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Happiness and Blessedness as ethical values
Posted: 08 February 2007 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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[quote author=“SaulOhio”]
So if love is not a response to the good in another person, what is it? What do you mean when you say God loves us all equally? What does that mean God does?

Oh, and BTW, I forgot to ask the most important question in any issue: How do you know? How do you know God loves us?

In my view, love is recognition—in particular, recognition of the same consciousness in the other as in oneself.  All other things attributed to love are just concomitants of that.  The greater the capacity to have that recognition (i.e., the fewer egoistic obstructions there are) the greater the capacity to love.  So, if one says that God loves us it is a statement that in total omniscience God recognizes each of us in our totality and accepts that without condition.

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Posted: 08 February 2007 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”]
All, I can say, Saul, is that you, like your mentor, have taken the already-tarnished and dented icon of love and battered it beyond all recognition, until it looks like the discarded core of a spent lead-acid battery.

Do you have anything of substance to say? You are good at making up interesting colorful metaphors, but do you have any actual arguments or facts to present? Why don’t you answer the question? If love isn’t what I said it is, then what is it? And why should I feel it?

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Posted: 08 February 2007 09:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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I take it that you’re not joking here. Please p.m. me for my phone number so that I can talk to you.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 08 February 2007 09:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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SaulOhio,

Good post.  I can relate to much of what you said.

I only have a minute right now, and I want to follow up later with some ideas from “The dangerous duty of delight” and “Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist” by John Piper.

For now, my first thought is about:

...the view that it is not a response to anything particular in you, the view that it is causeless

If anything, love is a response to everything particular in you, the fact you are are unique, no matter what that looks like. 

And, love is not causeless.  Its just that the cause is associated with the donor, not the recipient.  Love is the ultimate expression of free will, because one is never obligated to do it, its not something that is given because it is deserved.  Its a gift of grace and mercy.  Who doesn’t want that?  That is, love always meets the standard set by the Golden Rule.

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Posted: 08 February 2007 09:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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Saul
I am no libertarian but what do you think of Nozick’s argument against Rand and Objectivism. If nothing else it shows a weakness of Rands moral conclusions she reaches from her own premises. I cannot find the article on line but it is in his book Socratic Puzzles. I cannot reiterate his arguments completely since I do not know them completely but what I remember is the problem of rights. What happens when my values (self interest) and yours conflict? I am not to force you to do anything against the will and you are not to force me. Should I constrain my interests in repect for yours? Should you retrain your interest for respect of mine? How do we compromise our self interest? Is this not a problem? Like I said, I am no libertarian but I do find Nozick’s argument somewhat persuasive.

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Posted: 08 February 2007 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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[quote author=“SaulOhio”]Love, we are repeatedly taught, consists of self-sacrifice. Love based on self-interest, we are admonished, is cheap and sordid. True love, we are told, is altruistic. But is it?

Imagine a Valentine’s Day card which takes this premise seriously. Imagine receiving a card with the following message: “I get no pleasure from your existence. I obtain no personal enjoyment from the way you look, dress, move, act or think. Our relationship profits me not. You satisfy no sexual, emotional or intellectual needs of mine. You’re a charity case, and I’m with you only out of pity. Love, XXX.”
...

That’s a mixed metaphor.  You are comparing and constrasting two notions of “love” here.  It’s a cute verbal trick but it has no substance.

My understanding of “love” spoken of by mystics is transcending individual self-identity.  “I” is a linguistic construct.  A useful construct and the foundational one for the creative use of language and relational logic, but a construct nonetheless. 

[quote author=“SaulOhio”]The nature of love places certain demands on those who wish to enjoy it. You must regard yourself as worthy of being loved.

Of course.  This is because objectivism is simply wrong.  Subjectivism governs reality.  I can create whatever reality I wish out of language with sufficient mental discipline or by forging the right cultural context for language transmission and acquisition.  From George Orwell’s magnum opus 1984:
[quote author=“George Orwell”]
  “The second thing for you to realize is that power is power over human beings. Over the body—but, above all, over the mind. Power over matter—external reality, as you would call it—is not important. Already our control over matter is absolute.”

For a moment Winston ignored the dial. He made a violent effort to raise himself into a sitting position, and merely suceeded in wrenching his body painfully.

“But how can you control matter?” he burst out. “You don’t even control the climate or the law of gravity. And there are disease, pain, death—”

O’Brien silenced him by a movement of his hand. “We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull. You will learn by degrees Winston. There is nothing that we could not do. Invisibility, levitation—anything. I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wished to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it. You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of nature. We make the laws of nature.”

