1. Hmmm . . .
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    06 Aug '13 14:203 edits
    I thought that this might be an interesting topic for discussion, following on the “atheism is a belief system” thread.

    The passages below are from the Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theological_noncognitivism

    “Theological noncognitivists claim that all alleged definitions for the term "God" amount to "God is that which caused everything but God", which "defines God in terms of God", thus is circular.”

    "George H. Smith uses an attribute-based approach in an attempt to prove that there is no concept for the term "God": he argues that there are no meaningful attributes, only negatively defined or relational attributes, making the term meaningless.

    “Another way of expressing theological noncognitivism is, for any sentence S, S is cognitively meaningless if and only if S expresses an unthinkable proposition or S does not express a proposition. The sentence X is a four-sided triangle that exists outside of space and time, cannot be seen or measured and it actively hates blue spheres is an example of an unthinkable proposition. Although some may say that the sentence expresses an idea, that idea is incoherent and so cannot be entertained in thought. It is unthinkable and unverifiable. Similarly, Y is what it is does not express a meaningful proposition except in a familiar conversational context. In this sense to claim to believe in X or Y is a meaningless assertion in the same way as I believe that colorless green ideas sleep furiously is grammatically correct but without meaning.

    “Some theological noncognitivists assert that to be a strong atheist is to give credence to the concept of God because it assumes that there actually is something understandable to not believe in. This can be confusing because of the widespread claim of "belief in God" and the common use of the series of letters G-o-d as if it is already understood that it has some cognitively understandable meaning. From this view strong atheists have made the assumption that the concept of God actually contains an expressible or thinkable proposition. However this depends on the specific definition of God being used.[3] However, most theological noncognitivists do not believe that any of the definitions used by modern day theists are coherent.”

    ________________________________________________________

    Basically, theological noncognitivism seems to claim that the sign “god” not has no referent, but has no coherent signified (meaning). * That is, “god” is simply not a meaningful concept at all—and it is an error to think that, because one can make grammatical statements including the sign “god” as subject/object, one knows what she/he is talking, or thinking, about (Wittgenstein’s “bewitchment by language” ).

    I suggest that theological noncognitivism is a sound position for any use of the sign “god” that includes the supernatural, as twhitehead has convinced me that the supernatural category is meaningless (e.g., can only be “defined” negatively—as what is not-nature—even if seemingly "positive" terms are used, such as "spirit" ). This is, of course, the conventional use of the word “god”, in “western” culture anyway. **

    ______________________________________________________

    * I am ignoring the “verificationist” view of theological noncognitivism, because I think that verificationism as a theory of meaning has problems.

    ** There are, and historically long have been, naturalist (that is, non-supernaturalist) usages of ”god”. For example, for the Stoics, theos was the logos (rational principle or coherency) of the natural universe (phusis: nature) as activated/expressed by the fundamental energy of the universe (which they called pneuma, and associated with the fire, or the combined fire/air, element in what was their physics). Theos was the word they used to represent this triadic understanding of the observable cosmos as embodying the coherent generation of material form. In any event, nonsupernaturalist expressions for the sign “god” may be coherent/meaningful—and I thinkl would have to be udged on a case-by-case basis.
  2. SubscriberSuzianne
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    06 Aug '13 16:34
    This is standard nonsense attempted by some atheists to simply shut down all opposing viewpoints. It's an attempt to "take their ball and go home". The problem is, it's not their ball.
  3. Hmmm . . .
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    06 Aug '13 19:022 edits
    Originally posted by Suzianne
    This is standard nonsense attempted by some atheists to simply shut down all opposing viewpoints. It's an attempt to "take their ball and go home". The problem is, it's not their ball.
    Hi, Suzianne.

    Well, the noncognitivist position claims to undermine “strong” atheism as well—

    “From this view strong atheists have made the assumption that the concept of God actually contains an expressible or thinkable proposition. However this depends on the specific definition of God being used.” [My bold-italics]

    The article does go on to state that “most theological noncognitivists do not believe that any of the definitions used by modern day theists are coherent.” However, that strikes me as an over-generalization; I’m not sure that all “modern day theists” are supernaturalists, for example.

    —As an aside, I think that theological noncognitivism also undermines apophatic theology—such as the Christian thinker Dionysius the Aeropagite, and at least some in the broad nondualistic stream of Judaism. Apophatic theology claims that one cannot meaningfully say what God is, only what God is not (“not this, not this”, etc.). I now think that process leaves an empty set, with nothing meaningful to believe/disbelieve.

