The analogy also fails for other reasons. It is not true that the music exists independent of the radio. One cannot listen to a concert of radio waves. Music only arises when the radio waves cause electronic processes within the radio that lead to the production of music.
In the same way, sound waves travel thru air but are not perceived as music until they stimulate the eardrum of a person, which then leads to further neural processes that create the subjective experience of music. The conscious experience of music does not exist in the absence of the physical medium of the brain.
Feser claims that a material triangle would lack determinacy because it would deviate from perfect triangularity in some, perhaps imperceptible way. I don’t see that semantic content is an issue there at all.
Indeed! And that recursivity adds so much. Most obviously, it makes the process cumulative, and less obviously, it makes that cumulative nature reliable: if one draws incorrect inferences at first, and builds upon them by investigation, the further investigation is liable to correct the poor inferences.
The wordy gas-project of pure reason can be cumulative, too, but the monstrous nature of the unreason that it leads to is easy to see. Shaky conclusions on which one builds merely become shakier – a house of cards, as people say – as one builds the edifice higher. The more words you get into the mix, the deeper into all of the problems – linguistic ambiguity, the amplification of early error, et cetera – you get.
Anyone who thinks that abstract verbal entities can be readily reasoned about, with reliable conclusions, ought to spend a bit of time drafting statutes, or legal arguments. What one finds is that in the law it’s very easy to craft “high theory” which dwells purely in the realm of ideas, and damned difficult to convert that high theory to workable terms which can be applied to real things. Every form of ambiguity, definitional difficulty and logical structure come into focus as difficult problems. The first inclination is always to caulk the seams with more words. But more words themselves create more problems. One consequence of this is that there are contract cases which come down to sounding almost post-modern in their approach to language, dripping with layers of contextual and cultural and personal meaning and full of the notion that language itself is never unambiguous, never simply determinative. And while some of those post-modern-ish cases go a bit too far, they are not completely wrong. The difficulty of application of language to real problems is immense. And the law, unlike pure philosophy, has got to justify itself by resolving real problems, involving actual things and actual people in the real world.
These difficulties appear BECAUSE you try to apply the abstract to the concrete. As long as you play the game of assuming that the abstract is all that matters, you can reason for a thousand pages, blissfully unaware that you’ve done less work than Sisyphus: you haven’t even touched the boulder. Philosophical arguments for the existence of the gods are more a kind of faith-based performance art than a genuine inquiry.
In a strange way I am reminded of this marvelous quote from Earl Weaver:
“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”
That’s empiricism. You can’t just fill the page with words and call it a job well done. You have to give the facts their chance.
Semantic content is precisely the issue that is in view. The point that Feser is illustrating is that no particular triangle can determinately represent the concept triangle as opposed to something more specific (such as triangle with these angles and side lengths) or more general (such as 2-d geometric figure), and all material triangles have features which are not part of, and in some cases actually at odds with, the concept of triangularity.
I am still not convinced. How would imperceptible deviations from triangularity in a “material triangle” make a difference to semantic content?
The first is clearly not relevant to the question I asked. Also, I see no reason to see that a generalisation should be adequately represented by a single example, nor do I feel that the concept of triangularity would need to be a triangle any more than the concept of a car needs to be a car.
The second seems to be the point but it’s relevance is quite unclear. I would also note that computers can more easily represent an idealised triangle than they can represent the imperfect “material triangles” we find in the world.
None of this is in evidence. What do you mean by “me controlling my thoughts”? Libertarian free will is an incoherent concept, not just one without evidence. What you have there is an empty assertion, I’m afraid. Nor, even if you somehow control your thoughts through some kind of magic, immaterial process, that’s not a reason to trust them.
I’m afraid we can’t see that. You merely assume what you want to prove, that reason can’t arise from physical processes, and the typing monkey analogy does not help.
How do you know God has such an interest? And can we not establish that our perception of reality isn’t all that clear? Consider the analogy of your visual system, which uses all sorts of heuristics and shortcuts that render it vulnerable to optical illusions. That’s just the sort of thing we might expect in an evolved system, and we see analogous failures in human reasoning.
In Feser’s own words (from the third of the links I posted above):
Something is “determinate” in the sense in question here if there is an objective fact of the matter about whether it has one rather than another of a possible range of meanings – that is to say, if it has a meaning or semantic content that is exact, precise, or unambiguous. It is “indeterminate” if it does not, that is to say, if there is no objective fact of the matter about which of the alternative possible meanings or contents it possesses.
