*Because this is an email, to follow what’s going on you must read from bottom-to-top. And, if you want, it’s easier to follow if you put yourself in either my or “Ed’s” shoes (pretend you are one of us). Also, there are some transcription errors from copying from Outlook to WordPress (try to bear with me).
When I was a Christian, I was able to believe that these purported nouns had referents, just like all the other nouns I had heard or seen in print. Nouns such as “wippen”, “vaquita”, “tenendum”, or medical, chemical or technical nouns. I believed these nouns I was hearing and reading all had meaning, even though I had not the slightest idea of anything that any of them meant. So I assumed rows of letters “God” and “soul” were like that too. I heard them a lot and just assumed they had meaning, though it never occurred to me then that I really had no idea of anything they meant.
Then one day it occurred to me to ask myself the question “Hey, do these purported sounds really mean anything, or are they just sounds — and I have been assuming on faith since childhood that they are meaningful, for that was what I was taught, and therefore developed a whole lot of emotional feeling associated with them?” Then it struck me that I really knew of no reason to even suspect in the least that they meant anything at all.
Sorry you’re bowing out. I really like the fact that Christianity exists, and I hate to see it gradually disappearing worldwide. I enjoy attending church and singing in the choir.
Recently I was in New York and I was sad to see that many of the old church buildings are now apartment buildings or businesses. I’m sorry to say that that trend will likely eventually move Southward. The South is slower to change than the rest of the country. But as a human grows, so does humanity, just much slower. Humanity is growing out of the ‘Santa Claus’ and ‘imaginary playmate’ stage, and is moving into its “pre-teen” or “adolescent” stage. Humanity is not any more mature than that!
In a message dated 9/6/2014 7:06:06 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
I get that you’re saying that abstract nouns are real in the sense that they are actually descriptive words. The reason I asked those questions was because I wanted to make sure you knew where I was coming from when I said abstract nouns were real and exist exclusive from concrete referents. I assume that this is what you meant when you said that, “I used to myself [believe in the magic of abstract nouns].” This is important to the discussion because you are saying that you were able to think of these things as referents exclusive from concrete referents. And if that’s the case, then these referents (apart from concrete objects) do not “transcend all possible human thought” as you’ve said. And if that’s the case then God would not be a meaningless row of letters (as an adjective separated from a noun).
But you have reiterated that this is not your worldview and are austere in the concurrent consistency of it, so I respect that. Though if you cannot see the possibility of my point of view (that abstractions can exist apart from concrete referents) then we will have to agree to disagree and I will “bow out” as you’ve put it. You’ve said that you “cannot for the life of me figure out how people can fall for that word trickery.” I just wanted to give it another chance and try to proselytize you (while trying to see if you were right of course). Then again, we can only change our minds if we allow ourselves to meet halfway with the other person. And it looks like our halves will never meet.
Have a good weekend Ed,
Date: Fri, 5 Sep 2014 09:07:24 -0400
Subject: Re: From an ignostic
To: AnlytcPhil@aol.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
The other email had several typos. So now that I’m awake, I rewrote it, correcting the errors. 🙂
I might say:
“Ford cars do not look the same as Chevrolet cars.”
Notice the red adjective “Chevrolet”.
However, I would not say
“Ford cars do not look the same as cars.”
Notice the adjective “Chevrolet” is missing, causing the sentence to imply that Ford cars are not cars, which is wrong, for Ford cars are cars.
Now back to what you asked if I said:
I would say:
“Abstract nouns do not function as concrete nouns semantically.” (although they do syntactically)
Notice the red adjective “concrete”.
However, I would not say, as you said I said:
“Abstract nouns do not function as nouns semantically.”
Notice the adjective “concrete” is missing, causing the sentence to imply that abstract nouns are not nouns, which is wrong because abstract nouns are nouns.
No, I would not say anything to imply that abstract nouns are not nouns. Understand now?
In a message dated 9/4/2014 11:22:22 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
>”How could a noun be said to not function as a noun when it IS a noun?”
You said, “Abstract nouns function syntactically the same as concrete nouns but semantically the same as verbs or adjectives, to help tell others about what we mean by our concrete nouns.”
I asked if it was wrong to say that it functions “semantically” as a noun (just verifying what you said).
— Original Message —
Sent: September 4, 2014 7:40 PM
Subject: Re: From an ignostic
How could a noun be said to not function as a noun when it IS a noun? Nobody talks like that. There are two kinds of nouns, concrete and abstract. Abstract nouns are placed grammatically in sentences the same way as concrete nouns are placed. But that’s the end of their similarity.
Look at the two sentences:
The boy took a cookie from the jar.
The boy took a walk through the park.
“Cookie” is a concrete noun. “Walk” is an abstract nouns.
Even though both sentences have the same have the same grammatical structure, the concrete noun “cookie” refers to a material object, whereas the abstract noun “walk” only functions as a verb. The second sentence is equivalent to
The boy walked through the park.
The concrete noun “cookie” refers to a material object. The Platonic or reification error is to conclude that because the cookie refers to a material entity in the first sentence, the abstract noun “walk” must therefore refer to a “nonmaterial entity” in the second sentence.
No, all the abstract noun “walk” does is function the same as the verb “to walk”. It tells how the boy behaved.
An abstract nouns is used grammatically the same way as a concrete noun is used. However an abstract noun only does the same job of informing that a verb or adjective does — namely how a material object behaves or behaved, or something else about the material object such as how it is colored, whether it is round or square or triangular, etc. or whether it is hard or soft.
Got it now?
Yea, so it’s wrong to say that abstract nouns function as nouns semantically, correct?
— Original Message —
Sent: September 4, 2014 11:11 AM
Subject: Re: From an ignostic
No, it’s not a mistake to label abstract nouns “nouns”. Concrete nouns and abstract nouns are both labeled “nouns”. You can break language down into two parts: syntax and semantics. The term “syntax” refers to grammatical structure, whereas the term “semantics” refers to what a writer of the vocabulary symbols arranged with that structure means by them. Abstract nouns function syntactically the same as concrete nouns but semantically the same as verbs or adjectives, to help tell others about what we mean by our concrete nouns. I also agree that “syntax” and “semantics” are themselves abstract nouns used to help describe the material things that we label “sentences”.
In a message dated 9/4/2014 8:41:04 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
So you’re saying abstract nouns are real, it’s just a mistake to call them nouns because they are really verbs or adjectives, right?
— Original Message —
Sent: September 3, 2014 10:04 PM
Subject: Re: From an ignostic
In a message dated 9/3/2014 11:29:26 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
I would give you one example, but I really don’t think it would do any good.
As long as you assume that all abstract nouns are useful falsehoods (instead of possible realities), you will assume it’s falsity from the beginning.
I would never say that abstract nouns are “useful falsehoods” and not realities! There is nothing false about action, and “action” is an abstract noun. All actions are realities if they take place. There is nothing false about consciousness. Many people are conscious, so why would I not say cases of consciousness (people being conscious) are false? I don’t understand why you would think that just because abstract nouns are grammatical forms of verbs and adjectives, I would say they are something ‘false’.
You are consistent in your worldview (and that’s laudable), but it’s also the problem. The reason being–every explanation you or I give will assume our worldviews (because they are starting points of our worldviews). The very words I would use to explain myself would be discounted.
For example, I’ll give an illustration.
David: “Information” is an example of a real abstract noun.
Information is the abstract noun form of the verb “to inform”, or in the past participle tense “to become informed”.
Ed: Things can be “informational” such as books and newspapers, but “information” is just word trickery (the noun form of an adjective). Since it’s an abstract noun, it’s a useful tool, but false.
No. I would never say that. I would say people can become informed from books and newspapers. There is no word trickery at all when using the abstract noun “information” to refer to people becoming informed. You seem to be looking for something that I say that is dogmatic, but I don’t say anything dogmatically. I wouldn’t say any of those things that you had me saying in that hypothetical dialog.
Let me know your thoughts.
Sure thing. That’s what I’m trying to do. I hope I’m succeeding a little better. I must not have succeeded if you think I said abstract nouns are “useful falsehoods”.
I don’t think the possible realness of abstract nouns are outside your capacity of thinking.
Of course abstract nouns are real — they’re useful words and they are used to tell about real attributes and activities of material things.
You said you once believed them yourself. I pray that you may believe in them again. And that this may lead you back to the aspects of Jesus which you now see as incoherent.
I appreciate your saying that. I do wish Christianity were true so I could live on and on. But I know I have to die. I take consolation in the realization that being dead can’t be bad, since when you’re dead you’re not even there to know you’re dead and that you’re missing out on anything. It’s like before you were born.
But really now, Dave — how can I believe abstract nouns are anything but grammatical forms of verbs and adjectives to tell of material things? It’s so obvious that that’s exactly what they are. “Information” is a grammatical form of the verb “to inform”. That was too easy of an abstract noun to demonstrate what verb it was a grammatical form of. Want to try to challenge me with another abstract noun that might be a little harder for me to find its root verb or adjective, maybe one that would require a verb phrase or adjective phrase instead of just a single verb or adjective?
Shrewd Dove Apologetics
Date: Mon, 1 Sep 2014 21:48:39 -0400
Subject: Re: From an ignostic
In a message dated 9/1/2014 3:25:32 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
>>Even if they (kids) did, they’d only be able to think of something material like Zeus or Thor or the Mormons’ god.<<
As I’ve stated, studies by Bradley Wigger show that kids have imaginary friends who are invisible which they believe are real.
Yes, they imagine finite-sized material people being there, just like we can imagine finite-sized material unicorns being there even though they’re not. Invisibility is no problem because we can all feel invisible material air against our skin. We constantly breathe it in and out and sense it going in and out of our lungs, mouths and noses. Kids blow up balloons so they’ve long known there’s something invisible inside the balloon. So invisibility is no problem. They can just compare it to their experience with material air.
