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    27 Jun '14 23:18
    In Thread 159660 we had some discussion regarding rational justification for theistic belief. One of the relevant questions is to what extent a theist (I think a similar question applies to, say, a strong atheist who claims the same god does not exist) should be able to present rational arguments and other evidence in support of that belief. If, say, the theist (or strong atheist) has no such arguments or evidential considerations to offer for his or her belief, does it follow that he or she is being irrational or noetically irresponsible in holding that belief? This concerns a basic evidentialist objection: that such belief is warranted only if it is believed on the basis of such evidence. So, this thread is meant to foster some discussion on this subject.

    As food for thought, here is an example of work by philosopher Alvin Plantinga that argues that theistic belief can be warranted in the absence of evidence:

    http://cla.calpoly.edu/~rgrazian/docs/courses/412/Plantinga_BeliefGodPBasic.pdf

    In short, Plantinga argues for a model of warranted theistic belief that does not depend on evidence. To summarize briefly, this putatively warranted theistic belief forms directly and non-inferentially through a mechanism like Calvin's sensus divinitatis, in a way that is analogous to perception or memory beliefs. So, just like one forms beliefs based on perception or memory, such as that there is a tree before me or that I had oatmeal for breakfast this morning or etc, Plantinga argues that one can also form beliefs about God in a similar fashion through a divine sensorium. These perception and memory beliefs are non-inferential (not inferred from other beliefs) and yet of course can be warranted for the individual. Similarly, Plantinga argues that the theistic beliefs delivered through the divine sensorium, while although non-inferential and thus based on no propositional evidence, are warranted for the individual, subject to the satisfaction of some further necessary conditions.

    One problem here is that granting those "further necessary conditions" is basically just question-begging in any debate about God's existence, since one of those necessary conditions is that there exists some God who has imbued humans with, or otherwise provided for, such a divine sensorium. (After all, if there is no such God, then how would Plantinga's model make any sense?) At any rate, even if Plantinga's arguments here are successful, they do not show that theistic belief is warranted on the basis of no evidence; at best they show only that it is so warranted, if in fact such a God exists and some other conditions obtain. Not so interesting, then.

    More importantly, there are good reasons to think that Plantinga fails to be even that successful. Under Plantinga's model, theistic belief is epistemically non-inferential, in the sense that its warrant does not depend on any considerations of argument or propositional evidence, etc. However, there are reasons to think this cannot be true even in principle. For instance, if you consider the analogs of perception or memory beliefs, the sensory predicates one employs can only be as warranted as the background theories in which they are imbedded, which in turn are inferentially structured, articulated, and framed. Here is a worthwhile paper that discusses this objection:

    http://faculty.georgetown.edu/koonsj/papers/Plantinga.pdf
  2. Joined
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    28 Jun '14 00:281 edit
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    In Thread 159660 we had some discussion regarding rational justification for theistic belief. One of the relevant questions is to what extent a theist (I think a similar question applies to, say, a strong atheist who claims the same god does not exist) should be able to present rational arguments and other evidence in support of that belief ...[text shortened]... aper that discusses this objection:

    http://faculty.georgetown.edu/koonsj/papers/Plantinga.pdf
    Just dipping into waters too deep for me.

    From Wikipedia on Calvin's 'sense of divinity':

    quote:

    The sensus divinitatis is sometimes used to argue that there are no genuine atheists.

    [quoting Calvin]: That there exists in the human mind and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of Deity [sensus divinitatis], we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead…. …this is not a doctrine which is first learned at school, but one as to which every man is, from the womb, his own master; one which nature herself allows no individual to forget.

    unquote

    This attitude seems to be deeply embedded in those that say such things as that atheists "reject" or "deny" God.

    It would be in the same vein, to deny that one has a "sensus divinitatis."
  3. Standard memberRJHinds
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    28 Jun '14 13:39
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    In Thread 159660 we had some discussion regarding rational justification for theistic belief. One of the relevant questions is to what extent a theist (I think a similar question applies to, say, a strong atheist who claims the same god does not exist) should be able to present rational arguments and other evidence in support of that belief ...[text shortened]... aper that discusses this objection:

    http://faculty.georgetown.edu/koonsj/papers/Plantinga.pdf
    I thank God that the common man can just look around and with common sense understand that God must exist because of the existence of His creations.
  4. Standard memberhakima
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    28 Jun '14 13:45
    Originally posted by RJHinds
    I thank God that the common man can just look around and with common sense understand that God must exist because of the existence of His creations.
    Amen!