“But the world itself is only a speck of dust. And man is tiny—helpless! How long has he been in existence? For millions of years the Earth was uninhabited.”

“Nonsense. The earth is as old as we are, no older. How could it be older? Nothing exists except through human consciousness.” . . .

“How can you control memory? You have not controlled mine!” . . .

O’Brien’s manner grew stern again. He laid his hand on the dial.

“On the contrary,” he said, “you have not controlled it. That is what has brought you here. You are here because you have failed in humility and self-discipline. You would not make the act of submission which is the price of sanity. You preferred to be a lunatic, a majority of one. Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. Youalso believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes; only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.”

[quote author=“George Orwell”]
  The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought - that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc - should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods . . .

The special function of certain Newspeak words, of which oldthink was one, was not so much to express meanings as to destroy them. These words, necessarily few in number, had had their meanings extended until they contained within themselves whole batteries of words which , as they were sufficiently covered by a single comprehensive term, could now be scrapped and forgotten. . . . All words grouping themselves round the concepts of liberty and equality, for instance, were contained in the single word crimethink, while all words grouping themselves round the concepts of objectivity and rationalism were contained in the single word oldthink. What was required in a Party member was an outlook similar to that of the ancient Hebrew who knew, even without knowing much else, that all nations other than his own worshipped “false gods.” He did not need to know that these gods were called Baal, Osiris, Moloch, Ashtaroth, and the like; probably the less he knew about them the better for his orthodoxy. He knew Jehovah and the commandments of Jehovah; he knew, therefore, that all gods with other names or other attributes were false gods.

[quote author=“George Orwell”]
Whoever controls the past controls the future, and whoever controls the present controls the past.

Either as a philosopher or a novelist, Ayn Rand wasn’t fit to shine Orwell’s shoes! raspberry

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Posted: 08 February 2007 09:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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[quote author=“frankr”]Saul
I am no libertarian but what do you think of Nozick’s argument against Rand and Objectivism. If nothing else it shows a weakness of Rands moral conclusions she reaches from her own premises. I cannot find the article on line but it is in his book Socratic Puzzles. I cannot reiterate his arguments completely since I do not know them completely but what I remember is the problem of rights. What happens when my values (self interest) and yours conflict? I am not to force you to do anything against the will and you are not to force me. Should I constrain my interests in repect for yours? Should you retrain your interest for respect of mine? How do we compromise our self interest? Is this not a problem? Like I said, I am no libertarian but I do find Nozick’s argument somewhat persuasive.

Ayn Rand argued, quite persuasively in my opinion, that in a free society, there IS no conflict of interest among rational men. Other people are producers with whom you can trade, and the more productive they are, the more you benefit from trade with them. This means it is in YOUR best interests to respect their rights and their values, while working to create and achieve your own.

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Posted: 08 February 2007 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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Didn’t she just assume that? I don’t think she demonstrates it in any way. I do not think it difficult to find a situation where constraining the interest of another forwards my interests. Or finding a situation in forcing someone to act against his interests will benefit my interests. I think the environmental - corporate battle going on today demonstrates this problem clearly. You could be a Randian on either side of the fight and your argument basically becomes egoism. My way is the rational way and if you were rational you would agree with me. Whether her conclusions are correct can be argued but it seems they are only correct because she had them and she believed them. Those that argue differently are irrational.

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Posted: 08 February 2007 10:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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[quote author=“The Agnostic Gnostic”]
My understanding of “love” spoken of by mystics is transcending individual self-identity.  “I” is a linguistic construct.  A useful construct and the foundational one for the creative use of language and relational logic, but a construct nonetheless.

You should read Ayn Rand’s Anthem, a novel set in a society based on that very idea.

Of course.  This is because objectivism is simply wrong.  Subjectivism governs reality.  I can create whatever reality I wish out of language with sufficient mental discipline or by forging the right cultural context for language transmission and acquisition.

That was the main error of the executives at ENRON. There have been a few articles on its collapse that demonstrate that its problems were caused by the belief that you could reshape reality by “forging the right cultural context for language transmission and acquisition”. Read The Collapse of a Postmodern Corporation

