The Experience of God

The catch-all forum for general topics and debates. Minimal moderation. Rated PG to PG-13.
User avatar
Gadianton
God
Posts: 2149
Joined: Sun Oct 25, 2020 11:56 pm

Re: The Experience of God

Post by Gadianton »

Stem wrote:We ought to recognize that arguments for gods existence is what tires people on philosophy as much as anything
I'll have to disagree with that one. Here is a quote from David Lewis I got off of SEP (has to do with reconciling math with physicalism by eliminating classes, or sets):
David Lewis wrote:I’m moved to laughter at the thought of how presumptous it would be to reject mathematics for philosophical reasons. How would you like the job of telling the mathematicians that they must change their ways, and abjure countless errors, now that philosophy has discovered that there are no classes? Can you tell them, with a straight face, to follow philosophical argument wherever it may lead? If they challenge your credentials, will you boast of philosophy’s other great discoveries: that motion is impossible, that a Being than which no greater can be conceived cannot be conceived not to exist, that it is unthinkable that anything exists outside the mind, that time is unreal, that no theory has ever been made at all probable by evidence (but on the other hand that an empirically adequate ideal theory cannot possibly be false), that it is a wide-open scientific question whether anyone has ever believed anything, and so on, and on, ad nauseum? Not me!
Theology is a small part of the overall distaste people have for philosophy.
Stem wrote:I certainly don't know what Gadianton has in mind when he speaks of the virtues of ontological argument via Anselm
Now Stem, I did tell you that the ontological argument is original to theology, and not the invention of say, a Greek philosopher, that just got rebranded as "God" when some priest discovered it. So that was one thing I have in mind. Another thing I mentioned, well, let's take a look at your own recast of the argument so that I can show you.

In your version, you've got a rock-paper-scissors theme happening:
Superman beats god because
silhouetted lady
God loves everyone
Three powerful individuals face off and we're having a tough time figuring out which one is the greatest. Questions like, does love trump physical strength? are included along the way.

Is the point of the story that there is a tie, and that we can't say that out of these three great beings, that one is clearly greater than the other? (Maybe taken together they represent the best of the greatest attributes; three beings sharing in the commonality of all positive attributes yet without confounding the persons?)

-or-

Is the point that only one can be the greatest, but there are too many variables to consider in order to figure out who wins?
User avatar
Physics Guy
Prophet
Posts: 854
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2020 7:40 am
Location: on the battlefield of life

Re: The Experience of God

Post by Physics Guy »

Gadianton wrote:
Fri Jun 10, 2022 10:25 pm
I can be interested in spiders, I can love spiders, but I can't relate to spiders. I think a bigger problem than mental "limits," however, for a transcendent God, is the very mental categories we're ascribing. Can we really assume a transcendent entity (?) is governed by "interest", "love", "empathy" and so on?

All of these categories of human thinking exist because of evolutionary pressures. I can relate to people better than I can dogs, but I generally love dogs more than people. There's 15,000 years of history behind my dog hijacking a part of my brain that is supposed to bond me with other people. God's "thinking", if we can call it that, isn't a product of embodiment nor embodiment in an evolutionary context.
Sorry for the long delay. I agree that God is not, like us, a product of evolution and history. But I'm not convinced that evolution or history have shaped us in random and arbitrary ways. Evolution isn't teleological in the sense of reaching for Intelligence or Awareness or Whatever explicitly and for its own sake, but if intelligence happens to be a +5 sword in the struggle for gene proliferation, then the evolutionary drive for gene proliferation actually is in large part a drive toward intelligence.

A tribe in which one member can promise another to do something six months later in a distant place, and the promise is kept, is a tribe that has better chances to survive and grow than a tribe in which nobody can trust anyone else if their back is turned. The value of trust is there in our thoughts and instincts because evolution and cultural history have put it there, but evolution and history have put trust into our instincts because the value of trust is a basic implication of how reality works. This isn't just an accident that could easily have been otherwise, any more than we could have evolved to like putting our hands on hot stoves instead of trying to avoid that.