    I do not think that the gods of mythology are incoherent (Zeus, say): they are beings with well-defined naturalistic attributes—the sign “Zeus” has a signified (i.e., a coherent meaning, e.g.: “a mythical being ascribed the following attributes . . .” ), but no referent (real-world existent). Whether or not Zeus exists as an actual being is in-principle testable/falsifiable (by repeated observation that supports the null hypothesis). *

    However, I do think that a statement like the following, on analysis, lacks coherent meaning: “God is a supernatural entity that created the universe and transcends it.”

    (1) “Supernatural” is essentially an “apophatic” category: it can only be whatever is not-nature; the term itself has no content. (2) “Created” implies time, not just because it is in the past tense here, but because we are only aware of creation as an act in time, which is a dimension of the natural universe; we have no way of knowing what “supernatural” (unnatural) “creation” could possibly mean. (3) “Transcends”, here, is just like the term “supernatural” (and is really redundant: the terms are often used interchangeably, and I just wanted to include it).

    To put it crudely, “God”, in this and similar “definitions”, ends up being defined—on analysis—as “that which we know not what”.

    And, unlike Zeus, the existence of a God so-defined is not, even in principle, testable/falsifiable; not just because a powerful, supernatural being could (unnaturally) alter any outcomes (e.g., “miracles” as unnatural occurrences)—but because the “definition” really has no testable content.

    I am, of course, willing to entertain definitions of “God” that are—on analysis—coherent/meaningful. Perhaps the theological noncognitivists are (at least partly) wrong. But that needs to be shown. [(NOTE: I perhaps should have chosen a more provocative title for the thread—but I am glad that you showed up anyway. 🙂 ]

    _____________________________________________________

    By the way, Wittgenstein did not make his point, about our ability to be bewitched by (our own) language into believing that we know what we’re talking about, only (or even particularly) about theology—he leveled the charge against most of western philosophy, which includes lots of very bright people. Analytical philosophy, very broadly, analyzes statements and propositions to see whether or not they are actually meaningful as stated— “The right method in philosophy would be this. To say nothing except what can be said, i.e. ,the propositions of natural science, i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy: and then always, when someone else wished to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had not given a meaning to certain signs in his propositions. This method would not be satisfying to the other –he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy—but it would be the only strictly correct method.” [Wittgenstein in the Tractatus.]

    _______________________________________________________

    * I agree with Karl Popper (as do, apparently, most scientists) that falsificationism, not verificationism, is the proper methodology in inductive/empirical reasoning.

    NOTE: I apologize for the typos in the OP; I hope they caused no confusion.
  4. Cape Town
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    06 Aug '13 20:39
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I’m not sure that all “modern day theists” are supernaturalists, for example.
    First, I must admit that your posts are a bit to long for me and I haven't read them in full.
    I would think that modern day theists who are not supernaturalists, are actually the most likely to have an incoherent or noncognitive definition of God.
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    06 Aug '13 21:121 edit
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I thought that this might be an interesting topic for discussion, following on the “atheism is a belief system” thread.

    The passages below are from the Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theological_noncognitivism

    “Theological noncognitivists claim that all alleged definitions for the term "God" amount to "God is that which caused e coherent/meaningful—and I thinkl would have to be udged on a case-by-case basis.
    I believe this idea overlaps with the idea of absent referent:

    "Absent referent (sometimes missing referent, or missing antecedent) is a concept that originated in linguistics, and is the condition of a sign that has an empty, absent, contingent, paradoxical, hypothetical, supernatural, or undefined referent."
    ...

    "In logical positivism, atheism, rationalism, empiricism, epistemology, general semantics, metalinguistics and related disciplines, there is a suggestion that communicated symbols should represent observable truths. Any symbols which are not pointers to observable truth represent either arbitrary preferences, or meaningless fictions (which the Logical Positivists called metaphysics)."

    (wikipedia on the term)
  6. Standard memberRJHinds
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    06 Aug '13 21:25
    Originally posted by Suzianne
    This is standard nonsense attempted by some atheists to simply shut down all opposing viewpoints. It's an attempt to "take their ball and go home". The problem is, it's not their ball.
    I agree. Go girl.

    The Instructor
  7. Standard memberRJHinds
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    06 Aug '13 21:27
    Originally posted by vistesd
    Hi, Suzianne.

    Well, the noncognitivist position claims to undermine “strong” atheism as well—

    “From this view strong atheists have made the assumption that the concept of God actually contains an expressible or thinkable proposition. [b]However this depends on the specific definition of God being used
    .” [My bold-italics]

    The article does ...[text shortened]... ical reasoning.

    NOTE: I apologize for the typos in the OP; I hope they caused no confusion.[/b]
    Why don't you just put your faith in Christ and forget about all this mumbo jumbo?

