Wednesday, September 7, 2022

The Whole God Issue So Far

[*Google apparently cares very little about Blogger, so sometimes the rendering of fonts and especially font sizes, will show up here very glitched. This has been going on for many years, a clear indicator of something I won't mention in this context.

**With regard to the content of the brief essays below, I'll just preface them with the following: Kai Nielsen will eventually be known as the atheist who saved belief in God and consequentially Christianityand with a single remark.¹ Caveat speculator.]

The Second Frontier²

The Problem of Evil

       It is logically impossible for there to be a problem of evil. In fact, evil itself cannot exist if any kind of goodness beyond human preferencing is in question. The existence, reality, or actuality of evil is unjustified, unquestioned, and merely assumed. The central initial question that falsifies this fake problem is: What makes anything evil to begin with beyond the mere fact that humans don't happen to like something?
      What must be assumed in order to recognize evil? If any good beyond mere human preferencing, dislike, disgust, loathing, or hate is in question, then the concept of evil is meaningless and unidentifiable as anything different from or beyond human consensus. Only a perfect, problem-free and even indefectible standard of goodness could give evil that kind of additional contrasting negativity beyond mere human disdain.
      As Schopenhauer said about pantheism: you don't add anything to the world by calling it God. And you don't add anything to something disliked by calling it Evil and capitalizing the first letter of that word. Without some concept of perfect goodness or goodness per se outside of or beyond human preference, you don't get to add the dramatic "evil" label to the mere fact that everyone dislikes something, and get out of that anything more than that fact itself.
      To recognize imperfections assumes the perfect is real and known. The idea of the perfect is the only thing that enables us to identify deviations from it. All fault-finding of any kind is based on an ideal, perfect goodness of some kind beyond our whims and preferences.
       Are instances of suicide proof that life is not good? Are instances of irrationality proof that there are no good reasons for anything? If the problem of evil is legitimate, does it apply to anyone who brings children into a world that contains evil and will bring about their suffering and death—not just God? Are instances of suffering in your own personal life an indication that you're evil to go on living because you yourself are causing your own suffering and evil by keeping yourself alive, completely apart from any suffering and evil you might cause to other people?
      The entire argument for the problem of evil, by both believers and nonbelievers, is definitionally dependent on the logical contrary of its intended conclusion.The argument negates in its starting premise, the conclusion it tries to infer.
      The problem of evil necessarily assumes and depends on an unproblematic, transcendent, perfect, ultimate goodness. All for the sole purpose of denying that same Goodness. Goodness is required to give evil its reality. But goodness is the problem that evil was supposed to get rid of.
      The emphasis or even preoccupation with the problem of evil is an indicator that someone’s not reading the atheist literature, much less paying meticulous attention to the rules of logical validity. Little wonder that the more sophisticated atheist thinkers either realize that the so-called problem of evil is a self-contradictory definitionally-dependent mistake in logic, or else at least see the futility of it as an argument that decisively proves the impossibility of the existence of a perfectly good God.
      The only real problem of evil is twofold: avoiding what the word evil means, and ignoring the standard of goodness implicitly assumed to recognize evil in the first place.


