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Radical Skepticism and Religious Experience

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  • #76
    Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
    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?
    Not being able to answer a question yet is different from deeming it pointless. Indeed, if we stop trying to answer the deepest question of the human situation by deeming them meaningless we demean ourserlves and lose the possibility of believing in human worth.

    Also - deeming some questions meaningless is a statement that reflects the psychological state of the person uttering it - not a philosophical one. For judging a question fo be meaningless implies metaphysical knowledge of the question that lies far beyond what we hold to today.

    All people come to justified beliefs using intuitions as a basis. I am no different. And they are changeable according to what the evidence shows. But people like Dennett and Law and Maitzen I don't even consider philosophers. They are sophists as they hold to obviously false beliefs - such as that consciousness is an illusion.

    Anyone who wants to argue consciousness is an illusion must do so thinking his own consciousness is somehow exempt from that judgement - for how could an illusion offer up a rational explanation of an illusion?

    And Swinburnes beliefs I can't answer for but the classical theological answer to the eternal god is that god is not created - he is the fabric of existence. Not a being but being itself.

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    • #77
      Originally posted by Carl Jung View Post
      Not being able to answer a question yet is different from deeming it pointless. Indeed, if we stop trying to answer the deepest question of the human situation by deeming them meaningless we demean ourserlves and lose the possibility of believing in human worth.

      Also - deeming some questions meaningless is a statement that reflects the psychological state of the person uttering it - not a philosophical one. For judging a question fo be meaningless implies metaphysical knowledge of the question that lies far beyond what we hold to today.

      All people come to justified beliefs using intuitions as a basis. I am no different. And they are changeable according to what the evidence shows. But people like Dennett and Law and Maitzen I don't even consider philosophers. They are sophists as they hold to obviously false beliefs - such as that consciousness is an illusion.

      Anyone who wants to argue consciousness is an illusion must do so thinking his own consciousness is somehow exempt from that judgement - for how could an illusion offer up a rational explanation of an illusion?

      And Swinburnes beliefs I can't answer for but the classical theological answer to the eternal god is that god is not created - he is the fabric of existence. Not a being but being itself.

      I think the argument about an eternal God vs an eternal universe is pointless in just the same way that the computer simulation and matrix arguments are pointless. First, I don't think we can ever settle who is right, and second I don't think it makes any practical difference in our lives who is right.

      I agree with those people who say that NDE science could potentially change things in philosophy of mind. If there is a paradigm shift in science, and the idea of consciousness existing after death does become mainstream, then yes indeed philosophers like Mcginn and Chalmers will have to take this
      evidence into account.

      I think it's unfair to say that mainstream analytic philosophers are sophists who don't believe in freedom or consciousness. As always in philosophy, it depends what you mean by 'freedom' and 'consciousness'. We do have subjective experience and we do make choices. The question is how these things fit into the world. Given that the mind has causal powers in the world, most philosophers think that it must somehow be part of the natural world, and some form of monism must be the correct view, even though we can't understand how qualia and intentionality could fit into the natural world.

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      • #78
        I think the description of God as Being itself, is a much more rational position than the simulation experiments you speak of. Why? Well, simply because I dont view causation like most analytic philosophers but rather adher to an Aristotelian view of causation.

        Philosophy lead me to at least believe in the defensibility of Classic Theology - and now it seems to me, albeit far from certain, it is a more rational position than the modern view. The modernists and post-modernists don't even strive for rationality but are on a rampage in order to enforce the doubt they have in their reason on others.

        Anselm, Aristotle, Aquinas, Husserl and Kant are just miles ahead of most analytic and continental philosophers.

        And yes, modern analytic philosophers are sophists. Do you know how you notice that? You notice it as soon as you realize that you have to ask what they "mean" by freedom.

        Compatibilism is the most shining example - it is just insane that so many think compatibilism is a viable position for a rational person
        Last edited by Carl Jung; August 25th, 2013, 02:03 PM.

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        • #79
          Originally posted by Carl Jung View Post
          I think the description of God as Being itself, is a much more rational position than the simulation experiments you speak of. Why? Well, simply because I dont view causation like most analytic philosophers but rather adher to an Aristotelian view of causation.

