Originally posted by twhitehead
My understanding of 'un-natural' is not-normal or uncommon. It does not necessarily imply the supernatural but it may in certain instances... Supernatural on the other hand implies breaking the laws of nature.
My understanding of 'un-natural' is not-normal or uncommon. It does not necessarily imply the supernatural but it may in certain instances. It is most often used as an insult (such as when referring to gay behavior).
Supernatural on the other hand implies breaking the laws of nature. Of course when one actually thinks about it, the whole supernatural cat n be read the other way: magic once studied and understood, is merely advanced technology.
That’s why I often add the parenthetical term “extra-natural” when I talk about the supernatural. I take positing a supernatural category to mean that reality is not exhausted by the natural totality (the cosmos)—generally, whatever the content of such a supernatural domain may be, the implication is that it is somehow “wholly other” vis-à-vis the natural order.
Of course when one actually thinks about it, the whole supernatural category makes no sense...
You seem to be making here a much stronger argument than I have; I have usually argued that there is just no epistemic warrant for positing a supernatural (extra-natural) category even if the grammar of our consciousness is insufficient to comprehend the entire syntax of the cosmos (which also includes that grammar). As BdN said, it needlessly multiplies entities (at the very least, it is dualistic).
I have also argued that, unless there is communication between the supernatural and natural domains—and that any such communication by/from the supernatural is coherent to our (natural) grammar—then the supernatural category is an epistemically empty one. We can know nothing at all about it, including its existence.
Any such communication, however, must be—as you put it—observable. To be observable to us it must be manifest in nature in a way that is sufficiently natural for us to recognize that something
is happening. My stricture that such a communication must be coherent to us is not relevant at this stage (it is relevant to our ability to understand
what it is that is happening).
But then, we are back a square one: something has happened in the natural realm which is incomprehensible to the grammar of our consciousness—and so we decide to leap to a supernatural category to “explain” an event in the natural realm that we can’t explain. If one is willing to concede that the grammar of our consciousness might not be exhaustive of the natural-order syntax (and even if it is), why should one assume that it can decipher the syntax of the supernatural?
Some might claim that we possess also some kind of supernatural grammar—but once again the communication issue rears its head (and sometimes seems to result in what SwissGambit would call bizarro-speech).
So, the supernatural is either accessible to our natural observation/grammar, or it is ineffable. But if it is naturally accessible, then why say that it must be supernatural? It may well still be ineffable (and I maintain that there is an aspect of our relationship to the natural order, of which we also are, that is
ineffable—but that’s another story...).
...So supernatural events are by definition unobservable.
...because they are only observable if they are manifest (communicated) as events in nature.*
I actually thought you were going for more than parsimony here, especially following your statement that “the whole supernatural category makes no sense.” What I think you have
shown is that any sense we could make of it would be a natural sense, because it’s the only sense we can make of anything.
Therefore, unless I have misread you, I’ll still stick with my “no epistemic warrant” position—but strengthened by (what I take as) your point that positing a supernatural category does not really make sense out of anything that is otherwise senseless; we just get entangled in the bewitchment of our own language when we think it does.
Since, as I believe, there is no good reason to conclude
to a supernatural category, it has to be taken as the first axiom of any supernaturalist-dualist theology. Anything else ends up being circular.
None of which establishes that there cannot be a supernatural domain. Nor do I mind what is normally considered to be supernaturalist language, metaphor and symbol—as long as it is not intended propositionally, but just as aesthetic “fingers” pointing to the “moon” (the ineffable), or to express art
-fully one’s experience of the ineffable. I take all religious discourse (including my own) in that sense; which is why I say that all religious language is either iconographic (pointing beyond itself, and all its images, to the ineffable), or it becomes idolatrous.
[I added that last paragraph only because I think I sometimes confuse people when I move from one kind of discourse to another: about the time they have me pegged as a "conventional" atheist, I’m arguing Christology, cracking out bad Zen koans, or writing poems about Shiva. It’s all the same: I’m still a non-sectarian, non-supernaturalist non-dualist playing in maya, effing at the ineffable...]
* This includes such things as verbal or written “revelation”, not just what is generally called “natural revelation” in theological discourse.