What do atheists think that "to know God" means?

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by wynn, Feb 4, 2012.

  1. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Yet this was what you wrote.
    You imply I am a useless pedant when I think all I am doing is trying to get clarity from those I discuss with, yet if what you type does not match what you intend, how is discussion to proceed smoothly?
    My initial idea would because those making the claim have not yet clearly set out why they hold to it, making it difficult to assess where any disagreement might stem from.
    My other idea would be because those making the claim have not yet countered the analysis I provided of why I disagree with the claim... their issue either with the assumptions or with the logic. Thus making it difficult to assess where any disagreement might stem from.
    I would suggest either of these has to happen before we can even know where the disagreement lies, and one can not start to mend a bridge if one can not find it.
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  3. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    But if you look at the statement where I specifically raised it, your questions are not relevant .... IOW the gameplay you want to divulge in around the subject of "suffering material existence" is more suited to the other thread

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  5. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Let's have a look at a selection of your previous posts in this thread...

    Post #546: When being asked about specific differences between Scientology and Christianity (and the statement where you specifically raised it in this thread):
    Post #554:
    Post #558: (emphasis mine)
    Post #582: (emphasis mine)

    So while it's clear that, since your original post on this matter, you have been continually pushing the claim that there are inherent problems of material existence and moreso pushing for discussion on it (as in posts #558 and #582), you now seem to think that the questions intended to probe this claim are not relevant at all?

    What are people to think of you, LG, when faced with such blatant obfuscation and deliberate avoidance, especially on matters that you have so clearly made a point to raise in the first place? :shrug:

    I am not talking about "suffering material existence" - this is a strawman on your part.
    I am trying to understand your claim that there are inherent problems in material existence.
    Suffering was merely raised (I forget by whom) as an example of one such problems.
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  7. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    When I hear the word "problem," I automatically assume that it is in relation to a living entity. It doesn't occur to me to even think of the possibility that rocks could have problems.

    So when I hear the phrase "problems inherent to material existence", I automatically think of "problems that living entities have inherent to material existence."

    It is completely beyond me how anyone could even conceive of the possibility of a non-living entity as "having problems."

    Granted, it's fairly common to do so - "the biggest problem of the Renault Clio series are the brakes" or "this bridge has problems due to its long span" or "a mathematical problem."

    Problems don't exist on their own somehow; it is always living entities who have them (and some would argue that among living entities, it is only humans who can have problems).
    Those cars can just stand there, and as long as humans don't try to drive them, the brakes are not a problem; that bridge can be as it is, as long as humans don't use it; and the rows of math symbols can continue to be whatever they are, until a human comes along and troubles himself with them.

    But I would think you know all this, and it really seems to me that you are just arguing for the sake of arguing.
  8. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Thank you for explaining your position clearly. (And I do mean this genuinely).

    Unfortunately not everyone feels they can, or should, make assumptions of what is actually stated, especially when the person clearly has different views on so many related subjects.
    Hence the call for clarification when LG raised it - by myself and others.
    But it seems that rather than admit he was being unclear, he wanders off on obfuscation.

    Secondly, when one is required to make assumptions of what is actually said, and the person continues to use the original phrase without such assumption, then they can (unwittingly or deliberately) bring in to the discussion aspects of that phrase (to help their argument / position) that would not be there without such an assumption.
    I am not necessarily saying that is what has happened here - but it is a risk worth avoiding through the simple requirement of the person clarifying their usage of general phrases when they actually mean something specific.

    I would concur that they only exist with reference to certain things (e.g. life, and possibly certain types, as you say). E.g. such problems as the brakes of a car are not a problem for the car, they are a problem for the person wishing to drive the car.

    I would think it more than just humans. For example, I would say that any animal whose flight response is more than instinctual has "problems" that they seek to avoid by fleeing. If it is just instinct then perhaps it can not be seen as a problem.

    No - I am arguing for the sake of clarity - so that everyone is aware what is actually meant by a phrase that appears to claim that the very property (if one views existence as such, for example) of existence is problematic, without explicitly qualifying the phrase.
    That it takes pages of threads to get to a position where someone is willing to clarify one's position, when all that was called for was clarification, you wish to lay at my feet?

    Some of us try not to make assumptions regarding what others write and say, especially when they are generally coming from an entirely different viewpoint.
    It is precisely because I could not understand how material existence per se (e.g. a rock) could have problems that I raised the need for clarity, rather than make the assumption that may or may not have been intended.

    But we have clarification from you, at least.
    So thank you.

