality to be.

So I am saying there is a spiritual persective, if you like, which is neither belief nor knowledge in the accepted sense (although it is definitely nearer religion than science). This comes out of 'spiritual practise', such as that taught by Buddhist meditation. A perspective develops which you just can't anticipate intellectually - you can't just think it up - but it is also not just a belief. It is almost universally absent from discussions about religion nowadays. Western religion is almost all thinking and talking. This is something else.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Aug, 2009 06:51 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;82274 wrote:
... So I am saying there is a spiritual persective, if you like, which is neither belief nor knowledge in the accepted sense (although it is definitely nearer religion than science). This comes out of 'spiritual practise', such as that taught by Buddhist meditation. A perspective develops which you just can't anticipate intellectually - you can't just think it up - but it is also not just a belief....


I think I can catch the jist of this; could you elaborate?

It sounds like a feeling that includes a relaxed, accepting mindset - somehow this gets translated behind the 'mental' scenes? I'm not very versed in Buddhism (practices or ideals) at all, but it sounds interesting.

Thanks
salima
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Aug, 2009 08:20 am
@Khethil,
Khethil;82286 wrote:
I think I can catch the jist of this; could you elaborate?

It sounds like a feeling that includes a relaxed, accepting mindset - somehow this gets translated behind the 'mental' scenes? I'm not very versed in Buddhism (practices or ideals) at all, but it sounds interesting.

Thanks


perhaps it includes the experience of some state of being that doesnt relate to knowledge or beliefs. that state of being then has to be translated into mental constructs and becomes belief that can be applied to what is known as 'daily life'. if it happened to a lot of people in a crowd it could be called mass hallucination. but when it happens over the history of the human race to individual people from all walks of life and cultures and can be recognized by certain key conclusions, surely it merits serious consideration and study.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Aug, 2009 05:43 pm
@Khethil,
Generally speaking, we have the idea that our concepts reflect realities in the real world. So on the one hand we have 'the objective realm' of objects and forces and then there is 'the mind', which forms images and concepts about those things, which are our 'ideas', related (hopefully) by logic and mathematics and memory, and so on, to the realities of this world. This anyway is the naive realist interpretation of our situation, shorn of all metaphysical presuppositions or philosophical analysis: a 'thinking subject' in a 'world of objects'. This is so obvious that it goes without saying - it is simply 'reality' to most of us.


Obviously it is possible because of imagination, that there may be 'ideas' or 'beliefs' in our minds do not actually correspond with real things in the objective world. And here is where we get into much of what goes on here on the Philosophy forum and indeed in discussions about philosophy and especially theism. Namely, does this concept I have of 'deity' correspond to something real, in the same way that my idea of the proverbial 'apple' or 'table' is real? Can I have an 'idea' that corresponds to a reality called 'God'?


Now one answer to this, which is nevertheless still within the realm of religious belief, is actually 'no'. There is in fact nothing like 'God' that has ever or will ever 'exist' in all of the world of experiencable objects, measurable forces, and whatever else we understand to be real. There really is no such thing. And there never has been. Furthermore, this is clearly understood by many people who actually nevertheless 'believe in God'. Almost all Western theology up until about the time of Anselm, and much Eastern Orthodox theology to this day, understands that 'God' is not 'something that exists' and is certainly not something that can be pictured or imagined. God is the source of all existence, the ground of all being, but is beyond any of our attempts to picture, capture, or conceptualise. This is why the approach to the understanding of this reality is through inner silence, through not-knowing, through stilling discursive thought and silent contemplation. This is not something unique to Christianity, or even to religion, in the sense we now understand it. I think it was something well understood in Ancient Greek philosophy where it went by the name 'epoche' or 'suspension of judgement'.

The idea that Deity is somethng of which we can form a mental picture or argue the existence of is actually quite a recent development - in fact, it is a modern idea. And I contend that it is one of the ways in which moderns consistently misrepresent and misunderstand the approach to Deity. Most of what goes on in discussions of this type is actually just the crackling of neurons. We are literally listening to ourselves think. And thinking operates on the level of conditioned response. It is the tip of the iceberg of consciousness which is built on the basis of a vast network of subconsious and unconscious processes that have been created and conditioned over millenia. So we never really even get into the ballpark with this kind of thinking. Ask any Zen teacher (but you will probably get a whack with a stick).

So now we get to the nature of meditation. Meditation is an awareness of the whole play of thought and its ideas and projections and concepts from a point of view of silent awareness. It is metacognitive in that it produces insight about the nature of cognition of a type that is not available by merely thinking. Now it is not at all the case that meditation will lead to 'belief in deity' - the Buddhist tradition, for one, is (with some caveats) generally non-theistic. So I am not putting forward an argument for the existence of deity. What I am really trying to communicate is what is involved in really asking the question. And there is a lot more to it than meets the casual observer. It is a very deep question indeed and one to which the level of debate does not often do justice.