I remember playing cowboy as a child. When you were caught you were “arrested” and “placed” in an imaginary (material) jail. I remember twisting my hand pretending to be turning a key “locking” a friend in an imaginary (material) jail. I remember saying “lock lock” when I’d “turn the key”. LOL. I’ll bet you played stuff like that when you were a kid. Kids imagine a lot of things. But you can be sure they never imagine anything to label “an infinite, omnipresent, incorporeal spirit that created everything but the infinite, omnipresent, incorporeal spirit that created everything but itself”.
This is a great example that kids don’t have to have material “noun” referents (which aren’t just “useful tools”).
But they’re imagining that real people are there.
I don’t Bob Stanley (the site’s editor) is a good representative of Christianity as a whole, just by the use of apocryphal verses.
I’ve read about the picking of December 25th for Christmas, (believed at that time to be the solstice, the shortest day of the year, although it was a few days past the solstice) and the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox for Easter.
The story goes that in the 3rd or 4th century the Catholics took pagan sun-god worshipers’ holidays for Christmas and Easter. They thought that since the sun-god worshipers were already accustomed to celebrating those days, that choosing those same days for the Christian holidays would make it easier to convert them to Christianity.
Anyway, I don’t think the choice of December 25th for Jesus’ birth is biblical. Nor is the choice for Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox for the resurrection of Jesus.
But this is totally irrelevant to our discussion of our difference, which boils down to your belief that abstract nouns are more than just grammatical forms of verb and adjectives.
I’m saying it has a meaning in your mind when you’re using it as that particular useful tool.
Of course I mean something when I use “screwdriver” to speak of a useful tool. And yes the usage rule for a screwdriver is indeed stored in the neurons of my brain. I know you think putting “-ing” on the end of the verb “mean” magically causes it to change from a verb for
“to use a word to refer to something”
to an abstract noun referring to something to label
“a spiritual nonmaterial thing”.
I don’t know how to suspect that in the least. I would be more likely to be able to believe that unicorns exist than I would to believe in the magic of abstract nouns. They are just forms of verbs and adjectives. They don’t do anything to label “refer to nonmaterial things”. So I really don’t get it at all. I cannot for the life of me figure out how people can fall for that word trickery. But they sure do. I used to myself.
But even as a useful tool, the abstract noun does have a meaning.
I agree completely with you that we always mean something when we use abstract nouns. Abstract nouns certainly have a use — the same use as the adjectives and verbs they are grammatical forms of. .Abstract nouns are tools to help us speak of material things. So are the verbs and adjectives that they are grammatical forms of.
Whatever its value is within a context is its meaning.
Yes we speak that way when we mean that we are using the abstract noun to describe a material thing. Abstract nouns, like their root adjectives and verbs, are used to tell about material things.
I am able to think of these abstract nouns as actual entities (even if only in my mind), I think you just mean that these things are not real. But that is wholly different from being meaningless.
But surely you realize that they are just forms of verbs and adjectives, right? Surely you can see that? No, I guess not, I couldn’t have when I was a Christian.. Since you can’t, not, then pick any abstract noun that you think isn’t a grammatical form of a verb or adjective (or verb or adjective phrase). We’ll discuss it.
I never said I didn’t believe in material world (I even said that I believe God is material because of Jesus Christ), so yes it is part of my worldview. In the same way I am also a “dog-ist” and “cat-ist” because they are part of my worldview. When I say “materialist” I’m saying “a person who believes that nothing other than the material world is real.” In that sense I am not a materialist (I’ll call this “pure materialism” from now on to make the distinction).
That’s good. Just don’t claim that my worldview is OUTSIDE of yours. We are just unable to accept your claim that abstract noun forms of verbs and adjectives are anything more than tools for describing material things.
But what makes you so dogmatic about the truthfulness of the reification fallacy?
You’re making a “nonmaterial thing” out of the abstract noun “reification”. I don’t know how to even begin to suspect in the least that adjectives and verbs made into abstract nouns refer to anything like concrete nouns do. That’s got to be the word trickery you’re falling for.
I invite you to pick an abstract noun that you think is more than just a grammatical form of a verb or adjective so we can discuss it.
Proponents of it say that reification is the fallacy of treating abstractions as concrete things, but what they are implicitly saying is “treating abstractions as real as concrete things (which are actually real).” That is an arbitrary premise that is automatically assumed. (Unless you assume pure materialism–also arbitrarily.)
There is nothing arbitrary at all. I’ll say it again. Pick an abstract noun that you think is more than just a form of an adjective or verb to help describe a material thing or things.
Like I said, if you were truly open-minded then you wouldn’t assume the falsehood of Platonism any more than you would assume the truthfulness of pure materialism. These are both unfalsifiable assumptions, yet are stated as brute facts.
I don’t assume anything but the fact that abstract nouns are forms of adjectives and verbs and adjective phrases and verb phrases. And that the verbs and adjectives which they are forms of are words to help us speak of material things.
Please name a particular abstract noun that you think isn’t just a form of a verb or adjective for describing a material thing. I really want to discus such a thing.
That’s why every time I explain my meta-ontology, you say that the words I’m using in the definition are trickery. This is the obvious entailment of pure materialism. This is why I said we would have to agree to disagree or else go in conversational circles.
I think we may be nearing that point.
Before you bow out, please specify an abstract noun that you think isn’t just a form of an adjective or a verb or adjective or verb phrase that is used to help describe material things.
I’m very sorry to hear how hard it is to be open about what you believe. I live in San Francisco where Christianity is openly mocked and constantly ridiculed in ads, plays, in the news, and so on. In that sense, I feel that I am in somewhat the same situation as you. I have not been in the Bible belt, so I don’t know how it is, but from what you say it’s worse than my situation. I guess you could say that the internet is your sanctuary as the internet and Church groups would be my sanctuary.
I was going to post this email exchange on my blog (and I still plan to), but I’ll make your name anonymous (and remove this part) so it doesn’t affect you. Thank you for telling me your story. I really appreciate your honesty. If I were to move near you, I would want to be your confidant and I think we might be good friends.
Yes we would. If you lived around here and met me you’d think I was a good Christian, like my friends think I am. I don’t fight Christianity. It teaches good ethics in dealing with other people. I’m sure Christianity helps some people to stay moral who otherwise would not.
I would hope that even if everybody suddenly realized as I did that they were falling for word trickery, churches would continue right on to serve the needs of the people.
I think you’d like ignostics because we aren’t negative like atheists. I remember atheist Madalyn Murray-O’Hair. While I’m sorry she, her son and granddaughter were brutally murdered, I never could stand her negativism towards Christianity.
I hope you don’t think I’m ridiculing you. How could I ridicule you for being exactly where I used to be? In fact I’m really trying to analyze this whole thing out and find out where I really used to be and why.
So I am interested in how you (and me formerly) are (were) able to believe that abstract nouns are anything but grammatical forms of verbs and adjectives and their phrases. Can you single out an abstract noun that we can discuss? I know I’ve said that over and over, but I did so in hopes that you will.
Shrewd Dove Apologetics
Date: Mon, 1 Sep 2014 12:14:07 -0400
Subject: Re: From an ignostic
In a message dated 9/1/2014 5:31:30 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
Not all cultures have a Santa Claus,
But Santa makes a great training god in cultures that do.
and this is besides the point that children develop God-beliefs during infancy (before they understand who Santa is or even the language used to describe him).
Even if they did, they’d only be able to think of something material like Zeus or Thor or the Mormons’ god.
This Catholic thinks there is a connection between “sun” and “Son”:
So is it you that gives it [“thing”] meaning or the fact that it is concrete that gives it meaning?
As I’ve said before, words have no intrinsic meaning. They only have rules for usage found in rule-books known as ‘dictionaries’. We give a word meaning when we use it to refer to something we are imagining and wish to tell others about. That is, when we MEAN something by it. Notice that the word “meaning” is an abstract noun form of the verb “to mean”.
So a word can be a tool, but not have meaning? It sounds like you’re either trying to have it both ways or conflating definitions of the word “meaning”.
I’ll rewrite your question so you can’t fool yourself with abstract noun word trickery, i.e., refication:
“So a word can be a tool, without anybody using it to mean anything?”
Yes indeed. It’s like a screwdriver lying on a work bench. It’s a tool without anybody using it for anything.
If you will take time to realize that “meaning” is the abstract noun form of the verb “to mean” and not something to refer to anything to label “a nonmaterial thing”, then you’ll understand.
I’m not criticizing the use of abstract nouns at all. They are very convenient. I use them a lot. I just say that you should realize what they are — grammatical forms of verbs, verb phrases, adjectives and adjective phrases, conveniently used the same way as concrete nouns. But grammar is the end of their similarity. Don’t be fooled by saying “Since concrete nouns refer to material things, then abstract nouns refer to nonmaterial things”. That’s the error of reification.
Like the word “unicorn” a word can be false, but it doesn’t mean that the word doesn’t have meaning (as you have stated). This would make sense in your worldview if you stuck to the criterion that a word must have a material referent. But once you say that you can have “useful tools” in your vocabulary, then (by definition) you are no longer restricted to speaking about things that have material referents–namely the “useful tools” (“thoughts” and “things”; which are not material).
No, those useful tools are abstract noun forms of verbs and adjectives. “Thought” is to “think” as “behavior” is to “behave”, and also as “consciousness” is to “conscious”. “Thing” can either be used as a substitute for a concrete or an abstract noun. I keep telling you that you are fooled by abstract nouns. You constantly make the error of reification. Your mantra is “Since concrete nouns refer to material things, then abstract nouns refer to nonmaterial things”.
Thoughts are what we do with our brain, we think. “Thought” is just the abstract noun form of the verb “to think”. Walks are what we do with our feet. “Walk” as used here is the abstract noun form of the verb “to walk”. (Sometimes the abstract noun for a verb or adjective is the same as the verb, and other times it is spelled entirely differently.)