    Namaste
  5. Standard memberCalJustonline
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    29 Jun '14 16:03
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    In Thread 159660 we had some discussion regarding rational justification for theistic belief. One of the relevant questions is to what extent a theist (I think a similar question applies to, say, a strong atheist who claims the same god does not exist) should be able to present rational arguments and other evidence in support of that belief ...[text shortened]... aper that discusses this objection:

    http://faculty.georgetown.edu/koonsj/papers/Plantinga.pdf
    Hi LJ,

    Sorry for the late reply. I did actually start to write, then had to leave and lost my entire response since it wasn't saved. (Which means it went to hell! 🙂 Get it?)

    I have to warn you, though, that when you engage me in philosophical battle, you are fighting with an unarmed man. Philosophical Quarterly is not on my regular reading list. Nevertheless, the least I could do is extend you the courtesy of reading your two references, which i did - painfully.

    Actually, the concepts that I didunderstand, (or at least think I did) I found quite interesting. I have previously come across Calvin's idea of a sensus divinitatis. But if he intended it to strengthen his case for christianity, it also makes a case for every single other religion, which isn't really that helpful for his cause.

    The idea that I think i grasped is that of the Properly Basic, i.e. non-inferential belief, which seems to be an important part of the debate. In that matter I agree with the point that "theistic belief can't be properly basic, but only because no kind of belief can be properly basic". It is always against our Background theories. (Aside - when he talks about the Great Pumpkin, I am reminded of the jokes on RHP about the FSM. The same arguments apply!)

    When he quotes from his Ref 12 (in the Georgetown article) about a Basic Experience about God, I find myself agreeing with him. (sorry I can't cut&paste from a pdf).

    For me the main problem is NOT to be able to prove the existence of God from rational argument. For once, I agree with RJH that this is demonstrated in a Creation all around us. But the biggest problem is (as pointed out by many on this forum, specifically twhitehead and also that thread about the Feedback Loop) why does this God not cause uniformity of belief across all peoples and population groups?

    I guess that must be because of this very difference in Background Theories.

    But it is for that reason that I find myself in sympathy and solidarity with the contemplative dimension of other religious and sacred traditions.

    In summary, I did find the articles, in particular the Georgetown "rebuttal" most interesting, even if much of it went over my head. Thank you for pointing them out to me. I guess that it is wonderful that there are people like Plantinga and the author of the other article to thrash such matters out. But, as I said before, I am certainly not in their league.

    There are two quotes that I would like to end with: the first by Rumi, the Sufi mystic who said: "There is a field beyond the knowledge of Right and Wrong - I will meet you there."

    The other by Thomas Merton: "I am free, therefore I am lost. There is no more Ego to defend. I simply love." If I had a goal to strive for, that would be it, but clearly I am still very far from it.

    In peace

    CJ
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    29 Jun '14 17:21
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    In Thread 159660 we had some discussion regarding rational justification for theistic belief. One of the relevant questions is to what extent a theist (I think a similar question applies to, say, a strong atheist who claims the same god does not exist) should be able to present rational arguments and other evidence in support of that belief ...[text shortened]... aper that discusses this objection:

    http://faculty.georgetown.edu/koonsj/papers/Plantinga.pdf
    So, are we to believe, (have a belief) based on evidence, or is it rational to accept that reason alone is sufficient for a belief?

    Maybe the answer is both, and neither. Do we engage in debate concerning the validity of an argument generated by the lack of evidential knowledge? Or is our reason for cause of the validity of an argument sufficient?

    What I'm trying to say is this: We have a choice. Swim in the sea of paradox, or trust in the Word of God. God is the first and last answer to every question. Nothing can be know of truth until the truth is known.

    I'll just throw this out there and see what comes back.
  7. Standard memberCalJustonline
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    29 Jun '14 17:29
    Originally posted by josephw
    What I'm trying to say is this: We have a choice. Swim in the sea of paradox, or trust in the Word of God.
    I would put it differently: the choice in front of us is to either "swim in the sea of paradox" and accept it, or try to shoe-horn all the conflicting evidence (even in the Word of God as you specifically see it) into one self-sufficient belief.

    I must warn you - the latter requires severe mental gymnastics, and will involve alienation from the rest of humanity that does not share your view.
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    29 Jun '14 17:40
    Originally posted by josephw
    God is the first and last answer to every question.
    Its statements like that that create your sea of paradox in the first place.

