The Dallas Examined Life Philosophy Group Message Board › Why is there something instead of nothing?

Why is there something instead of nothing?

Metacrock
Metacrock
Dallas, TX
Post #: 29
Meta, I think you're confusing arguing from analogy, i.e. analogy being the content of your argument, with arguing that analogy is the case. Not every aspect of our existence is equally legitimate for being used in an argument. See the distinction between different kinds of knowledge I wrote about previously.


No I'm not. I'm saying religious language is analogy. But all language is analogy really. Read Derrida if you want to see how meaning collapses in language. Now of course when you have concrete empirical examples you can understand the analogy in a more concrete way. but ultimately all knowledge is superficial and fleeting.




Reverse fallacy of comp: Every individual thing is caused so the whole is caused. No individual thing has meaning so the whole cannot have meaning. You get the picture.

I see, that's good.
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 80
Metacrock, I agree that all language is metaphorical (metacrockical?) but there are different levels of language use, aren't there? So the ultimate metaphorical nature of language wouldn't seem to be that important in this context. I think we're saying the same thing but approaching it from slightly different angles.
Rowdy
rowdy.vinson
Plano, TX
Post #: 48
I'd like to note, at this point, that ya'll are making a mistake. The idea of purpose/meaning being added to an object is a more complex idea than it just existing without said purpose/meaning.

There is a perfectly reasonable explanation that does not require the added complexity of purpose. We are a product of chance. Because we exist, the universe has to behave in a way to have allowed us to exist. everything else, all these idea ya'll are covering, hinge on the implication of purpose/meaning ANYWHERE. I'd say, you're over-analyzing the issue and that any purpose you can find in sharp rocks may be of your own creation.

I understand that these types of discussions are the basis of philosophy, but this is a pet of mine and I can say that, I haven't found a better, simpler explanation than chance. The anthropic principal cleans up any of the other arguments tied to that assertion.

Can anyone give a line of rational thought that would take you from raw observation to some implication of meaning that CAN't be sunk by what I just said? I'd love to read it.
Nathaniel
user 10963465
Group Organizer
Mesquite, TX
Post #: 34
Jim, So the problem I'm facing now is simply that there is nothing I can compare god to in order to make a valid comparison? As an example, any "action" taken by god would be beyond our understanding and to speak of it in any anthropic manner would be to do it injustice. It would essentially be like saying "nature abhors a vacuum". Because god would be a special case, there is nothing I can compare him to. If this were the case, then it's difficult to ever have a discussion about such a god. The same problem is run into when talking about existence as a whole... To me that leaves it all rather uncertain. It seems as if it may be impossible to know whether or not god does exist, we can only know that it is possible for god to exist. I must say, I'm not really satisfied with that. It seems almost like a cop-out. I know what you're saying is true, but the impenetrable wall of analogy is a rather pesky obstacle.

The reason why the conceptions of god I put forth seemed like a big guy in the sky where based entirely off of my views on purpose. I don't actually believe a personal god could exist. As I've said before, I'm not sure the will/choice can exist outside of time and/or in the face of infinite/zero choices.

Now, as to the nature of the key, I suppose you're right to an extent. The form of the key is the embodiment of its purpose. However, this purpose still precedes the form. If you want to think of it like Plato, the form was without material in the mind of the key maker before he molded material to give it the form. So perhaps the form and the purpose are one and the same. However, the fact that a form can be the embodiment of a purpose does not mean that all forms are the embodiment of a purpose. Purpose still applies to things that are designed/built/created by a rational mind, not things that merely are due to some process. Although if you factor in the fact that reason is also a process, it is either true that a mere function/process can result in purpose or there is no such things as purpose at all. I tend to prefer the former because it doesn't negate the conception of autonomy. Furthermore, I suppose I am technically the embodiment of the "purpose" of my biology, which tends to indicate that things can have a purpose by their nature. Although, I'm somewhat skeptical about how something can have an intrinsic purpose without having a will. I suppose if you keep reducing biology back to its beginnings, you eventually get to stuff that didn't have a will, that produced something with a will (moving from purposeless to purposeful). The idea that purpose doesn't exist outside of reason also negates a lot of my own views on animal rights, which I really don't like.

