Philosophical Masturbation

No offense to my readers of a more philosophical bent, but I’ve spent a lot of time lately listening to religious debates where philosophy plays a large part, and frankly I’m not at all impressed.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying philosophy isn’t useful, it’s just not universally useful.  There are places where it can be of great application and others where I just don’t see it’s value.

Unfortunately, one of the places where I keep seeing it used and I really think it shouldn’t be is with regard to reality.  Let me explain.  There are many debates between religious philosophers and non-religious philosophers where each side essentially tries to argue God into or out of existence via logical discourse.  One side presents premises for why they think God is real and the other side presents premises for why they think God is false.

Neither side is making a case why God is actually true or false though.  You can argue until you’re blue in the face, something either exists or it does not exist.  That is, however, the feeling I get in some of these debates.  Take the recent debate between Justin Vacula and Dr. Ronda Chervin.

As much as I like and respect Justin and what he does, nothing in that debate actually has a chance in hell of settling the question.  Both sides are just arguing for or against characteristics of an imaginary man in the sky.  Why argue about the characteristics of God when you haven’t demonstrated God exists in the first place?  The title of the debate is “Does God Exist?” and neither side ended the debate having demonstrated a thing.  Let’s be honest, that’s where virtually every religious debate ever held ends up.  You could have a debate on “Does Harry Potter Exist?” with virtually the same arguments, debating on the supposed characteristics of Harry Potter, but in the end, neither side would actually have defended the factual existence of Harry Potter, and, to be realistic, Harry Potter no more exists than God does.

So if a philosophical debate for the existence of God is no better than a philosophical debate for the existence of Sauron, what’s the point in engaging in it?  Is it just a way of exercising one’s intellectual muscle?  Does it actually accomplish anything?  I think not which is why I shoot down all philosophical arguments for God immediately.  It doesn’t actually show that God factually exists and to be honest, that’s really all that matters.

It’s just an exercise in philosophical masturbation.

23 thoughts on “Philosophical Masturbation

  1. Once you understand the relationship between philosophy and science, then I think the majority of your points fail.

    "It doesn’t actually show that God factually exists…"

    The interesting phrase you use is 'factually exists'. I'm assuming you mean 'can be proven by the scientific method'. But this has the beginnings of a philosophical argument, something you're trying to shy away from. Do you mean, "Something exists if and only if it can be proven via the scientific method?" If so, then you have a huge epistemological problem before you (not to mention you're making a philosophical statement about reality that cannot itself be proven with the scientific method). For example, the statement, "The physical world exists" is not a scientific statement, but a philosophical one. To try to prove that statement with science would be to argue in a circle: "The physical world exists because this physical thing I'm touching and observing exists" (Circular argument).

    The statement "married bachelors exist" is false because it's a contradictory statement, not because 'science has shown it doesn't exist.' Likewise, if Justin Vacula demonstrates that there is a logical conflict between God's properties, then he can conclude that God doesn't exist without the help of science.

    The argument, "Science hasn't demonstrated God's existence, therefore God doesn't exist (or as you say an imaginary man)" is a patently invalid argument presupposing vasts amounts of philosophical premises. If you think that the statements "Stars converted light elements into heavy elements" and "Murder is wrong" both require the same evidence, then I fear you don't understand science or philosophy.

    1. The problem here is that people are attempting to use philosophical arguments to essentially define God into existence without actually demonstrating that God exists in the first place. It attempts to assign characteristics to God when neither the existence of said entity nor the existence of said characteristics is demonstrated. Then, through a series of verbal and logical gymnastics, it tries to make the claim that God and those characteristics actually must be real.

      However, I can do the same thing with unicorns or leprechauns. I can define them into existence and invent characteristics with which I can argue, but in the end, I'm really doing nothing except playing make believe. Justin can indeed argue against the properties of God, but even if he proves them wrong, all the believer has to do is redefine the properties into something that is not so easy to argue against. It's not like believers don't do that all the time anyhow, God, over the centuries, has gone from a very accessible entity that talks to people and performs miracles to one that hides. God was, until relatively recently, defined as omnipotent, until it became painfully clear that omnipotence was logically inconsistent so believers redefined God that he "can do anything that's possible according to his nature." How can they do that? Because there's nothing there to get these characteristics from in the first place! It's all just made up!

      All the philosophical premises in the world won't make something that doesn't exist suddenly pop into existence. The two statements you propose are fundamentally different, the first deals with demonstrable reality, the second is a wholly philosophical construct. Stars are real, we can see them, we can detect them, we can determine what happens at their core (and by the way, most heavy elements are only produced in supernovas). Murder, however, is simply a label we put upon an act. It isn't even a universally accepted definition, lots of things get called "murder" whether they actually are or not. The same goes for "wrong". It's not a universally accepted term. The idea of "murder is wrong" isn't making any claims about factual reality like "stars converted light elements into heavy elements" or "God is real". You're right, they have different requirements because one is simply opinion and one is a claim about what actually exists.

  2. There is no such thing as 'philosophical existence', 'scientific existence', and 'factually existing' as your picture heading seems to imply. You might be confusing modal logic with something… else. Existence is existence, it just means that set of properties holds in the actual world. Philosophy may establish that something is possible which can pave way for an argument demonstrating its existence (valid deductive argument).

    But where atheists go wrong is when they attempt to make God analogous to 'unicorns', 'flying spaghetti monsters', 'big foot', etc. However, they never actually bother to explain why the two cases are analogous, but just insist that God is arbitrarily concocted. I would recommend reading some history to see that God's omnipotence has always been understood in that manner. Contradictory statements have no content value; they are meaningless. Therefore, it's meaningless to suggest that God can actualize the unactualizable. God's properties are arrived at through deduction (and revelation for specific properties, like Trinity). If you're going to say it's arbitrary, then you'll have to attack one of the premises in the argument.