    You may consider such clarification useless and pedantic, but given the vastly different viewpoints that people can have, I find it better not to assume and to seek explicit clarification.
  9. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    On the contrary, if you go back to the thread where you originally raised this query, you will see that I responded in the same fashion straight off the bat. I thought it was bad enough on that thread when you dragged it out for 10 or so more posts ..... and I thought it was twice as worse when you decided to whip the same dead horse in this one.

  10. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    or more specifically, the unedited version

    Not too expert in scientology but I would say off the cuff that scientology doesn't really have anything to say about the ultimate nature of existence ( the role of the living entity, the role of the phenomenal world, the role of god .... and the interaction of all these three.) It seems that scientology is mostly about psychic phenomena ... kind of like "how to win friends and influence people" mixed in with reincarnation.

    IOW it doesn't really identify the inherent problems of material existence.

    Not sure how you could interpret that to go on a tangent about the apparent problems of rocks, tables and chairs ... particularly since you have previously flogged the idea to death in a different thread

  11. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    No, you didn't. You spoke around the subject with no straight forward clarification as per Wynn's above.
    And you avoided any explicit clarification of the issue.
    Yet despite the controversy that you knew your phrasing gave rise to then, and your lack of clarity at that time, you continued to use the same phrasing with an equal lack of clarity.
    Because I didn't respond to that particular comment of yours, but to your continued insistence that you were trying to get grumpy to accept that material existence has problems.
    I.e. you pushed what may have initially been a tangent into the fore.
    That others disagreed with you demonstrated that there was possibly a difference in understanding of what was meant by the term.
    Clarification was sought.

    But as usual, trying to get clarification on what you mean is like trying to extract blood from a stone.

    So we're still waiting for explicit clarification from you:
    Are you now admitting that when you refer to "material existence" that you do not refer to the very nature of existence (as it applies to all things that exist), or to the very nature of matter (as it applies to all matter) but to a small subset of those things... i.e. merely of material existence of those who can understand the concept of "problem"?

    Or perhaps you would prefer to drag this out even longer through further obfuscation?
  12. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Over the years, I have found it is rather easy to talk to LG.
    But generally only under the condition that one has pure motives (no excursions into Schopy's Art of being right, TYVM).
  13. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Sure, LG's a delight to talk to you if you don't push back on the obfuscation and avoidance when addressing lack of clarity or disagreements in assumptions or logic.

    And don't confuse "pure motives" with taking a non-equal role in a discussion.
  14. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I think that I agree with that.

    I'm more inclined to think that the analogy isn't very apt. It's more like this:

    If black holes exist, and if black holes are gravitational singularities, then existence (that which exists) has gravitational singularities.

    That needn't imply that everything that exists must be a gravitational singularity. It just says that gravitational singularities are part of the universe's inventory, we might say. These phenomena appear to be part of the things that the universe capable of generating. Perhaps we might even want to champion the stronger proposition: that gravitational singularities can be logically derived from the universe assuming that the universe includes a particular set of laws of nature and prior conditions.

    I think that ideas like dukkha are just saying that given certain prior conditions, namely sentient beings functioning in a particular way, suffering occurs.

    That isn't a whole lot different than the black holes case, as far as I can see.
  15. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    But you are taking a non-equal role in a discussion.

    By accusing the other party of obfuscation, you are shifting the responsibility for the clarity of discussion on the other party exclusively. And not only that, you present yourself as an authority on what is rational and what isn't, and if the other party doesn't live up to your standards, this to you means that they are irrational.

    There is a difference between saying
    I don't understand what you mean here. Do you mean that X?
    Stop obfuscating and be clear.

    Secondly, communication is often non-equal, at least periodically.
    By making a request for information, one is placing oneself in the subordinate position as one acknowledges to have a need that one cannot fulfill oneself and that another person is asked to fulfill.

    Among equals, there cannot be much discussion to begin with.
  16. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    As in my example with the watch in the box in the drawer.
    Because the watch is in the box, and the box is in the drawer, the watch doesn't stop being in the drawer.

    We exist.
    We suffer.
    We are part of existence.
    Therefore, existence suffers.
    But it is not implied tereby that all of existence suffers.
    There is something about existence that it is capable of suffering, at least in some instances.

    To say that suffering isn't inherent to material existence (or that problems aren't inherent to material existence) is to say that living beings (who experience suffering or problems) aren't part of material existence.

    Yes, and I think this is a fairly non-controversial point.
  17. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Or an intentional agent, at any rate. I can imagine robots encountering problems.

    Yes. 'Problem' in the sense of 'difficulty' (and intellectual problems are a subclass of that, I guess) seems to be one of those predicates that only seems to have meaning in reference to sentient beings. 'Believe' is another one, and probably pretty much all of the familiar psychological vocabulary would fall into that class.

    When I hear the phrase "inherent to material existence", I think of qualities that one finds in and predicates of material existence.