I already told you the differences between our meta-ontologies. You restrict your definition of the word “being” to material referents (which is why it pains you to even say the word “being” instead of “____ is to be”)
Why don’t you tell me what you’re use “being” for — not just stick verb phrases after it and claim to have spoken of something. I use “being” to refer to an animal or something similar, as is “human being”. But like all words, I don’t use “being” unless I am imagining something for “being” to refer to and wish to tell somebody about it. I don’t do as you do and just stick verb phrases or adjective phrases after it, as though I had something to label “being” in mind when I don’t.
>>Ignostics are not closed-minded like atheists.<<
It’s funny that you say that
But we’re not. We just understand that abstract nouns are forms of verbs and adjectives. If you think that’s wrong, then explain why.
then just two more commentaries later you say, “But isn’t that just more reification — abstract noun trickery?” If you were really open-minded about the subject, then you wouldn’t assume its falsehood; you would just see it as a potential hypothesis.
The fallacy of reification assumes the materialist worldview, so you can’t use it as a defeater for Platonist constructs.
Actually you have the exact same materialist worldview that I have per se. I say that because any material thing one of us points to, the other of us will agree perfectly that what the one of us is pointing to is a material thing. So to be truthful, you’d have to say that my worldview is a SUBSET of your worldview, not something outside of your worldview.
The difference between us is that you think you have something else — something that you think abstract nouns can furnish in accordance with your mantra “Since concrete nouns refer to material things, then abstract nouns refer to nonmaterial things”. No indeed, abstract nouns are grammatical forms of verbs and adjectives or verb phrases and adjective phrases. They merely make language more convenient to speak and write. That’s all. Every sentence containing an abstract noun can be rewritten using only the root verb or root adjective of the abstract noun.
It would commit an actual fallacy–namely circular reasoning. When I discovered Platonism, I didn’t just say, “Well that commits the fallacy of ‘not-agreeing-with-the-Bible’. You can try to show how it make sense, but I just don’t know how to make sense of it based on my worldview.” I first tried to see the truth of it on the merits of it’s own worldview.
Why don’t you try attacking my claim that abstract nouns are simply grammatical conveniences? Namely, I claim that they are just forms of verbs, adjectives, verb phrases, or adjective phrases, used grammatically the same way as concrete nouns. That’s what you must do to defeat ignosticism or theological noncognitivism. You must justify the Platonic claim of reification and show that it is not an error by showing that abstract nouns are more than grammatical forms of verbs, adjectives, adjectives, verb phrases, or adjective phrases.
>>Have you apologists started searching for a way to attack us “non-reifiers” to try to get us to start reifying? I think you haven’t.<<I don’t think this is a primary concern for Christian apologists right now unless the belief is rising as you say.
People aren’t going to keep reifying forever. They’re starting to see that abstract nouns are just forms of adjectives and verbs. Only a few years ago, nobody had ever heard of ignosticism or theological noncognitivism.
People naturally believe in abstract nouns, which is probably why there are so few ignostics.
Of course we believe in abstract nouns, too. All ignostics and theological noncognitivists believe in them, and use them regularly. They just realize what they are — forms of verbs and adjectives. What else could they be? We need to discuss abstract nouns.
If people were naturally ignostics, then no terms within virtues, analytic logic, or mathematics would have arisen.
I am a retired college mathematics professor. Numbers are adjectives of quantity, and yes, like all adjectives, they have abstract noun forms.
(I say “probably” because there are no polls to be cited since ignosticism is a minority within the minority of atheism).
I don’t like the term “atheist”. It requires faith in reification.
Ignosticism is a sub-category of what I believe is the strongest and positive form of atheism there is–namely materialism (which is implicit in your worldview and explicit in most of your criterion).
You seem to think materialism is something that I have that you don’t have. But as I mentioned above, you ALSO hold my materialist worldview. You just believe you also have something else in addition to a materialistic worldview to label “a nonmaterialistic worldview”. We ignostics just see that reification and Platonism are word trickery.
And I do very much respect your willingness to meditate on these important issues and hold my feet to the fire. Most Atheists and Christians alike are not willing to tackle these issues which are so crucial to the validity of their worldview.
And I very much respect your willingness to discuss this with me. Most Christians would walk away with an angry scowl on their face saying “Satan is your god, so keep serving him!”. So I stay in the closet locally, and only admit my ignosticism to non-local people. Admitting it locally would be social suicide, especially here in the “Bible Belt”.
I don’t have to mention this, but I will anyway. I am a former Christian. And – believe it or not, I am still an active church member, attending and supporting it financially and in other ways. Churches are great social clubs for moral people, and they help the poor and needy. All my friends are Christians. They don’t suspect in the least that I’m a hypocrite. I bow my head, recite the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed, and take communion just as all my friends do. When in Rome…
Date: Sat, 30 Aug 2014 11:52:18 -0400
Subject: Re: From an ignostic
In a message dated 8/29/2014 10:11:22 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
The point, as I’ll repeat, is that you had an abstract notion in your mind when someone said “cell phone” that you could attach a definition to afterwards.
Yes I speak “I had a thought of some phones”, but all I mean was that I thought about some phones”. Abstractions like “a thought” are part of language only. They’re just abstract nouns, which are forms of verbs or verb phrases or adjectives or adjective phrases spoken grammatically the same way as concrete nouns are spoken. We speak of “having a thought” grammatically the same way as we speak of “having a car”. But a car is a real thing to have. But there is nothing to label “a thought”. We just speak that way when we are talking about ‘somebody thinking of something’.
The fact that abstract nouns are spoken grammatically the same way concrete nouns are spoken fools lots of people into thinking they’re talking about things when they’re only talking about behaving. We even turn the verb “to behave” into the abstraction “behavior” as though there were a thing to label “a behavior”. But there is not. When we speak it as though there is something labeled “behavior”, we are only talking about somebody behaving. I suspect that the religionist’s error is what is known as “reification”. Reification is when an abstract noun is treated the same as if it were a concrete noun that referred to or physical entity. Concrete nouns refer to physical entities, and people are tricked by abstract noun by saying “They stand for nonphysical entities”.
The fact that the verb “to think” and “to behave” have been given the abstract noun forms “thought” and “behavior” fools people. It fools them into thinking there is more to “a thought” and “a behavior” than somebody thinking of something or behaving a certain way, but there isn’t.
Also you could have not known what a phone physically was and still used the term. If you overheard someone say, “These new ‘phones’ let you communicate though long distances of space.”
Well I was terribly misspelling that haha. Interesting that it’s a community as well. This was actually hear-say from friends that went to Vegas.
I understand what you’re saying with describing proper nouns with nouns now. That point is well taken. My analogy had to do more with the point of intersection where meaning enters words (similar to the ‘when’ in the last point.
>”That children are born knowing that a bunch of adjective stuck by a row of three letters refers to something to worship.”
No, they know the noun, not the adjectives.
I think children start out believing “God” refers to a material Santa Claus sort of thing. In fact I would guess that Santa Claus is their “training god”. Santa rewards kids for being good, and he knows when they’ve been good or bad, so “be good for goodness sake” as the song goes. If you’re bad, he punishes you by bringing lumps of coal instead of presents. That sounds like a kiddy religion to me. My parents taught me that if I was bad Santa would bring switches for them to whip me with. Christmas seems a long way off to children, just like death and resurrection to young adults. So it sounds as though the Santa myth was concocted to get kids ready for their brainwashing into religion. Also, since Santa comes at Christmas, that makes it easy to make a connection with Jesus, and wise men bringing presents. So children’s first god might just be ol’ Santa. Maybe Easter Bunny too, although I never believed in the Easter Bunny, like I did Santa. That connects with the other big religious holiday of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
That’s why they can’t outright say the attributes. I gave you the adjectives because with God there is only, so I can’t give noun examples other than Himself. That’s why I gave evidence that others can experience God, even if you can’t.
It seems to me that if you or anybody could do anything to label “experience God”, then you or they would do so. It is obvious believe that Christians feel an emotion of awe and reverence that is triggered by “God”-talk.
By “highest”, I’m referring to degrees of ontology (not dimensional measurements, as I’m sure you’re aware). In this sense a highest being would be “perfect” in all their attributes.
“Highest” and “perfect” are just more adjectives for your row of letters. But the row of letters “God” is merely declared to be a noun. Is your ontology any more than piling on more adjectives for your row of three letters?
There is obviously some commonality about the word “god” (even with a small “g”) if you are willing to group them under such a heading (such as Zeus and the Mormon god). I’m curious as to what you think that is. I know it’s more than flesh and bones, but not necessarily an object of worship (since some gods are to be loathed).
I think early man’s first god was the sun. It was something they could see and they knew existed, not anything they needed any faith to believe in. They saw how our very existence depends on the sun. The sun looks like a big fireball up there. Early men worshiped the sun and no doubt thought lightning came from the sun, and that the sun was throwing fire down and would show its wrath by killing some people now and then with lightning bolts. Then lightning would cause fires, and fire is bright like the sun, making fire something “sacred”. It’s easy to speculate what early humans might have believed about the sun. Also there is the theory that Christianity evolved from sun worship. Christmas is around the winter solstice, the shortest day, after which the sun starts to stop shining shorter and start shining longer Easter is around the vernal equinox after which the sun begins to shine longer than it stays dark. The “rising of the sun above the darkness” is connected with “the rising of the Son”. I wonder if there is some etymological connection between “sun” and “Son”. .
I can say the same thing for the word “wild-card”. “Wild-card” is a meaningless 8 letter word with no material referent.
Just as I’ve said before, all words are intrinsically ‘meaningless’ until somebody gives them meaning. They are like all tools. Tools have usage rules but nothing is accomplished while they lie unused on a workbench. Words are the same way. Words likewise have usage rules but they don’t ’emit’ any meaning just sitting in a dictionary. They only take on meaning when somebody gives them meaning.