    I wonder what philosophical argument presupposes the nonexistence of something and then claims it comes into existence. I think you exaggerate. If a deductive argument has sound premises, then you can't wish it away based on some misplaced (philosophically dependent) epistemology, which just so happens to presuppose the very same logic you're trying to dismiss.

    Look to your own published atheists in academia. Most of the well-respected atheists are philosophers at heart. They usually don't have nice things to say to people like Richard Dawkins. Why? Because they criticize philosophy while making philosophical assumptions. Irony. Just the fact that you think that there are different types of 'existing' and that philosophers somehow 'ponder' things into existence just reveals that you don't know much about philosophy. Sure, I'd hate it to if what you reduced it to (strawman) is true.

    But I am interested in a philosophical argument demonstrating a unicorn's existence. I think it will prove my point.

    1. Are you telling me you can\’t tell the difference between a physical object and an idea? Between something that actually exists in reality and a concept? Like it or not, a tree and \”strong\” are two fundamentally different things. You can examine a tree, you can determine it\’s real. Further, you can only rationally apply characteristics to things that actually exist that you can achieve through demonstrable experience. I could declare that the characteristics of a specific tree are that it is 6 feet tall, has two arms and two legs and it\’s named Maury. Would anyone consider those characteristics rational? Hell no. How did I come by this \”knowledge\”? Oh, I prayed to Maury and he told me! It could be made worse by my claim that said tree is invisible, intangible and grows in the middle of my living room. You can never rationally verify these claims I\’ve made about Maury, but if you have faith in Maury and pray hard enough, he may reveal himself to you!

      That\’s really where this style of argumentation for God fails and why it\’s exactly the same as unicorns or leprechauns or Santa Claus. You cannot debate the actual entity, no one has any evidence it\’s real. You cannot debate the characteristics because there\’s no means of demonstrating they\’re valid or truthful. The problem with these debates is they start and end with unsupportable claims and when they\’re done going round and round, they declare that it means something exists, or does not exist, in reality, when all the argumentation in the world cannot and will not change what is factually true.

      Debating the existence of unicorns is simple if you can do the same thing as they do in God debates. When you can define their characteristics however you want and demand absolute adherence to those concepts, it\’s a sure victory.

      Where philosophy is useful is in debating concepts. Most concepts are just opinions anyhow. Take your aforementioned \”murder is wrong\” statement. I\’ll be the first one to argue that said statement is nonsensical and thus false as stated. \”Murder\” and \”wrong\” are both ill-defined. There is no context. When? Where? What are you going to lump in under \”murder\”? It\’s something that simply cannot be accepted as presented, sorry.

  3. Your first question should be for you to answer. What is the difference between an apple, and a highly realistic simulation played on your mind to make your concept of the apple appear 'real'. The scientific method begs the question in this case, as does your "You can examine a tree, you can determine it's real.". But I never said I can't tell the difference between physical objects and concepts. Existence isn't a property that something has, because you aren't adding anything to the concreteness by saying 'exists'. The difference between the concept "Harry Potter" and Harry Potter is that one is a concept and the other isn't, one has a distinct subjective point of reference internally, and the other doesn't. But this is completely besides the point. The point is, there is no such thing as 'philosophical existence' vs 'factual existence'; it's just existence.

    I think your Maury example actually proves my point, and I was hoping you would attempt such an analogy. So let's list the properties you gave to Maury: is a tree, is 6 feet tall, has two arms, has two legs, is named Maury, can listen to prayers, is invisible, is intangible, and is located on Cephus' living room floor. With logic, not science, I can conclude that Maury doesn't exist (i.e.properties do not hold) because there is a logical contradiction between one or more of its properties taken together. It certainly is a contradiction to say that Maury is both a tree and intangible, or intangible and '6 feet tall' or intangible and has 2 arms and legs, or intangible and 'located' anywhere, etc. You heard the saying "the proof is in the pudding", well here the proof is in the definition. Whatever a tree is includes everything that it is and excludes everything that it is not. Therefore, the spaghetti monster/unicorn analogy fails.

    God's properties are arrived at through deduction, not arbitrary concoction. It's a few atheists that wish to paint natural theology this way, but then they stand alone with this false belief, for no monotheist argues that way. You can play semantic games and define 'unicorn' in precisely the same way God is (containing all His properties), but it wouldn't amount to anything useful.

    Finally, I still feel that your under the impression that philosophy somehow attempts to 'define' things into existence. You must have had a bad run-in with modal logic, or someone attempting to use modal logic in the wrong way, to come up with an idea like that. But on to your 'murder' point. Fine. I agree. If you select 2 people randomly from the world and presented them with the statement, Murder is wrong, then they might have different ideas or opinions on its truth value. But so what? That might tell me something about the people, but not whether the proposition is true or false. And all I would have to do is define my terms in order to get around that dilemma. "Murder is wrong" {let murder =…}; this way both parties are working with the same definition. The same goes for 'is wrong'.

    1. Please tell me you're not going to try some absurd solipsistic nonsense. Please? I'd like to think that there aren't that many abjectly stupid people on the planet.

      But to answer your question, in absolute terms, there may be very little difference between the two, we have no way of demonstrating that what we see actually exists in a real, physical world. It is possible that it's all an illusion. It's possible that you are the only individual that actually exists anywhere in the universe and everything you think you see is just imaginary. It's possible that there is no intelligent life anywhere, or no actual life anywhere, this is just an incredibly complex computer simulation running on a computer whose creators are long since dead. However, nobody acts in a manner consistent with that particular worldview and as such, no one takes them seriously.

