Sunday, January 24, 2010

From the Human Imagination


  1. SE,

    I am not sure why you posted the clip you posted here, but I have a few hasty thoughts.

    I have an idea of "table." But I do not know "table" exists. I think I do; I have the phenomenological "experience" of table, but I do not KNOW that there is such a thing as "table", a table or tables.

    If anything, I infer table from the phenomena presented to me. But I do not know table in-and-of itself. Do I?

    Moreover, I have an experience of things that are not material; I experience things that are not sensible, or perceivable through the senses. There are a whole host of ideas I am contemplating right now, none of which is material. The very statement, as made in the film clip by the narrator, that he is a materialist and that everything that exists is material, is itself an immaterial statement (though seemingly a basic tautology): it is not tangible, empirical. Besides, can a blind quadriplegic feel or experience love, or the fantastic? If so, then knowledge can be of things not perceivable, of things immaterial and non-empirical.

    When I listened to just the first few words from this clip, I was stunned by the blindness the speaker had to his own presuppositions. When he said "construct" and "making sense," I chuckled; I knew where he was going and his prospects amused me: he's a materialist and yet expects immaterial ideas -- constructs, which is the set of ALL ideas -- to make sense. What does "making sense" even mean in a strictly material "sense"?

    Also, there is not a single definition of God in the Bible (one of those "books" on which theists rely), that exclusively presents the "construct" of God as being beyond materiality and measurability. The definition used in the clip is mostly derived from a philosopher's game: to talk like this IS to define God -- that He is circumscribed by humanity's current understanding of matter and measurement. But that God can't be measured or perceived is itself NOT a scientific or materialistic statement: no one has performed an experiment proving God is exempt from measurement or perception. The statement is anthropological -- we are limited, perhaps intentionally, in our capacity to know or perceive -- and theological, i.e., God is essentially transcendent and immaterial. But the definition that God is intangible, immaterial, and immeasurable is NOT derived from experience; it is not a conclusion drawn from logic or science. Hence, the very denial provides the possibility of his existence, and this without any material or empirical proof.

    And what does the speaker mean when a person can't be agnostic about "made up" words or constructs? All words are made up; there is not a word that is not an invention, an abstraction, a symbol. No single word, or set of words, ever reaches the totality of truth, meaning, or fixity. Every word, every sentence, is a paraphrase, a symbol. This, of course, is so obvious as to be almost laughable: To say "I am eating an apple" is not even remotely identical to actually eating an apple. Not even remotely. Language is a paltry, emaciated medium for expressing perception, truth, reality, mystery, and so on. But it's all we have.

    A more preposterous claim I've never heard: Theists, particularly monotheists, live, essentially, in the realm of illogic; that logic is meaningless for them in any epistemological sense. My God -- that is utterly stupid.

    I have no idea who the narrator may be, SE. Forgive me if I offend you by suggesting that what is presented in the clip is, in my opinion, the bright side of stupid.



  2. Dear Bill,

    Thanks for the comment. You always have something interesting to say.

    More later in response (perhaps). I never have the time I would like to have to blog and comment on posts.

    but I do not KNOW that there is such a thing as "table", a table or tables

    If you don't know that, how can you know anything? To even make that statement is to refute it.

    But I do not know table in-and-of itself. Do I?

    Sure you do. What's more, I know you know you do.

    Anyway, Bill, here's hoping to seeing you commenting here more often. After all, one can only take so much Ginx (God love him) before one is driven crazy.

    By the way, the video is by Francois Tremblay and I posted it because I think he presents his arguments well.

  3. SE,

    Thanks for the comment, and the encouragement.

    I did not present my comments casually. These are legitimate questions, ones few people are equipped to answer: What does it mean to know anything? How does a person KNOW a table is a table? How does one KNOW something exists, or not?

    These are not silly questions. Mr. Tremblay speaks as if it is just the simplest epistemological act to "know" the existence of a table. No, it isn't. In fact, what constitutes the act of knowing, and its corollary, knowing with certainty, is VERY far from simple or easy. Mr. Tremblay is dismissive of the very germ of the issue, the very pith: How do we know ANYTHING? And how would Mr. Tremblay prove his OWN existence, not only to me, but to himself? Indeed, let's talk about the things we agree do exist: How do we KNOW what we agree upon, and how do we prove the existence of these things we claim really do exist?

    If, as I suspect, Mr. Tremblay cannot prove the existence of the chair he is sitting on, then it follows, or so I think, that it is unlikely he can speak with any authority about the existence of matter, or the existence of God.

    Just some thoughts, crazy, crazy thoughts.

    Be well.


  4. Bill, your comments deserve a longer response, but for now I just want to respond quickly, though not, I hope, haphazardly.

    In my last comment I said that one of your statements refutes itself. If you had said, instead of the word "table", the word jukasueto (maybe that does mean something in a foreign language, but if it does, it's by coincidence, since I just made the word up) then we couldn't agree if it exists or not because neither of us knows to what that "word" refers. You say you have an idea of "table", but why do you have a grasp of the concept "table? You say you've had "experience" of table, but what is it to have an experience?

    This is the problem with your whole response to the video. If we can't know anything, then where did you get the concept of "know" from? To know something is to exist, for if you knew nothing, you would not be conscious, nor would you exist.

    Existence has to be presupposed for you and I to have this exchange to began with, and to discuss concepts that we both KNOW the meaning of, otherwise you're just talking nonsense, and yes, that is crazy.

  5. Bill: You have no experience of things that are not material. I can tell you that right now. If you do, please name one...

    These comments of yours are rather silly, I'm afraid.


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