>>I don’t know why you use that word [“thing”] either.<<
I can’t and don’t use “thing” unless I can give it meaning. But if I can give it meaning, why shouldn’t I use it? I can’t and don’t use a screwdriver unless I have a screw to turn. But if I have a screw to turn, then why shouldn’t I use a screwdriver to turn it?
It seems to “transcend all possible human thought” as you might say.
No, “thing” is useful like any tool. We use it to speak of our ‘human thought’. When we have a human thought, we can use it to tell others what we’re thinking about. “Thing” when not in use doesn’t ‘transcend human thought’ any more than a screwdriver not in use ‘transcends screw-turning’.
>”(That got cut off.)”
It wasn’t cut off, just unusual grammar on my end. I was saying that our conversation won’t find a conclusion because of our differences in meta-ontology.
You haven’t told me anything about “metaontology”. Why don’t you? Or is it just more reification?
>”Physical material things comprise everything I have any reason to suspect that can be imagined … My theory is that people are tricked by abstract noun forms of verbs.”
You seem to be okay with “morality” being a noun (as you’ve stated in a previous email) and not merely things being “moral”.
Yes it is. Moral people treat others as they would like to be treated themselves. It’s good common sense to figure out that other people are like me. I know I’d like it if others would me nice to me and help me out. So I figure others are like that too, and so it’s common sense to make a deal. “You treat me nice and I’ll treat you nice and we’ll both be happier than if we treated each other badly”. To be moral is perfectly reasonable.
As with “logic” and “reason”, these don’t have material referents but are referents themselves
This brings up abstract noun ‘reification’ again. “To reason” is a verb, and “reason” is the grammatical noun form. “Logic” is “doing reasoning” (unless you are speaking of Boolean algebra, a mathematical system used in computer design). I keep telling you how I suspect that reification is the root of “spirit”-talk, leading to “soul”-talk and “God”-talk. The abstract noun “morality” is just a grammatical form of the adjective “moral” which refers to ‘behavior’. And in turn, the abstract noun “behavior” is a form of the verb “to behave”. Sure I’m OK with abstract nouns. I’m OK with the abstract nouns “morality” and “behavior”. But I can’t regard them as anything more than grammatical forms of an adjective and a verb respectively. The language has evolved so that we speak them the same way grammatically as we speak concrete nouns. But that’s just the way the language evolved.
>”What reason do you suspect [something other than the physical and material] makes sense?
What reason do you suspect it doesn’t make sense?
Because I don’t know how to get any sense from such talk. What sense do you think there is to get from it? Tell me about it. Ignostics are not closed-minded like atheists.
Both yours and my assumptions are unfalsifiable. I just see that there are axioms that are not material which we can’t deny (such as purpose, meaning, morality, logic, etc.). To put it more rhetorically: What “reason” do you suspect “reason” to make sense? (A person has to use it even as they try to deny it. It’s axiomatic.)
I can only see this as more reification. “Purpose”, “morality”, “meaning”, and “logic” are abstract noun forms of verbs or verb phrases, adjectives or adjective phrases. “Pupose” is used to speak of ‘why you behave as you do’. I’ve already mentioned “logic”, the adjective “moral” and the verbs “to behave” and “to reason”.
>”Tell me about your ontological and meta-ontological theories…”
I already did. I was just saying that you believe that no word can carry meaning unless it has a material referent and I believe properties (immaterial axioms in my view) can be referents in themselves. (A person can be moral and logical but that does not mean morality and logic aren’t things in themselves, for example.)
But isn’t that just more reification — abstract noun trickery?
This is our systemic difference that I think we must agree to disagree on.
It seems to me that religion is based on the error of reification. Religion requires the illusion that abstract nouns are like concrete nouns. It’s like you’re saying “Concrete nouns refer to material things and abstract nouns refer to nonmaterial things” What ignosticm or theological noncognitivism is essentially about is reminding religionists that they’re making the error of reification by making themselves think that abstract nouns aren’t just grammatical noun forms of verbs, verb phrases, adjectives, and adjective phrases.
Have you apologists started searching for a way to attack us “non-reifiers” to try to get us to start reifying? I think you haven’t. But I think you should work on it if you have any plans to face the era of those who suspect that reification is just word trickery and that religion is based on it. Ignosticism is a growing movement. Atheists and Christians are converting to it. Atheists who become ignostics label it “strong atheism”. So as an apologist, you should take it seriously. Your Internet article I responded to shows that you’ve thought about it.
— Original Message —
Sent: August 27, 2014 10:24 PM
Subject: Re: From an ignostic
In a message dated 8/27/2014 9:25:14 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
I was saying that the Biblical Jesus is synonymous with Yahweh of the Old Testament, whom has characteristics that you find meaningless such as “creator of the universe”, etc.
Now that spiel would be incoherent to me. But the story of a man named “Jesus” born of a virgin growing up to hang out with a bunch of disciples and going around doing magic and preaching morality, then getting cruelly crucified, is quite coherent.
>>Yes indeed I learn new words periodically. New technology comes along and I learn of that too.<<
This completely contradicts your first two methodological assumptions though. Namely, “1. You can’t use a word until you define it.
There’s no contradiction there. I never use words of new technology until they get defined and I learn of them. I never used “cell phone” until it was defined, and I learned of it.
It has to be more than just a row of letters before you can put a predicate after it. and 2.
Indeed “cell phone” would have been just a meaningless row of letters in the 1800’s, but it got defined in the late 1900’s. Nobody could have put a predicate after “cell phone” in the 1800s, but they sure can now.
In order to be able to define a noun, you must be able to imagine sensing something for it to refer to.” Why can you do this “define after hearing the term” with “Xxyzyx”, but not “God”?
“Road” is a very coherent noun. If you had just stuck adjectives and verbs by “Xxyzyx”, I would have known no reason to suspect in the least that it was coherent. But you told me it was a road. You told me what “Xxyzvx” means, prompting me to looked it up:
Zzyzx, California – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. It’s not only a road in the desert, it’s a community in California.
But unlike what you did with “Xxyzyx”, all you’ve done with the row of letters “God” is stick adjectives along with it. That’s doesn’t give me any reason to suspect in the least that you’re meaning anything by it.
I have given evidence that we already have this “stone” since childhood but you won’t accept it.
I won’t accept what?? What is there to accept? That children are born knowing that a bunch of adjective stuck by a row of three letters refers to something to worship? Oh come on. You know better than that. They might be born with the desire to adore something, but they really don’t know diddle squat about anything to label “God”. They certainly don’t know about any row of letters with a bunch of adjectives surrounding it meaning anything.
Of course if you keep repeating “there is no ‘stone’, describe it to me” then of course I will give you adjectives.
But you haven’t described any “stone”. You’ve just stuck some adjectives alongside a row of three alphabet letters. And then accused me of not accepting something!!! You can fool yourself that way, and some atheists too, but you can’t fool an ignostic with word soup. You’ve got to describe something to imagine sensing.
You’re asking for a word dictionary to give you pictures. But I, and developmental psychology, says that we already have the picture.
Sorry, you can assert all you like that adjectives stuck alongside a row of letters causes the row of letters to mean something, and that I just won’t accept whatever you think it means, but I can’t buy that. Atheists might buy it as something to not accept, but not ignostics or theological noncognitivists. It’s like you had said “You just refuse to accept that each autonomous individual emerges holographically within egoless ontological consciousness as a non-dimensional geometric point within the transcendental thought-wave matrix.” 🙂
That’s what that sounds like.
The difference is that there are many animals but only one God, by definition (since there cannot be two highest beings).
So you’re saying “this row of letters ‘be’s’ the highest”. What ‘be’s’ the highest? The peak of Mt. Everest be’s the highest place on earth. When it comes to people, the guys up in the space station ‘be’s’ the highest people right now. Personally I know of no reason to suspect in the least that you’re using your reasoning powers at all here. It seems that you’re operating solely on faith in words to transcend all possible human thought.
You can assess the most common features of all the “gods” there are in the world, but those traits are things you would say are meaningless (for reasons described in my next point).
The Mormon god is not meaningless because he is made of flesh and bones and is easy to imagine him up there with his harem of wives. Zeus is easy to imagine too. The ancient Greeks drew pictures of him, made statues of him, and even put his picture on coins. No, the word “god” (small “g”) is coherent.. The ancient Greeks and the present day Mormons describe their god. They describe them as looking just like humans. They don’t just stick adjectives alongside their rows of letters. They describe their gods.
>>The word “being” is just a form of the verb “to be”.<<
Yes, and that form is a noun–namely “something that exists”. You are able to give meaning to the word “thing” as you have said. You do this for reasons that I can’t understand. I would just as well think you would ask a person, “What is this five-letter word? It is a word with a usage context but is meaningless.”
What can’t you understand? I can give a usage rule for “thing”. We use “thing” when we don’t know of, or can’t think of, any word to label what we want to speak of. “Thing” is a wild-card word. It can be used in place of any noun. That’s its usage rule. I only use it when I can give it meaning.
The reason I said that this may come down to our differences of ontology and meta-ontology is because you can’t seem to imagine a “thing” that doesn’t have a material referent ontologically, and you can’t seem to distinguish that there are beings that are referents themselves apart from that material referent meta-ontologically, respectively.
That’s a mouthful, but I think this is an important point for this discussion–one that may cause us to part ways and agree to disagree because of.
(That got cut off). You haven’t said anything for me to disagree with. I just don’t know of any reason to suspect that you’ve spoken of anything that you label “God”.
For me, I can start with these beings as “stones” and go from there.
What ‘be’ what stones?
But for you, this seems as impossible as a blind man trying to read roadsigns (no disrespect in this analogy intended). The reason I do believe you aren’t that blind man is because you do use the word “thing” (and do what entails, such as keeping an open mind as to a possible referent for the word Xxyzyx).