      The fact is, whether any of those ideas are accurate or not, we all act in a manner consistent with a real, physical universe that we all interact with. This is where solipsism fails miserably, you get people who claim to believe it, getting on the non-existent Internet, typing on their imaginary computers to people who don't exist, all the while claiming to know for an absolute fact that all of it is an illusion! An actual, practicing solipsist, if one ever really existed, would just die because as far as they're concerned, the food isn't real.

      No, everyone, no matter how much they might deny it, operates in such a way that they accept the reality of the things surrounding them, even if it's done for function over faith. Functionally, you cannot live without doing so. If that were not the case, we could find plenty of indivuduals who were demonstrably not eating or not breathing, or who could defy gravity or get seemingly hit by trains, and still survive. That just doesn't happen.

      Therefore, we can go back to Maury the invisible tree, you did exactly what I expected you to do. When one can simply redefine characteristics at will, as has been done with God, then those characteristics are not valid to begin with. Compare the view of God today to that in the Old Testament, or even to just a few short years ago. Omnipotence is a classic characteristic of God, yet relatively recently, people have started to realize that it's self-contradictory. Omnipotence introduces logical contradictions, the typical "rock so heavy you can't lift it", etc. Therefore, modern apologists have simply redefined God, made him different than he was before, not for any good reason, just to make him less irrational. Primitive man thought they understood God. God caused floods and hurricanes and earthquakes and forest fires. God walked with man and performed miracles. Yet today, we know none of that is so. God no more performs miracles than God is omnipotent. In fact, there's no reason whatsoever to think God ever existed in the first place.

      (cont.)

    2. I just took your expectation about trees and turned it on it's head. I redefined "tree" with some decidedly non-tree-like characteristics. After all, if the religious can do it, why can't I? And then, just like the religious have done, I put my newly-defined tree somewhere that you can't check on it, you must either accept or deny it on faith and faith alone. But faith doesn't change reality. You can have all the faith you want in Maury and it won't change whether or not he's real, any more than faith is going to make God real or not.

      God's properties are not arrived at through deduction, they are arrived at through assumption. The first problem is the assumption that there's a God to begin with! It is an assertion, nothing more. There is no better reason to think God actually exists than to think Maury is real, or Bigfoot, or leprechauns. What's worse, the whole God argument is based solely on the argument from ignorance. You don't understand the natural world, you *WANT* there to be a God, therefore you invent a God to believe in.

      Finally, I pointed directly to a debate above where exactly that was going on. The title of the debate is "Does God Exist?" and both sides attempt, through assumed characteristics, to demonstrate either a yes or no proposition. You could have that exact same debate about Maury and it wouldn't have a damn thing to do with whether or not Maury actually exists or not. There is a huge field of Christian philosophers for whom this is their only means of debate. They assume, a priori, that God exists, that they understand the characteristics of God, and think that debating the characteristics somehow backs up their belief in God.

      It just doesn't.

      As far as your "murder is wrong" statement, let me show you why it's a pointless and indefensible statement to make. First off, the definition of murder has changed dramatically over time and across the planet. What is murder for modern-day Americans is different than for modern-day extremist Muslims. It's different for 15th century Europeans. It's different for ancient Aztecs. You simply cannot come up with a single definition of what constitutes murder that will apply to all people in all cultures in all places in all times. It cannot be done. Further, since right and wrong are subjective, you run into the same problem as you do with murder. There just is no single definition for which you can apply universally.

      The biggest problem I see people running into, and the one that I see you doing right here, is they will apply their own moral compass to the question and declare, without recognizing they are doing it, that whatever they think and feel is the correct choice and everyone has to be held accountable to their own moral decisions. Morality is subjective too!

  4. I'm not sure why you brought in solipsism, given that it has nothing to do with the point I was trying to establish. But since you concede that it is circular to suggest that something is real "because I see THAT thing" (given your strict epistemology), I'll put that to rest. The problem of solipsism is only a problem for people who hold to your epistemology. "It must be demonstrated true with science, or it is hocus pocus" Appealing to practicality is irrelevant; there are plenty of false 'practical' things.

    Your claim that God is arbitrary and has 'changed' over the years is false. First, it is a historical claim and you haven't cited any historical examples of this happening. Given that Christians base their conception of God on revelation, and their revelation is given in the form of the Bible, then you have to demonstrate that Jews and Christians tampered with the manuscripts in order to win a debate. No such evidence exists. But it's interesting that the idea of someone resurrecting from the dead was folly then as it is considered now, yet the Christians didn't attempt to change that fact, right? Either way, you are simply wrong to suggest that God's omnipotence has changed over the years. Descartes (and perhaps Martin Luther at some point) thought God could actualize contradictories, but everyone else didn't think so. Luke 1:37 has the word 'rhema' in Greek which means thing. So God can do any THING, there is no THING that is impossible for God to do. Sure, it takes philosophers and theologians to understand that, but that doesn't mean we are forging or changing properties around. There are other examples as well. Moreover, objection has flavors of the genetic fallacy and carries no weight against whether this Being exists.

    And your Maury example was shown to be a false analogy. Your project in creating Maury was to show that any sort of properties can be offered and that somehow means it's irrefutable. But of course I revealed a logical contradiction with its properties (tree and intangible). This is why Bertrand Russell's 'invisible tea cup' illustration fails. There is no such contradiction with God. People have tried with the problem of evil but without success (philosophy, mind you). That doesn't mean God exists, it means He is possible. But with that established a sound and valid deductive argument establishes whether that being exists. If not, then have fun disowning the logical foundation of science.

    You say: "You don't understand the natural world, you *WANT* there to be a God, therefore you invent a God to believe in." Response: Genetic fallacy. You don't know me, Mr. Psychologist. 🙂 And you don't establish this 'God- is-arrived-at-through-assumption". Eh, not at all. There are valid deductive arguments that demonstrate God's existence. If you find the arguments false, then you disagree with one of their premises. Only conclusions can be assumptions in the strict sense, and if it truly is an assumption then either the argument was invalid, unsound, or question begging.

