Absolute Agnosticism


Curioser and curiouser…

All right, let’s do some house cleaning. Let’s forget that the words “theist”, “atheist” and “agnostic” exist. Let us say:
1. There are people who believe that god exists.
2. There are people who believe that no gods exist.
3. There are people who do not believe that god exists and do not believe that no gods exist.

I believe you fall into category 2. I most certainly fall into category #3. Call the categories what you will, no two of them are equivalent.

“For example, if it could be shown that the qualities of a specific deity were logically inconsistent would you agree that such a deity could not exist as described? ”

I have seen this before. God as a spherical cube. Paradoxical characteristics. My answer is: Paradox is of this universe. i.e. things that cannot, according to pyhysics (or logic), exist. Deities are not of this universe and therefore not subject to phsyics, logic, or any other measure we might use. So, my answer is “No, I would not agree.”

If, on the other hand, omnipotence and extra-universality were not included as a characteristic, my answer would be, “What deity? No omnipotence; no deity.”

“…if I made up a deity, would you be willing to state absolutely that it doesn’t exist?”

No. It would exist – at least in your mind. And perhaps even in reality. Perhaps you did not actually “make up” the deity. Perhaps it placed the notion of itself in your mind, as if you made it up. Preposterous sounding idea, of course, but one which neither of us can test. And, of course, I would have thought it was plain by now – I would never state anything absolutely.

I am not comfortable with your list of philosophical categories since none of them correctly represents my beliefs. My beliefs would be more correctly stated as, “There are people who do not believe there are gods.” The difference is subtle but extremely important in the context of our conversation. I do not assert that no deities exist; rather, I am not convinced that deities exist. You might say that I’m in category #3 but assign a very low probability to the existence of deities.

You say that, “Deities are not of this universe and therefore not subject to phsyics, logic, or any other measure we might use.” I agree that something not of the universe would not necessarily be bound by this universe’s physics since physics is tied to the material. However, I don’t see how even a supernatural being could not be bound by logic. For example, could a deity be so simple that a child could completely understand its nature, but at the same time impossible to comprehend? Please explain further.

You go on to say that omnipotence is a necessary quality of a deity. On what do you base this statement? Would you not consider the Greek gods to be deities?

You also list extra-universality as a quality of a deity. From other statements you have made, I am assuming you do not believe that a deity must be strictly outside of this universe. That is, you believe in the possibility of a deity that can have effects in the physical universe. Please correct me if I’m wrong on this.

I understand your position on allowing the possibility that a deity I made up exists. That is consistent with your position as I understand it.

It seems to me that our difference of opinion is largely in the area of pragmatism. Once the possibility of something being true is small enough, I treat it as if it is not true. You, it appears, do not do this. What puzzles me is why you characterize your behavior as scientific when science could not progress if it acted in this way. For example, would you remain strictly agnostic when asked, “In our universe, are the laws of physics unchanging?” I assume I am misunderstanding something somewhere, and would appreciate your pointing it out.

I would be very much interested in your view on the probability of the existence of specific deities. For example, would you say that it is likely the Christian God exists? Likely enough that you act to avoid the possibility of eternal punishment (as per Pascal’s wager)?

I appreciate your answering all these questions. The limits of your beliefs are very important, in that they represent the difference between “I have a consistent agnostic philosophy” and “I just refuse to say anything absolute.” I assume you fall into the former category, so there is certainly more to your philosophy that I need to learn. (I also assume that you use the phrase “I would never state anything absolutely” rhetorically and not as a statement of your philosophy since it is self contradictory.)

Posted on January 15, 2008 at 9:54 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: Agnosticism, Discussion

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