          Philosophy lead me to at least believe in the defensibility of Classic Theology - and now it seems to me, albeit far from certain, it is a more rational position than the modern view. The modernists and post-modernists don't even strive for rationality but are on a rampage in order to enforce the doubt they have in their reason on others.

          Anselm, Aristotle, Aquinas, Husserl and Kant are just miles ahead of most analytic and continental philosophers.

          And yes, modern analytic philosophers are sophists. Do you know how you notice that? You notice it as soon as you realize that you have to ask what they "mean" by freedom.

          Compatibilism is the most shining example - it is just insane that so many think compatibilism is a viable position for a rational person
          The man in the street is a substance dualist who believes in libertarian free will. We all agree that it FEELS like mind and body are two separate substances, and that it FEELS like we have libertarian free will. The question is whether these things are actually true. For both philososphical and scientific reasons, many philosophers today think that these things cannot be true, despite our very strong intuitions and emotions.

          And you still haven't answered my question about whether you could ever be prepared to accept that libertarian free will is an illusion. Imagine that the scientific evidence against libertarian free will is absolutely overwhelming, would you then ever be prepared to say, "OK, I feel intuitively and emotionally that I have libertarian free will, but I can see now that this must be some kind of an illusion." If not, then it seems you're just dogmatically attached to your metaphysical view, and there's no point in arguing about it.

          Again we're seeing one of the main differences here between the skeptic crowd on the one hand and the religious/new-age crowd on the other. The skeptics think that human beings are irrational in all sorts of ways, and see cognitive biases everywhere, whereas the religious/new-agers (especially the new-agers) often think that if we feel something then by golly it must be true. Philosophers are in the very difficult position of trying to take into account both our intuitions and the scientific worldview at the same time.
          Last edited by Dom1978; August 25th, 2013, 06:59 PM.

          Comment


          • #80
            Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
            Again we're seeing one of the main differences here between the skeptic crowd on the one hand and the religious/new-age crowd on the other. The skeptics think that human beings are irrational in all sorts of ways, and see cognitive biases everywhere, whereas the religious/new-agers (especially the new-agers) often think that if we feel something then by golly it must be true. Philosophers are in the very difficult position of trying to take into account both our intuitions and the scientific worldview at the same time.
            I don't think it's that simple, as I've met exceedingly few skeptics who are willing to actually act like their moral ground is subjective. Philosophers are the same - somehow a world without free will still requires morality that presupposes we have choices.

            It's easy to say "No free will", "No afterlife", "No transcendent morality" in the abstract when the only stakes are making claims to show how brave one is for facing unpleasant truths revealed by logic and science.

            Philosophers seem to be saying, "You don't really have choices, but here's why you should pretend you do when moral questions arise."

            What is that but a backdoor attempt to acknowledge the qualia of moral feeling, which hinges on making the right choices via your free will?

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            • #81
              Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post

              And you still haven't answered my question about whether you could ever be prepared to accept that libertarian free will is an illusion. Imagine that the scientific evidence against libertarian free will is absolutely overwhelming, would you then ever be prepared to say, "OK, I feel intuitively and emotionally that I have libertarian free will, but I can see now that this must be some kind of an illusion." If not, then it seems you're just dogmatically attached to your metaphysical view, and there's no point in arguing about it.
              Do you realise what you just did? You asked me if I would accept that the will is not free. Do you realise the non-sensical status of that question? I have no choice in the matter. You might as well ask my neighbour as me.
              If the will is not free, then don't bother asking me whether or not I will exercise my freedom. I can't.

              The freedom of the will is not only obvious - it can only really be questioned at an analytic level. Once you attempt a holistic view of freedom you realise that the whole of our existence hinges on freedom. If there is no freedom then there is no "I" making choices, there is no morality, there is no understanding and their is no subjectivity.

              I hold that the freedom of the will is not only a concept but a metaphysical principle.

              Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
              Again we're seeing one of the main differences here between the skeptic crowd on the one hand and the religious/new-age crowd on the other. The skeptics think that human beings are irrational in all sorts of ways, and see cognitive biases everywhere, whereas the religious/new-agers (especially the new-agers) often think that if we feel something then by golly it must be true. Philosophers are in the very difficult position of trying to take into account both our intuitions and the scientific worldview at the same time.
              Having been brought up completely godlessly and within academia I always thought Theology was the same as insanity. Then I realised that if we attempt to foster a world-view that is rationally defensible and constructive - and not irrational in the way the skeptic worldview is - then we end up with a necessary fabric of existence.