    Finally, nothing you said with regard to the 'murder is wrong' point refutes it. It's irrelevant whether people have various opinions on the statement, but if the terms are defined then anyone can work with it. To establish its truth value, one would have to expose its hidden premises, its foundation, which would inevitably involve presenting a robust worldview. You see? You did philosophy just now.

    1. I brought up solipsism to head off the headlong rush to ruin that often comes with "you can't prove that the things you see are actually real" and "every man is an island" nonsense that solipsists tend to use. If that was not the point you were trying to make, I apologize. However, the idea that "my epistemology" is somehow wrong because I am concerned with what is actually true and what is not, is absurd. It is the job of every rational, intellectual, critically-thinking individual on the planet to accept as many true things as possible and reject as many false things as possible as a means of human development and advancement. The idea that anyone ought to accept anything for which there is no evidence is patently ridiculous.

      I did give you plenty of evidence. I cited the Old Testament, where the character of God is a vengeful deity who is to be feared, who orders genocide and engages in mass murder. He is directly accessible to his chosen people, whom he speaks to and walks with and provides direct evidence of his actual existence. Then we move to the New Testament where, although God rarely appears directly except to cause natural events like eclipses and earthquakes, he only operates through his co-equal avatar Jesus. God is now viewed as a loving, caring deity that wants to save his creation from absurd rules and ridiculous penalties that he made himself. Jesus continues to perform open and visible miracles for anyone to see although certainly not on a par with some of the things God did in the OT. You never saw Jesus calling down plagues of locusts or frogs, did you? He's little better than a second-class stage magician. Then you come to today, where God has largely gone missing, he doesn't appear to humans, he doesn't perform anything remotely identifiable as a miracle. The best he can do, according to some, is keep a hurricane from slamming into the Republican National Convention, instead sending it spiraling into a major population center. I guess asking that the hurricane disappear is just too much for God. It's interesting that God's "miracles" are entirely indistinguishable from the operations of nature and no more likely than chance. God hides. Not only does God hide, but people have re-defined him in such a way that he cannot be found no matter what you do, unless God deigns to reveal himself to you.

      If you think all of that isn't evidence, I don't know what to tell you.

      As for the problem of evil, I don't particularly think that's a good argument to begin with, but it's another case where people redefined God to get out of a particular problem. Not too long ago, God was defined as omnibenevolent. According to believers, God could not allow evil to exist in his sight. Then they looked around and saw all the evil in the world and couldn't figure out how God could be all knowing and everywhere and still be omnibenevolent. Therefore, they changed their concept of God. Instead of reconsidering the existence of God and rejecting the concept as unsupported, they just redefined God and continued to cling to the idea irrationally. If you took the same arguments used in Genesis or in the New Testament, you could not apply the same arguments used by modern apologists in the problem of evil.

      I don't have to know you, I know theists and I've debated thousands of them. People come to religious belief through enculturation or indoctrination, it isn't something that just appears out of thin air. A person who is born and raised in an area where Christianity is wholly unknown doesn't magically become a Christian. It doesn't happen because God somehow chooses people to believe, they may be born, live and die without ever hearing about Jesus and according to your own theology, they all go to hell for an eternity of torture.

      Great God you have there. What a sick, sadistic bastard.

      As for the whole murder thing, let's go for a very simple example. In the modern world, murder is typically defined as the "killing of a human being that is not sanctioned or permitted by law". Yet you still get people who, for instance, oppose abortion, declaring that to be murder even though it is 100% legal. These people are not going to agree with the definition of murder, in fact, I don't think you could come up with any definition of murder with which everyone is going to agree. If you can't even come up with a common definition, your attempt to get any statement based upon any definition you can come up with is destined to fail.

      1. Well then, you certainly have a lot here, some of it relevant, some irrelevant, and some hinting at your anger (grudge, idk). I'll go in order:

        "However, the idea that "my epistemology" is somehow wrong because I am concerned with what is actually true and what is not, is absurd."

        I never implied anything that should have led you to that conclusion. I'm sure you're after truth ( albeit I don't know you), but the way you 'see the world' directly influences what you believe, almost like a filter. I'm saying that your evidentialist epistemology is unsustainable because it turns a blind eye to too many foundational propositions. It argues in a circle on many points, and it's not that good kind of circularity either. Either way, your last sentence in your first paragraph is very telling. Depending on how you define evidence, I'm very much inclined to disagree with you. But this is digressing. All I can say is that there is a reason philosophy has abandoned the Enlightenment's principles; they simply become self-referentially incoherent, question- begging.

        I don't wish to offend you, but your account of the Old Testament is completely skewed and more of a platform for you to get a rant off, rather than an attempt to establish a point. But I'll deal with what little is relevant here. God rarely appeared to humans even in the OT, and if you look at the gap between those 'obvious' miracles, it's a long time in-between. So he wasn't this perpetually 'appearing' God that you make him out to be; read the Psalms, read Job. Either way, none of this shows that the concept of God has changed such that His properties have been manipulated in order to avoid an objection. The property, "can manipulate the physical world to His will" is not dependent on the frequency of His doing so.

        God cannot allow evil to go unpunished, but who said anything about Him not being able to tolerate evil if it would bring about a greater good without violating human free will? God is both just, patient, loving, and good, and given that I see no issue here. He certainly cannot allow evil in His sight in the sense that He cannot let it become 'close' to Him, or somehow intimate. But I just find this talk of "God's properties changed" to be weak, given that it's equally, if not more, probable that the person was mistaken with his explanation. Someone retelling an account of a fleeing murderer might say that he was wearing a red shirt, when he originally said he was wearing a purple shirt. Does this adjustment mean that there was no murderer, that the witness is lying about the whole thing, or that the witness was simply mistaken on one issue? I'm sorry but you can't write off an argument by claiming that the conclusion was a different conclusion years ago.