Yes I do use the word “thing” when I can’t think of any other word for what I’m imagining to be talking about. But I don’t use “thing” or “being” or any row of letters unless I can give it meaning, i.e., imagine something for the row of letters to stand for.
From this it seems to follow that you are more a materialist (or at least physicalist), which entails that you are a theological noncognitivist.
Yes I would label myself a theological noncognitivist, a physicalist and a materialist. Physical material things comprise everything I have any reason to suspect that can be imagined and therefore spoken of coherently, for they exhaust everything I know how to imagine or think of. I think your faith is that words can somehow transcend everything that can be imagined. Isn’t that really where your faith lies?
(Continuing) The thing is that having a basic understanding of a being apart from a material reference is something many people have the capacity to do in their thoughts.
I know of no reason to suspect that they really do, but I have reason to suspect that they think “something other than the physical and material” makes sense. What reason do you suspect that it does?
My theory is that people are tricked by abstract noun form of verbs, verb phrases, adjectives and adjective phrases. Abstract nouns are spoken grammatically the same way as concrete nouns, and I think this tricks lots of people into thinking they refer to “non material things”. Take the abstract noun “consciousness”. That’s just a form of the adjective “conscious”. It’s very meaningful to speak of a person being conscious or unconscious. But the fact that the suffix “ness” has been stuck on the end of that adjective has tricked lots of folks. They think of the abstract noun “consciousness” as tough it referred to a “thing”, when it’s merely a grammatical form of an adjective.
Please read these last two portions closely. I think if we cannot reconcile our meta-ontological differences, I don’t think it’s reasonable to continue our discussion.
Tell me about your ontological and meta-ontological theories. I’m game. Or you can bow out of the discussion as you choose. I still think you apologists have spent all your efforts on debunking the atheists’ mantra “God does not exist”, and the agnostic’s “God may or may not exist”. You seem totally unprepared to take on the ignostic, physicalist, materialist, theological noncognitivist, or any ilk of people who admit that they don’t know of any reason to suspect that words can transcend all possible human thought.
Subject: Re: From an ignostic
Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 09:30:29 -0400
The point was that the truly Biblical Jesus should be incoherent to you based on your worldview which you have already stated. Sorry for the repetition.
I don’t know why you would think words referring to anything that can be imagined would be incoherent to me. Maybe you’re confusing “incoherent” and “nonexistent”. Remember it’s the atheists who talk about things being nonexistent. We ignostics don’t. We talk about certain speech being incoherent. The words “unicorn” and “mermaid” are both quite coherent because we can imagine sensing unicorns and mermaids, even though there is no reason to suspect in the least that either of such things exist. It’s the same with Jesus performing miracles. I can imagine him performing miracles, so of course it is coherent. I even grant that there could have been a man name Jesus who went about teaching morality and was cruelly crucified on a cross. But I know of no reason to suspect that such a man ever violated physical laws.
Xxyzyx is a road on the way to Las Vegas as I have stated in multiple emails. The point was that you can have a yet-to-be-defined term (blank term; akin to saying “thing” as you arbitrarily do) in your mind before you find out the definition (as I stated in those previous emails).
Yes indeed I learn new words periodically. New technology comes along and I learn of that too. I remember when I would not have known what “cell phone” meant. I would have wondered if they were allowing prisoners to use telephones in their cells. 🙂
How else would you describe a noun? Adjective are descriptive words by definition. Would you not accept adjectives to describe someone named Bob?
It’s like carving a stone statue. The noun is the stone and the adjectives are the hammer and chisel. You can’t carve a stone statue with hammer and chisel only. You must have a stone. I agree that adjectives are necessary to modify the noun just as the hammer and chisel are necessary to modify the stone. But without a noun there is nothing to attach adjectives to. I know what a human is, and when people say “someone” I know they are talking about a human. So they have implied “human”. Then I have something to attach adjectives to. If you said “God is a human who…” or “God is a monkey who…” then I would have reason to suspect that you are speaking coherently. But if you say “God is a spirit who…” or “God is an incorporeal being who…” then you have done no more than substitute one incoherent row of letters for another.
Can I take this chance to show you how this conversation sounds reversed on my side (using the analogy of an animal)?
Me: “Animal” is a six letter word that is meaningless.
You: What? “Animals” are beings that can move voluntarily, grow, reproduce, learn, and are conscious….
But I wouldn’t say that. I would teach you the usage rule for the word “animal”. I’d say “See this dog? It is an example of what we label “an animal”. See this cat? It is another example of what we label “an animal”. We humans are another example of things that we label “animals”. The word “animal” is a general word that humans have coined to speak of any of these living things which can move about on their own. The general word for living things which cannot move about on their own is “plant”.
An agent is being that has volition (power to act within itself), usually a person.
The word “being” is just a form of the verb “to be”. What be? Now I understand “person”, for it is synonymous with “human”, a kind of animal, which we just discussed. You and I are persons, i.e., humans, so I have no problem understand “person” as long as you use it to mean “human”. I understand “Jesus” because he was supposedly a human. If you say “God” is used to refer to a human who…, then I will understand what you are talking about.
It seems to me that “to have a use for the word” is arbitrary and based on your personal preference. If you know how to use a word, that assumes there is at least some meaning behind it–namely its qualities within a context. If a word was truly meaningless, then you should not be able to contextualize it at all.
I know the usage rule, i.e., how to use a bandsaw, but if I have nothing to cut, then I probably have no use for a bandsaw. Knowing the usage rule for a tool does not mean that I have a use for it. It’s the same with words. When you wish to speak of something, then you have a use for a word whose usage rule is for what you have in mind.
I know the usage rule for “god”, and if I am thinking of Zeus or the Mormon god, and want to speak of it, then I have a use for the word “god”.
We ignostics know of no usage rule for “God” with a capital “G”. We also know of no reason to suspect in the least that you know of a usage rule for it either. We hear you speak it and see where you’ve written it, but we know of no reason to suspect that you even know of a usage rule for it to have a use for it.
How can one describe without adjectives?
That’s like asking “How can a sculptor carve a stone statue without hammer and chisel?” Of course I’d agree he cannot. However if he has no stone, all the finest hammers and chisels in the world cannot help him carve a stone statue. You adjectives and verbs are like the hammer and chisel. Where is your “stone”? We suspect that you have none and are tricked by the row of letters “God”, assuming it is a “stone” and you put your adjectives and verbs with that row of letters, and trick yourselves into believing you have “carved a stone statue”. That’s the word trickery we suspect that you have played upon yourselves.
(This may come down to our differences in ontology or meta-ontology. )
We ignostics simply go entirely by what we can imagine. We know of no reason to suspect that words of ontology or meta-ontology or philosophy or anything else can transcend human thought.
Shrewd Dove Apologetics
In a message dated 8/25/2014 11:25:14 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
You say, “Like Rolheiser, I cannot imagine anything that the row of letters “God” (not “Jesus”) refers to.”
Rolheiser was clearly talking about “the mystery, announced in Christ … that Christianity defines dogmatically about God”. So you should not be able to imagine the true Jesus since He contains all these attributes you find meaningless.
If you think I have any reason to suspect that that is meaningful, then tell me what reason you think I have to suspect it, OK?
In the statement about Xxyzyx, you asked, “I’m sorry. You lost me here. Can you be more specific as to what you’re talking about?”
I was giving you an example. My point was that we start with blank terms all the time, in which we later infuse with meaning in our brains. So your statement, “You can’t use a word until you define it” is bogus.
I don’t think you really think I have any reason to suspect that it makes any sense to use an undefined word. I cannot know what you are saying unless you can describe what you’re talking about for me.
You say, “I’m not able to imagine anything that “God” refers to, nor able to suspect in the least that you can either.”
If I say that, then show me that you know what you’re talking about by describing what you’re talking about to me, so I won’t be able to say that anymore. Fair enough?
Well you also say “Yes I can imagine a finite-sized material thing like that…” when I give you the definition, so just extend your imagination to the highest versions of that powerful, knowledgeable, moral agent in your mind.
What kind of an highly powerful, knowledgeable, moral agent do you claim to have in mind that you think I can imagine? Describe such an agent and I’ll imagine it. But saying “it’s powerful, knowledgeable and moral does not describe anything that is powerful, knowledgeable and moral. Listing adjectives without describing a noun for them to modify is the word trickery you Christians use to fool yourselves into thinking you’re talking about something when you’re not. Atheists fall for that word trickery too. If you have an agent in mind that is powerful, knowledgeable and moral, then describe what is powerful, knowledgeable and moral. We’ll talk about its description.
You’ve used (and seemed to understand) superlatives in our conversation and Rolheiser’s article (such as “anything”, “all”, “infinite”, etc.).
No I don’t. I suspect that Rolheiser’s faith is like your faith — faith in words to transcend thought. No, I don’t consider “infinite” coherent. Etymologically speaking it would mean “not finished” or “not all there”. But anything is all of what it is. I don’t get any sense from “infinite”. If you do, tell me about it. “Anything” and “all” take on meaning when you give them meaning. People confuse usage rules (definitions) with meaning. Words have usage rules, but they don’t take on meaning until we humans give them meaning. Words are tools. We may know the usage rule for a tool, but that doesn’t mean we have a use for the tool. It’s the same way with words. If I write the word “cat” on a piece of paper, it is meaningless. Certainly “cat” has a usage rule, but unless I’m thinking of a cat to use the word “cat” to speak of, then “cat” remains meaningless, even though it has a usage rule.
You say, “I’m probably the first ignostic you’ve ever run into.”
No, actually I’ve run into a couple ignostics before you (otherwise my initial article wouldn’t have been written). You just repeat the same mantra that certain words have no meaning and there will never be a possibility that they can ever have meaning.
Where did you get that? Oh no! Not at all! I’m always open for you to tell me what, if anything, you are imagining for a word to refer to. But when you just list adjectives and verbs along with a totally indefinite word like “agent”, then what am I supposed to imagine? Describe an agent, and I won’t say it’s meaningless.