              I think I have studied more philosophy than most and I simply reached a point where the skeptical arguments became uninteresting. I am no longer interested in a worldview that is irrational because it doubts everything - I want to know instead what kind of constructive world-view can be rationally defended.

              Comment


              • #82
                Originally posted by Carl Jung View Post
                Do you realise what you just did? You asked me if I would accept that the will is not free. Do you realise the non-sensical status of that question? I have no choice in the matter. You might as well ask my neighbour as me.
                If the will is not free, then don't bother asking me whether or not I will exercise my freedom. I can't.

                The freedom of the will is not only obvious - it can only really be questioned at an analytic level. Once you attempt a holistic view of freedom you realise that the whole of our existence hinges on freedom. If there is no freedom then there is no "I" making choices, there is no morality, there is no understanding and their is no subjectivity.

                I hold that the freedom of the will is not only a concept but a metaphysical principle.



                Having been brought up completely godlessly and within academia I always thought Theology was the same as insanity. Then I realised that if we attempt to foster a world-view that is rationally defensible and constructive - and not irrational in the way the skeptic worldview is - then we end up with a necessary fabric of existence.

                I think I have studied more philosophy than most and I simply reached a point where the skeptical arguments became uninteresting. I am no longer interested in a worldview that is irrational because it doubts everything - I want to know instead what kind of constructive world-view can be rationally defended.
                Yeah, sorry, I didn't choose my words very careully there. Let me try again. Could you imagine a situation where there was so much scientific evidence against libertarian free will that you would come to believe that libertarian free will is an illusion?

                You seem to think that we should just accept the common-sense intuitions and feelings of the man in the street on questions like free will, the self, consciousness and God, and just leave it at that. But surely the job of the philosopher is to question these common views. This is especially true in the light of anthropology and sociology, where we see that our common-sense views on these matters may not be so common after all.

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                • #83
                  Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
                  Yeah, sorry, I didn't choose my words very careully there. Let me try again. Could you imagine a situation where there was so much scientific evidence against libertarian free will that you would come to believe that libertarian free will is an illusion?
                  Given that the question is largely academic - sure I could. But it would still be an impossibility.

                  Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
                  You seem to think that we should just accept the common-sense intuitions and feelings of the man in the street on questions like free will, the self, consciousness and God, and just leave it at that. But surely the job of the philosopher is to question these common views. This is especially true in the light of anthropology and sociology, where we see that our common-sense views on these matters may not be so common after all.
                  No, I am really sorry but there is a difference between questioning and being pre-disposed to accept skeptic arguments as more powerful than the positive constructive arguements in philosophy.

                  The conclusion I draw from radical skepticism is that all of our knowledge is so easily attacked that learning to be skeptical of knowledge is something you do during your first semester at college.

                  After a while you find that the skeptical arguments are very powerful in their reductive analytic form - but they can't at all be defended when you try to form a coherent world-view.

                  The Dennetts or the Laws of the philosophical world hold many views that are inherently contradictory - because the skeptical arguments pre-suppose that you hold other views. The best example of this is of course the empiricist claim that only experience leads to knowledge.

                  That world-view can't be defended rationally because, according to this view at least, reason is not a way to know the world - and neither can it be found out through experience.

                  But still the skeptical empiricist persevere.

                  This kind of skepticism is not defensible in my view. It is not even interesting.

                  Comment


                  • #84
                    Originally posted by Carl Jung View Post
                    This kind of skepticism is not defensible in my view. It is not even interesting.
                    I agree. There is no way of testing whether someone who feels free, is free or not, so the emotion of freedom is the only standard by which to judge the concept. Take the example of a religiously cloistered individual who chooses that lifestyle as a way of expressing their freedom, or taken to extremes, a hermit in a cave, or a stylite living at the top of a pole for thirty years. Their ascetism is an expression of their freedom, even though to the observer, they are impossibly confined. If it's claimed their lifestyle is a predisposition, how is that any different from a predisposition to skepticism? There's no proof either way. Only by reducing feelings (qualia) to an unquantifiable irrelevance are we able to make such claims. And what is the disposition to skepticism but the manifestation of an emotion?

