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Radical Skepticism and Religious Experience

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  • #61
    Originally posted by Carl Jung View Post
    Stop saying I'm missing your point. I haven't. Is this the third time I answer your posts in this thread about Nagels argument?

    First of, I don't know what William Lane Craig says about this - and I can't answer for other people.

    Secondly, Nagel is a profound thinker so I doubt he thinks that people simply want eternity of any kind. That is simply not the Nagel I have read.
    If he does then its nonsense and it would lower my opinion of him.

    I think its much more likely that people find eternity a necessary but not sufficient cause for meaning.

    For myself I think that if life is not eternal then I could find meaning in it by using up my life trying to fulfill some goal which is eternal in itself. But in our transient existence I don't know what those goals would be. That is probably the thing that makes me want eternity.
    The essay by Nagel I'm always alluding to is called 'The Absurd'. By the way, Stephen Law in the recent interview also stole a thought-experiment from this essay where he talked about how the mere fact of having been created for a reason/purpose doesn't make our life meaningful. Colin Mcginn, Stephen Maitzen and others also often use things from this essay when arguing against religious people. It's an absolutely brilliant essay, but I must admit, I haven't read it for a while and I can't find it online.

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    • #62
      Originally posted by gabriel View Post
      I don't believe mortality without post-mortem survival is inherently meaningless, but I'm deeply concerned about the meaning atheist materialists put in its place. ... snipped ...
      On the other hand, I myself don't know in what Meaning/Meaningfulness really consists. We have heard it repeatedly: without afterlife and/or God, life is meaningless.

      However, cannot life still be meaningless even if the afterlife and God are real?

      In the first case, it might be an issue of a meaningless beingness ... that starts "here on earth" or in some earlier incarnation .... but, horribly, extended forever into eternity/immortality. Hardly good news, that.

      In the second case, it might be an issue of a meaningless relationship or non-relationship to God, where our meaningless existence is acted out in an unsatisfactory relation to God; or with an inimical relation to God ("robot slavery"); or simply with no particular relation to God ... a state which lasts forever. Again, not particularly cheersome news.

      So I suppose life or beingness could be meaningless, even if the afterlife and God are "givens".
      Last edited by bastaschs; August 23rd, 2013, 07:04 PM.

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      • #63
        Originally posted by bastaschs View Post
        However, cannot life still be meaningless even if the afterlife and God are real?
        Yeah, and I think this is one of the points that non-religious philosophers like Maitzen, Mcginn and Nagel are trying to make. What makes life meaningful to us are things like family, friendship, art, music, and political and ethical projects. God, the afterlife and immortality may be real, but it's not clear whether these things have anything to do with meaning in our lives. Maybe people who think they're getting meaning from God/religion are actually getting it from the community, solidarity and shared values they find in their church.

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        • #64
          I've just found Nagel's essay 'The Absurd' online. You can read it here:

          http://www.pitt.edu/~kis23/ABSURD.pdf

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          • #65
            Here's an example of the kind of question some analytic philosophers
            like to ask: which of the following is most likely to be true?

            1. We're living inside a computer simulation.
            2. The universe is created and sustained by a perfectly good God.
            3. The universe is created and sustained by a completely evil God.
            4. The universe is created by a non-perfect designer or team of designers.
            5. The universe was created by a giant spider, and the only reason he created it is that he loves cockroaches.

            And you could add a million other examples. Analytic philosophers will try to use fancy things like Bayesian probability theory to try to figure out the exact probabilities for each of these, and they will have passionate arguments about it.

            It's the height of arrogance to think we can figure any of this stuff out. As Hume pointed out a long time ago, we have no idea what designed universes look like or what undesigned universes look like, so we're just not in any position to say whether the universe 'looks' designed or not. What I want to see more than anything else is humility. We're limited beings and only have a limited perspective. And what's more, if it's really true that we can't do anything in ethics and politics unless we first get our metaphysical beliefs in order, then we really are in deep trouble.

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            • #66
              Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
              Here's an example of the kind of question some analytic philosophers
              like to ask: which of the following is most likely to be true?

              ... snipped ...
              Dom, thanks very much for your three replies Food for thought in each of them, and I'm looking forward to visiting the link you supplied.

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              • #67
                Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
                And what's more, if it's really true that we can't do anything in ethics and politics unless we first get our metaphysical beliefs in order, then we really are in deep trouble.
                I think it's the other way around. We shouldn't let philosophy necessarily hand wave the ethics and politics that come from our moral compasses.

                As for simulations, isn't that essentially what Idealism and to an extent Dualism posit? That the material world is either mind created and on some level illusory or something that our consciousness plugs into temporarily?

                I suppose there is the possibility that we're all just programs in the simulation but as you say you can wonder about that no matter where you are. I mean, even if we lived in a world of magic the moment someone trapped another person in an illusory dream world people might begin to wonder if they themselves are in such a dream.

