REFUTE IT I SAY!

Kant uses big words, is anyone kind enough to refute it for me in simple terms?

Thanks in advance!

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Be glad that he only uses proper terminology. Have you ever read Carl Jung, he uses a lot of neologisms.
Personally I perfer the use of proper terms as opposed to reading something that is so wordy it becomes boring.
Stormy
Logic and the God of logic occupy the last five minutes of the phylogeny of Homo sapiens. It is a plausible hypothesis that God co-evolved with agriculture and animal husbandry, if not later. Where was God 100,000 years ago, or 2 million years ago? Being omniscient, sitting, watching and waiting? God lends coherence to an ontology of the absurd which, while quite an achievement, also raises the question of the price we are prepared to pay for coherence. Perhaps we need to look to our maximum capability for levels of intentionality. They depend on language, which was rather more likely to have been a contingent than a necessary factor in hominid evolution. If God exists necessarily, that necessity plausibly arose from something contingent. That's odd...
I like this very much!

Of course the hardcore religious don't believe the earth has been around for longer than 6000 years, but if they're part of the semi-sane group that do then this could do some good.
Thanks for your comment, Marc. I'm afraid my last post suffered from having been blogged too late at night (among any other more obvious deficiencies), so I’ll have another go by daylight.

Kant’s God is evidenced through a mixture of (at least) logical deduction and imagination, together with a substrate of emotion, if we grant, for example, the theses of Antonio Damasio. For simplicity’s sake we can refer to him as Kant’s God of logical necessity. Now, backtracking, in humans and other animals, the digestive system can be regarded as a constitutive evolutionary phenomenon. The ontogeny of the individual and the phylogeny of the species depend on it as necessary for survival. Logic is self-evidently an outcome of language. All current understandings of the evolution of human language are necessarily hypotheses. Some are very well supported by biological, paleoanthropological and other evidence. But none would claim, I think, that the evolution of language falls into the same constitutive class as digestion. At various times in the evolution of language, one can readily hypothesise an individual surviving without language, but not without digestion.

This probably justifies an assertion that language is epiphenomenal. Epiphenomena may weave their way into enduring adaptations, but that’s not the point. Even with a more modest history of evolutionary achievement in terms of language, it is plausible to suppose that groups of Homo sapiens could have survived to the present day without producing the civilization we know. To think God, Kantian style, you have to have quite an advanced level of recursive intentionality (‘John believes Jane hopes Ken notices that Kevin thinks Linda should hate Phil...’, etc.). So there could be many intermediate stages of less sophisticated intentionality which, while insufficient to logicise God, would still allow a certain survival ratio of humans with language.

None of this is sufficient by itself to banish God. One can if one wishes hypothesise a God being solitarily omniscient and omnipotent, waiting and watching for an adequate combination of environmental pressures, neocortical capacity, sophistication of intentionality, freedom from random disasters, etc. for the right Kantian logic to emerge. But that such conditions did eventuate is a matter of empirical contingency. That modern humans can think with advanced intentionality, but only within constraints of space and time determined by neural structures, is a contingent mixture of biological and cultural evolution.

By now you will probably have spotted that I’m about to comment on how Kant, however meandering the route, has built a logical necessity on top of a whole raft of material contingencies in physics, biology and chemistry. And some may well be ready to object that a logical conclusion can only properly be demolished by faulting any of the premises or the conclusion itself, i.e. that you must answer logic with logic. I accept that, provisionally. But what I would hope to argue by this route is that it greatly decreases the likelihood that Kant is saying something with a high degree of truth correspondence. There is an associated reason, too. In spite of the best efforts of intelligent design enthusiasts, there really is no evidence that the kinds of contingencies I’ve referred to are underpinned by any teleological principle. On the other hand, logical arguments have a kind of mini-teleology built into them (correctly stated premises lead ineluctably to correct conclusions, etc.). So the small likelihood of Kant being right is further diminished by his sitting a teleology on top of a massive non-teleological substrate.

That’s the scene. I’d like to get round to the logic of Kant’s terms themselves, but I’ve already gone beyond tolerable blog length so I’ll leave that till another post. In the meantime, please shoot holes in my dialectic. One of the advantages of stating what may be rubbish is that when this is pointed out the only way to go is to improve on it. Good arguments are a tougher nut…..

Cheers, Dave
'Logic is self-evidently an outcome of language.'

Is this truly self-evident? Surely language just gave us the ability to express the logic which we utilised long before we developed language? I mean, I'm sure dogs have some concept of logic, however simple it may be (even merely just the understanding of the relationship between cause and effect).

Also, I just want to make sure I understand the jist of your post: that humans may not have developed language and therefore may not have ever developed and understanding of God or the ability to do so.