Metacrock, I'm not sure what you're getting at but my logic goes like this:
1. God cannot exist in a meaningless existence.
2. Existence is meaningless.
3. God does not exist.

If one could prove existence to be meaningless, why would this not prove that god cannot exist? I'm not saying that your existence is meaningless, I'm not saying that it's all relative and that it's meaningful for you but not for me. I'm saying that there is no universal meaning. At the very least, any meaning we attribute to existence would be a guess based on our own biases. Just as the singer's voice may be "evolutionary fallout" so too would be the process that led up to any decision about the meaning of existence.

To Nathaniel - Your entire argument is based on category mistakes. You're also guilty of the fallacy of composition in reverse. And how is it that biology has an end or telos while none of the rest of nature does? Are you a strong emergentist? How could you be if you're a physical reductionist?

If you're going that route, then pretty much any statement containing "god is..." would be a category mistake due to the problems with analogy that you've pointed out. I tend to think that things work from the bottom up. That's why I try to reduce things to where they came from, to understand what they're about. I am very much an emergentist in that I believe that abiogenesis and evolution is what got me here and that this form (including my capacity for reason) is the result of gradually emergent properties. However, in order to fully understand the whole of something, you must understand its parts (or at the very least the purpose towards which most parts should aid). It's sort of a bottom up, then top down approach. I can conceive of and observe a necessary underlying purpose to all life (the support of the survival of one's traits). I suppose you could term it "the ground of life". I cannot imagine an underlying purpose to existence. I can't compare existence to non-existence. The only guesses that come to mind are: to be and equilibrium (with a heaping helping of chance).

These both assume that existence is possible without life and that life is not the reason why anything exists. I can observe that existence is, and that it always avoids absolute destruction. I can also observe that energy and mater do seem to "seek" equilibrium, or the lowest energy state possible. One may even argue that existencelessness might not even be the lowest energy state or that equilibrium is dynamic and necessarily includes both existence and existencelessness. Not to mention the fact that, as Rowdy mentioned, it all seems as if it's left up to chance. It's merely that the lowest energy states are the most likely possible outcomes. The problem is that none of that can really be proven and its difficult to apply to something that is potentially infinite. It also only explains how, not really why. I also think the concept of purpose beyond life suggests that will can exist beyond life and this would effectively dismantle any teleological system of ethics that could ever be proposed.

If god exists and has no purpose of his own, and we exist within the mind of god, then it isn't unreasonable to imagine that the purpose of existence is for god to know himself. It's a rather poetic point of view, I must say. I actually like the idea that god, just like us, must find his own purpose. I would be very amused if even god wondered "Why do I exist?" or rather that the purpose of existence is so that he can wonder such a thing through us. It's still a bit circular... but just about everything else seems to be.

If existence is open to explore its potentialities, then that would in a sense be its purpose, which in a way would transcend the meaning of 'purpose' as normally understood.

So... just like a man born without purpose may be said to have the purpose of "to find his purpose", existence may have a similar purpose? Seems like such a purpose could be defined as "freedom". I think that would tend to argue for the dead god theory. That god acted as the ground of being and nothing beyond that and that existence may have even obliterated god, or that he obliterated himself so that we would be "free" from him... that would explain his apparent non-existence/inactivity now at any rate.

I'm still not entirely certain that this "god" is much of one anyhow. Like I've said before, it tends to seem more like a natural law than anything else. It almost seems as if we might suddenly fall upon a phrase that sums it all up... and I'm not willing to call such an idea a god.
Nathaniel
user 10963465
Group Organizer
Mesquite, TX
Post #: 35
Jim I think I understand what you're talking about when you say that god may be so far beyond our conceptions of purpose that we can't sum it up. If god were something like Plato's realm of forms, then he would embody all possible purposes. His purpose would be purpose itself.

Well, I think we may be winding down on this one. We can see that either existence has purpose and god exists or existence has no purpose and god does not exist... but it seems like there are many possible conceptions of god and his purpose that are logically consistent, so I can't seem to completely discount his existence quite yet.

I do, however, think that the ultimately meaningless existence is equally possible. It'd seems a bit bleak, so I can understand why people would choose that route, but I think both stances are equally valid. I've run out of arguments for why existence must be without purpose. To be honest, just like belief in god seems to be based off of experiential knowledge, so does my belief in the meaningless nature of existence. There's also the very real possibility that both stances are correct and there's a strange duality to it all. It also seems as if the truth of the matter may be unknowable.