                    Comment


                    • #85
                      Originally posted by Carl Jung View Post
                      No, I am really sorry but there is a difference between questioning and being pre-disposed to accept skeptic arguments as more powerful than the positive constructive arguements in philosophy.

                      The conclusion I draw from radical skepticism is that all of our knowledge is so easily attacked that learning to be skeptical of knowledge is something you do during your first semester at college.

                      After a while you find that the skeptical arguments are very powerful in their reductive analytic form - but they can't at all be defended when you try to form a coherent world-view.

                      The Dennetts or the Laws of the philosophical world hold many views that are inherently contradictory - because the skeptical arguments pre-suppose that you hold other views. The best example of this is of course the empiricist claim that only experience leads to knowledge.

                      That world-view can't be defended rationally because, according to this view at least, reason is not a way to know the world - and neither can it be found out through experience.

                      But still the skeptical empiricist persevere.

                      This kind of skepticism is not defensible in my view. It is not even interesting.
                      Carl thank you for taking the time to write this. I appreciate your willingness to persist with clear philosophical thinking.

                      Comment


                      • #86
                        Originally posted by North View Post
                        Carl thank you for taking the time to write this. I appreciate your willingness to persist with clear philosophical thinking.
                        Oh, how kind of you!! Thanks!

                        Comment


                        • #87
                          Originally posted by Carl Jung View Post
                          Given that the question is largely academic - sure I could. But it would still be an impossibility.



                          No, I am really sorry but there is a difference between questioning and being pre-disposed to accept skeptic arguments as more powerful than the positive constructive arguements in philosophy.

                          The conclusion I draw from radical skepticism is that all of our knowledge is so easily attacked that learning to be skeptical of knowledge is something you do during your first semester at college.

                          After a while you find that the skeptical arguments are very powerful in their reductive analytic form - but they can't at all be defended when you try to form a coherent world-view.

                          The Dennetts or the Laws of the philosophical world hold many views that are inherently contradictory - because the skeptical arguments pre-suppose that you hold other views. The best example of this is of course the empiricist claim that only experience leads to knowledge.

                          That world-view can't be defended rationally because, according to this view at least, reason is not a way to know the world - and neither can it be found out through experience.

                          But still the skeptical empiricist persevere.

                          This kind of skepticism is not defensible in my view. It is not even interesting.
                          Well, if Nagel is right that life is absurd with or without God or the afterlife, then we're obviously going to find it very difficult to come up with a coherent and satisfying worldview. You can't just rule out the possibility that the human condition is one of absurdity. You need to try to argue that ideas like ultimate meaning and purpose are actually coherent, and that Maitzen and Nagel are wrong. Nagel thinks that absurdity comes from the fact that human beings have the unique ability to take either a first-person view of their life or a detached third-person view. Even if there is a God and an afterlife, life will still be absurd for creatures like us, simply because we can always take a step back and ask, "Yeah, but what's really so great about worshipping God forever anyway?"

                          I also find it bizarre that you take very controversial metaphysical views like substance dualism and libertarian free will to be obviously true. You really need to take the broad anthropological and historical perspective here to understand why you're wrong to do this. I live in China, and if I ask people questions like why is there something rather than nothing, or what's the connection between these two radically different realms the mental and the physical, they just look at me like I'm crazy. What you take to be the universal questions of human existence may in fact just be questions that are very important in the western philososphical and religious tradition.

                          The fact that people raised in a Christian culture find the Buddhist view of the self baffling and counter-intuitive obviously doesn't mean that it's false, and the same is true of the views of Hume, Mcginn, or Dennett. You can't just appeal to your intuitions as if that settles the matter. It doesn't. Philosophers will no doubt go on arguing about the self, freedom, values and consciousness forever. The question is, will society fall apart if people have the 'wrong' metaphysical beliefs? The answer is no.
                          Last edited by Dom1978; August 26th, 2013, 09:14 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #88
                            I am now a substance dualist? Wow. I had no idea. I consider consciousness as, at least, equally as fundamental to existence as matter, but I haven't taken any specific metaphysical view as yet.