        And I'm surprised you're defending the fact that you 'know all theists'. I wasn't indoctrinated into coming to believe in Christianity. I was an agnostic in college, gave a speech which condemned Christianity (and received an A on it), I later studied the arguments in detail, took several philosophy courses (after majoring in biology), was convinced that atheism was untenable intellectually, became a deist, eventually became a postmodernist, and finally became a Christian. All the while I was aware what it meant to pursue the truth. I think I know myself better than you do, sir. You would be upset if I generalized all atheists as 'the victims of father abuse, rebellious individuals who have problems with authority, and don't believe in God because they value their perverted desires over truth." But I would never presuppose this. In fact, this has no basis in rational discourse and I'm surprised I entertained it. Either way, who is worse, the Christians (as you so exaggeratedly depict them as), or the person who, despite knowing just how COMPLETELY gullible and 'stoopeed' they are, converses with them and tries to reason with them? Moving on…

        Again, with this murder thing, its irrelevant whether people agree on a definition or not. As long as there is 'A' definition to work with, then they can begin to establish its truth value. Again, inevitably they'd be discussing worldviews. The proposition, "Murder is wrong" is either true or false, and you saying it is subjective means that you're applying a verdict on it, that it is a false statement.

        (cont..)

        1. (cont..)

          So to conclude, let's do a debate recap:

          I originally responded to the content of your blog:

          Your headline picture has Harry Potter saying, "Philosophically, I exist." This is false since there is no such thing as 'philosophical existence' vs any other kind of existence. I believe you confused modal logic with something it was never intended to be. 'Possibility' is not existence, but I think you know that.

          You said, "Neither side is making a case why God is actually true or false though." But this is false after it was conceded that demonstrating a logical contradiction in the concept itself is grounds for claiming that it positively does not and could not exist.

          You said, "You could have a debate on “Does Harry Potter Exist?” with virtually the same arguments, debating on the supposed characteristics of Harry Potter, but in the end, neither side would actually have defended the factual existence of Harry Potter." I think your Maury analogy proves that it isn't as easy as stringing together properties. It also proves that philosophy has a say, sometimes even more existentially powerful than science, about whether something exists, is likely to exist, or is impossible (whereas science is stuck with the terms 'likely' or 'unlikely').

          So those 3 main points in your original blog don't hold weight. That was my entire project and all that I would want to take this conversation to. But this entire back and forth is itself a monument against your dismissal in philosophy's role in truth. I can count several philosophical statements which you used to support a conclusion you were arguing for (one example: 'morality is subjective'). So I conclude that your blog was based on a straw-maned depiction of philosophy, or just complete ignorance of that field. Walk into a philosophy department at any college and claim that philosophy teaches that Harry Potter exists and see what happens.

          1. Yes, "philosophically", Harry Potter can be demonstrated to exist in the same sense that God, in the above debate can be demonstrated to exist by debating his supposed characteristics. That is the point of that picture and it still stands up as true. If one claim is valid, then the other claim must also be valid. Like it or not, they are identical. Part of the argument is that it's fallacious to claim that something is or is not real based only on claims about it's characteristics which cannot be verified.

            Yet you've done exactly the same thing, you've declared God's characteristics without having the slightest ability to demonstrate that any of it is factually true. You're assuming the existence of God in the first place, without having the slightest shred of objective evidence to back it up. You're assuming that you understand the mind of God and can thus argue how God thinks and operates, again without the slightest shred of evidence.

            In the end, faith doesn't fly. The Maury example proves it. I can claim Maury is real. I can assert characteristics of Maury. I've done nothing whatsoever, however, to demonstrate Maury's existence, any more than you've done to demonstrate God's existence. At best, all we can do with any of this is to argue would a certain character act in a certain way, based on what we know about their character. We're limited to assertions and evaluations of those assertions. God is a character in a book, no more real than Harry Potter, based on the objective evidence we have at hand.

            You can deny it all you want, the fact remains, you lack the ability to demonstrate your claims or to back up your ideas about your claims. All you've done, and all you continue to do, is philosophically masturbate.

          2. "Yes, "philosophically", Harry Potter can be demonstrated to exist in the same sense that God, in the above debate can be demonstrated to exist by debating his supposed characteristics. "

            Nope. The issue is "given X's properties, are those properties logically consistent with one another? If yes, then what does the definition tell us about what evidence we should expect to consider for that thing to exist. Name one theologian/philosopher that argues for God's 'philosophical' existence. It's a term not used in philosophy and merely used by you to strawman the discipline you've proven to know nothing about.

            "Part of the argument is that it's fallacious to claim that something is or is not real based only on claims about it's characteristics which cannot be verified.

            Falling back on your failed epistemology again, which, by the way, fails the criteria you just listed. Not to mention you're begging the question.

            "Yet you've done exactly the same thing, you've declared God's characteristics without having the slightest ability to demonstrate that any of it is factually true."

            Oh? Was that my project? To demonstrate God's existence? How can I fail in that which I never embarked on? And I never claimed to know the mind of God, since His mind can only be revealed by revelation. But I am claiming that you can know God on a basic level. Again, you bring up something I never argued for or even brought up in the slightest. "I know the mind of God!" Interesting.

            "In the end, faith doesn't fly. The Maury example proves it. I can claim Maury is real. I can assert characteristics of Maury. I've done nothing whatsoever, however, to demonstrate Maury's existence, any more than you've done to demonstrate God's existence."