So I do expect that an ultimate being might actually empathise with us, because empathising with other beings is an objectively good and valuable capacity to have. If it's not needed for survival it's still good for avoiding boredom; it seems like a handy gadget that could be good for a lot of things. We don't have empathy for the direct reason that it is good and valuable; we have it by evolution. But that means that we have it indirectly because it is good and valuable, because valuable capacities confer survival advantage.

What I find plausible about God is not so much that God might lack our capacity to love beings like us, as that God might also have all kinds of other capacities that we cannot imagine, which may go as far beyond what we know as love as love among humans goes beyond a moth's attraction to light. This seems to me downright likely.
What if fire is only the first of a million such things?
User avatar
Physics Guy
Prophet
Posts: 854
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2020 7:40 am
Location: on the battlefield of life

Re: The Experience of God

Post by Physics Guy »

I really like Sean Carroll's rebuttal of philosophical zombies, with the analogy of oxygen-free water as something that one can easily imagine but only from ignorance of what water actually is. If I had found that analogy for myself I would have been pleased to have expressed my view neatly. Maybe I should read some of Carroll, though I generally avoid reading physics-based books for lay people, because the risks of either being bored by reading stuff I already know, or annoyed by reading stuff with which I disagree, seem too high.

I don't think it's detracting from Carroll to say that at least on some of his most important points I don't think he's being an original thinker. He seems to express things well, but a lot of his views seem to me to be just what all good physicists are bound to think, duh. More than anything else, I think, physics is a schooling in describing things on multiple levels of detail, and in alternative ways that are all equally correct but not all equally useful. Looking at things in different ways like that is what one actually does, most of the time, doing physics. I literally spend whole days translating equations into new representations time and again, trying to find a perspective that reveals something useful. The things that we describe in all these multiple ways are the simplest things that humans ever describe, but we get a lot of hands-on experience, with concrete examples, of language games that would be more confusing if played with less simple pieces.

So a fair amount of Carroll's lucidity seems to me to be not Carroll, but physics. Which is to say that what Carroll says is worth taking even more seriously. Any writer can have a gift for making things sound good and sensible, but physics has given us lasers.

I find philosophy harder than physics because even though physics also uses a lot of technical terminology for subtle distinctions between abstract concepts, in physics you can always say, "Stop, I'm losing track of what we're talking about, so let's clarify with a completely concrete example that could sit on the lab bench and do its thing while we watch it." You can pin down exactly what everything means that way, whenever you want. In philosophy there doesn't always seem to be a way to break out of the vicious circle of words referring only to other words.

I have a lot of respect for philosophy, though. It may not do as much as we'd like even when it works well, but you sure do miss it being done well when it's only done badly. Keynes famously observed that self-styled "practical" thinkers who pride themselves on being free from theoretical mumbo-jumbo are usually only the unwitting "slaves of some defunct economist", because what they imagine to be obvious common-sense truths are really only discredited dogmas that they happened to learn in their youth. I think that goes double for defunct philosophers. Nobody can escape doing philosophy; thinking that you can is just doing philosophy badly, like driving with your eyes closed to not be distracted by lights.
What if fire is only the first of a million such things?
dastardly stem
God
Posts: 1245
Joined: Tue Nov 03, 2020 2:38 pm

Re: The Experience of God

Post by dastardly stem »

Gadianton wrote:
Fri Jun 17, 2022 11:22 pm

I'll have to disagree with that one. Here is a quote from David Lewis I got off of SEP (has to do with reconciling math with physicalism by eliminating classes, or sets):


Theology is a small part of the overall distaste people have for philosophy.
Good. I agree. Me and my penchant for ever stating things. Shoot, I ought to be shot.

Now Stem, I did tell you that the ontological argument is original to theology, and not the invention of say, a Greek philosopher, that just got rebranded as "God" when some priest discovered it. So that was one thing I have in mind. Another thing I mentioned, well, let's take a look at your own recast of the argument so that I can show you.