Finally; it seems you're saying that Kant is the creater of the ontological argument - I'm sure I'm just misunderstanding you, but could you clear that up?
Marc asks me to explain my assertion that logic is self-evidently an outcome of language, since animals like dogs might be said to follow a particular form of logic. That’s a really good point. Long-term studies of animals like chimpanzees, both in confinement and in the wild, show pretty clearly that they understand what we would term cause and effect, and that their actions and behaviours correlate with demonstrating this concept in social interactions, but they could not construct a syllogism. The reason I would be reluctant to call their process logic stems from my understanding of what, for example, philosopher John Searle or anthropologist and evolutionary biologist Robin Dunbar would see as various levels of performance in intentionality. It’s probably safe to hypothesise that any creature with consciouness needs a minimal level of intentionality for its species to survive and reproduce. Dunbar, particularly, argues and gives evidence for the idea that a much higher level of intentionality than that minimum must have been required for any language of a human kind to have emerged at all. Hence my saying that logic – and I should obviously have made it clearer that I meant the kind of logic which is essential for Kant’s thesis – could not emerge without a comparatively impressive level of intentionality. Searle says something like this as well. The general thesis presumed here is that language depends for its emergence on intentionality. I may not be interpreting this infallibly, but I hope it clarifies what I said.

Your other query, Marc, was whether I was saying that Kant invented the ontological argument. The way I’ve come to understand this is that ontological arguments of closely related kinds have been around at least since Aristotle, with reference to whose works I would think ontology and metaphysics were much the same, although some Aristotle scholars point out that Aristotle himself didn’t use the term metaphysics. I think a common view would be that Kant put centuries of ideas together quite masterfully because he wanted to counter the growing popularity of empiricist interpretations of reality. His idealist stance, though, would no doubt be closer to Plato’s than to Aristotle’s.

What I was suggesting in my last post was that one of the weaknesses of Kant’s God identified through reason was that he made the teleology implied by logic sit atop the absence of evidentiary teleology in nature. To me that view is made plausible by current knowledge and understanding, particularly scientific understanding, but Kant himself didn’t see it that way. My reference here is a commentary on Kant by philosopher Gilles Deleuze, in whose view Kant identified what he thought was indeed a teleological principal in nature, but one which was inadequate to determine a concept of God. This way of thinking related to how Kant divided up the faculties of cognition and their various functions, which constituted quite a complex system. In short, the Kantian thesis was that the teleology of an ultimate goal had to be determined through what he called practical reason, and that you could not determine it without determining God at the same time. He saw this higher-level teleology being attained by way of the lower-level (natural) teleology, and eventually subsuming it (again, I’m referring here to Deleuze’s commentary here).

So, for Kant, teleology dominates from bottom to top of the faculties of cognition, i.e. from sensible experience to higher reason which is, for Kant, an a priori, or something independent of experience. While there is evidence that teleology is a fairly common feature of what’s usually called folk psychology, this is often as part of everyday conversational banter rather than representing firm or fixed belief structures. An atheist is pretty unlikely to ascribe to a teleological view of nature, evolution and reality. Consequently, the atheist will not, virtually by definition, find the kind of Kantian higher-level logical and teleological reasoning leading to God a plausible thesis, even if the internal logic looks sound. A further subtlety in this is that, contrary to what one might suppose, it is not actually the God concept which is a priori, but the level of the higher reason which putatively leads the mind to that conclusion.

I’ve just heard the mental bleep for exceeding reasonable blog length…..

Cheers, Dave
Why would we presuppose a deity? Why is an agent or consciousness really necessary to set the physical or biological forces in motion? It sure seems like our human need for security and afterlife is the author of gods- man created god in his own image as they say.
Earthygayatheist wrote:

'Why would we presuppose a deity? Why is an agent or consciousness really necessary to set the physical or biological forces in motion? It sure seems like our human need for security and afterlife is the author of gods- man created god in his own image as they say.'

Hi, by your leave, perhaps we could see this as two interrelated questions:

1. Why would we now, at this stage in the 21st century, presuppose a deity?
2. Why were deities ever presupposed in human societies in the first place?

Question 1 suggests a historical perspective. Presocratic thought included clearly naturalistic or materialist views of reality. Aristotle, who came later, posited a first cause, or Prime Mover, which is the putative ‘agent’ in your post. So both kinds of world views have been around for a very long time. Who does presuppose a deity now, then? Well, sociologically and culturally speaking, it’s pretty clear that most of the world’s inhabitants do. Somewhere in my mind is the assessment that around 88% of people globally can be regarded as professing a religion of some kind, although the percentage of those presupposing a deity would be somewhat lower than that, because some religions in the Eastern tradition do not mandate any doctrinal belief in a creator deity. Even so, those of us with naturalistic world views are very much in the minority and always have been so far.

However, a purely historical perspective is limiting. Thinkers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were mighty intellects by any standards, but they simply had no way of looking further back in time and getting past the myths and monsters of Presocratic legend. Moreover, this has been pretty much the case until comparatively recent times. This is what makes the interrelated Question 2 particularly interesting, because it’s about origins. With the help of work by evolutionary biologists, anthropologists, paleontologists, archeologists, and many other scientists as well as philosophers, we can now look back much further into a misty hominid past to try and fathom out how religions began and how and why deistic concepts eventually became so popular.