                            Nor have I denied the implications of anthropology and history on knowledge - I just think don't they are devastating. It's funny that you should mention history though - because that forces me to give you a bit of a history lesson on skepticism from a philosophical perspective:

                            1. Late 17th century - Modernism evolves out of the Enlightenment. The modernist believes in mans ability to change and improve his environment.
                            The belief in mechanistic science is such that the modernist skeptics arguments against knowledge stem from the belief that things should be measureable - as in science. The problem with this skeptical take on things is that it is completely ahistorical - amongst other things.


                            2. The philosophy of Nietzsche leads to Post-modernism - and the post-modernist skeptic criticizes the thoughts of the Modernist by pointing out its ahistorical and acultural pre-suppositions. Instead the post-modernist skeptic tries to use history, cultural studies and anthropololgy as a basis for his cricitism of knowledge and classical philosophy.

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

                            Now, what you have done in this thread, is to attempt both the modernist and post-modernist critiques of classicial realist philosophy - but without realizing that one can't really use the ahistorical modernists critique of realism AND the post-modernist critiques without being viewed as someone who don't really understand the history of ones own views and how they ultimately clash.

                            I can't argue in detail for why I believe what I believe - that would amount to a couple of books. I can only try a holistic perspective in order to explain why I think what I think.

                            Also - what people think in China is not very interesting to me. Not more so than what they think anywhere else - that post-modern take on things just doesn't do it for me. A

                            Comment


                            • #89
                              Originally posted by Carl Jung View Post
                              I am now a substance dualist? Wow. I had no idea. I consider consciousness as, at least, equally as fundamental to existence as matter, but I haven't taken any specific metaphysical view as yet.

                              Nor have I denied the implications of anthropology and history on knowledge - I just think don't they are devastating. It's funny that you should mention history though - because that forces me to give you a bit of a history lesson on skepticism from a philosophical perspective:

                              1. Late 17th century - Modernism evolves out of the Enlightenment. The modernist believes in mans ability to change and improve his environment.
                              The belief in mechanistic science is such that the modernist skeptics arguments against knowledge stem from the belief that things should be measureable - as in science. The problem with this skeptical take on things is that it is completely ahistorical - amongst other things.


                              2. The philosophy of Nietzsche leads to Post-modernism - and the post-modernist skeptic criticizes the thoughts of the Modernist by pointing out its ahistorical and acultural pre-suppositions. Instead the post-modernist skeptic tries to use history, cultural studies and anthropololgy as a basis for his cricitism of knowledge and classical philosophy.

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

                              Now, what you have done in this thread, is to attempt both the modernist and post-modernist critiques of classicial realist philosophy - but without realizing that one can't really use the ahistorical modernists critique of realism AND the post-modernist critiques without being viewed as someone who don't really understand the history of ones own views and how they ultimately clash.

                              I can't argue in detail for why I believe what I believe - that would amount to a couple of books. I can only try a holistic perspective in order to explain why I think what I think.

                              Also - what people think in China is not very interesting to me. Not more so than what they think anywhere else - that post-modern take on things just doesn't do it for me. A
                              I don't see a big problem here. I'm just trying to give some reasons why we should be skeptical about our intuitions. Some of these reasons come from modernist philosophy, some from postmodernist philosophy, and some from cognitive science, social psychology, history and anthropology.

                              We don't have to choose the modernist team against the postmodernist team, or the analytic team against the continental team. The mistake you're making is to assume that anybody using ideas from postmodernism must be an extreme anti-science postmodern relativist. You seem to think that, to be consistent, one must choose either the historical/anthropological critique of intuitions and common-sense, or the modernist scientific cognitive science/psychology critique.

                              I think the main problem here is that you are caricaturing postmodernism. There are plenty of reasonable postmodernists out there, and they have no problem agreeing with Rorty that science, while far from perfect, is the best thing we've got for figuring out how stuff works.
                              Last edited by Dom1978; August 27th, 2013, 07:48 AM.

                              Comment


                              • #90
                                Ok, you win this war of attrition.

                                I can't be bothered to rehash reasons and put into new light what I have explained earlier and what should be crystal clear by now.

                                I guess we simply don't speak the same language.

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