In your version, you've got a rock-paper-scissors theme happening:
Superman beats god because
silhouetted lady
God loves everyone
Three powerful individuals face off and we're having a tough time figuring out which one is the greatest. Questions like, does love trump physical strength? are included along the way.

Is the point of the story that there is a tie, and that we can't say that out of these three great beings, that one is clearly greater than the other? (Maybe taken together they represent the best of the greatest attributes; three beings sharing in the commonality of all positive attributes yet without confounding the persons?)

-or-

Is the point that only one can be the greatest, but there are too many variables to consider in order to figure out who wins?
Certainly wasn’t intending to put up my dukes and challenge your comment. I noticed your comment about the argument coming from a pious dude rather than one co-opting Greek thought and labeling it god. When I said virtue I meant it as effectiveness of the argument. Sure over the years its proven effective in that it’s settled many troubled believer, but how it’s reasonable remains beyond me. Let me see about expanding a bit. As to your query, I don’t see it as either/or but yes and both and much more.

If the lady saves everyone and everything then is her love greater than the god who at times used some of the people to rape, pillage , murder others? Sure. Does a Superman who could fly around the globe in a second, rushing to save humans from the pains of disasters and evil designs us mortal tend to carry out on each other display greater love than the god who once healed a blind person, once raised an old dead person, but for the most part kicks back with popcorn and drinks as disaster and mayhem strikes? Sure. And are the two imagined gods more powerful than the god who sits enthroned in heaven using the earth as his footstool, due to his, we’ll grant, metaphorical bigness? Kinda seems like it. It’s be like in what sense is the despotic god of Christianity greater than billions of other imagined characters who do more and care more?

Defining what’s a greater being feels problematic. What’s great? But more we can’t really conceive of any of these anyway. We can’t conceive of how a person unaided by supernatural forces or machines of some sort could fly. Or how someone could gather up the universe, into a spot and then throw it to heaven, whatever that place is. Or how someone could raise from the dead. Do we just assume magic, then say we really conceived of some this possibility happening? And even if we can, how we leap from possible over the concept of probable to definite is beyond me.

Why should one grant that thinking there’s a god is really just conceiving all his magic attributes are possible for one to hold? That’s imagining something impossible rather than conceiving something possible, it seems to me. And that makes the whole argument useless, I’d think.

But I’d be eager to hear your take on the arguments appeal.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
User avatar
Gadianton
God
Posts: 2149
Joined: Sun Oct 25, 2020 11:56 pm

Re: The Experience of God

Post by Gadianton »

Lot's of good stuff by PG and also Stem, but one comment for now, as I watched the recommended Lex episode of Donald Hoffman and going to comment on that next. I also have a big war to fight with a lower life form called algae this morning, lower from my perspective, maybe not God's.
Physic's guy wrote:I really like Sean Carroll's rebuttal of philosophical zombies, with the analogy of oxygen-free water as something that one can easily imagine but only from ignorance of what water actually is. If I had found that analogy for myself I would have been pleased to have expressed my view neatly.
That was the high-point of his paper, and also where I thought he went off the rails initially. It prompted me to look a few things up and I'm not settled on the answer. Either way, I have to thank Stem for posting the piece. I hadn't said anything yet because I don't have a verdict on whether Carroll missed the point or nailed it there.

The H2O example is explicitly referring to Chalmers' summary of Kripke's semantics. Kripke thought of all this, by the way, when he was 19. Kripke says there are primary and secondary intensions, and water is a famous example. You have this clear liquid people drink and we call it water. That's a first intension. After discovering chemistry, we know it's H20. But what if on some other planet people drink XYZ and it does the same thing? Chalmers calls the secondary intension a "rigid designator", which gives rise to the idea of "semantic externalism", which says meaning isn't all in the head. Water means H20, even if we don't know anything about chemistry.

Kripke said that qualia are an exception to the rule. If I hit my finger with a hammer, the intense feeling of pain doesn't find a "rigid designator" in neurons activating; my pain isn't updated by what I know about neurology. So this meaning is in the head. This is the subject of a dozen other thought experiments like Mary's Room. "seeing red" is something totally different than understanding all the facts about color science. A color-blind color scientist will never know what it's like to see red.