            Right… so you must have ignored your concession above. Anyway, yes, you can claim Maury is real all you want but when you string out the properties and find a logical contradiction, one can assert with 100% certainty that the thing in question doesn't exist. Why you continue to ignore this is beyond me. Your very explanation of Maury shows that you don't know what the analogy is trying to achieve. Non-tree-like properties contradict tree-like properties. Yet, have I presented non-God-like properties to make your Maury 'analogy' apply in the slightest way to God? Why do you erect strawmen while simultaneously trying to evade my criticisms with red herrings? Unless you think contradictory things can exist, then one of the main points of your blog fails.

            Your failure to deal with the issues I brought up is a big concession on your part, as your shriveled last comment demonstrates (of which only 3 or 4 sentences were directly relevant to my points or furthering your argument). You simply make no effort to argue your points, but rather prefer to 'tell me like it is'. Your argument style: "Harry Potter and God are demonstrated the same way…because." Not if they share entirely different properties which branch out into other aspects of reality! Either way, I realize that this 'blog' website is merely a gathering ground for atheists to '1-up' each other (the fact that you have to like your own comments speaks volumes and reveals your intent [or perhaps you have a fan that blindly likes the comments seconds after it's published]).

            Your debate style might be effective on the untrained, convincing them that they said something they really didn't say or argue for, but it sticks out like a sore thumb from my POV. If you do reply after this, please make an attempt to argue for your case instead of trying to cover your exit and avoid commitment to the arguments you originally offered. If you can't do that then we don't have much else to talk about. Then again, I'm talking to someone who already claims to know me. *salutes*

          3. I really don't know if you're not paying attention or you seriously don't comprehend the argument, but you keep saying the same thing even after being repeatedly corrected.

            So here it is in a nutshell. You are *CLAIMING* to know and understand the properties of God, yet you cannot present God to determine whether or not those properties are actually representative of the character. At best, God is a character in a book of fiction and, as such, you can certainly have any discussion or debate you wish over those properties, just like you can with Harry Potter. In neither case, however, no matter what conclusion you come to over the properties, does that make said character factually real. You, and by extension, the people in the above debate, are making claims that you are entirely unable to rationally justify.

            That's the problem.

            It's like debating the characteristics given for Santa Claus in The Night Before Christmas and expecting that doing so will prove Santa Claus actually exists.

            So long as you continue to do so, I fear you will never understand the utter failure of your philosophy.

          4. Getting shorter I see.

            I'm not defending God's attributes because that wasn't the point of my project. You, my friend, made a claim that one can offer any sort of 'thing' and attach all sorts of properties to it, to the effect that it becomes 'real', thus concluding that philosophy does nothing to demonstrate something's existence (a major point in your blog) . But your "Maury" doesn't exist because it's logically contradictory. You even admit this! You said, "I redefined "tree" with some decidedly non-tree-like characteristics." Right, but who is offering God while arguing for non-God-like properties? It's your analogy Cephus, you tell me. You can huff and puff about me not defending God's properties, but at the end of the day you made a claim and I simply gave reasons why I reject it. Instead of dealing with it, you try to make it into a debate about God's existence. We are talking about your definition of philosophy (a strawman by anyone's observation)

            I also want to point out that your reasoning is highly flawed. It's irrelevant where one starts with the concept. One presupposing the existence of God still has to offer a valid and sound deductive argument in order to justify that conclusion. Likewise, you can presuppose the non-existence of God, but that doesn't let you escape an argument. If the terms are defined, it's irrelevant where they came from, unless you want to resort to genetic, ad hominem, or poisoning-the-well fallacies.

            You're presenting a question-begging argument: "Harry Potter doesn't exist because Harry Potter doesn't exist. Therefore, it's silly to debate Harry Potter's existence." Instead of arguing in a circle, we can define Harry Potter, list his properties (even if they are arbitrarily concocted), find logical errors, and then list the type of evidence and conditions required for the existence of such a being. Doing this will show a huge difference between HP and God, and so provides a defeater for yet another one of your claims.

            I just find it horribly weak that the only analogy you can offer between Harry Potter and God is that they are both found in books. Exciting. But it's ultimately irrelevant. How does listing that little fact change the question, "Does the God of the Bible exist?" Eventually you have to debate that question, not write it off with a question-begging argument. It's so patently question-begging and invalid that I find your criticisms of philosophy ironic. I anticipate more red herrings from you, so I'm just going to ask you plainly:

            1.) Do you agree that finding a logical contradiction in a concept proves that the thing in question doesn't exist?

            If you answer no, then your entire criticism of theism and philosophy fails, as well as the entire foundation of science. If you answer yes, then you concede that all 3 major points in your blog fail (i.e. that something can 'philosophically exist', that Justin Vacula can't decide the question with philosophy, and that Harry Potter and God are essentially the same).

            Hopefully this will put an end to your red herrings and 'huff and puff'.

          5. The responses are short because you're proving yourself incapable of understanding anything that is written. You clearly don't grasp the point of the original post and even when it is pointed out to you again and again, you refuse to comprehend it. Context is everything and in the context of the debate referred to in the original post, where two philosophers were debating *CHARACTERISTICS* that they applied to God, and then attempting to declare God as actually real, or actually unreal as a result of their debate on *CHARACTERISTICS*, I pointed to Harry Potter as a potential candidate for the exact same treatment. We can certainly debate the *CHARACTERISTICS* assigned to Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling in her books and, should they be revealed to be philosophically valid, declare, as the religious philosopher did in the above debate, that Harry Potter must be real because the characteristics passed a certain philosophical test.

            It just doesn't work that way. Harry Potter's actual existence, just like God's actual existence, just like Maury's actual existence, does not rely on an evaluation of their supposed characteristics, especially since those characteristics cannot be factually determined unless Harry Potter or God is actually real. In this case, we know that Harry Potter is just a character in a book, we know who created him, she has told us everything about his characteristics we might want to know in those books and if we wanted to, we could go ask her for additional information which she could just make up off the top of her head if she wanted to because she created the character. But nobody actually thinks Harry Potter is real, he's a fictional character. Such a debate would be viewed by everyone as a pointless exercise that actually proves nothing.