                I suspect most of us wouldn't worry about it if we had some sense that wherever we were there'd be no permanent death. If we existed in a living dream and could teleport anywhere in any infinite universe, and were filled with feelings of love and peace, I wonder how much we'd even care about philosophy at that point.

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                • #68
                  Originally posted by bastaschs View Post

                  However, cannot life still be meaningless even if the afterlife and God are real?
                  For belief in a deity to be viable, two conditions need to be met. First, one has to accept that mortal man cannot know what God truly is, secondly, we do not fully understand what is in our best interests. Once one accepts those premises as a possibility, we no longer limit the definition of a deity to a scale we are familiar with, so a Matrix reality, or a grumpy God, or comic book morality of clearly identifiable good and bad guys are irrelevant.

                  Religious and atheist ideologies can fall prey to limiting what God is, and package him to their own interests. The only deity that makes sense is one that is both unknowable and reflected in our deepest instincts, like conscience and love. The God you don't believe in doesn't exist, as the saying goes.

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                  • #69
                    Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
                    Here's an example of the kind of question some analytic philosophers
                    like to ask: which of the following is most likely to be true?

                    1. We're living inside a computer simulation.
                    As I said before, this doesn't explain why we experience anything - see the philosopher David Chalmers' concept of the "Hard Problem".

                    2. The universe is created and sustained by a perfectly good God.
                    3. The universe is created and sustained by a completely evil God.
                    I tend to agree with Buddhist thought, that opposites like this are part of the same thing - like poles of a magnet - and can't exist without the other.

                    4. The universe is created by a non-perfect designer or team of designers.
                    5. The universe was created by a giant spider, and the only reason he created it is that he loves cockroaches.

                    And you could add a million other examples. Analytic philosophers will try to use fancy things like Bayesian probability theory to try to figure out the exact probabilities for each of these, and they will have passionate arguments about it.
                    I don't go for ideas like that because I suspect we are seeing a tiny fraction of the real picture of reality through distorting lenses.


                    It's the height of arrogance to think we can figure any of this stuff out. As Hume pointed out a long time ago, we have no idea what designed universes look like or what undesigned universes look like, so we're just not in any position to say whether the universe 'looks' designed or not. What I want to see more than anything else is humility. We're limited beings and only have a limited perspective. And what's more, if it's really true that we can't do anything in ethics and politics unless we first get our metaphysical beliefs in order, then we really are in deep trouble.
                    I don't think there are rational grounds for believing in any version of reality, but I think there are strong rational grounds to doubt the simple materialist view of reality.

                    You might as well face it - you will die, still not knowing what, if anything, comes next

                    David

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                    • #70
                      What I think all analytic philosophers do wrong is that they think they can argue their way to meaning and purpose. But a sense of meaning comes not from our rationality but from our ability to love, our need for justice and perhaps also our need to nurture others. It is an emotional aspect of man, it can't be reached through logic.

                      This is why I think most philosophers, like Nagel, are wrong when they try to reach purpose and meaning through argument - that just seems to me an exercise in futility.

                      So why does this mean that eternity might be a necessary thing for purpose? Well, for my own sake it has to do with the depth of emotion and strength of the need for justice.

                      If all are equal and nothing in the grave then justice is impossible. Indeed, as we see all around us in this world, might makes right - the good are trodden upon. Contemplating the good and trying to achieve beauty through a good life would then be the most pointless thing one could ever attempt. Because the good would be no more than cultural bias.

                      But the springing point is love I think - because without it nothing is meaningful. If mans lot in this world is living with the knowledge of the absurdity of life and the eternal dusthood of the grave - then the loving act would be not to procreate and the greatest act of love possible would be to self-extinguish the human race through contraceptives.

                      Basically all analytic philosophers hold the implicit view that life is just a great dissapointment. A hope that didn't quite pan out. A mistake that shouldn't have been allowed to happen. There is absolutely NO analytic philosophers who offer a philosophy of hope - all offer philosophies of despair or of scorn.

                      If life is like this - that we are born, we love our children and our partner and then we die - not even the strength of our love can save us from feeling cheated. Was this it? Were the concepts of the Good and the Beautiful mere chimeras that I entertained over a finite lifespan full of strife?

                      Why then live? What is it for?

                      The answer of Nagel is the answer that transforms mans attempt at answering these questions to the foundation of his existential pain. Therefor mans existence will have but one emotion as a constant companion - despair.

                      Comment


                      • #71
                        Originally posted by Carl Jung View Post
                        What I think all analytic philosophers do wrong is that they think they can argue their way to meaning and purpose. But a sense of meaning comes not from our rationality but from our ability to love, our need for justice and perhaps also our need to nurture others. It is an emotional aspect of man, it can't be reached through logic.

                        This is why I think most philosophers, like Nagel, are wrong when they try to reach purpose and meaning through argument - that just seems to me an exercise in futility.

                        So why does this mean that eternity might be a necessary thing for purpose? Well, for my own sake it has to do with the depth of emotion and strength of the need for justice.