When you think about it this way, it seems like a more direct way of having the conversation rather than doing it through Zombies. I think Chalmers is trying to build on thought experiments (Zombies also come from Kripke) that don't directly settle the question by appealing to our experience, "I see red, therefore physicalism is false". Carroll seems to be saying, look, if you think seeing red is special, then this is an artifice for the conceivability of Zombies, and if you don't, then zombies are inconceivable. But Chalmers won't agree with that, he'll say that while a related conversation, he's not simply importing this insight into zombies otherwise that would be circular reasoning.
User avatar
Gadianton
God
Posts: 2149
Joined: Sun Oct 25, 2020 11:56 pm

Re: The Experience of God

Post by Gadianton »

Stem wrote:Certainly wasn’t intending to put up my dukes and challenge your comment.
Why not? This isn't Sic et Non, you absolutely should put up your dukes and challenge my comments if you think I'm wrong.

Hey man, you're driving this forum lately. Everyone owes you one.
Stem wrote:When I said virtue I meant it as effectiveness of the argument
And it should be challenged for its effectiveness. I guess I'm looking at effectiveness in total. For instance, is the Mona Lisa really that great of a painting? Are there no artists today who can match it? Was Ringo Starr the best drummer ever, is George Kollias no match?

But I get what you mean, so...
If the lady saves everyone and everything then is her love greater than the god who at times used some of the people to rape, pillage , murder others?
Does a Superman who could fly around the globe in a second, rushing to save humans from the pains of disasters and evil designs us mortal tend to carry out on each other display greater love than the god who once healed a blind person, once raised an old dead person, but for the most part kicks back with popcorn and drinks as disaster and mayhem strikes
Perfectly valid thoughts. You answered your own question, though. Is allowing evil morally wrong? If so, and if god allows evil, then he can't be the best being that you can imagine. You referred to such a hypothetical being as "god" in lowercase for a reason. Would the best being that you can imagine allow suffering? Would such a being be less powerful than superman or less admirable than "the lady who saves everyone"?
User avatar
Rivendale
1st Counselor
Posts: 468
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2021 5:21 pm

Re: The Experience of God

Post by Rivendale »

Physics Guy wrote:
Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:08 am
I really like Sean Carroll's rebuttal of philosophical zombies, with the analogy of oxygen-free water as something that one can easily imagine but only from ignorance of what water actually is. If I had found that analogy for myself I would have been pleased to have expressed my view neatly. Maybe I should read some of Carroll, though I generally avoid reading physics-based books for lay people, because the risks of either being bored by reading stuff I already know, or annoyed by reading stuff with which I disagree, seem too high.

I don't think it's detracting from Carroll to say that at least on some of his most important points I don't think he's being an original thinker. He seems to express things well, but a lot of his views seem to me to be just what all good physicists are bound to think, duh
I agree. Take his stance on the hard problem of consciousness. He thinks it will just go away like other problems in science. During Kepler and Copernicus the fierce debate of why 5 other planets in the solar system was occupying many people's time. Now we don't give that question a moments thought. Or why is the fine structure constant 1/137? The perspective change makes these questions irrelevant.
User avatar
Physics Guy
Prophet
Posts: 854
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2020 7:40 am
Location: on the battlefield of life

Re: The Experience of God

Post by Physics Guy »

Well, I'm not sure it will just go away. I think consciousness is an important phenomenon like fusion or fire, not just a detail like the number of planets. Perhaps it's even bigger than they are and we will never just understand it suddenly in one breakthrough but only slowly beat it down, bit by bit. Likewise it may well be just a detail why the fine structure constant is exactly what it is, but any information at all about why such fundamental constants are what they are will be a big discovery, I think.