The philosophical essence of the postmodern, or anti-Enlightenment, outlook is that there exists no external reality to which our beliefs should conform. On the contrary, say postmodernists, the nature of reality simply is what people believe and say it is. Of course, people cannot believe and say anything they like. Their beliefs and speech must be coherent and consistent. And if they want to work with others, they must ensure that the group is in agreement about what to believe and say. But that is the goal: constructing a shared narrative that supports the group’s desires and activities. So long as that is achieved, no “external reality” is going to come along to correct or punish them.
...
If a postmodern mentality brought about Enron’s collapse, how exactly did it do so? One anecdote provides insight. In February 2001, Fastow went to New York to offer representatives of the bond-rating agencies some arguments that would lead them to raise their evaluation of Enron’s bonds. There is nothing unusual in that. The evaluation given to a company’s bonds determines the interest rate the company must pay when it borrows money. That, in turn, determines how much a company can borrow. On this particular occasion, however, the agencies’ representatives said that the facts Fastow presented did not justify a change. Fastow’s response? If the agencies changed Enron’s ratings, Enron would be able to strengthen its finances, which would justify the higher rating. In short: if everyone would agree on a narrative that was supportive of Enron, reality would snap into line. The agency representatives laughed.

Getting everyone to agree on a supportive narrative seems to have been the principal goal of Enron’s postmodern accounting. The rating agencies would not sign on to the narrative until Enron was able to say certain things. Therefore, Enron must be able to say those certain things.

As noted above, Enron’s downfall was precipitated by the need to readjust the way it had dealt with several partnerships. In journalistic accounts, the explanation usually given is that Enron violated some rules of generally accepted accounting principles. That is true, but it is not the essential truth. The fundamental problem was that these partnerships were set up principally to affect what Enron could say about itself, and what others—such as investment advisors and bond-rating agencies—would then say in turn.

Instead of dealing with objective reality, the executives at Enron though they could reshape reality by changing what they could say about it.

AND THEY FAILED!

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Posted: 08 February 2007 10:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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SaulOhio wrote:

Ayn Rand argued, quite persuasively in my opinion, that in a free society, there IS no conflict of interest among rational men

And then she went on to define rational men as those who were in absolute agreement with her. All others are irrational.

Other people are producers with whom you can trade, and the more productive they are, the more you benefit from trade with them.

But they are not HUMAN BEINGS. If they do not produce for you, they have NO VALUE, and therefore no rights.

There can be no conflict of rights under Objectivism because all rights must be earned by production. If you aren’t a good little worker bee, you have no rights.

The funniest thing about Objectivists is how vehemently they spew hatred of Stalin while endorsing a Stalinist ideology.

Frankr,

You asked the correct question.

What happens when my values (self interest) and yours conflict?

Objectivism resolves that by reducing ALL human activity to a profit/loss statement on a spreadsheet.  It has no choice because the interest of the producer and the consumer are always in conflict with the interests of the Market.

That is why the Free Market is terrified of the use of force. It would have absolute control of all other methods of complaint. If the hungry man cannot reach a ‘rational’ agreement with the baker, he may not use force to take bread. Of course the baker is always authorized to use any amount of force to protect the bread.

Objectivism deals with the problem of human rights by eliminating them alltogether and replacing them with a system of Property Rights.

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Posted: 08 February 2007 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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Joad: Like I said before, keep on ranting. The more nonsense you spew about Ayn Rand, the more opportunity I have to correct your lies and get more people interested in finding out what she was all about.

Your understanding of Objectivism is simpleminded and distorted. You are unable to grasp such a simple concept as “capital” because it isn’t any one particular object you can see and hold in your hand, so it doesn’t exist. Because of your inability to connect one empirical experience with another to form higher level concepts, you interpret each of Rand’s ideas in a vaccum apart from other ideas of her’s and the empirical evidence she used to form them. Thus, your interpretations are childishly simple and distorted.

You are a rare specimen of a concrete-bound mentality. Thank you for the opportunity to study you.

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Posted: 08 February 2007 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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[quote author=“SaulOhio”][quote author=“The Agnostic Gnostic”]
My understanding of “love” spoken of by mystics is transcending individual self-identity.  “I” is a linguistic construct.  A useful construct and the foundational one for the creative use of language and relational logic, but a construct nonetheless.

You should read Ayn Rand’s Anthem, a novel set in a society based on that very idea.

I have.  I’m still not persuaded. rolleyes

[quote author=“SaulOhio”]

Of course.  This is because objectivism is simply wrong.  Subjectivism governs reality.  I can create whatever reality I wish out of language with sufficient mental discipline or by forging the right cultural context for language transmission and acquisition.

That was the main error of the executives at ENRON.

No it wasn’t.  The main error of the executives at ENRON was looking after their own self-interest with too much abandon to keep a careful eye on what they could “sell” to their investors and the public.  They were objectivists and capitalists in the true Randian sense. They just made mistakes, as even good objectivists do. 