                        If all are equal and nothing in the grave then justice is impossible. Indeed, as we see all around us in this world, might makes right - the good are trodden upon. Contemplating the good and trying to achieve beauty through a good life would then be the most pointless thing one could ever attempt. Because the good would be no more than cultural bias.

                        But the springing point is love I think - because without it nothing is meaningful. If mans lot in this world is living with the knowledge of the absurdity of life and the eternal dusthood of the grave - then the loving act would be not to procreate and the greatest act of love possible would be to self-extinguish the human race through contraceptives.

                        Basically all analytic philosophers hold the implicit view that life is just a great dissapointment. A hope that didn't quite pan out. A mistake that shouldn't have been allowed to happen. There is absolutely NO analytic philosophers who offer a philosophy of hope - all offer philosophies of despair or of scorn.

                        If life is like this - that we are born, we love our children and our partner and then we die - not even the strength of our love can save us from feeling cheated. Was this it? Were the concepts of the Good and the Beautiful mere chimeras that I entertained over a finite lifespan full of strife?

                        Why then live? What is it for?

                        The answer of Nagel is the answer that transforms mans attempt at answering these questions to the foundation of his existential pain. Therefor mans existence will have but one emotion as a constant companion - despair.

                        There's no doubt that there is some sadness and despair among philosophers, both analytic and continental. Many of them desperately want Hitler to be punished for what he's done, to see their dead child again, or to continue having conscious experiences after they die. It's very hard to accept that
                        there's no ultimate justice or purpose in the universe. Even professional analytic philosophers are human beings!

                        Even so, philosophers have to try to be intellectually honest. They believe that there are very strong reasons to reject dualism, theism, the afterlife and (counter-causal) free-will. They reject these things for philosophical (and scientific) reasons, and not because they're afraid of the cultural implications
                        of belief in God or the afterlife.

                        As for the notion of ultimate purpose, Stephen Matizen has argued that it's incoherent, and that we want something that we can never have. You can read his short paper on the topic here:

                        On God and Our Ultimate Purpose | Stephen Maitzen - Academia.edu

                        Comment


                        • #72
                          Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
                          Even so, philosophers have to try to be intellectually honest. They believe that there are very strong reasons to reject dualism, theism, the afterlife and (counter-causal) free-will. They reject these things for philosophical (and scientific) reasons, and not because they're afraid of the cultural implications
                          of belief in God or the afterlife.
                          They may claim to reject these things, but their long efforts to ensure materialist ethics cleaves close to the moral compass forged by those who did believe in universal/transcendent morality suggests even philosophers are not ready to accept the consequences of materialism.

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                          • #73
                            Philosophers are not as uniform a group as you think.
                            And i find no difficulty whatsoever in going against mainstream philosophy as they are mostly materialists who don't believe in human freedom. That is an absurd position for anyone who can step out of the logical traps laid down by Hume and Quine.

                            I think the average analytic philosopher is basically wrong.

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                            • #74
                              Originally posted by Carl Jung View Post
                              Philosophers are not as uniform a group as you think.
                              And i find no difficulty whatsoever in going against mainstream philosophy as they are mostly materialists who don't believe in human freedom. That is an absurd position for anyone who can step out of the logical traps laid down by Hume and Quine.

                              I think the average analytic philosopher is basically wrong.
                              Yes, so you think they're wrong, and I think that many of these arguments are just pointless in the first place.

                              Another example of this is the argument between those people (usually materialists) who think that the universe is eternal and those (usually religious believers) who think that God is eternal. They both agree that the reasons have to run out somewhere, and one side chooses the universe and the other side chooses God. So, for example, Daniel Dennett says somewhere that he thinks the universe could be an eternal series of big bangs and big crunches, but that we can't ask why the universe exists. It just does. Richard Swinburne, on the other hand, would say that God is eternal, and we can't ask why He exists. He just does. This is a perfect example of the kind of thing I object to in philosophy. As Richard Rorty put it, the correct response to this kind of argument is to say, "I don't care."

                              By the way, you say that you will go with your emotions and intuitions on questions like free will, consciousness and objective values. But is there any amount of evidence that could ever convince you that your emotions and intuitions are wrong about these things?

                              Comment


                              • #75
                                Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
                                Even so, philosophers have to try to be intellectually honest. They believe that there are very strong reasons to reject dualism, theism, the afterlife and (counter-causal) free-will. They reject these things for philosophical (and scientific) reasons, and not because they're afraid of the cultural implications of belief in God or the afterlife.
                                Philosophers such as Chalmers, McGinn and Nagel are not familiar with psychic research, so they will not be able to be honest when they reject the afterlife and not fully aware of empirical research lines that point to the existence of an afterlife. The mainstream of modern philosophy would have to follow the example of Stephen Braude, Chris Carter and Curt Ducasse, among others, philosophers have taken seriously psychic research.

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