It’s usually only words of your choosing. You seem to be perfectly fine not questioning other abstract terms like “logic”, “morality”, “minds”, referentially-absent terms (such as “none”, “not”, “no”), inquiry-based terms (such as “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “why”, and “how”), purely existential terms such as (“is”, “am”, “are”), tense based terms (past, present, future; words with -ed’s, -ing’s, etc.), mathematical objects (such as numbers, sets, infinities), and superlatives (such as “best”, “greatest”, “highest”), and purely epistemic terms (such as “thoughts”, “knowledge”, “propositions”).
Read again up there where I said that all words are actually meaningless until we give them meaning. I see that I must keep emphasizing to you to realize the difference between
- a word’s having a use
- you having a use for it.
To know a word’s use is one thing — but to have a use for the word is quite another.
Yeah, you guys seem to only have a problem with theological terms.
I agree it’s mostly only such terms as “God”, “soul”, “divine”, “holy”, — and yes “infinite” — that we get no sense from. But as I keep saying, no word has any real meaning until you give it meaning. Don’t confuse “knowing how to use a word” with “having a use for it”.
Hardly do you ever say “that doesn’t make sense to me” to any of those terms stated above (unless I use them as analogies). It seems very inconsistent to me.
Look, if I say something doesn’t make sense, then all you need do is describe what you’re imagining that you’re talking about. When you don’t, then what can I do other that suspect that you can’t? — because you don’t know of anything you could be talking about — yet feeling emotionally as though you do when you really don’t. When I say “That doesn’t make sense to me”, I’m really saying “I get no sense from it, but if you are imagining anything for it to refer to, then describe what you’re talking about, so that I will be able to imagine it too.”.
You said, “If you believed “God” referred to the magic man Jesus”
No… I’m referring to the generic deist-theist God as I stated. So my question, “Why the Mormon god but not the God (as I have defined)?” still stands.
You say, “I’m only speaking American English, not South African English.”
My point was, as it was before with Xxyzyx, that we can have blank terms in our minds that are later infused with meaning.
I don’t know about “blank terms”. But if you are imagining something for what you are talking about, then please describe it so I can imagine it too.
You say, “Yes I can imagine Jesus…” when I said that God can be material.
No I was talking about the generic deist-theist God.
I really don’t get any understanding for the words “the generic deist-theist God”. But instead of saying “It’s meaningless”, I’ll just say if you’re imagining anything for that to mean, then describe it to me, so I can imagine it too.
You say, “I’m only speaking American English, not South African English” when talking about “zop”.
Again, the point was the same as Xxyzyx. The analogy was just a bit stronger because the term did have meaning, even if you didn’t yet know it.
That’s right, and you taught me that “zop” does have meaning in South African English. In fact I even looked it up and found you were right. It’s used to pay somebody a compliment. I learned something. Thanks. But it was purely a coincidence that I chose that particular row of letters. I thought I had chosen a sequence of letters without a usage rule, but I was wrong.
And people have mixed language vocabularies that aren’t meaningless (Spanglish for instance). I’m sure you know some words in other languages.
Sure. As long as you describe what you’re talking about, I won’t accuse you of speaking meaninglessly. The trouble is, when it comes to “God” all you do is spout a bunch of adjectives. But adjectives are meaningless unless you can describe a noun that they can modify. When you tell me just to extend my imagination to an agent that has the highest versions of power, knowledge, and morality agent, you don’t tell me any agent you’re imagining, so why should I assume you are imagining one?. “Agent” is too general a word. You may as well just say “thing”. Describe whatever agent or thing you are imagining so I will have a reason to believe that you are talking about an agent and not just listing adjectives.
Shrewd Dove Apologetics
No ignostic claims “Jesus” is incoherent. Indeed I can imagine Jesus. Even the magic of virgin birth, walking on water, turning water to wine, feeding multitudes with only a little fish and bread, resurrecting from the dead, or ascending in the sky. That’s all imaginable. But I don’t understand how in the world anybody could even suspect that any of that happened.
If that was all you Christians believed and you said “God only came into existence 2014 years ago”, I would just be an atheist with respect to Christianity and Mormonism, and only an ignostic relative to Judaism and Islam. But Rolheiser wasn’t talking about Jesus when he was doing his “God”-talk.
I’m going to try to make it simple:
- I only know how to believe in what I can imagine, i.e., think of.
- Like Rolheiser, I cannot imagine anything that the row of letters “God” (not “Jesus”) refers to. It does not trigger any thought of anything in my head. But unlike Rolheiser, I don’t know how to suspect in the least that there’s anything there but three alphabet letters.
- I also don’t know how to suspect in the least that you or anybody else knows how to think of anything for the row of letters “God” (not “Jesus”) to refer to. For I can only suspect that if you could you could describe it for me and then I’d be able to imagine it too.
You say, “You can’t use a word until you define it.” but I gave you the example of Xxyzyx. You had the term (which you would say is meaningless at first). Then it was defined, not before.
I’m sorry. You lost me here. Can you be more specific as to what you’re talking about?
And regardless, as I’ll say again, we have the definition of God beforehand (since childhood) even if we can’t put it into words (just like most people know what a “thought” is even if they can’t put it into words).
I’m not able to imagine anything that “God” refers to, nor able to suspect in the least that you can either.
You say, “In order to be able to define a noun, you must be able to imagine sensing something for it to refer to.” So you can’t imagine an agent who is powerful, knowledgeable, and morally good? I find that odd because we find it all the time in other people.
Yes I can imagine a finite-sized material thing like that, but nothing you or any other Christian would label “God”, and nothing that could be labeled “creator of the universe”.
I’m probably the first ignostic you’ve ever run into. Atheists and agnostics all share your faith in the coherence of the row of letters “God”.
I also find it odd that you can imagine the Mormon god, but not the deist-theist God.
If you believed “God” referred to the magic man Jesus, and nothing else, I’d be an atheist, not an ignostic. I’m not discounting the fact that somebody named Jesus could have gone around preaching good morals, and was cruelly crucified on a cross for claiming to be the king of the Jews. That could have happened. But I don’t know how to believe that he did any magic.
You say that the difference is flesh and bones. Then imagine this deist-theist God with flesh and bones. Let me point out again that children just say that agents don’t have to be confined by material, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t. Or can you still not imagine this being? And if so, why not this but the Mormon god?
Yes I can imagine Jesus, and can even believe there was a good man named that who was unmercifully crucified. But I can’t believe in any magic — even if you say “It wasn’t magic, it was miracles”. But I don’t believe you say “Jesus created the universe”.
You say, “Ignostics put the row of letters ‘God’ in the same category with rows of letters such as ‘zop'”. It’s funny you mention the word “zop” because this is actually an expression of sympathy in South Africa.
Really? Hahahaha. Then make it “splop”.
Is this unacceptable to you, since you first had a term with no meaning, and now have meaning attached after?
Oh, I just made up “zop”. It’s not an American English word. And I’m only speaking American English, not South African English.
I read Ron Rolheiser’s article. I would agree when he says, “The infinite cannot be circumscribed by the imagination. It has no floor and it has no ceiling, no beginning and no end. The human imagination cannot deal with that”–that God is incomprehensible as is trying to imagine all the numbers from 1 to infinity. I would disagree when he says that we don’t have the language to describe Him though (unless there are qualities about Him that He has not revealed).
But since we’re talking about the Christian God specifically, then you just have to look to the link I sent in the previous email or just read about Jesus. He is a God who has flesh and bones (as you seem to need for imagineability).
Yes I mentioned Jesus above.
We have to be able to think of sensing something for a word to mean; otherwise we have no reason to suspect in the least that it refers to anything at all.
“Why can’t you start with a predicated word then define it? and What more of a definition do you want?”
- You can’t use a word until you define it. It has to be more than just a row of letters before you can put a predicate after it.
- In order to be able to define a noun, you must be able to imagine sensing something for it to refer to.
Mormons claim that their Heavenly Father (whom they often label “God”) has a body of flesh and bones.
If Christians said “God has a body of flesh and bones” I would merely be a atheist, not an ignostic.
I say “Unicorns do not exist”. That’s because the word “unicorn” is coherent since we can imagine sensing unicorns — even though we know of no reason to suspect in the least that any unicorns actually exist for us to sense.
I say “The Mormons’ Heavenly Father does not exist”. That’s because the term “the Mormon’s Heavenly Father” is coherent since we can imagine sensing a super-man with flesh and bones living on a planet with a harem of wives. It’s coherent even though there is no reason to even suspect in the least that it refers to anything existent.
However I do not say “God does not exist”. That’s because the sound “God” does not refer to anything I can imagine sensing, and I know of no reason to suspect in the least that it refers to anything that anybody else can think of sensing.
The reasoning of the ignostic is simple. It’s based on what can be thought of — what can be imagined as being sensed. Unicorns do not exist. However, the word “unicorn” is meaningful because unicorns can be imagined as existing and being sensed. (Yes I repeat myself.)
Language was invented by humans, and thus they can express only what humans can imagine themselves as sensing. While we can imagine sensing unicorns and the Mormon’s Heavenly Father on that planet with his flesh and bones and harem of wives, we cannot imagine anything to label “bliffle” or “smoop”. These are just rows of alphabet letters, or combinations of sounds. Ignostics put the row of letters “God” in the same category with rows of letters such as “zop”.
A well-known devout Catholic priest, Ron Rolheiser, says this:
God is infinite and, thus, by definition unimaginable and impossible to conceptualize. That’s also true for God’s existence. It cannot be pictured.
You might go there and read his entire article.
So in a way, actually Father Rolheiser is agreeing with us ignostics, although he is a devout Christian. His faith apparently is in manmade words to be able to “venture out beyond the thinking capacity of humans and refer to something that cannot be imagined as being sensed”.