Is this stance something we can agree on? Does anyone have any proof (or at least a logical argument) that existence must have purpose? Are we just stuck on god and godlessness both being equally plausible?
Rowdy
rowdy.vinson
Plano, TX
Post #: 49
This is the second plea now for those who see purpose to illustrate it.

I'm falling back on the wonderful idea that 'simpler is better', and I can't make any headway on WHY we need to add purpose if we can already explain things without it. Purpose is just a complicating factor that leads to dead-end talks of God and Meaning...

Anyone on the purpose side of this want to say what leads you to believe in this purpose instead of the lack thereof?
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 81
Re: analogical understanding: Unique singular objects cannot be defined, only identified (ostensive definition). We can construct a definition based on the many classes to which the object belongs. When 2 or more things belong to the same class, the word that names the respect in which they're alike must be applied to them in the same way. No name can be applied to God and any other object in exactly the same way. God is unclassifiable, not a particular instance of any kind. Hence, as compared with the things of this world which are particular individuals having a finite existence, God has an unlimited, uncontracted, infinite existence.

If God is, God has aseity (meaning to have its existence in, through, and from itself). We may or may not think of the universe as having aseity whereas we must think of God as having aseity. Part of the commonly accepted definition of God.

"God is..." would be a category mistake only if meant in the same way as "My truck is..." Similarly "Nature abhors a vacuum" would be a category mistake only if meant in the same way as "I abhor Michael Bolton's music." The likeness between the real existence of God (if God is) and the real existence of things of this world known through sense perception or inference therefrom is analogical.

To Rowdy: The anthropic argument is not decisive either way. Of course the universe must facilitate our existence or else we could not be here to question anything about the universe. But one could say that this facilitation does not diminish the fact that we are here after all to ask the question. Facilitation does not necessarily lessen the existential wonder at our being here at all, regardless of how or why we are here. In fact, facilitation can just as likely add to the awe that we are here, assuming that this is the only universe (since it's the only one we have any empirical evidence of), and assuming the incredibly close tolerances that such facilitation would require. Aristotle said "All philosophy begins in wonder." This wonder at our being, the being of other things or at being in general may be pre-intellectual and thus would not dictate any single interpretation, so that any metaphysical interpretation of this wonder is open and on equal footing with any other. One can ask "How?" or one can ask "Why?" or both, but there is no 'objective' means for deciding which approach is the truer one since each rests on assumptions that are prior to evidence.

Purpose is the simpler explanation if in fact purpose is involved. If I see a series of marks on the side of a rock that appear to fall into a meaningful pattern, and in fact they were left there by someone whose purpose was to convey meaning, then it is far simpler of an explanation to infer purpose than not. So simplicity and parsimony depend on the context and to assume no purpose at the outset is to beg the question. 'Purpose' as applied to God and/or existence may be analogical anyway, in which case your whole point would not apply.

To Nathaniel: I think that God and 'meaninglessness' can co-exist, as I said in previous posts. It all depends on what you mean by 'meaningless' and how that and God are, or have to be, mutually exclusive. If your a priori definition of God entails a certain kind of 'meaningfulness' that you interpret this world as not exemplifying, then Metacrock may be right and you're begging the question.

What you accept as 'evidence,' how you organize sense data and interpret them depend on commitments that are prior to evidence. There is no 'neutral given,' no neutral starting point to objectively decide this kind of question. You write that maybe the question is unknowable. Gee. Ya think? Haven't I been saying that for the last couple of months? It may be unknowable propositionally, at least to any degree of certainty, but not unknowable experientially. That's what rational warrants are about. When questions are unknowable, you can rule out certain answers as being irrational, incoherent, etc while the rest would meet the minimal rational warrant standard. Some may be more persuasive than others, but only if you provisionally adopt the assumptions that that answer requires. It just seems that metaphysical positions like atheism/theism do not lend themselves to dogmatism since there's no 'objective' way to judge between them. In deciding between Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, I would side with Gould ( he thought that science and religion are 'non-overlapping magisteria.') That's the side of tolerance, inclusion, plurality and most importantly modesty, since we certainly don't know everything or even very much.








Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 82
Rowdy: You can't explain "Why?" and there's no objective way to decide between asking "Why?" and asking "How?" If you accept "Why?" as a legitimate question, God is the simplest, most elegant answer I can think of.
Nathaniel
user 10963465
Group Organizer
Mesquite, TX
Post #: 36
I'm not sure that a meaningless existence is compatible with god. If there is an answer to the question of "why?" then I'm not sure that "for no reason" is any good. I suppose its possible that this is an answer to that question. God did act as the ground of being but did so for no reason. The universe being created by god but not to any end in particular. Actions, by their nature, tend to operate to an end. Of course, this assumes god is making choices... which might not be the case. So perhaps god is compatible with the meaningless existence.

With that in mind, is the lack of god compatible with a meaningful existence? Could existence have a purpose separate from god, or even life to give it purpose? I also can't help but wonder if both stances could be correct, that god is and isn't, that existence has purpose and is purposeless. Perhaps they're both incorrect. If you take the statement "god is" as an example, then it's true, saying "god is" is not the same as saying "Jim is". They both "exist" in very different ways. In a way, god is and isn't (existing outside of existence). Furthermore, if the purpose of existence is distinctly different from the purpose of anything that exists. So it may be possible that the universe could be purposeless and purposeful at the same time, having its own unique purpose which is a distinct form of purpose that cannot be held by any thing which exists. It makes for an annoying duality... and almost seems illogical, but it may be entirely possible when framed like that. Although while I can grasp the concept of god existing outside of existence, I'm uncertain about purpose without purpose.

I suppose I've defeated my entire argument at this point. It sure is pesky that god and existence both manage to be special cases and that there are several logically consistent configurations of both. It makes any stance about either rely potentially faulty experiential evidence. Perhaps god and purpose, while if they "exist" would be objective, can never be known with objective certainty, only through subjective experience.

Grrr... I've been defeated. I suppose I can take solace in the fact that my stance is no less logically consistent than the next. I suppose I can also still oppose certain conceptions of god and point out the logical inconsistencies of specific gods that overreach the ground of being.

It should also be noted that the simplest answer is not always the correct one. Newtonian physics is certainly simpler than quantum physics, but quantum physics is more "correct". In science it seems as if a theory must be more complex to be more complete. The simplest explanations tend to fall short in comparison.
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 83
As far as simplicity goes, the God thing wouldn't be a scientific question anyway. But even within science, I think that beauty, elegance, and simplicity are assumed as standards of plausibility in judging equations and in explanations generally, relative to the scope of what's being explained. All else being equal, the simplest explanation usually has the advantage, doesn't it?

Let's say just for grins that God's 'purpose' for existence is the facilitation and emergence of creatures who are essentially free and capable of choosing the 'good.' (The question begs, of course, as to what the 'good' may be, but that's another kettle of fish.) In the sense just described, God's 'purpose' would be for an existence ontologically open and autonomous enough to facilitate such an emergence. So in a sense, God's 'purpose' ( again with the 'quotes') would be autonomy or lack of a prescribed end or result. It would be somewhat like the difference between the purpose of a knife and the purpose of a person. A person cannot have a purpose ( other than provisionally and within a very select context, e. g. the UPS Delivery Driver's purpose is to deliver packages) other than what that person assigns to herself. So I guess you could say that a person's purpose is to choose his purpose, so that it's a paradoxical self-negating or even self-transcending kind of purpose.

Kant talked about works of art as being 'purposive without purpose.' I think this relates to the disinterestedness that he thought was an essential part of aesthetic contemplation. Maybe a work of art's 'purposeless purpose' could serve as a very crude analogy here (?) God's disinterestedness, if there is such a thing, might also be purposive without purpose.

If God is a mystical reality, then language would be a problem in trying to gain a comprehensive understanding. Practitioners of Zen try to get arond this problem through an attempted direct pointing at reality. The normal categories of language and understanding would not necessarily apply within the context of a direct apprehension of things. I think that's why there's the famous Zen response to any yes/no question: Not yes, not no. This is all exremely puzzling and very confusing, I agree! I feel like a goldfish that keeps smacking its nose up against the goldfish bowl although I admit that's apretty dumb analogy!

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