The Third Frontier

Metatheoretic Atheism

       People make many universal claims today, such as that no one can know X, even though that claim itself asserts that unknowability itself as an item of knowledge about X. Everything is merely the result or product of determining factors such as natural selection, evolution, survival and reproductive advantage instincts, genetics, or environmental influences, even though such assertions themselves—and belief in them—get an exemption from scrutiny in order to proclaim them as universal truths.
       It's even claimed—without any evidence or argument—that there are no possible objectively-true universal claims, even though that denial about universal claims is itself universal, and presented to others as objectively and universally true, much like relativism and subjectivism are in the general culture. Immanuel Kant famously clamed that we can't know things as they are in themselves but only the appearances of them, even though he said hundreds of things about them in spite of that limitation.
       But even if we give such self-referring contradictions an exemption from scrutiny, what are the standards used to make those universal claims and universal denials about all universal claims in the first place? Those unaddressed lingering questions have resulted in two completely new and different kinds of arguments for atheism. Only this time, the atheist arguments operate at the highest possible level of analytic generality, authority, and applicability.
       Both arguments involve theorizing about theory itself. They can be called metatheoretic, meta-scientific, meta-logical, or even meta-rational arguments. They are the Prior Moral Criterion Argument and it's logically parallel generalization, the Prior Truth Criterion Argument.³ Because they are self-referring and metatheoretic universal arguments, they are straightforwardly deductive. They also assume a prior system of inquiry that is reliably accurate with regard to testing claims for truth in a commonly real world.⁴
       They are based on general reason or rationality itself. This includes the entire system of common sense, principles of logic, as well as the ultimate or court-of-last-resort standards or criteria that govern our thinking, including our assessments and theorizing about obligation, both moral and ethical. Thinking must function with these ongoing cognitive values, obligations, principles, and basic concepts and definitions in order to think at all.
       But the components of general reason preclude God—in advance. Because reason is universal, the preclusion of God is comprehensive and consequently these two new arguments are logically and metatheoretically deductive, decisive, and final. That's a first for atheism, as well as unprecedented in the history of human thought. Those arguments are consequently fatal to all arguments for God to date. And they are based on the assumptions necessary to theorize about God at all, whether for or against. Any argued attempts to refute those arguments assume them.
       So the Prior Moral Criterion Argument for atheism is that any moral argument for God's goodness already assumes a fully-operating prior ultimate God-precluding moral good as a standard that must be used to identify what any moral argument for God is trying to prove prior to deciding the issue. Therefore, there is no God and any moral argument for God is necessarily based on an atheistic moral good. That is, any moral argument for God already requires God-precluding atheistic assumptions and criteria about moral goodness and all moral theorizing itself, including the assumed good of rational thinking, and the obligation to reason as the only way to survive and flourish.
       The Prior Truth Criterion Argument is that the prior standards of analysis already preclude God as any kind of relevant factor in deciding what is true about the issue of God's existence. Therefore, there is no God and any argument for God is based on atheism. And an independent, God-precluding prior standard for what is moral and good, and for what is true in general, is necessarily atheism.
       So to even discuss the question of God’s existence is to already accept God-precluding standards of an independent truth-indicating rational system as obligating all minds to believe various claims and assumptions in order to survive and flourish in relation to a good in any sense. So those standards are fatal to belief in God. In fact, belief in God already depends on those standards of general rationality to make sense of the concept of God itself. But reason not only does not need God for anything—as the prior standard for deciding what is true about anything, it precludes God with finality prior to even discussing the issue.


