Statesboro, GA, USA
My point about "logical" processes, is not that they yield the exact same results in every situation or culture, but that they are at work in every culture and have very consistent characteristics. The same logic which says to a man in Los Angeles, "since you are not in the kitchen now, you will have to go there before you can open the pantry and eat" says to a man in the Chinese Emperor's palace, "Since It would be foolish for you to go into the emperor's kitchen and steal his food at the risk of your life, you will have to find another means of acquiring food unless you want to die." And yes I know that logical thought doesn't speak to us as if it were separate from us as in my example, but in many ways it is often objective since it is a type of thinking which often corrects our thinking. Of course you could hack my example up with all kinds of reasons why the above statements are totally contingent on the surroundings, and culture. But I am not defending across the board the consistency of all courses of action which logic (or lack of it) might lead to in different circumstances. I am defending that logic itself is operative across the board in all circumstances and cultures. You demand a context bigger than a national or racial culture. But you forget that humanity itself is a context and a culture. It is our very generation which coined the phrase “the global village”. Admittedly we are very different from each other. But more admittedly we share many basic traits, similarities, and common ground in the mental, psychological, and spiritual realms. We are more the same than different.
In my former examples, I only excluded a "full context" as you said, since it would take pages to include it. But my attempt is not to be free from incriminating context. I 'm just sure there is a larger context, just as when a zoologist studies whales, he recognizes common traits and truths that transcend all the particular species of whales, so it is viable to study the genus as one class. Yes species have differences, but they have more common traits than differences, which is why they are all called whales. So you are preferring the view of segmented global cultures where the points of reference inside any culture are all uncommon and alien to the others. I recognize differences in cultures also. But while my view of differing cultures might be compared to a house with many rooms, where the doors though sometimes closed are not barred, and the tenants share a common hallway and more importantly the same basic foundation, yours sounds more like separate houses altogether which have always been locked to the neighbors. There is a global context. We all have a common history, and a common biology. Your demand of a particular cultural context for every proposal of shared "laws" is not a fair demand. But if you continue to ask for one, planet earth is a culture in and of itself. You may have overlooked that. That's why there is human psychology, not just American psychology, Chinese psychology, Jewish Psychology, Eastern psychology, Western Psychology, etc...etc... (I don't deny that these geographical historical cultures produce different psyches, but they don't do such a complete job as to render each culture other than human, excluding themselves by complete metamorphosis from the general umbrella of commonalities in human psychology).
As to my example of the axiom:
If A is the same size as B, and B is the same size as C,D, and E, then A is also equal to C,D, and E in size.
This is not at all a context specific statement. At least not according to the examples you give... problems of depth perception... Is this eyesight you are referring to? If so this has no bearing on measurement of size, if you are truly measuring and not estimating. Optical illusions... again this holds no weight in the arena of measurement since we are not going by appearance in measuring size, but by actual measurements which often prove appearance wrong. Optical illusions of the spatial kind prove to be illusions by measuring. Problems of measurement? ... there could be. But you are saying there is (a specific exceptional example), while my axiom assumes that there were not problems of measurement...hence the phrase "the same size". My axiom is stating that these objects have been measured, and there were no notable problems with the measurements (for example, when measuring 1 inch by 1 inch cubes there is rarely ...I would say almost never...a problem with measurement, though there might be with an eighty side polyhedron that was submerged 3 miles below the surface of the ocean, but this would be exceptional rather than the rule). Besides, any problems with measurement are exactly that, problems with measurement (ie, our abilities to determine what size something is). My above axiom is not even dependent on our ability to measure since it presupposes correct measurement. Even if we could never measure very well (which we can), my axiom states that things can be the same size even if we are unable to determine so because of crude instrumentation. Logic demands that this is true. Surely you must admit that two grains of sand in theory could in fact be the same size even if it cannot be minutely determined by our tools of measurements. But even if you balk to admit this by elevating human awareness as the determiner of truth. (or make truth contingent on human awareness), my axiom presupposes the possibility of correct measurements. Considering that we've built skyscrapers and sent men into orbit, it is not unreasonable to suppose that we can measure fairly accurately. And as to your statement of doubt concerning the time element, yes they could be argued to be different in measurement at a different time, but the axiom being taken at face value assumes we are speaking of a common moment in time. If I say that two trees in my backyard are the same height, surely you should understand that I don't mean next year, or even last month. There is such a thing as the unstated obvious.
You seemed to imply that anything "transcendent" or "absolute" is out of reach to us. This cannot be proven. And I am aware that the counter view can be denied by refusing to admit that there are absolutes. You see both of our views are philosophical, metaphysical in nature, and cannot be answered empirically. Though I think that laws of logic, natural laws, and moral law are good indicators of a transcendent creator of the universe, you are free to disagree with me especially since I cannot prove it in the same way I could prove that I have "brown hair". I could present empirical evidence here and show you that my hair is really brown, and not dyed that way. Your quote of Fish which stated that an ultimate truth would not be clothed in any “guises” which would make it attainable to mortals is a mere statement of philosophical presupposition. There is nothing that suggests to me that humans cannot know things that are ultimately true, though admittedly we cannot know them completely. You can understand that a tree grows without understanding the intricacies of botanical and chemical science. Biblically speaking we were made “in the image of God”. So who is to say that in many respects we are not indeed “gods” with a little “g”, able in some comparatively minor ways to perceive and know as God does. So I disagree with your sentiment that as mortal humans we are rendered eternally isolated from ultimate truth. This still falls under the category of agnostic thinking which says “yeah, an ultimate truth maybe...God, maybe...but we can never really know for sure”. That statement is only true if God who governs the laws of all things made it so (as to be unknowable). But if what Christians believe is right (not to mention other monotheistic religions also at this point) that God has revealed at least some knowable truth and has even commanded us to know it, it stands to reason that we were built in such a fashion that truth thankfully is within our grasp. So I really don’t think I’m confusing “thinking” with “god-like knowledge” in the way you mean (assuming that you think god-like knowledge is something so divine and immutable that we can never grasp it...something separated from us by the nature of our being and the nature of absolute truth). I just disagree with you on a philosophical point that either places all “god-like” knowledge beyond us or at least partially within our reach. We are designed to have some “god-like” knowledge. You are free to disagree.