    The Instructor
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    06 Aug '13 21:29
    Originally posted by RJHinds
    Why don't you just put your faith in Christ and forget about all this mumbo jumbo?

    The Instructor
    Because we need the eggs?
  9. Standard memberRJHinds
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    06 Aug '13 21:33
    Originally posted by JS357
    Because we need the eggs?
    Are you going to put them all in one basket?

    The Instructor
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    06 Aug '13 21:48
    Originally posted by RJHinds
    Are you going to put them all in one basket?

    The Instructor
    Try to avoid being a basket case.
  11. Hmmm . . .
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    06 Aug '13 22:371 edit
    Originally posted by JS357
    I believe this idea overlaps with the idea of absent referent:

    "Absent referent (sometimes missing referent, or missing antecedent) is a concept that originated in linguistics, and is the condition of a sign that has an empty, absent, contingent, paradoxical, hypothetical, supernatural, or undefined referent."
    ...

    "In logical positivism, atheism, ration ...[text shortened]... ess fictions (which the Logical Positivists called metaphysics)."

    (wikipedia on the term)
    Thanks. Some theological noncognitivists appear to view the absence of a referent in that way. However, the version outlined in the third quoted paragraph from wiki (in the opening post) really indicates that “god” is a cognitively meaningless term (at least under some definitions) itself. I was using the terms “sign” and “signified” following something I read on semiology some time back, in which a sign consists of a signifier (its articulation, written or verbal—e.g., “c-o-w” ) and a signified, which is the mental concept. A definition in a dictionary is an example of a signified.

    “Cow” also has a referent.* “Unicorn” has a signified (i.e., “a mythical animal generally depicted with the body and head of a horse, the hind legs of a stag, the tail of a lion, and a single horn in the middle of the forehead”—from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary). But unicorn has no referent.*

    That is the way I was using those terms, anyway. And it struck me that at least some versions of theological noncognitivism are asserting that “god”—at least under some definitions—not only has no referent, but has no coherent signified, or no meaningful concept.

    However, it appears that “referent” can also mean what a sign stands for, without the signified/referent distinction. I should have specified, perhaps, “real-world referent” for clarity.

    _______________________________________________

    * In a discourse that distinguishes between signified and referent; see my last paragraph above.
  12. Standard memberSwissGambit
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    06 Aug '13 22:446 edits
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I thought that this might be an interesting topic for discussion, following on the “atheism is a belief system” thread.

    The passages below are from the Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theological_noncognitivism

    “Theological noncognitivists claim that all alleged definitions for the term "God" amount to "God is that which caused e coherent/meaningful—and I thinkl would have to be udged on a case-by-case basis.
    It does seem that god is actually imagined as some version of us by many theists - an old man with a long, white beard or similar. It is sort of like how the aliens in Star Trek are really just humans with strange bumps on their heads. The TV writers knew that the audience wouldn't relate to aliens that were radically different from humans. Similarly, we can't relate to a god that is not at all like us.

    Perhaps that's why the 'supernatural', as some imagine it, ends up looking a lot like the natural in certain respects.
  13. Hmmm . . .
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    06 Aug '13 22:56
    Originally posted by SwissGambit
    It does seem that god is actually imagined as some version of us by many theists - an old man with a long, white beard or similar. It is sort of like how the aliens in Star Trek are really just humans with strange bumps on their heads. The TV writers knew that the audience wouldn't relate to aliens that were radically different from humans. Simila ...[text shortened]... ernatural', as some imagine it, ends up looking a lot like the natural in certain respects.
    Yes. To continue with the schema I was using above: imaging god(s) according to the human image (e.g. "heavenly father" ) attempts to generate a meaningful ("image-able"?) signified.

    Dropping the sign/signified lingo, it attempts to create a coherent mental concept in place of “cognitively meaningless” terms, and circular definitions.
  14. Hmmm . . .
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    06 Aug '13 23:00
    Originally posted by RJHinds
    Why don't you just put your faith in Christ and forget about all this mumbo jumbo?

    The Instructor
    Are you proposing a noncognitive faith?
  15. Standard memberRemoved
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    06 Aug '13 23:54
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I thought that this might be an interesting topic for discussion, following on the “atheism is a belief system” thread.

    The passages below are from the Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theological_noncognitivism

    “Theological noncognitivists claim that all alleged definitions for the term "God" amount to "God is that which caused e ...[text shortened]... coherent/meaningful—and I thinkl would have to be udged on a case-by-case basis.
    Ok, so from now on I will refer to Him as my Holy, Loving God, Creator of the Universe who will laugh at those who reject Him, since His creation is all around us as His Witness...🙂
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