---------- Post added 08-11-2009 at 11:27 AM ----------

References:
Beyond Theology Alan Watts
The Case for God Karen Armstrong
Mysticism Christian and Buddhist D.T. Suzuki
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 08:00 am
@jeeprs,
Jeeprs,

Thanks for the effort and depth of your response. Most of what you describe, at least from my perspective, is what I'd term "a given" - but this is coincidence (or nice happenstance) since so many feel so very differently. But thank you for sharing your personal views on the nature of a deity - this is precisely what I hope to gain. Good stuff, indeed.

Existence of a deity, or the nature of what that deity may be (or may be doing, for that matter) is fascinating to me in that laying it open to one another can increase our perspective of how people think in the private recesses of their beliefs; what they want, what they know and how they've resolved some of the existential issues important to them. It might show vulnerabilities, or perhaps hint at our deepest questions (some of which perhaps WE aren't even consciously aware of and much, much more.

So no, to me there's no point to debating any objective question of existence or nature at all. Thus, the initial question which (despite its offhanded tone) asks the reader "How do you envision the nature your creator?" It provides - I like to think - a non-challenging construct in which to enunciate ones' concepts of god. It's a difficult proposition, given the propensity of some to presume an instantaneous adversarial 'challenge', but what gems of insight it gives towards those innermost parts of human thought - and what that might reveal - makes the pain very much worth it.

Again, thanks for your response.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 09:24 am
@Khethil,
I realy have tried to follow this thread but it alludes me.Why cant anyone give an objective possibility of what god was doing before this universe was created? Its not down to knowledge or belief as no one has ever stated it in a faith driven sense, nor can we contemplate a creator in logical terms.Philosphically we can postulate but from a faith driven dogmatic view there is no precedent,no basis to reply,scriptures dont give the answer.Objectively,we can all give our opinions but subjectively the faithful have no way of answering.
0 Replies
 
Adamson
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 01:05 pm
@Khethil,
Let us try a step by step consensus building and progressing approach. We can divide the process of understanding the question and its inherent presuppositions and evaluating answers:

My suggestion: The participating members must agree that they have no basis to accept that a satisfactory answer can not be found. If only such members continue, then members will be those who can continue with interest and motivation, i.e. we can eliminate skeptics/suceptics. Eliminating half hearted or sure of failure partners is a must for any ambitious project.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 03:24 pm
@Khethil,
Thank you Khethil. Actually I woke up this morning with the distinct realisation that 'I'm not there yet'. My contribution is like 'the story so far' in terms of what I have come to understand. I think it is OK as far as it goes, but there is much further to go and everything is, how shall we say, provisional.

Anyway, back to the question. To be honest, I think it is an unanswerable question. In Buddhism, the question as to whether the Universe is eternal, or not, or both, or neither, is called vyākṛta-vastu, 'not determined by the Buddha'. The Buddha would never respond to questions of this kind as any response would only encourage further speculation and distract the questioner from the task at hand. But then Buddhism is not a theistic religion, so the question is also out of scope in that regard also.

In Orthodox theology:

Quote:
The concept of God's essence in Eastern Orthodox theology is called (ousia) and is distinct from his energies (energeia in Greek, actus in Latin) or activities in the world. The ousia of God is God as God is. It is the energies of God that enable us to experience something of the Divine. At first through sensory perception and then later intuitively or noetically. The essence, being, nature and substance (ousia) of God is taught in Eastern Christianity as uncreated and incomprehensible. God's ousia is defined as "that which finds no existence or subsistence in another or any other thing".[1] God's ousia is beyond all states of (nous) consciousness and unconsciousness, being and non-being (like being dead or anesthetized), beyond something and beyond nothing.[2] The God's ousia has not in necessity or subsistence needing or having dependence on anything other than itself. God's ousia as uncreated is therefore incomprehensible to created beings such as human beings. Therefore God in essence is superior to all forms of ontology (metaphysics).[3] The source, origin of God's ousia or incomprehensibliness is the Father hypostasis of the Trinity, One God in One Father.[4][5] The God's energies are "unbegotten" or "uncreated" just like the existences of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) both God's existences and energies are experience-able or comprehensible. God's ousia is uncreatediness, beyond existence, beyond no existence, God's hyper-being is not something comprehensible to created beings.[6] As St John Damascene states "all that we say positively of God manifests not his nature but the things about his nature.

From Wikipedia

According to this theology, we can say nothing about God in his essence, and as, prior to the existence of the world, that is all there is, again we are rendered silent.

So after my several hundred-odd words on the topic, I think I had, in fact, better become silent:bigsmile:
salima
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 06:02 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;82612 wrote:


According to this theology, we can say nothing about God in his essence, and as, prior to the existence of the world, that is all there is, again we are rendered silent.

So after my several hundred-odd words on the topic, I think I had, in fact, better become silent:bigsmile:


i think the theory is that it can be known-but it cannot be said.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 02:52 am
@salima,
Im finding these views a bit to common in religious debates.Its beyond our comprehension,if its beyond our understanding, then it has no value.
Faith becomes an excuse, a mystery,if you cant explain your god,a god, then it ceases to exist.
What does it look like? i dont know..What gender is it? i dont know..Is it benevolent? i dont know..Is it conscious?i dont know..If we dont know we have to design,describe, it and see if the description makes sense.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 05:39 am
@Khethil,
Do you think the universe is obliged to make itself comprehensible to you?
 

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