The Fourth Frontier

Metatheoretic Belief In God

       Those two new deductive arguments for atheism are successful as far as they go, rendering atheism a legitimate given starting point in terms of immediate operational analysis in the dark world. But that process itself assumes a cryptic belief in God as Logos. Using those arguments, atheism has unwittingly proved the existence of God with metatheoretic finality. It has ignored what reason assumes and what reason implies, in how it necessarily operates as an ultimate mind. Rational atheism necessarily attributes qualities of God to reason itself, and without logically prior justification or scientific verification. Rational neutrality itself assumes crypto-theism, an implicit background belief in God.
       Because reason has a belief-deciding authority that is universal and comprehensive, it is indistinguishable from a God of mind in how we must view it, use it, refer to it, appeal to it, and act on its authority in order to think and survive and flourish. Truth is what fits into an already-existing equivalence-class system of truth-testing principles and criteria.
       To argue against that is to construct that same system all over again, as ultimate, comprehensive, and decisive about all possible things that can be thought about, including God, mind, personhood, and that system itself. It simply cannot be argued against, questioned, or even thought about without assuming it in those processes.
       Impersonal things don't obligate. Non-personal entities and concepts cannot have any authority for obligating persons to think according to any rules or principles. That’s why reason necessarily functions as a person in being the only possible standard for what a person is in the first place.
       By directing all thinking, reason also assumes an ultimate perfect goodness as well, not just because it is itself the ideal of how to think, but also because it necessarily assumes an equally comprehensive and ultimate Good toward which all thinking is necessarily directed. So to merely ask what a person is, is already assumed in the rules of Reason that we must follow to analyze personhood itself. Reason's necessarily-assumed independent neutrality, immunity to influences, and exemption from verification is a fatal problem for atheism, and reveals Reason’s transcendental status as the God of Thought, existing above everything, affected by nothing.
       Both logically and existentially, there is simply nowhere else to go. Want to argue against it? Using what? Reason? You're going to appeal to the use of reason to somehow demonstrate that Reason is not the God of Mind?
       This is the key to the evasiveness of both the scientific establishment and academia, both of which avoid discussing or even mentioning metatheoretic criteria and reflexive analysis of universal claims in their respective areas of research. Why do the metatheoretic standards of human thinking get exempted from scrutiny? Why is logic never taught to children even though it's no more complicated than elementary arithmetic? The pervasive dismissiveness and evasions of academia, the scientific establishment, and the Christian apologetics industry won't make this problem go away.
       It is your own mind that decides what's real in all senses, but only by basing such decisions on the ultimate criteria embodied in the system we call Reason. The Logos is instantiated in us as the image of God in the mind.
       So the issue of the existence of God is really about personhood in relation to this ultimate notion of sentient reason as necessarily the image of God. In the logical beginning is the Logos, deciding all issues. So what is necessarily used to get to either belief in God or atheism, turns out necessarily itself to be God already. Reason fully exemplifies a god’s-eye-view of the total reality. Reject that claim, and you’re doing the exact same thing that the claim describes.
       Reason is necessarily, in all the core essentials, indistinguishable from the classical notion of God. 
       Furthermore, God is manifested in our awareness of moral obligation, but that’s only because moral obligation is already built into the prescriptive notion of general reason, which specifies obligations logically prior to acting on our assessments of how to think and live. Reason is necessarily the Logos, indistinguishable from an obligation-imposing subject outside of and separate from ourselves, yet fully functioning within us.
       Reason is all-knowing as the truth-evaluating instrument of all possible knowledge, ultimately authoritative or sovereign as the final court of appeal, as the universally decisive inferential factor, omnipresent. As Anthony Kenny said, “The philosopher knows that reason is the sovereign of the world.” Reason is also eternal like mathematics in its physically and temporally universal applicability. And it is transcendent in being neutral and influence-immune, operating at the highest conceivable level of supervisory analytic authority over all issues concerning all domains of predication including issues about itself.
       And these assumptions of general rationality are the specifying standards for defining everything in the first place, including minds, persons, standards, and God. And we have to refer to them because as limited beings we don’t perfectly actualize that ideal system of standards in our lives, and often even forget those standards or forget to apply them, or misapply them, even though we are called back to them, in order to recognize our defections from those standards.
Without the logically necessary, God-like, and morally obligating authority of reason, neither God's existence nor anything else can be concluded.
       So essential aspects of God's being must be assumed in whatever we use to decide whether or not God exists. And that is the central issue of both atheism and belief in God in relation to the necessity, universality, adequacy, efficacy, and ultimacy of reason. Consequently, this system of general reason or rationality, this system of necessary and logically basic assumptions is as ultimate and mind-like or person-like as any personal ultimate God is conceivable of being. There is nothing that those guiding assumptions do not already cover in our thinking about ourselves and the world. They are the image in us of a God-like mind, however imperfectly they are instantiated in us individually in our lives.
       And my actions in relation to that ideal are whatever they are only when judged by that same rational standard. All criticism and all thinking assumes ideal rationality. As Sam Harris has said, certain logical relations are etched into the very structure of the world. They are etched into us as well.
Any contemplation of these ultimate assumptions of mind such as reason, formal logic, the rule-set of an ordered context of reality, a hierarchy of values, and the obligation to proceed according to a system of rules of thinking results in an endless stream of new knowledge when applied to our ongoing experience of the world. The rules of reason are a precondition, not simply of experience but of communication and therefore of society. Consequently, these ultimate decisive rules and ideals of thought actually convey knowledge and even wisdom by merely thinking about our world of objects, our experience, our history, our belief systems, and our lives in relation to those rules and ideals of general reason.
       And the fact that we must refer to or assume those standards of rationality implies an equally ultimate purpose. Use the standards for what? Why use them in the first place? And an ultimate purpose necessarily depends on a hierarchical set of ultimate values. This system of assumptions is a unified instrument of thinking, which necessarily obligates, defines, and influences the mind as the ultimate operating system for thinking about anything.
       Consequently, all thinking necessarily both assumes and references, an already idling engine, an unchanging, and enduring supervisory system of thinking made up of prescriptive evaluative standards of thought necessarily assumed together as a system just for us to be able to think or get out of bed in the morning. It decides everything and makes inquiry itself possible.
       All arguments for or against the existence of God, assume Reason Theism, reason as supervisory God of mind, immune to influences, transcending verification, immutable, universally applicable, obligating in relation to life, inert yet belief-deciding, and so on. Reason doesn't actually do anything, yet makes all the difference in the world. Arguing against this merely re-invokes it. And the rationally necessary is necessarily the experientially real, because any argument denying that is self-contradictory in trying to rationally necessitate its own truth about the experientially real.
       Reason is the only thing that can decide these matters. The knowledge of everything about God, including arguments in support of that belief that God exists, is decided completely and only by the power and authority of reason. If one recognizes the necessary ultimacy and universality of reason, the Logos that is Reason logically follows. Consequently, the essential properties of our own system and standards of thinking are indistinguishable from the defining essential properties of a classically construed concept of God.
      "In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God." --The Gospel of John