The philosophical essence of the postmodern, or anti-Enlightenment, outlook is that there exists no external reality to which our beliefs should conform. On the contrary, say postmodernists, the nature of reality simply is what people believe and say it is. Of course, people cannot believe and say anything they like. Their beliefs and speech must be coherent and consistent. And if they want to work with others, they must ensure that the group is in agreement about what to believe and say. But that is the goal: constructing a shared narrative that supports the group’s desires and activities. So long as that is achieved, no “external reality” is going to come along to correct or punish them.

Can you say “straw man”?  I knew you could.  There probably is an external reality.  There’s simply no way to internalize it into thought but through linguistic constructs. So what happens is people band together and pretend their subjective interpretations of reality are objective reality and they start killing each other.  We live in world full of objectivists.  “Faith” is objectivism.  Every true believer in a religion is an objectivist.

Which one has it “right”?  Hint: They all do, just ask them!

The fact that people disagree with Rand demonstrates that reason does not lead to objective truths.  They lead to subjective conclusions that are mistaken for objective truths.  What else would one expect from a philosophy predicated by its very nature on mistaking the signs for the things signified.

Reason is a tool to organize memories and experiences to create usefully predictable internal models to govern an animal’s behavior and increase its chances of survival.  Nietzsche had it dead on when he discussed the backward logic of cause and effect in Book Three of Will to Power:

[quote author=“Friedrich Nietzsche”]
  The phenomenalism of the “inner world.” Chronological inversion, so that the cause enters consciousness later than the effect. We have learned that pain is projected to a part of the body without being situated there - we have learned that sense impressions naively supposed to be conditioned by the outer world are, on the contrary, conditioned by the inner world; that we are always unconscious of the real activity of the outer world. The fragment of outer world of which we are conscious is born after an effect from outside has impressed itself upon us, and is subsequently projected as its “cause”.

In the phenomenalism of the “inner world” we invert the chronological order of cause and effect. The fundamental fact of “inner experience” is that the cause is imagined after the effect has taken place. The same applies to the succession of thoughts: we seek the reason for a thought before we are conscious of it; and the reason enters consciousness first, and then its consequence - Our entire dream life is the interpretation of complex feelings with a view to possible causes - and in such way that we are conscious of a condition only when the supposed causal chain associated with it has entered consciousness.

The whole of “inner experience” rests upon the fact that a cause for an excitement of the nerve centers is sought and imagined - and that only a cause thus discovered enters consciousness: this cause in no way corresponds to the real cause - it is a groping on the basis of previous “inner experiences,” i.e., of memory. But memory also maintains the habit of the old interpretations, i.e., of erroneous causality so that the “inner experience” has to contain within it the consequences of all previous false causal fictions. Our “outer world” as we project it every moment is indissolubly tied to the old error of the ground: we interpret it by means of the schematism of “things,” etc.

“Inner experience” enters our consciousness only after it has found a language the individual understands - a translation of a condition into conditions familiar to him; “to understand” means merely: to be able to express something new in the language of something old and familiar. E.g., “I feel unwell”; such a judgment presupposes a great and late neutrality of the observer - the simple man always says: this or that makes me feel unwell - he makes up his mind about his feeling unwell only when he has seen a reason for feeling unwell. I call that a lack of philology; to be able to read off a text as a text without interposing an interpretation is the last developed form of “inner experience”- perhaps one that is hardly possible.

There exists neither “spirit,” nor reason, nor thinking, nor consciousness, nor soul, nor will, nor truth: all are fictions that are of no use. There is no question of “subject and object,” but of a particular species of animal that can prosper only through a certain relative rightness; above all, regularity of its perceptions (so that it can accumulate experience).

Knowledge works as a tool of power. Hence it is plain that it increases with every increase of power.

The meaning of “knowledge”: here, as in the case of “good” or “beautiful,” the concept is to be regarded in a strict and narrow anthropocentric and biological sense. In order for a particular species to maintain itself and increase its power, its conception of reality must comprehend enough of the calculable and constant for it to base a scheme of behavior on it. The utility of preservation - not some abstract theoretical need not to be deceived - stands as the motive behind the development of the organs of knowledge; they develop in such a way that their observations suffice for our preservation. In other words: the measure of the desire for knowledge depends upon the measure to which the will to power grows in a species: a species grasps a certain amount of reality in order to become master of it, in order to press it into service.


The mere fact alone that Rand could have ever thought her “objectivism” was compatible with Nietzsche’s semeiotics dispells whatever respect I could have had for her as a philosopher.