    Also, the problem with trusting the word of God, is that nobody actually seems to do so.
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    29 Jun '14 17:47
    Originally posted by CalJust
    I would put it differently: the choice in front of us is to either "swim in the sea of paradox" and accept it, or try to shoe-horn all the conflicting evidence (even in the Word of God as you specifically see it) into one self-sufficient belief.

    I must warn you - the latter requires severe mental gymnastics, and will involve alienation from the rest of humanity that does not share your view.
    "I must warn you - the latter requires severe mental gymnastics, and will involve alienation from the rest of humanity that does not share your view."

    I hear what you're saying. But 'my view', of how or by what process is taken to arrive at the truth, is irrelevant. I'm focused on the first cause, or God as it were, as the independent argument for the resolution of all arguments.

    As incoherent as that sounds, it's the best I have in a pinch.

    Whose alienation?
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    29 Jun '14 17:481 edit
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    Its statements like that that create your sea of paradox in the first place.

    Also, the problem with trusting the word of God, is that nobody actually seems to do so.
    Well, I guess I'm just 'nobody'. 🙂

    That statement ends the stalemate, even if you don't think so.
  11. Cape Town
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    29 Jun '14 18:06
    Originally posted by josephw
    Well, I guess I'm just 'nobody'. 🙂

    That statement ends the stalemate, even if you don't think so.
    No, you are not nobody, and I am quite certain that you do not trust the word of God even though you claim to. Instead, you bring interpretation to it based on your knowledge and experience and desires.
  12. Standard memberRJHinds
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    29 Jun '14 21:201 edit
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    No, you are not nobody, and I am quite certain that you do not trust the word of God even though you claim to. Instead, you bring interpretation to it based on your knowledge and experience and desires.
    Don't we all? And what makes you think that your knowledge and experience and desires are more trustworthy than those that believe in the word of God instead of the fairy tale of evolution and billions of years?
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    30 Jun '14 10:35
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    No, you are not nobody, and I am quite certain that you do not trust the word of God even though you claim to. Instead, you bring interpretation to it based on your knowledge and experience and desires.
    I'm nobody in the sense that we are all human, and we each have the same equality of value, that nobody is better than another in the eyes of God.

    Of course that doesn't take into account the value we place on ourselves based on what we esteem as valuable.

    ".., you bring interpretation to it based on your knowledge and experience and desires."

    True, but I'm referring to something different. Something that I, as yet, have been unable to bring into the conversation, though is have tried numerous times.

    This: The concept that the scriptures are the revelation of God, and as such are not open to mine or anyone else's personal interpretation, if in fact the Word of God exists. This is that which this thread is about, namely, I perceive it this way, you that. One of us is wrong, or both of us is wrong, but we can't both be right!

    So we're left with a choice. A choice we make based on either material evidence or some intrinsic ability to reason it out, or both, or as I said before, neither, that we choose based on what God said.

    God says, according to scripture, that the evidence of His existence is all creation. So, based on God's Word, now I know. Not of me, or you, but of God.
  14. Standard memberCalJustonline
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    30 Jun '14 11:481 edit
    Originally posted by josephw
    I perceive it this way, you that. One of us is wrong, or both of us is wrong, but we can't both be right!
    This is where we mostly get stuck- who is RIGHT?

    I submit that most often we CAN both be right!

    Remember the six blind men and the elephant? One (holding the trunk) says an elephant is like a snake. Another (holding a leg) says No, it is more like a tree.... And so on, you get the idea. So who of the six is RIGHT? All of them!

    Even Paul said we " see through a glass, darkly". Who am I to say you are wrong?

    It takes some practice to hold two opposing views in balance, but you should try it sometime!
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    01 Jul '14 18:18
    Originally posted by JS357
    Just dipping into waters too deep for me.

    From Wikipedia on Calvin's 'sense of divinity':

    quote:

    The sensus divinitatis is sometimes used to argue that there are no genuine atheists.

    [quoting Calvin]: That there exists in the human mind and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of Deity [sensus divinitatis], we hold to be beyond dispute, since ...[text shortened]... ct" or "deny" God.

    It would be in the same vein, to deny that one has a "sensus divinitatis."
    Yes, good observation. There are many theists who use the sensus divinitatis, or some similar notion, in order to advance the idea that there are no true atheists; or that atheism is a reactionary stance; or some such. However, this is not Plantinga's view as far as I know. I think he holds that while all developed humans possess the divine sense, it fails to function properly (or is functionally damaged) in a subset of humans due to various reasons.
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