I’m going rewind our conversation slightly, because I did not explain things as well as I could have…
So, what is going on here is Feser is using the way that a material triangle deviates from perfect triangularity as an illustration of the fact that material things are not “exact” or “determinate” in the way that concepts are; unfortunately I think the illustration obscures the actual point somewhat.
Here is the actual point, which I was trying to explain: say you want to physically represent the concept “triangle”. You may try to do so by drawing a triangle. But nothing about the physical facts of such a drawing would fix whether it represented “triangle” as opposed to “triangle with these lengths and angles” or “2-d geometric figure”. You could add more instances of triangles to your drawing, but it still wouldn’t be determined by the physical facts alone whether it represented “triangle” as opposed to “this particular collection of triangles” or “idle geometric doodling” or something like that. You could label the drawing with the word triangle, but nothing about the physical facts fixes the meaning of that particular set of symbols (and the philosophical arguments from Kripke, etc, that Feser references make the case that the meanings of words are not determinate even taking the facts about the way those words are used into consideration).
And the point generalizes. There is nothing to be found about a particular string of 1s and 0s in a computer, either intrinsically or in causal and functional relationships to other material things, that can determine its meaning is “triangle” as opposed to “trilateral” (even though all triangles are trilaterals and vice-versa, the meanings of those two words are different - after all, one means having three sides and one means having three angles, and sides are different from angles). Same goes for patterns of neurons firing or any material representation whatsoever; nothing material can be determinate in the relevant sense.
That is one premise in the argument; and of course Feser argues for the other premise (that some of our thoughts are determinate in the relevant sense) as well, with the conclusion that some of our thoughts cannot be material. I.e., there is some immaterial component or property of our thoughts which just is meaning itself (so that there is no gap between meaning and representation where the above kind of skeptical argument can enter), and it is this instrinsic meaning in the immaterial component of our thoughts that makes it possible for patterns of neurons firing, strings of 1s and 0s, or a drawing on a piece of paper to derivatively mean “triangle”.
Would a God who is perfect Reason and Love inflict eternal torture for apparently no reason other than vindictiveness? Why would such a God inflict retributive punishment rather than restorative punishment? You may not be a believer in eternal conscious torment, but if you are, this does add another enormous philosophical (and moral) hurdle to proving that the Christian God exists.
That does not mean anything at all, unless we have a clear distinction that enables us to decide what is a natural process.
When we see lightning, we might say that it is natural. But some people might say that it is supernatural. So naturalism is just an attitude or stance that you follow to decide what to call “natural” and what to call “supernatural”.
OK, judgement call to save my own sanity. The OP call for arguments for the existence of God. Not evidence, not argument about what constitutes a good argument for the existence of God.
If you don’t like where your comments end up, make a new thread and direct me to the comments to be moved there.
You said the following : If the mind is not emergent from the brain, I see no reason that the mind should deteriorate just because atoms in the brain are not arranged normally.
The radio analogy hold for what it intends to show, ie, that your above reasoning is incorrect. Indeed, imagine that some system S is constantly observed to be linked to some phenomenonP. In essence, what you are saying is that if it is observed that whenever S is affected, P is also affected, then it means that S creates P. The radio analogy invalidates this claim.
Agreed. Discussions about analogies are meta and ultimately do not constitute evidence.
In regards to this title thread, it seems to me that “The most current philosophical arguments for the existence of God” showcases the state of affairs, in that there are few angles to the discussion which are any more current than what has been argued since the golden age of Greece. Who is going to come along and contribute some insight into the framing of the scholastic arguments which has eluded the past two and a half millennia, just by thinking harder? Over this time, the discussions have become ever more precise and intricate, and PhD’s awarded for contributing more to the hall of words, all without progressing to anything near a consensus. It could be that pure reason is just not a vehicle which can carry one to a spiritual destination, and is at best rationally consistent with faith. After all, scripture indicates that God does the choosing of the elect, and Himself remains transcendent.
When has philosophy ever led to an enduring consensus? At best, it would seem to showcase new fads and fashions, that gain a degree of preponderance for a few decades, before going out of style – not uncommonly in favor of a reinvention of some earlier fashion.
A fashion is merely a form of ugliness so absolutely unbearable that we have to alter it every six months! – Oscar Wilde