Furthermore we know of no reason to even suspect in the least that the row of alphabet letters “God” makes any sense to anybody. So we suspect that your faith is like Rolheiser’s. It rests foremost is the ability of language to transcend human thought.
You might say our “motto” (if we had one) would be:
“If you are talking without being able to imagine sensing anything you could be talking about, then you may as well be flicking your lips going ‘bwibbuh bwibbuh'”
IOW, we have no concept, no idea, of anything you (or atheists) could be speaking of when you utter or write “God”.
We just simply get no more from the sound “God” or “creator of the universe” than if you had said nothing at all.
Do you understand where we are coming from?
We must be able to think of sensing something for a word to mean; otherwise we have no reason to suspect in the least that it refers to anything at all. (Yes I do repeat myself!) 🙂
In a message dated 8/24/2014 10:47:46 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
As I said before, a newborn is an ignostic about everything except its birth; so this is not a good analogy. You have much more experience and have been given terms that have been defined for you (including God), but a newborn hasn’t.
(Again) child psychology is important because it shows that you and I already have a definition of God ingrained in us (which is why I presuppose you know, along with the generic adult definition you have).
I have studied all the major faiths actually (including Mormonism), although I am always looking to learn more (so thank you for your exposition). But you haven’t given me a reason why the “god” of Mormonism is coherent but the “God” which I have defined in a variety of ways isn’t.
I ask you again Ed:
Why can’t you start with a predicated word then define it? and What more of a definition do you want?
Or how about this one:
What is it about the words in your vocabulary that has made them acceptable? Please give me a methodology. Pick any word that you accept and explain to me please. (Maybe some words in your last paragraph “w-h-a-t” or “n-o-t” or “i-s”. Any one of these will do.)
Shrewd Dove Apologetics
We’re getting off the subject onto child psychology and such. A newborn baby’s only god is its mother. Now let’s get back to the real difference between us.
Whether we have developed a natural need to worship something is irrelevant to our difference. If you’ve studied the Mormon faith, (and most non-Mormons haven’t), you know that they worship a tangible physical superman, named “Heavenly Father”, with flesh and bones who lives on a planet in some constellation Kolob who practices polygamy with a harem of wives, and who was once a mortal human. They say “polygyny”, not “polygamy” because a man can have many wives but a woman can have only one husband. Mormons don’t practice polygyny today because they consider it sinful to break manmade laws) Good Mormons think they themselves become gods on a par with Heavenly Father. Now such a god as theirs, although quite unbelievable, is nevertheless coherent.
You must realize that we ignostics are not atheists. Now we could be said to be ‘atheists’ relative to the Mormon god, and I think you could be too.
But putting the Mormon god aside, we ignostics have as much beef with atheists as we do with non-Mormon theists. Notice that your opening sentence, like many of your other sentences, contains the row of letters “God” as though it referred to something. It’s like I said before. You apologists have been concentrating all your efforts on trying to counter what atheists say. It’s as though you didn’t know we exist. But as a Christian apologist, you must realize that ignosticism is a growing movement. It’s not going away.
The classic methods of apologists does not work on ignostics. You can’t blurt out “God”, “spiritual”, “not material”, “soul”, “holy” or “divine” to an ignostic or theological noncognitivist without defining something that you could be meaning by them first. Otherwise you may as well be flicking your lips with your finger going “bwibbuh bwibbuh”. You must understand that although atheists and agnostics share the faith with you that “God”, “soul”, “not material”, etc. are coherent terms, but refer to nonexistent imaginary things, we ignostics cannot.
We get no understanding from the row of three letters “God”, because you have not given it a definition. You think you have, but you haven’t. You have merely placed the row of letters “God” before predicates and assumed that the predicates magically give it coherence. But that’s word trickery. Atheists fall for your ‘predicating’, but we ignostics cannot. As I said above, you can get away with that with atheists and agnostics because they share your faith that the row of letters “God” is a coherently defined word. But we ignostics know of no reason whatever to suspect in the least that “God” refers to anything at all. Placing a predicate after a row of letters does not furnish us ignostics with any comprehension of anything.
That is our real difference, not whether or not we have through evolution developed a natural need to be moral or to worship something, due to survival of the fittest. If so, the ancient Greeks satisfied their need to worship something with Zeus and Thor. The Mormons satisfy their need with their polygyny-practicing flesh and bones superman on a planet. So even if we have developed a natural need to worship something, what ignostics claim is that you’re not really worshiping anything, but only tricking yourselves into believing you are by the use of word trickery.
In a message dated 8/23/2014 11:47:03 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Even if we had a gene granting us the belief in God, it does not make it therefore false.
You can say “I think children think” all you want, but you would have to read some developmental psychology before your statements have any weight at all. Right now, they’re just opinions.
Next, I didn’t say kids thought God was “not material” or “creator of the universe”. I said kids do not necessarily confine God materially and adults define God creator of the universe. Studies by on imaginary companions by Bradley Wigger show that agents need not be visible to kids.
Neither I nor the psychologists whom I read didn’t “concoct predicates” either. The experiments weren’t just done by asking the kids “Is God very powerful/knowledgeable/perceptive/etc.?” Give them a bit more credit than that. These aren’t just Christians and those that are don’t just put an abstract concept titled “God” in front of them to talk about.
That said, there is nothing in which we learn where we develop the idea through foundationalism. Like your hospital example, we are given terms we don’t understand and the meaning of those terms are developed in our minds until we think we fully understand them. That goes for everything; not just “G-o-d”. You say “one cannot begin with a yet undefined row of three alphabet letters” yet we have done it for every word we ever learned!
You say, “Of course I believe that morality is common sense.” I’m not saying people can’t understand morality in a basic way. I’m just saying that you have not provided to me any argument in favor of morality being real. You say, “Yes you can utter ‘God is common sense’ but that doesn’t say anything.” Why can’t a moral ignostic say the same thing for morality based on your logic? You say “life would be better” but the moral ignostic would say “the word b-e-t-t-e-r is just a 6-letter construct which is meaningless.”
You tell me, “you must not speak words that are not part of [the ignostic’s] vocabulary without first defining them.” But can’t a medical doctor give you a term you don’t know then explain it after? Or would that not be acceptable to you?
Here’s an example. There’s a thing called “xxyzyx”. It is a street name on the way to Las Vegas. Are you okay with this definition? If it is, why not for God? Now, before you respond, apply this to everything you’re going to ask me in the future.
I’ve already said that we have a natural understanding of God since childhood (which has been defined by Barrett), I’ve given you the generic definition of God by adults, and I’ve linked you to the Christian definition of God.
What more of a definition are you asking for?
Shrewd Dove Apologetics
I know you said “children have a natural idea of God wholly apart from the influence of others”. Maybe evolution has provided us with such a “god-believing” gene, since historically man has always invented gods. But I think children think “God” means a big material god like Zeus, maybe like one of these finite sized men that they may have seen paintings of:
I don’t know of any reason to suspect in the least that the words “something not material” can refers to anything. I see it as just a concoction of words just like “to create the universe”.
Can you describe what you think children think “God” refers to without using such word concoctions as “not material” or “creator of the universe”? I know of no reason to suspect in the least that either makes any sense.
I agree that you can concoct predicates, i.e., adjective and verb phrases to place after the row of three letters “God” such as “is very powerful”, “knows/perceives lots”, “is not mortal”, “designs things”, and “is moral”. But these predicates have no defined grammatical subject.
You Christians merely place the row of letters “God” before them as though “God” were an already defined grammatical subject for them. However one cannot begin with a yet undefined row of three alphabet letters, place predicates, i.e., verbs, adjectives and adjective phrases after it and then expect the verbs, adjectives and adjective phrases to magically cause the row of three alphabet letters to become a coherent word. That’s the sort of word-trickery you Christians fall for.
Yes, we as children use our natural intelligence to reason that we must do timing, be kind to others, and to realize that other people act and think like we do. And I agree that if we didn’t assume them, then scientific investigation would not have even begun.
No I don’t “flat out” assume anything is ‘absolutely true’ or ‘absolutely false’. I know of no reason to suspect in the least that there is any such thing as “absolutely certainty”, although we do all speak as though there is such a thing. We can never know that our minds didn’t go bonkers 5 minutes ago, and that everything we now think we remember never happened or that which we think we know is not the case. For all we know at any moment we may have started hallucinating 5 minutes ago and what we think we are now sensing is not really there. We likely wouldn’t realize it if that were the case. We just assume and hope this isn’t the case. But we never know for sure.
Of course I believe that morality is common sense. It puzzles me why you would think morality isn’t something we can reason out for ourselves. Surely our superior intelligence to other species tells us that life will be better if we treat each other as we ourselves would like to be treated.
So I say it is more reasonable to treat others the way you want to be treated, and with our superior intelligence we can figure that out. That says something. Yes you can utter “God is common sense” but that doesn’t say anything. Other species may not have the intelligence to reason that morality is the best policy, but we humans do — at least most of us do, and most of us humans practice morality most of the time. I believe in the moral teachings of Jesus. “Love thy neighbor as thyself”, “Turn the other cheek”. There may have been such a good person. But I have no reason to suspect in the least that he performed miracles.
I only referred you the article on a type of mind-reading because you brought up the classic philosophical “problem of other minds”. I agree that what we think with our own brains, we can always keep private now if we so choose, but I’m not convinced that technology will always be unable to read and interpret neural activity.
I just say that I know of no reason (as you have given me none) to suspect in the least that you can really imagine anything that you would label “God”, nor anything to label “not material”. I see “not material” as a word trick.
I think you should realize as a Christian apologist that if you are to defend Christianity to a non-Christian, you must not speak words that are not part of his or her vocabulary without first defining them, not predicating a row of three alphabet letters and assuming it is thereby defined. I can’t think of anything to label “not material”, “God”, or “soul” and know of no reason to suspect in the least that you or anybody else can either.