            Yet here we have people who actually think that God can be determined to be real or unreal based on an evaluation of characteristics that no one can even be certain how they were arrived at. We have no creator we can ask. We have no one who can say "this is a valid characteristic" and "this is an invalid characteristic". You, yourself, have simply declared God to hold certain characteristics in your comments, yet you have no way of determining whether or not those are valid characteristics or not. You're acting on faith, not facts.

            Until you can actually come up with something better than faith, you have nothing worth responding to. Your questions just demonstrate that you have no clue what you're talking about and have failed to grasp the most basic concepts. The most complete and utter failure that both you and Dr. Chervin engage in is the assumption that you understand the characteristics of a God for which you cannot study and discover if those characteristics are actually true or valid. You're just assigning the characteristics you want, demanding they are true a priori, and then debating from a position of self-imposed authority. That makes your entire argument pointless.

            But I have no false hopes you'll figure out why it's pointless.

          6. Dr. Chervin never argued that because God's characteristics were possible that therefore He exists. You must have not listened to the debate. That or your philosophical (because they are philosophical) biases prevent you from seeing this obvious truth.

            It's irrelevant how I acquired God's attributes. If I acquired them from a Charles Manson, then it makes no difference. Please stop trying to make an issue out of a nonissue. It doesn't work on me. Look up, "genetic fallacy", and 'poisoning-the-well' fallacy.

            It's a shame that you didn't respond to my question directly because it would have answered what little is relevant in your last comment. So I'll ask you a third time:

            1.) Do you agree that finding a logical contradiction in a concept proves that the thing in question doesn't exist?

          7. She was willingly engaged in a debate entitled “Does God Exist?”, she was on the phone while Justin set up the debate and explained that she would be arguing for the existence of God. Yes, I know she’s old, but are you suggesting she’s deaf and senile as well? Certainly, she never corrected any perceived misconceptions about what she was trying to do.

            And yes, it does matter how you acquired God’s supposed characteristics. You are claiming they are representative of a factually-existing God. I need to know how you came by them in order to know if they are accurate. For all I know, you could just be making it up. Apologists spend a lot of time making claims about what God wants or what God thinks and they need to reveal their sources. We need to know how they came by that information. If you cannot demonstrate that your claims are true and have significant reason to think that it is accurate, then you have nothing to debate.

            Let’s take an example. Say you’ve never seen an elephant in your life. You have no idea what an elephant looks like or how it acts. Someone comes up to you on the street and wants to debate the characteristics of elephants. They claim that elephants are pink, have wings and can fly. Even if I had no reason to confirm or deny those characteristics, I’d immediately ask that person to demonstrate some measure of expertise in elephants, some way to know that the characteristics they are claiming for elephants are actually characteristics for real elephants. They have to demonstrate how they came by the information and that the information is generally reliable.

            The same goes for people who claim to know the characteristics of God. If they cannot demonstrate how they know, then I’m going to reject those claims as unsupported and potentially faulty out of hand.

            Third, you’d have to give me a specific example of what you’re talking about, it’s not a simple yes or no question. I gave you an example before of God and omnipotence. Omnipotence is a logically contradictory characteristic. Did that fact disprove the existence of God? Certainly it didn’t phase the apologists who used the claim, they simply changed their argument to something else and kept on arguing for the existence of God.

          8. Still, Dr. Chervin never argued that 'God' being a logically coherent concept therefore means he somehow exists. Name one philosopher who thinks that possibility is 'existence'. You invented it.

            As for this "God's characteristics" topic, you're offering two separate issues, but forcing them into one. Questioning how one acquired a particular belief (characteristics) only speaks to that person's warrant. If my sole reason for believing in God came from some drunk person in a side-street, then the way I came to believe those characteristics is deeply flawed and speaks against my warrant. But the fact that some drunk guy listed these characteristics says nothing at all about the thing's existence. It's completely irrelevant. Instead, we ask, does this thing called 'God', with said properties, exist? In which case you're dealing directly with the concept. Now before I continue with this topic, I wanted to address your elephant example since I think it could shed some additional light on this.

            In your elephant example, you presented two people: one who has no concept of 'elephant', and the other who wishes to share his concept of 'elephant'. So the latter person describes an elephant as some sort of pink flying mammal. The problem here, however, is that this is merely an equivocation problem, a semantic game. If you list the definition of 'elephant' and compare it to the man's description, they are talking about two different things, but one calls it an elephant. Properties make the concept, not the name. But the first man questions the 2nd man's expertise. From this, he (1) makes an observation about the person, and (2) can only revert back to agnosticism. He would be committing a logical fallacy (ad hominem) if he said that because the 2nd man was silly that therefore his animal description is false.

            A valid and sound deductive argument proves only 1 conclusion. If it leaves room for 2 or more (unintended) conclusions then the argument is invalid. But even if the conclusion follows from the premises, the premises must be sound. If someone uses a deductive argument for God's existence, then the argument will simultaneously reveal God's properties, otherwise it's a poor argument. Consider the following valid deductive argument:
            1.) All men are mortal.
            2.) Socrates is a man.
            3.) Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

            The only possible way to reject the conclusion is (a) reject the form of the argument (its validity), or (b) object to the soundness of premises 1 or 2. You seem to want to call into question the origin of Socrates' characteristics, when it's irrelevant to the argument. With regard to an argument demonstrating God's existence, saying that "God" is arbitrary concocted is the same as saying the argument is invalid.

            (cont..)