You stated that “all statements unless spiritually or supernaturally inspired are in the same boat, and if something explains everything, it doesn’t explain anything”. I just wanted to make the point that the Christian claim is exactly that men made statements that were “supernaturally inspired”, and that the revelation of scripture was given to men by God. No, God didn’t reach down from some clouds with a pen and write it himself. But there were many different people from different cultures, both Jewish and Gentile, from many different socio-economic classes and schools of thought to whom God “happened” in a personal and historical sense and they wrote of their experiences. They weren’t just trying to write out philosophical platitudes and aphorisms for other generations to ponder and put on greeting cards. They found themselves (often by no choice of their own) encountered by a living God who did things... who was no mere nature-god or collective human spirit like pantheism entails. Now admittedly I haven’t exactly approached our discussion from that angle. Since your thread was philosophical in nature (imagine that in this forum! lol) I chose to come from that angle. But I could also tell you of personal experience of God in my life which is undeniable to me. It would be as futile for me to argue against God as it would for me to argue against the existence of my mother. After all I’ve met her. But subjective experience is often argued away by those who have already predecided not to believe because of philosophical/ metaphysical presuppositions. That’s why I’ve been reserved in going that direction, but it doesn’t mean I can’t. I was merely trying to show that there are very definite evidences in the natural realm for the existence of God. Of course these are not “proofs” in the sense of empirical proof because the whole question of God’s existence is of a metaphysical nature. However your view involves presuppositions as well as mine, so neither can be proven in a test-tube manner. I just believe that the evidence weighs greater on the side of Christian theism than for naturalism (including any of it’s forms including eastern religion) and this is what I’ve been trying to show.
The difference between supernaturalism/ naturalism and transcendental/ mundane I will try to explain. Naturalism is any belief system which portrays nature as the one great interlocking event besides which there is no other. Nothing exists “outside” of this natural scheme. The reasoning follows that anything that happens cannot be supernaturally explained or miraculous, because it is merely part of “nature”. Simplistically, miracles claim to break the “rules” in the scheme of nature. That’s why biblical miracles were said to be “of God” and not just some as of yet unexplained happening. But naturalism would say, “that’s no miracle. Since there is nothing beyond the boundaries of monistic “nature” , anything that might appear miraculous is really behaving according the character of the “whole show” and therefore not miraculous, though granted not explained. So supernaturalism is any belief system which grants that something exists quite “apart” from that grand inter-locking event called nature... or of it’s own accord. There are alot of religions and belief systems which are supernaturalistic but not explicitly Christian. But usually before anyone can really determine which of the many supernaturalist explanations are right, he or she must determine if supernaturalism is plausible. If one has a naturalistic world view, God or any supernatural powers are ruled out to him in his thinking. If one has a supernaturalist view, then God and or other supernatural powers and beings are possible in his thinking. when I said that a naturalism vs. supernaturalism debate is more suitable, I meant that this to me is a more primary consideration. Because mere mundane vs. transcendental views do not always part in such a radical way as do supernaturalist vs. naturalist views. One would think that a naturalist view would forbid any transcendental or “spiritual” thought but it doesn’t. It merely forbids any “supernatural” explanation. That’s why forms of naturalism can take on spiritual elements, but they are much nearer to their strictly materialistic cousins than to supernaturalism. In fact when you cut all the ribbons of “spirituality” away they pretty much seem to believe the same things. A Western minded man who was brought up in the tenants of respectable science and empiricism might view the cosmos as a mere conglomeration of molecules, atoms, protons, electrons, and on down through the stratum of smaller and smaller building blocks, with nothing more whatsoever to be found. At a quick glance a Hinduistic sage of India appears vastly different from the above mentioned man, but he also at the root of things in his mind believes that everything is one entity. According to both, there are no permanent dividing lines, and there is nothing within the whole mass which can claim to stand of it’s own accord...everything is dependent on the other parts, everything in time is dependent on what happened before, and everything that is has the characteristic of dependency. So you see how two greatly different mindsets can be more kindred that we think. But a supernaturalist view, especially the Christian view is radically different that either of these. The belief is that an eternal being, “God” has always existed of his own accord, not dependent on any other thing, not a part of an interlocking event called “nature”. In fact it is asserted in the Hebrew bible that he was the self existent one before nature ever was. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. So in a peculiar sense he has an individuality and uniqueness which is unlike any other created thing. Out of his opaqueness of being, and absolute existence he created other things, which we may call nature if we wish. But it is more like a man who paints a painting. He never IS the painting. The parts of the painting, such as the paint, the canvas, the frame are not parts of his being as if he were dependent on them. If they disappeared he would not. Though it is true that his heart and emotions and thoughts are exhibited in the painting and accessible to other minds in an indirect sense. It is this sense that I think you mean when you say that Picasso lives in his paintings, it is part of his essence (but a leaping assumption to say all of it). But this is what I mean by naturalism/ supernaturalism distinction. I think it is a more radical, more conclusive division than mundane vs. transcendental which can be essentially (though not particularly) the same.
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (edited 03-05-2001).]