Lastly, I think you Christian apologists have spent all your time studying only how to debunk atheism and agnosticism, not ignosticism (aka. theological noncognitivism). Atheists and agnostics have not yet figured out that modern religion is due to word trickery. They erroneously think religion is a belief in a god. They are wrong. Religion is the illusion of a belief in a god, not a belief in a god.
What I says of the Sarte quote, “Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.” is:
First of all it is indeed only an illusion, and secondly if the meaning you have given your life is based on this illusion, then losing it is good riddance. The sooner we realize our mortality, the better prepared we are to make the most of this only life we will ever have. Once you’ve lost that false meaning, give your life a real meaning. Share your time, your energy, your heart with others. Find someone around you that could use a helping hand. You’ll be amazed at what meaning such as that will give your life.
In a message dated 8/23/2014 4:43:32 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
I don’t think you read my response fully. I said that children do have a natural idea of God wholly apart from the influence of others.
This work in developmental psychology is consistent across religious and irreligious households, across various countries, and consistently changes in an expected manner across age-groups.
This being is not a Zeus, fairy, or materially-confined. This development also coincides with the development of their understanding of death too, so it’s not a matter of “they just can’t accept death.”
To be frank, all your statements about what children believe are wrong and seem to be purely based on commonly held opinion.
I already named the attributes that they commonly hold (superpowerful, superknowing/perceiving, immortal, designer, and moral); and those attributes hold up to the generic maximally great being adults explicate.
When I was talking about time, morality, other minds, and the external world, I was making the point that those are properly basic beliefs. We naturally and arbitrarily assume the truth of them first before we inspect them. If we didn’t assume them, then none of the scientific investigation concerning “no-time theory”, evolution, and neural firing would not have even begun.
For time, you just flat out assume it’s false (maybe because it supports my argument) even while implicitly evoking it. Every sentence is laced with time-referencing words. Take out all the -ing’s, -y’s, -s’s, -ed’s, and anything else related to past, present, and future, then try to write back to me haha.
You say “morality is common sense” but you’re not explaining how it is real. I could say “God is common sense” just as well. Most people do agree on altruism, but not all species that have survived today do. In fact, most animals act through an altruistic struggle of fear, power, or unconscious work, not mindful caring and love.
For minds and the external world, you reference an article that shows that we can map thoughts. I’ve read more recent articles on neuroimaging and I don’t see how this takes away distinctions between individuals or the world (unless you believe there is no such thing as distinctions and the entire universe is all one being).
Lastly, you say that because my “calf” isn’t made of “jewelry” it is meaningless. I may have a Christian understanding of God but just because He isn’t a purely physical being it does not therefore mean that the words I use to describe Him are meaningless or make Him less powerful. After all, I don’t believe you or I are only material and it does not detract from our value or power. And in fact, I do believe in a material God (although not purely materially constrained). I believe in Jesus Christ.
I’m glad that you will try to make the most of your life. But to me, those words are meaningless if death is all there is to come. As Sarte once observed, “Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.”
Shrewd Dove Apologetics
Thanks for your reply, David. It’s fun to discuss differences in the way our brains work.
Children aren’t understanding anything that any adult would label “God”. They are thinking of some big thing like Zeus or a big fairy in the sky. What children imagine is not anything that any adult would label “God”.
There is nothing to label “time”. We only do the activity of timing, and say “There is a thing called ‘time'”. But there is only motion through distances. A clock only measures motion through distances. There is no thing to call “time”. We just do an activity of timing. Something happens, then something else happens, over and over.
Morality is common sense. It’s common sense to agree to be kind to each other. “I’ll treat you nicely if you’ll treat me nicely”. We’ll all have a better life if we are nice to each other. Common sense say we’ll all be better off if we help one another. The golden rule is just plain common sense — not something dropped down from the sky. And we have these natural emotions of caring for others that we inherited through evolution. Species that didn’t care for each other died out. Species that loved others survived.
Science is working on reading minds, determining what the neurons are conjuring up. I think it plausible that someday science will figure out the brain, and how the neurons work. I can’t rule that out that someday electrodes can be hooked to a brain and a person’s thoughts read. This shows they’re working on it:
Once brains can be read there’s just ‘the world’, no need for the terms “external” and “internal”. Everybody will in principle have access to everybody else’s thoughts and feelings.
Newborns have reasoning powers. They learn by observing regular causes and effects.
Adolescents have heard lots and lots of language that at first made no sense to them at all. Then later they learned that it made sense after all. So they assume that “God”-talk is like that.
It doesn’t faze them that they cannot imagine anything for “God” to refer to. They just assume it’s like other language that they don’t yet understand. They think “Someday after I die and resurrect these utterances will make sense even though they don’t make any sense now”.
I was once visiting a hospital and overheard two doctors discussing a particular patient. They were using medical terminology. I listened awhile and what they were saying made absolutely no sense to me. However I believed fully that they knew exactly what they were talking about, and that it was coherent. That’s the way people are with “God”-talk. They just assume it is coherent. But it isn’t.
Humans are the only animals smart enough to know they must die. That’s a hard fact to face — that we all have a death sentence. That’s the reason humans invented religion — to convince themselves that there is a way to beat the grim reaper. But there isn’t. It’s too bad, but there isn’t. They’re not “born-believers”, they just refuse to accept the reality of our ultimate permanent death. Ancient people couldn’t accept it either, so they made gods out of their imagination.
But modern Christians, Jews, and Muslims are too smart to accept a god made out of their imaginations, so they achieve the illusion of a belief in a god by making constructions of meaningless words. Your “golden calf” is made of meaningless words instead of molten jewelry. It’s too bad that there is no way to beat death. I can only try to make the most out of what life I have left.
In a message dated 8/23/2014 12:23:54 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Thank you for your sincere and direct response. I would like to say that my article was written a while ago (so I would like to add information to it) and it was also written with simplicity in mind (so I didn’t want to get too bogged down in the details of any one point).
First off, I say “presupposing God” because there is evidence that children have a basic and natural understanding of God; just like they have a basic understanding of time, morality, other minds, the veridicality of the external world, and so on.
Newborns have very little beliefs at all. You can say that they are also “scientific noncognitivists”. That is nothing to say the truth or reliability of the scientific method. So ignosticism based on the definition “the beliefs of a newborn” really has nothing to say about really anything at all.
Adolescents however, have much to say about God, even if they can’t properly define the term yet. Just like when we talk about and use “knowledge”, most of us cannot properly define it. We usually just say “when you know, you just know”. But it’s the same as “God is just God.”
Though, as I said, there is a definition in mind–even in the minds of children. To quote my book:
More recently, psychologist Justin Barrett takes it one step further and states that people are “born believers”. He says that we naturally tend to detect a “super-powerful, superknowing, superperceiving, and immortal” agent who is a “designer with moral goodness” and an “enforcer of morality”.[i] This is essentially the definition of what most people would refer to as God.
If you want to know more about the research involved, I’ll be updating my book soon and it’s only $0.99 (nice sales pitch, eh?). Or you can just buy Barrett’s book. It’s much more substantial in terms of the research exclusively (mine deals more with the philosophical implications first brought forth by Alvin Plantinga).
Also you say:
the ignostic has no concept of anything to label “God” or “Yahweh”, just as he has no concept of anything to label “Fod”, or “Zod” or “Zxcvbnm”.
But I would suggest that “Yahweh” as described in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament is very precisely defined (even more so than Zeus). For just a general theological sketch, you can see my article on the nature of God (as described in the Bible).
I would also assert that most people do have vague definitions of God with a uppercase “G” that all relate to one another. At least 50% of the world and 90% of America believes in God (or something like God). It is the deist-theistic abstract understanding. If you asked someone on the street of what the generic definition of God (apart from their religion), they would likely refer to something along the lines of: “Creator”, “transcendent Source”, “Higher Power” or something related to a “maximally great (greatest possible) Being”.
I hope that helps!
[i] Barrett, Justin L. “On the Train to Jaipur.” Introduction. Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief. New York: Free, 2012. 9. Print.
Shrewd Dove Apologetics
Hi. I’m an ignostic (theological noncognitivist)
You say on your site:
– Most of the time, an atheist or agnostic will presuppose a belief of God (in order to attack it) or presuppose an abstract view of God without forming a definition. The problem with this, the ignostic would say, is that it leaves them open to attack because they are presupposing God at the start.
I’d like to point out that those red words are not what any ignostic would say. My correction is this:
… The problem with this, the ignostic would say, is that it leaves them open to attack because they are presupposing that the row of alphabet letters “G-o-d” means anything at the start.
Do you see the difference? There is no word “God” (capitalized), or “Yahweh”, in an ignostic’s vocabulary. Like a newborn baby, the ignostic has no concept of anything to label “God” or “Yahweh”, just as he has no concept of anything to label “Fod”, or “Zod” or “Zxcvbnm”.
So no ignostic would speak “presupposing God” because he has no such word as “God” in his vocabulary. He does not believe that you or any theists actually believes in a god, but that you only have the illusion that you do.
Notice that we ignostics say that the word “god” with a small “g” is well defined. But with a capital “G” it is incoherent. It has nothing to do with existence or nonexistence, but only with ‘imaginability’.
The word “unicorn” is quite meaningful, even though no unicorns exist or have ever existed. As for the word “god” with a small “g”, for instance, the ancient Greeks believed in an imaginable god named “Zeus” and described him quite well. Zeus was finite, made of material. They drew pictures of him, made statues of him. So these gods are all meaningful. But “God” with a capital “G” does not refer to any god.
Atheists say “God does not exist”. Ignostics would never say that. Furthermore, as I said above, we would never say “Atheists presuppose God” for that is meaningless. We say “God” is not a meaningful word.
I could criticize your article further, but I’ll just stick with that rather than to run on and on.
Ed M, ignostic