Epistemology and the existence or non-existence of God
Posted: 21 June 2012 11:42 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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In my perception of reality, what is true is that there are only two “types” of truth: subjective and absolute. Objective truth is built upon commonly perceived subjective truths, which are formalized through agreed upon methods backed by agreed upon value-based normative claims. The scientific method is the conduit of this effort of formalization. I’d like to talk about the relationship between subjective truth and absolute truth as I see it in relation to the God question.


Consider the physical world. The universe as we know it may actually consist of 11 dimensions, or perhaps there is a similar theory of gravity to that of general relativity that is compliant with quantum theory in the near field limit, or perhaps its something that we—as a people (via the scientific method)—haven’t become aware of. Who knows? Yet, though we don’t know exactly how the universe works, it must absolutely have qualities that are unique. In other words, the absolute truth about the nature of the universe dictates that one, a combination, or none of our theories are correct.


Now consider the nature of our minds. Using the arguments of Sam Harris on the subject of the non-existence of free will, we can liken our sentient experience to being in “thought space” with a flashlight. The flashlight represents the fact that our awareness is finite. It is impossible to be aware of all possible thoughts at once, since our thoughts are scientifically agreed to have origin in our brains, and our brains are physically finite. The fact that our awareness is finite dictates that we don’t know what we will uncover next as new thoughts are illuminated, and hence we have no free will over what we can think next. In the context of this analogy, subjective truth is that of which we are aware (inside the flashlight), and absolute truth is all of thought space. Are there thoughts which we aren’t aware? Absolutely. Are there thoughts that no one has ever or will ever think? Absolutely, since humanity will only exist for a finite time and within a finite portion of space.


Our subjective perceptions of reality are true to us. If I feel hungry, I can’t deny the truth of it, and if I feel the pull of gravity I can’t deny that either, for they are both part of reality as I perceive it. Everyone has a unique subjective perception of reality, and share some common truths with other people. The truths that everyone observes with great agreement have been formalized and termed objective truths. The use of objective truth via the scientific method has demonstrated its practicality to humankind, and therefore nearly everyone chooses to agree with it.


With the epistemological framework I’ve presented, I can say the following. Suppose a group of people find themselves in a room with no windows or doors, and are told to come upon an agreement as to whether or not it is sunny outside. Subjectively, some people may feel one way or another, and have varying strength in their convictions, for their feelings are true to them. If the group were fully honest and scientific, they corporately would have to come upon the objective agreement that it’s a coin flip (since there will be disagreement), but the absolute truth of the situation is that it is either sunny outside or it is not.


Now consider all of reality, and I think you get the idea. Can Science test for the existence of something beyond our reality? As far as we know, no. Could God exist? yes. Does God either exist or not exist? Absolutely. Objectively, it’s a coin flip. Subjectively, people could experience him. Absolutely, we can’t objectively know if they truly are or aren’t subjectively experiencing God.

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Posted: 22 June 2012 06:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Are there any problems with recognizing a distinction between what we claim to be true subjectively, objectively, or absolutely? If everyone agrees with where I’ve drawn lines, then its safe to say that everyone agrees that atheists and theists base their worldviews on equally unfalsifiable claims as far as objectivity is concerned, but only one is absolutely correct.

[ Edited: 22 June 2012 07:00 PM by JRA]
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