From Twilight of the Idols:

  [quote author=“Friedrich Nietzsche”]
My demand upon the philosopher is known, that he take his stand beyond good and evil and leave the illusion of moral judgment beneath himself. This demand follows from an insight which I was the first to formulate: that there are altogether no moral facts. Moral judgments agree with religious ones in believing in realities which are no realities.  Morality is merely an interpretation of certain phenomena—more precisely, a misinterpretation. Moral judgments, like religious ones, belong to a stage of ignorance at which the very concept of the real, and the distinction between what is real and imaginary, are still lacking: thus “truth,” at this stage, designates all sorts of things which we today call “imaginings.” Moral judgments are therefore never to be taken literally: so understood, they always contain mere absurdity. Semeiotically, however, they remain invaluable: they reveal, at least for those who know, the most valuable realities of cultures and inwardnesses which did not know enough to “understand” themselves. Morality is mere sign language, mere symptomatology: one must know what it is all about to be able to profit from it.

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Posted: 08 February 2007 05:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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SaulOhio,

How do you know God loves us?

There are two ways to engage the gospel.  The first is through apologetics, i.e. defending its veracity.  This involves all kinds of assumptions, facts, reasoning, etc.  The second is to consider the implications of the gospel if it is true.  This is not unlike science, in which we build our theories to explain what we observe, yet also we extrapolate from our theories to observe new things.  Einstein said “it is the theory that determines what may be observed.”  For example, the Joule-Thompson coefficient, a thermodynamic parameter, was derived mathematically before anyone ever observed its effect, which is quite subtle.  However, seeing that term in the equation inspired the more careful experiments which confirmed its effect on the heat transfer associated with the expansion of gases.   

Perhaps one answer to your question is that God’s love for us is knowable through the implications that become observable in the context of that theory, so to speak.  In this analogy, God’s love is like the JT coefficient and the implications of His love are the effects we would otherwise overlook, misinterpret or deny.

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Posted: 08 February 2007 09:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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[quote author=“Parable”]
There are two ways to engage the gospel.  The first is through apologetics, i.e. defending its veracity.  This involves all kinds of assumptions, facts, reasoning, etc.  The second is to consider the implications of the gospel if it is true.

Those aren’t two ways.  Accepting the precondition that its “true” (which is silly if you mean literally true) is written right into your second “way.”  No aspect of the scientific method would start with such a ridiculous assumption that something is “true” and then “consider the implications.”  That’s not science. 

Since there is no way to apply science to determine whether a particular piece of mythology is literally “true,” there is no science involved in apologetics (your first “way”) either.

The real problem is that we never take the time to determine what it is we are looking for. With a lake monster, for example, that’s a relatively simple proposition. We are looking for either: (1) some large animal of a previously uncategorized species in the lake; or, (2) a large animal that aligns with different peoples’ descriptions of their personal experience of the thing they claim to have seen; or, (3) something other than a large animal that would also align with different peoples’ descriptions of their personal experience of the thing.  Of course we’ll never really know, but we can use induction to to come to a conclusion about the probability of a monster living in the lake.

When you go looking for whether “God” exists, what are you even looking for?

That is the threshhold question.  What are the experiences that are being described as “God”?  Do those experiences even require some external, empirical thing “God,” or is that just a label being stuck on the subjective experience of transcending one’s self-identity?

The “truth” of mythology and poetry is in its meaning to the observer and whether the observer can relate the words to personal mystical/spiritual experience.  If the observer cannot, taking the poetry literally is not even close to the same thing as experiencing the truth of the Gospel.

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Posted: 08 February 2007 10:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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[quote author=“Parable”]SaulOhio,

How do you know God loves us?

There are two ways to engage the gospel.  The first is through apologetics, i.e. defending its veracity.  This involves all kinds of assumptions, facts, reasoning, etc.

But does it involve any empirical evidence? Where do you get your assumptions?

  The second is to consider the implications of the gospel if it is true.  This is not unlike science, in which we build our theories to explain what we observe, yet also we extrapolate from our theories to observe new things.  Einstein said “it is the theory that determines what may be observed.”  For example, the Joule-Thompson coefficient, a thermodynamic parameter, was derived mathematically before anyone ever observed its effect, which is quite subtle.  However, seeing that term in the equation inspired the more careful experiments which confirmed its effect on the heat transfer associated with the expansion of gases.   

Perhaps one answer to your question is that God’s love for us is knowable through the implications that become observable in the context of that theory, so to speak.  In this analogy, God’s love is like the JT coefficient and the implications of His love are the effects we would otherwise overlook, misinterpret or deny.

And where can I make those observations? Where do I look to observe the the effects of God’s love. All I see is inanimate matter of his creation which often turns against us in natural disasters like the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and the acts of individual human beings, who are often motivated by love, but since they have free will, are not evidence of some supernatural being’s love.

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