There is now an enormous literature on this theme. For obvious reasons, researchers have to proceed by creating plausible hypotheses which attempt to take account of multiple contributory factors. Among these, where the debate is about the functions of proto-religious psychology, you point, quite aptly I think, to the need for security. I would unpack that further to include not simply the need for coherence and meaning as such, but the role for ready-made and inherited formulae for coherence and meaning that can be safely assigned to the background of consciousness, so that you can devote your energies and attention to the many other demands of everyday life without having to reinvent the reason for it. One can only imagine how pressing that need might have been in daily struggles for survival in evolutionary environments.

The way in which Questions 1 and 2 are complementary relates to a wide range of current explanatory hypotheses and theories which offer evidence that human neural patterns, individual and social behaviours and unconscious motives, including those that involve a sense of right and wrong and the role of supernatural deities, have evolved incrementally over hundreds of thousands of years, but still influence us in highly significant ways in the 21st century.

That surely has to be an important issue, and the more we know about it the better. If our psychology, hidden motivations and emotive responses still influence us to behave as though the only thing that mattered was to further the survival opportunites and reproductive success of an in-group of fifty or so kin, and to defend that goal not only with whatever level of violence seemed appropriate, but with the ultimate weapon of certainty that we have the only truth worth having, we’re in deep trouble!

But we’re in the minority, I’m afraid, and I rather think that won’t change any time soon!

Cheers, Dave
Hi, Uomo, now that’s a provocative analogy! Sure, philosophers can often be seen as playing on words, I agree, and it’s the extent to which their play is coherent or not that deserves critical attention. The pivotal predicate in Anselm’s argument, as you state it, is ‘great’. If what is meant by ‘great’ is not clearly articulated, we can’t follow the premises through to the conclusion. But before we get to that, let’s see how this predicate is compromised by syntax. Take the second premise: ‘It is greater to exist in reality than only in the mind’. Equivalent syntax yields: ‘To exist in reality is greater than to exist in the mind’. Either way, it’s a proposition with an empty space: ‘to exist’ is an infinitive, a grammatical space-holder awaiting a subject (‘To be or not to be…’). It can only signify coherently if it’s re-articulated in something like this form: ‘(for X) to exist in reality is greater than (for X) to exist in the mind’. But if reality here means objective reality, it is just a necessary ontological condition for anyone to make any kind of statement at all. No thing, no person, and consequently no ‘X’, can not exist in reality; that’s simply a condition for being an ‘X’ (or a person, or a thing). If neither persons nor things nor Xs can choose whether they exist or not, it is difficult to see in what sense it could be ‘greater’ to do so. Try substituting any other comparative predicate, e.g., ‘it is sexier/funnier/dafter/riskier (for X) to exist than (for X) not to exist’, and we have an equivalent flatness of meaning. Playing on words? For sure! And anyone can play………..

Cheers, Dave
Hi, Uomo, now that’s a provocative analogy! Sure, philosophers can often be seen as playing on words, I agree, and it’s the extent to which their play is coherent or not that deserves critical attention. The pivotal predicate in Anselm’s argument, as you state it, is ‘great’. If what is meant by ‘great’ is not clearly articulated, we can’t follow the premises through to the conclusion. But before we get to that, let’s see how this predicate is compromised by syntax. Take the second premise: ‘It is greater to exist in reality than only in the mind’. Equivalent syntax yields: ‘To exist in reality is greater than to exist in the mind’. Either way, it’s a proposition with an empty space: ‘to exist’ is an infinitive, a grammatical space-holder awaiting a subject (‘To be or not to be…’). It can only signify coherently if it’s re-articulated in something like this form: ‘(for X) to exist in reality is greater than (for X) to exist in the mind’. But if reality here means objective reality, it is just a necessary ontological condition for anyone to make any kind of statement at all. No thing, no person, and consequently no ‘X’, can not exist in reality; that’s simply a condition for being an ‘X’ (or a person, or a thing). If neither persons nor things nor Xs can choose whether they exist or not, it is difficult to see in what sense it could be ‘greater’ to do so. Try substituting any other comparative predicate, e.g., ‘it is sexier/funnier/dafter/riskier (for X) to exist than (for X) not to exist’, and we have an equivalent flatness of meaning. Playing on words? For sure! And anyone can play………..

Cheers, Dave
A list of simple criticisms and objections to the Ontological Argument can be found here.
The argument is logically sound.

It is, virtually meaningless for an individual who does not already have faith. All of the so called "qualities" of this greatest concievable being, are related to the individual who believes.

I went through the ringer on this one recently trying to understand the argument and see if there were any flaws. There aren't "logically", and no-one has found any, although a few arguments come close to challenging the OA logically.

But as SOON as you start to put attributes on God, you get religion and belief. You get a sense of personal "Greatest concievable being", not some abstract logical argument.

I indicated in a post that if they really want to know how silly the OA actually is, replace the word "GOD' with flying Spaghetti monster. It will still be logically sound and the flying spaghetti monster will therefore exist.

I never actually got a Reply to that one :P

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