Ad gloriam Dei.

Roger Wasson
Death Valley, California
August 31, 2022 Anno Domini


¹Made in the first edition of his ingenius book, Ethics Without God,  Pemberton Press, 1971, page 22, and 2nd edition, Prometheus Books, 1990, page 31.
²The First Frontier essay is still too large to put here but is the fear of questions about neutrality, self-reference and metatheoretic criteria. For all her personal and philosophical faults, Ayn Rand was one of the few people who repeatedly throughout her life asked the ultimate question that is still forbidden in both science and academia: "By what standard?"
³By reflexive I mean self-referring, self-inclusive universal claims, claims that refer to themselves or include themselves in what they say or assert or claim universally about an entire subject area, class, set, or domain. To state in English that "No one can state anything in English" is to make a statement that is self-referringly inconsistent, self-contradictory, self-stultifying, self-referentially contradictory or that contains or embodies a self-destroying error in its syntax or object reference due to its including itself in what's it's talking about.
I have no interest in academic philosophy and do not pretend to be doing philosophy. I use the term only where I consider it to be necessary for clarity in various historical or quasi-political remarks I may make about the term as it is used generally in culture. Inside golf-drunk-run, loan-sharking academia or not, philosophy is little more than perpetual "Introduction to . . ." and among students, even grad students, almost to a person, the philosophy department atmospheres contain mostly gossip about arguments and biblographic gossip about various writers' works. Collectivist education has now reduced itself generally to the level of hedge-fund degree mills.
Inadvertently discovered in 2012 by leaving off the word "moral" while taking notes on the 1st edition of Ethics Without God, referenced above.
Apart from atheism itself, I agree with much of what atheist authors have said from Bertrand Russell to the present, including, for example, Antony Flew's presumption argument, John Wisdom's Parable of the Invisible Gardner, and mid-20th-century scientific realism of atheistic rationalists to the present.

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