          9. (cont…)

            I don't think your last paragraph is a justification to avoid answering my question. Either way, you simply saying that omnipotence is contradictory…says nothing. Explain why please. It's very possible that the atheist is attacking a strawman definition of omnipotence, rather than they theist 'modifying' it to avoid losing. Either way, modification doesn't mean that there is malicious or secretive intent. If a person believes that a giraffe exists, and then is asked one day, "What color is a giraffe's tongue?" If that person responded, "red", then would this little error make the entire concept of giraffe false? Clearly, the two people had the same concept of 'giraffe', both agreed they had tongues, but one was mistaken on the expression of the color.

            Attacking a strawman definition doesn't stand against the actual definition of omnipotence. Again, you're making a historical claim that is simply false. Descartes was the only person who thought God could do the logically impossible, but he was using this expression as a flamboyant explanation for 'God's power'. Name one atheist who offered the 'large rock' argument against the theist, only to see the theist panic and change the definition of omnipotence. The large rock example rests on hidden premises that the atheists keeps hidden in order to make an equivocation.

            But I really think you should answer my question.

          10. I guess if you think you can speak for God, you can pretend you know better than Dr. Chervin what she meant. However, I choose to go by the actual evidence that we have in front of us, not what you might have wished had happened, had you been there.

            You don't get to sign up for a debate with the very specific title "Does God Exist?", sit silently by when the moderator describes your part in the debate as arguing in the affirmative for that proposition, and then later on realize "oh wait, I really didn't want to do that".

            And no, the aquisition of arguments speaks not just for one's warrant, but for one's credibility. If you accepted the word of the drunk guy in the alley as your source of information for the characteristics of elephants, that says something quite damning about your gullibility and inability to make sound logical decisions. There may be sound and credible sources for information on the characteristics of elephants, you happen to have chosen one which is not. Yes, you are right, having bad characteristics for elephants does not prove in any way that elephants do not exist, it's just a complete waste of time to debate it in the first place! Arguing over pink flying elephants, then deciding that no, they're not really pink, they're blue, and wanting to have another debate is absurd. Go and get your facts straight, demonstrate that you actually have your facts straight, then we can engage in a worthwhile and credible debate. Making the blind claims that X, Y and Z are characteristics of God, yet having no way of demonstrating how you know this or why anyone else should believe you does not make for a worthwhile debate.

            Let's make the elephant problem even clearer. It's between two people, neither of whom have any direct experience with elephants. The one making the claims heard them from someone they trusted or read them in a book. In either case, they have never even considered that the claims may not be true, nor have they taken any steps to verify the claims before engaging in argument. Say the one making the claims hauls out their "expert", who has never verified the claims either. How far does this have to go before we realize that we have to verify these claims before we can have a worthwhile discussion about this entity?

            By the way, that's an incredibly weak argument to make and easy to destroy.

            1) All men are mortal.
            2) Socrates' wife is not a man.
            3) Therefore Socrates' wife is not mortal.

            I'll leave it to you to figure out where you failed.

          11. I sit here in disbelief after reading your above comment. You totally misrepresented what I said.

            First of all, I have no idea what you're talking about with Dr. Chervin. I'm claiming that she wasn't arguing that possibility meant existence. She wasn't proving that God was possible, she offered a cumulative case to demonstrate that he exists.

            Second, if my only reason for believing in God was because a drunk guy told me, then my belief in God is poorly justified. So you agree with me there. Yet you then go on to pull what I call a "Cephus argument" by totally misrepresenting what I meant:
            "Yes, you are right, having bad characteristics for elephants does not prove in any way that elephants do not exist, it's just a complete waste of time to debate it in the first place!"

            No, it means that 'elephant' contains properties that explain everything that it is and excludes everything that it isn't. Adding 'pink and flying' make the thing a 'non-elephant'. Your illustration was concerning semantic problems. That person was simply calling it 'elephant'. But the idea behind his version of elephant is still able to be investigated.

            And you keep reinforcing this idea that God's properties are arbitrary despite what I say. No, Cephus, if you read what I wrote you would have seen that I said the following: "If someone uses a deductive argument for God's existence, then the argument will simultaneously reveal God's properties, otherwise it's a poor argument." Do you think that theistic arguments just point to a name and not properties? How can you not understand this? Probably because you skim through my words with angry and hasty eyes…

            So you go on to clarify your elephant example. You only add that the 'elephant preacher' gets his 'expert' who has never verified his own claims. Ok… so yes they would have to verify these claims. And like I've been saying, it begins by describing the entity in question, and then discovering what evidence would be sufficient to claim that this flying pink mammal-thing exists. But you actually agree that it's irrelevant how the 'expert' acquired these facts and that the existence of such an animal is independent of that fact. Thanks.

            And finally, you totally failed to understand why I offered the Socrates argument. You proved my point though. But this argument you made is invalid, and that's why I reject it. Since it's based on hidden assumptions because the conclusion doesn't follow. It assumes "Only men can be mortal", which is false. One could also argue that 'men' is being falsely interpreted as the plurality of a gender, yet 'men' can also mean Homo Sapiens as a race, in which case 'wife' would fall under that category. So your argument is invalid and doubly unsound.

            Look at what philosophy did! So my original argument is nothing like yours.

            *coughs* So about answering that question I asked you…going on 5 times now? You actually implicitly agree that revealing a contradiction is sufficient to prove that the thing in question doesn't exist. I just want you to come forward and admit it, which consequently collapses the 3 points in your blog.

  5. P.S.

    "I just took your expectation about trees and turned it on it's head. I redefined "tree" with some decidedly non-tree-like characteristics. After all, if the religious can do it, why can't I?"

    Yes, you redefined 'tree' with non-tree-like properties and formed a logical contradiction. Yet who is offering "non-God-like' properties such that a contradiction is formed? It was your analogy, you tell me. God is XYZ; what in that set is contradictory? (Be warned, to do so is to delve in philosophy!) Oh, and this proves my point that philosophy can determine whether something doesn't exist, thus contradicting one of you main complaints in your blog.

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