I do tend to think that understanding consciousness won't be wildly different from understanding fusion or fire, though. I think it's a hard problem, all right, but not qualitatively more than that.
What if fire is only the first of a million such things?
User avatar
Gadianton
God
Posts: 2149
Joined: Sun Oct 25, 2020 11:56 pm

Re: The Experience of God

Post by Gadianton »

Donald Hoffman: Reality is an Illusion - How Evolution Hid the Truth
Lex episode 293

I watched about 2/3's of it last night and took notes. Talk about pretension and overconfidence. Granted, for this guy to be where he's at academically, I assume he's way smarter than I am, however, he's off his freaking rocker. The central part of the conversation was his views on consciousness. He's a cognitive scientist who has converted to full-blown mysticism Yes, he even believes in the Ground of Being, and imagines superhuman scientists who learn "to be" will be the most creative and come up with the best answers about reality, but not all of them! Godel says no! Innumerable quirky ideas play roles in his theories.

There's so many layers of BS it's hard to know where to begin. It's a good challenge of a person's ability to summarize. He ostensibly accepts Chalmers' "hard problem of consciousness", and explicitly uses that wording. He takes "seeing red" as rock bottom reality and is trying to solve this in reverse. "Seeing red" is reality, and neurons, brains, people, and rocks are created by consciousness. So he's an idealist, but he doesn't use the term, if he's even heard of it. Aside: Dan Dennett puts philosophy down by saying when it comes to understanding mind, we need about 4 years of cognitive science and 6 months of philosophy as the base. This guy is a perfect example of someone who needs to shut up until he gets that 6 months in.

consciousness --> "weird deep structure underlay" --> space-time (physical objects).

Part 2: of his project is his university work to show how to create space-time out of consciousness. How on earth? Apparently with neural net models, or something, but with conscious agents as the nodes, who will collectively give rise to space-time. there is only one great consciousness, and we are all aspects of it -- (Brahma Atman; not his wording; probably hasn't heard of it).

Part 1a: The failure of physicalism. He thinks physicalism is wrong because "the physicists are telling us" (a handful of string-theorists) that space-time is doomed. We can't quantize gravity so "the physicists are discovering" this deep structure underlay that emerges as space-time. Because of this, reductionism is doomed. Mind can't reduce to matter. wtf? Lex calls him on it nicely, aren't we just reducing matter to this deeper structure? Why can't that be the explanation? The problem with physicalism for mind is the kind of explanation it is. You don't need to show that fundamental particles are "an illusion", that's not even relevant, the problem is explaining how particles move doesn't seem to explain our sensation of pain or seeing red. Even more general is imagining how any descriptive, 3d person account, would explain 1st person experience.

How evolution hid the truth? You probably guessed it already. Richard Dawkins has already told us that God is a delusion but helps in terms of fitness, and that genes are selfish, and the world we're immersed in is a lie to make us reproduce. It's really hard to understand what he's saying here, he seems to be arguing for a more radical version of this "lie". The probability that evolution would tell us the truth about the world is precisely zero. But you can only take the "everything is a lie" thing so far, because how is your truth protected? How are we so sure about selfish genes as the explanation? Why isn't that just another trick? What about "it's a trick", is a trick? Like our illusionary lives, space-time is a happy illusion. Another miss. "Space-time" is a horrendously abstract concept. People don't walk around thinking in terms of general relativity, I know I don't. He wants these clean breaks "the user-friendly interface" and "the horror that lies beneath".
User avatar
Rivendale
1st Counselor
Posts: 468
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2021 5:21 pm

Re: The Experience of God

Post by Rivendale »

Physics Guy wrote:
Sat Jun 18, 2022 8:13 pm
Well, I'm not sure it will just go away. I think consciousness is an important phenomenon like fusion or fire, not just a detail like the number of planets. Perhaps it's even bigger than they are and we will never just understand it suddenly in one breakthrough but only slowly beat it down, bit by bit. Likewise it may well be just a detail why the fine structure constant is exactly what it is, but any information at all about why such fundamental constants are what they are will be a big discovery, I think.

I do tend to think that understanding consciousness won't be wildly different from understanding fusion or fire, though. I think it's a hard problem, all right, but not qualitatively more than that.
You can say the planets seem insignificant now. But at the time it wasn't. Science is full of diminishing returns.
Post Reply