    And that idea in turn is fundamentally ambiguous and perhaps the recent eruption in this thread revolves in part around that ambiguity. (To the extent that it isn't just an ego-contest.)

    1. The strong universal interpretation, which seems to be Sarkus' construal of the phrase, is that "inherent to physical existence" means some hypothetical characteristic that is universal in, and definitive of, material existence in all of its many forms.

    2. A weaker existential interpretation (where 'existential' refers to existential quantifiers in formal logic and not to existentialism), which is how I tend to interpret the phrase, is that 'inherent to material existence' means one of the potentially infinite number of different and diverse ways that material existence might manifest. We could say that neutrons are 'inherent to material existence' in the sense that they are material things that exist, without necessarily implying that everything that exists in the material world must therefore be a neutron.

    Given this little analysis, I agree with Sarkus from his perspective. I don't think that 'problem' can be applied as a universal predicate to all of material existence. I don't think that the concept of 'problem' applies to non-sentient objects like rocks.

    But I also think that problems might be interpreted in what I called an existential manner, as arising in some aspects of material existence, and specifically its behavior in this case. So calling manifestations 'inherent to materal existence' would be an affirmation that they arise naturally from and remain securely part of the the larger material universe.

    It seems to me that denial of that idea might launch somebody into some sort of mind/body substance-dualism, and I'm not sure that Sarkus and company really want to go there.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2012
  18. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Oh, I agree that it is an ego-contest, and one that is on topic.

    Note that the First Noble Truth isn't so easy to see and acknowledge after all, regardless of how casually one might otherwise agree that there is suffering.

    It requires samvega, and then pasada, to acknowledge that there is suffering.

    Which is why I said earlier -
    One ought to count oneself lucky than one has come in contact with the Dharma and that one can practice in line with the Dharma.
    There are people who either suffer so much, or who are so overwhelmed with pleasure that they can't practice the Dharma nor have any Dharmic desires.
  19. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Nor that a gravitational singularity is an inherent part of existence... existence would do just as well without it.
    Agreed, but only necessarily so in those where black holes are known to exist.
    Agreed. But it is a far cry from claiming problems are inherent with material existence. I.e. even you are reducing the inherency to subsets of the whole, and being careful to steer clear of applying it the whole.

    As for the subsequent analysis - thank you - I think you have laid it out quite clearly, and I begin to understand the alternative interpretation.

    But if one holds, as LG does, that there are both material and non-material realms - and it is the non-material realm that provides "life", how can one lay claim that it is material existence that is where the problem lies, rather than the non-material realm?
    After all, if matter can get on fine without this non-material realm, can it not be argued that it is the introduction of the non-material realm into the material realm that is where the inherency lies - or at best the interaction of the two? Who are we to say that a purely non-material realm does not experience problems, whereas I think we are all comfortable that a purely material realm (i.e. "lifeless", in this dualistic scenario) has no problems.

    To me it seems that if one holds to such a dualistic concept then "problems" are inherent in the non-material... as any assessment, interpretation etc of a "problem" is also within that non-material realm.

    Maybe I'm digressing, though?

    From my own perspective, though, I have no issue with your existential interpretation - as I don't hold to the existence of a non-material realm. I don't claim it doesn't exist... I would consider my position on it to be akin to agnostic atheism.
  20. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    If we're exploring a claim that someone puts forward, there are two aspects one can explore (as you have done above)... firstly whether we ourselves agree with it from our own perspective, and secondly whether we agree with it once we look at it from that person's perspective - although this latter is often difficult given that we don't necessarily agree with all the assumptions and how that perspective is built up.
    But first we do need to understand that person's perspective.
    So I have no issue with going anywhere, as long as I have some clarity of the perspective.
  21. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    How do you know?

    What else do you believe that "existence could do just as well without"?
    Living beings?
  22. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Let me rephrase... "might", rather than "would".

    I'm not aware of anything that, to me, would rationally suggest otherwise.
  23. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I don't deny that.
    I'm saying that you should not confuse merely taking equal roles with "pure motives".
    The point (in time) of accusation of such is generally after exhausting other options.
    Rationality is a personal position. We do not all share the same knowledge (or what we claim to be knowledge) and thus what is rational to one person might be irrational to another. I have stated this as my position consistently.
    So I do consider myself an authority on what I consider to be rational to me. I am generally careful to add the qualifier "to me" - but sometimes slip.
    Sure - usually the latter comes after the other fails due to obfuscation.
    Sure, but one must be careful that such subordination does not reach the point of accepting that information as de facto knowledge. And one must also be careful that one is not subordinating oneself merely to receive opinion rather than knowledge.

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